Chip off the old block
With a background in medieval furniture and a degree in project design Laura Cartledge meets a creative with a difference.
Homeware designer Chris Berry grew up in his dad’s workshop.
“He used to make these stools,” recalls Chris. “To make them look old he had these shoes which he would tie sandpaper to the soles and he’d get me to sit there and wear the bottom rung.
“It’d get boring after about five minutes,” he laughs. “But over time dad has trusted me more. At the moment we are working on doors and windows for a place in Oxford. We buy wood from old barns in Spain and France which are being knocked down.”
However while the family business, Early Oak Reproductions, focuses on bespoke reproduction furniture Chris’ latest venture has seen him branch off in a more modern direction.
Based near Polegate, FactoryTwentyOne launched earlier this year and is already attracting attention with the lampshades upcycled from wooden pallets appearing in design magazines and blogs across the world.
“It’s been a bit mad really,” says Chris. “The whole thing was just to make a bit of money on the side – I call it top up money – and I thought if ‘I could sell one or two’.
“I got the idea for the lampshades when I was at my parent’s house in their garden,” he explains. “They have got a water-butt which is an old barrel and I noticed how it was held together – no glue just metal loops at the top and bottom.
“One evening I had it in my head, I’d finished working in the workshop with my dad and drew up a lampshade using CAD (computer aided design),” he adds. “I used some MDF to make a prototype and within two hours I had one made up.”
Using different materials has been a key inspiration for FactoryTwentyOne, from picture frames constructed with cable ties to a clock inspired by wallpaper, so Chris was soon searching for something suitable for his lampshades.
“I used to build furniture and had lots of pallets laying around,” he reveals. “We’ve just picked some more up from a local company; they were stacked ready to be burnt.”
The eco-friendly nature of the lampshades makes them more than just a design statement.
Attention has even been paid to streamline the entire manufacturing process keeping shipping to a minimum – this has seen the lampshade have an innovative flat pack construction that can be easily assembled at home with no tools or glue needed.
“I think it is a waste of time to go out and buy something new,” he admits.
“Even if people buy my lampshades, decide they don’t want them in five or ten years and burn them then it has extended its life.
“I like handmade stuff that looks modern but not mass produced,” he adds. “Modern but rustic sums up what I do.”
It comes as no surprise that Chris is always coming up with ideas and making new things but he admits “I usually get 80 per cent of the way through and never finish the 20 per cent.”
So has the success of the lampshades come as a shock?
“It is something I like but you never know if other people will,” he replies. “You are never quite sure. But it has started to take off. I’ve been up to London to exhibit, shops have been buying them and I have been in magazines. It’s really satisfying.
“Now the biggest challenge is balancing my time. I would like to take another workshop on and employ someone to make them. I would like to sell more to wholesale, to shops, get them out there.”
Clearly not afraid of hard work Chris also has other items he had added to the range, with coat hooks and mail organisers made from oak off cuts from his dad’s projects.
Plus Chris is on the cusp of announcing an exciting new business venture with Brighton’s Cable and Cotton.
“It’s called Made in 7,” he reveals. “It’s an iPod case which allows people to personalise them. There are seven different colours and 350 different variations or so and it is made in bamboo, in England, all by us.”
It would seem this 28 year old entrepreneur is one to watch.
To find out more about FactoryTwentyOne visit www.factorytwentyone.co.uk
The lampshades can also be found, and purchased, on www.Etsy.com
Information about Early Oak Reproductions can be found at www.earlyoakreproductions.co.uk
October 21, 2013 Interiors and Property