High quality furniture that's MADE IN BRITAIN

High quality furniture that's MADE IN BRITAIN

It's oft lamented that we don't make anything in Britain any more. Well, while heavy industry may have gone, the country's upholstery businesses are pretty perky all things considered. So if you're after a new sofa with a Made In Britain label, try these brands for size

By Kay Hill
SCP

Squishy Tepee sofa by Lucy Kurrein for SCP is made in Norfolk. Inspired by hammocks, Tepee has a non-tropical hardwood frame. It makes sense on many counts to buy British if you live in Britain, and we have lots of excellent long-established upholstery manufacturers (and some very exciting newcomers) catering for contemporary and traditional tastes. Well-known names include Ercol, G-Plan, Duresta, Parker & Farr, Collins & Hayes, Loaf.com and Wesley-Barrell

We think a lot about food miles when it comes to what goes onto our plates, but we seem less concerned about the miles a lot of furniture in British homes has travelled to get here. 

There are good economic reasons to buy British when you're looking for sofas and chairs – supporting UK manufacturing not only helps employment and boosts our beleaguered GDP, but you more than likely will be doing the right thing environmentally.

If you choose a sofa or dining chair made in China or Taiwan, it will make a journey of around 10,000 miles on a cargo ship, travelling up to 44 days on a vessel that uses roughly 3,600 gallons of fuel an hour – of course, it will be carrying thousands of other sofas as well, but the fuel is still burned and the pollution created.

And from thousands of miles away it’s also hard to monitor whether woods are FSC-certified, or factories are operated with due regard for the environment and workers’ health.

Clanfield sofa by Wesley Barrell, from £3,015. www.wesley-barrell.co.uk
Modern Isabella chaise by Wiltshire-based Stuart Scott Associates, from £2,520 www.stuartscott.co.uk
Raffles sofa with solid hardwood frame (from £3,100), by Long Eaton-based Peter Guild. www.peterguild.co.uk
LolaLola modular sofa by Richard Ward of Wawa. www.wawa.co.uk. From £4,095
New Oscar corner unit sofa from Loaf.com, prices from £1,895
Eternal Dreamer modular sofa by Ochre, from £4,032 www.ochre.net
Ravenna recliner in white by Ercol, from £1,700. www.ercol.com
The Fifty Five armchair in marl green from G-Plan Vintage at John Lewis, www.johnlewis.com
Lansdowne modular sofa system, from £4,473, by contemporary furniture retailer  SCP www.scp.co.uk
New for 2017, Newington armchair from James Norton, for prices contact www.jamesuk.com

There’s a popular misconception that UK manufacturing is as sick as the proverbial parrot, but with upholstered furniture that is far from the truth.

That's because we have companies which make great product across the price spectrums and who are committed to working here because of our long history of furniture-making.

Meet the makers

So who should we look out for if we want the Made In Britain label?

Established UK names you'll know are MultiyorkErcol, G-PlanDurestaWesley-Barrell, Parker & Farr,I &JL Brown, Peter Guild, and Collins & Hayes, while the big outlets DFS and Furniture Village have a surprising number of products made in Britain. Prices for sofas vary of course, but you'll find a lot of choice from these companies in the £1,500- £3,500 bracket. 

The past 30 years or so has seen some new firms launching specialising in modern furniture that's well-priced and based on classic designs. Name you're probably familiar with are Sofa Sofa,  David Siefried, Sofas & Stuff, Sofa Workshop, and The Sofa & Chair Company, while Loaf launched in 2008 and has already won plenty of fans.

For more contemporary, high-end designs we have a wealth of smaller companies and makers, such as Fox Linton, SCP, Pinch Design, Ochre, JamesUK, and Bark Furniture.

SofaSofa

Based in South Wales, Sofa Sofa launched in 1981 and offers very well-priced, good quality British-made sofas. The company complies fully with all EU environmental legislation and uses non-tropical hardwoods for its sofa frames. Choose from a wide variety of styles and upholstery fabrics and if you're not happy with your purchase, you can return it within 21 days for a full refund. 

Multiyork

Norfolk-based Multiyork makes traditional English and classic contemporary upholstery. Marketing director Sarah Herbert explains that as customers can choose from, wait for it...  around 50 shapes of sofa with more than 1,000 fabrics, 19 leg shapes and a huge number of other variables, so producing in China or the Far East is never going to be an option.

'Multiyork's is a tailor-made service, so from a practical perspective it couldn’t be done overseas within the timescale we need. China is all about mass production and volume, while we are looking at creating one-off sofas for people,'  she says.

Verona (approx ,£1,269) and Burton (from £889) sofas and Ely chairs (£139) from Multiyork, which has a factory in Norfolk.
Ercol's traditional Renaissance sofa and tub chair. Ercol uses sustainable woods and its factory is super eco-friendly. www.ercol.com
Play sofa, from £1,695, by The Sofa Bed Company
Contemporary British Buzz corner sofa in Marmalade wools from Sofas &Stuff, from £2,590
Clarke contemporary sofa by Collins and Hayes, based on the south east coast of England. www.collinsandhayes.co.uk
Alwinton large sofa in Sandettie Sandal, from £1,293, from Sofas & Stuff. www.sofasandstuff.com
New Cloud modular system, from £1,595. from Loaf. www.loaf.com
Large Ashdown sofa by Sofas & Stuff, which manufactures most product in Nottingham. www.sofasandstuff.com
Gilston sofa, from £2,595 and stool, £700, by David Seyfried
Parker & Farr is based in Nottingham and makes around 25 high quality pieces of furniture a week
Acorn two-seater by Cornwall's Bark Furniture. POA. www.barkfurniture.com
Soho solo armchair by Richard Ward of Wawa, www.wawa.co.uk
De luxe Snooze sofa in nubuck and velvet by Ochre, £6,972 and ottoman, £2,040. www.ochre.net

Ercol

Some of the great names in English furniture continue to go from strength to strength, having adjusted their design to suit the times. You'll know Ercol for example, which was founded in the 1920s by Italian designer Lucian Ercolanli who'd settled in London as a boy.

His grandson Edward Tadros is now chairman of the family-run business, and if you visit Ercol's modern purpose-built, eco-friendly factory in Buckinghamshire he may well be on hand to take you around the showroom. 

'The British upholstery industry is doing so well because it can be flexible,' says Tadros, who cites the vast number of fabrics customers can choose from as good reason to buy locally.

Parker & Farr

Tony Crinion is MD at Nottingham-based Parker & Farr, which makes fairly traditional, luxury upholstery - thought it too is introducing more contemporary styles into its portfolio. 'We're small, but perfectly formed,' he says. 'Our focus is on quality and the fact that we manufacture here in Nottingham is definitely a plus point.'

Crinion sources sustainable materials locally where possible, and he supports the British Wool Campaign. 'I think when you buy something from Britain there's more clarity about the product and you can trust the sources of your materials. And our customers can come and see their furniture being made if they'd like to,' he says.

Sofas & Stuff

Nottingham is also the home of Sofas & Stuff. MD Andrew Cussins says they hand-make most of their sofas 'and this means we're in complete control of the whole process. No new-fangled Chinese short cuts for us! It also means that we get our sofas to you quickly; there's no hanging around waiting for a container from China, or a truck from Europe.'

James UK

James UK makes its furniture in Norfolk, sharing a factory with another company. Designer James Harrison started the business eight years ago and he's never wanted to move production overseas:  'I want to support British manufacturing, and it means I can offer more flexibility to customers as we can do specials and one-off designs. And it means we can be very hands-on when we're developing new designs.'

James UK uses FSC-certified timbers and natural fibres, to the extent that you could throw one of its sofas on a compost heap to decompose.

Wesley Barrell

Eco matters are very important at Wesley-Barrell, founded in 1895 by and now run by Juliette, Eugenie and Isabel Barrell, great-granddaughters of its founder. PR manager Alison Griffiths says many firms claim to be eco friendly but they use materials that are shipped in from all over the  world.

'All our sofas are made from start to finish here in Oxfordshire. We source all our soft and hard woods from sustainable sources and our fillings are natural and recycled – including padding made from recycled old clothes and another layer that is a by-product of the denim industry.'

Despite being known for traditional furniture, the company is also looking forward in terms of design. “People think that as we use traditional skills, all the furniture will also be traditional, but we do contemporary styles as well,' says Griffiths.

Leighton sofa, from £2,350, by I & JL Brown. www.brownantiques.com
Amalie chaise by the Sofa & Chair Company, from £1,865. www.thesofaandchair.co.uk
Hinton three-seat sofa by Wesley-Barrell, rom £2,620. www.wesley-barrell.co.uk
Millais sofa, from £2,800, by I & JL Brown. www.brownantiques.com
Selwood chair, from £1,760, by David Seyfried. www.davidseyfried.com
Tux chair, from £2,220, by Stuart Scott. Made in Oxfordshire. www.stuartscott.co.uk
Fluted Rebecca chair by Shilou Furniture. It's moved production from China to the UK. www.shiloufurniture.com
Penterry chair by The Headboard Workshop, from £399. www.theheadboardworkshop.co.uk
Blenheim by Parker & Farr. POA. www.parkerandfarr.co.uk
.

WAWA

At WAWA designer of highly distinctive modern furniture Richard Ward is passionate about offering a personal service to customers, which can only be done thanks to manufacturing in the UK. 'I work with a skilled and dedicated team of London-based makers to ensure that customers receive a quality sofa which is unique to them,' he says. 

Loaf.com

Loaf founder Charlie Marshall is convinced by the benefits of having his furniture made in Long Eaton near Nottingham, which has a long history of furniture manufacture: 'Firstly, people want a large choice of fabrics for their upholstery and we can manage that better from here.

'Our makers are an extremely knowledgeable, family-run business with similar values to ourselves, and being on home turf means that we can build solid, personal relationships with them. Secondly, Derbyshire is a fantastic hub for upholstery offering top-notch quality at affordable prices.' 

Ochre

High end contemporary design company Ochre was founded in 1996 by British designers Joanna Bibby and Harriet Maxwell Macdonald and were joined in 2000 by a third partner, Solenne de la Fouchardière.

Their commitment to producing in the UK has never wavered, despite now having a showroom in New York. 'Absolutely all our furniture is made in the UK, and it’s all made to order,” explains de la Fouchardière. 'We use about 30 different workshops with their specialist craftsman around the country, each adding a component to the making of a product. Manufacturing in the UK gives us a much better control over quality, it also gives us a lot of pride to collaborate with local workshops and help contribute to the national economy.'

As far as eco-considerations go, Fouchardière says buying British is sensible: 'We use local woods, occasionally upholster our products with eco textile and more importantly, everything is made round the corner to order so there is no wastage and transport is limited.'

Shilou

In fact, it seems that manufacturing in the UK has so many advantages that companies have even started moving production back here from overseas. Shilou, for example, used to have its furniture made in China, but two years ago made the decision to move production back to the UK.

'It was a bit of a scary decision,' says director Louise Fleming. 'It meant that our prices had to triple, but people definitely want to buy British and we can now offer them a much better service, with more reliable quality and shorter lead times.'

Other companies manufacturing upholstered furniture in the UK:

G-Plan Upholstery is based at Melksham in Wiltshire and carries on a tradition that began in 1898 when Ebenezer Gomme, an enterprising furniture maker, established his first factory.

The Sofa and Chair Company has a team of in-house designers and craftspeople in West London which makes luxury bespoke furniture upholstered in fabrics from Donghia, Romo, Armani Casa, Osborne & Little, Ralph Lauren and others.

Stuart Scott makes striking modern upholstered furniture in Abingdon, Oxfordshire by Asnew Upholstery.

David Seyfried has been making furniture in the UK for more than 25 years and has a workshop in Long Eaton with six craftspeople.

The Sofa Bed Company upholsters its products in workshops near Nottingham.

I & JL Brown furniture is built and finished by hand in the company’s own workshops in Herefordshire.

Peter Guild was founded in 1979 and produces both traditional and flamboyantly modern upholstered products from its base in Long Eaton near Nottingham.

All of SCP's upholstered furniture is made in Norfolk by Coakley & Cox Ltd. 

The Headboard Workshop makes hand-upholstered headboards, beds and furniture from its workshop in Wales.

Sofa Workshop makes all 56 of its sofa designs completely in the UK.

Artistic Upholstery has been making furniture in the upholstery heartland of Long Eaton since 1952

Number crunching

Mike Dimond, director at the British Furniture Manufacturers' Association, says no one knows British styles and tastes like UK manufacturers and the upholstery is one of the strongest sectors of the industry.

Over recent years, some £735 million-worth of upholstered furniture - such as three-piece suites and dining chairs  - was produced in the UK.

Only around £39 million-worth of these were exported, leaving £696 million-worth of furniture being made and sold in the UK  -  slight drop on earlier years' figure of £742.5 million, but not bad for an era of what is still an ongoing recession.

.
.