Every beautiful piece of furniture has a story to tell – but how would you feel if your cabinet once sailed the seas, or held back foes in a foreign fort?
Thanks to the astonishing popularity of reclaimed woods these days, either backstory could be reality. Pioneering companies such as Little Tree Furniture are combining their environmental credentials with outstanding craftsmanship and intriguingly-sourced materials to create beautiful furniture with built-in history.
Neil Buckley-Jensen and his wife Aimee started family-run Little Tree Furniture after being inspired by their trips to India when both were working as airline cabin crew.
“I’ve always been interested in furniture, because my grandad was a cabinet maker and I spent my childhood in his workshop,” said Neil. “While exploring India, we were hugely inspired by the woodworking we saw there, with craftspeople using old colonial tools. When we came back, we bought an old house in East Sussex and went back to India with furniture designs.”
The handmade furniture was an instant hit, and for a while their home was the showroom. The couple moved their business online and began working with top-quality retailers such as Barker and Stonehouse to offer their eclectic collections to a wider audience.
“We’ve seen a huge rise in interest in recycled wood furniture,” said Neil. “People are looking for something out of the norm to inspire them, and many customers care strongly about the environment and sustainability, which ﬁts in well with us.”
India remains at the heart of Little Tree Furniture’s business – it has eight carpentry studios there, employing more than 50 people and ﬁve back in the UK.
We source our timbers from different places in India – from boats used in southern ﬁshing villages, and structural beams and doors from fortresses in the north that can be up to 200 years old,” said Neil.
“We also source portholes and anchors, window shutters and even old lorries made from timber – we melt down cars and oil drums to provide recycled metals for our furniture.”
Safety and reliability is crucial, of course, so all timbers are treated to remove any threat of insects, and any nails and bolts are carefully removed from the aged wood. Neil and Aimee still create the designs, inspired by their ﬁnds – and the results are wonderful. “We feel lucky that our designs are made by some of the best carpenters in the world – everything is made by hand, and we allow the wood to naturally reveal its secrets,” said Neil.
“We feel our Indian team is an extension of our family,” said Neil. “That’s why we’re pleased to be partners with Barker and Stonehouse – they’re also a family-run business and have a long history.”
The company also supports local communities by sponsoring the education of school children in India and contributing to a UK school football team.
The result of Little Tree Furniture’s hard work and recycling is a unique collection of individual furniture pieces – no two are ever the same. It’s made the brand sought-after across the UK, and also in Canada, the US and Europe.
The environment beneﬁts, too. “It’s not just about what you can gain today, it’s about what you can add to tomorrow,” said Neil.
“We have a genuine concern about the environment, so we created our policy of ‘woodworking with a conscience’. It’s an ethos we’re proud to live by.”
Barker and Stonehouse is a strong supporter of sustainability so we are proud to stock products from Little Tree Furniture, and other suppliers with green principles, that have environmental credentials and exquisite design.
As Neil Buckley-Jensen says: “People have come out of the world-wide recession with a true appreciation of sustainability and recycling. For us, it’s all about staying ahead of the curve and creating the beautiful products they desire.”