Whether you're embarking on a new-build or painstakingly restoring a listed building, here is our choice of the craftsmen with excellent foundations.
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Nigel Armstrong believes in the power of word of mouth. ‘There’s no substitute for personal recommendation,’ he says. ‘Research your builder thoroughly. Ask questions. Learn how they operate. Learn how the industry operates.’
A solid track record, he says, is vital: ‘Only employ a builder with vast experience of country houses and their owners.’ When comparing tenders and selecting your builder, consider quality, experience and service level, not only money.
Usually, the construction cost is fixed at the start of the work, so it’s essential that the design and specification are complete at this stage. Details that are overlooked before starting on site could cause cost uncertainty and delays.
Widely respected in the design and manufacture of joinery-led rooms for country houses, this Somerset firm takes a keen interest in how best to sensitively update period homes for modern families. Domestic spaces and kitchens are its forte, with recent projects including a Grade I-listed Jacobean manor and a castle on the Isle of Wight.
01934 745270; www.artichoke-ltd.com
A British natural-stone specialist based in Yeovil, Somerset, the firm produces interior flagstone flooring, external paving and architectural detailing. Projects include bespoke stone for the Weston Tower at Westminster Abbey in London, the terrace at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire and Purbeck-stone flooring for private member’s club Annabel’s, W1.
01935 847333; www.artoriusfaber.com
This specialist company has been designing and making timber-frame buildings since 1987, with a portfolio that spans commercial and public projects, such as an oak pergola, larch trellising and 22 oak benches for the British Normandy Memorial to residential oak-frame new-builds, cabins and extensions.
01803 732900; www.carpenteroak.com
Distinctive Country Furniture
Owner Brian Purnell has more than 35 years of experience in crafting handmade period-style furniture and architectural joinery, with expertise in 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century interiors. His firm can turn its hand to oak panelling, staircases and fire surrounds, as well as complete libraries and wine rooms.
01935 825800; www.distinctivecountryfurniture.co.uk
Locker & Riley
A plasterwork specialist, from design to installation, this family firm recently restored the lime plaster at the Grade I-listed Buxton Crescent thermal spa, Derbyshire, built by the 5th Duke of Devonshire in the 1780s.
01245 322022; www.lockerandriley.com
This award-winning firm creates oak-frame homes and extensions, garden buildings and garages. It uses renewable green oak and can advise on energy efficiency. In 2018, the company built the first oak-frame Passivhaus in the UK, using its own encapsulation panels.
01432 353353; www.oakwrights.co.uk
The market leader in the manufacture and construction of oak-frame garden rooms and orangeries in the UK, Prime Oak produces timber-frame garages, stables and annexes, with sustainable oak air-dried in its own yards.
01384 296611; www.primeoak.co.uk
R. Moulding & Co
Two of the directors of this family-owned building company, Bill and Tim Moulding, are part of the family who started the business more than 200 years ago. The firm specialises in construction, restoration, maintenance and landscaping, operating within a 50-mile radius of its home in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
01722 742228; www.rmoulding.co.uk
R. W. Armstrong
This Hampshire-based, family-owned residential building company was founded in 1957 and works across London and the South of England, specialising in top-quality new-build homes and the refurbishment of period and listed properties. The firm also offers an in-house bespoke-joinery service.
01256 850177; www.rwarmstrong.co.uk
Rose of Jericho
This Dorset-based manufacturer of traditional paints and lime mortars is sought after for its expertise in materials used for the conservation, repair and decoration of historic buildings. Founded in 1989, when it was becoming recognised that non-permeable mortars, plasters and paints often accelerated the decay of ancient buildings, the firm has grown to offer a range of handmade, environment-ally friendly and breathable products made using sustainable materials, from limewashes, distempers and emulsions to flat oil and eggshell paints made using artist-quality powder pigments, appreciated for the subtle variation in tone not usually found in modern finishes. The company name is believed to have been drawn from the fact that the oldest lime mortars were found in the ancient city of Jericho, or possibly from the resurrection plant of the same name, as a reference to the company’s resurrection of lime and permeable paints.
Rose of Jericho also offers advice on conservation and the correct specification and use of limes and traditional decorative finishes, with projects ranging from cottages to the supply of lime plaster to the Palace of West-minster, limewash to The Queen’s Chapel at St James Palace, and distemper paint to Castle Drogo in Devon.
01935 83676; www.roseofjericho.co.uk
Stevensons of Norwich
From a bespoke decorative plaster ceiling for a ballroom to handmade cornices and ceiling roses, Stevensons of Norwich is considered an expert in creating, installing and restoring all kinds of plasterwork. The firm is currently restoring the original Georgian and neo-Classical architectural features of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London W1.
01603 400824; www.stevensons-of-norwich.co.uk
Established more than 40 years ago, this family-run bespoke joinery firm can produce traditional timber panelling, ceilings, doors, staircases and furniture. The company also offers historic research and consultancy services, plus expert advice on period details.
01935 826659; www.stuartinteriors.com
W. G. Carter
Specialising largely in the restoration and renovation of country and town houses, half of which are listed, this full-service company operates across Oxfordshire, the Cotswolds and the surrounding counties. The firm is run by managing director James Robertson, supported by directors Paul and Roger Carter, grandsons of the founder William George Carter, who set up the firm in 1947, only 50 yards away from where it is now based.
Known for its collaborative attitude to working with other professionals, from architects to surveyors, interior designers to garden designers, the firm is also unusual for the size of its work force, unlike many other builders, which rely on sub-contractors. Sixty-five staff members, more than half of whom have worked for the company for more than 15 years, take on full carpentry, bricklaying, ground-working and decoration services. The firm handles a small number of one-off new-build houses each year and is currently working on the refurbishment of a Grade I-listed Oxford college.
01865 864626; www.wgcarter.co.uk
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