Juniper Interiors - the Kirkby Londale family firm with hot contemporary designs
Kirkby Lonsdale brother and sister Ant and Catherine Steele are heating up the interiors industry with their contemporary designs. Emma Mayoh reports
It was sheer coincidence that Ant Steele was able to start his business, Juniper Interiors. The 33-year-old had already been a product designer for many companies creating everything from underwater treadmills used for physical rehabilitation to heated towel rails for several businesses and designs for Antler luggage.
But it was when his former landlord spied some of his work that Kirkby-Lonsdale based Juniper Interiors was born. The project was for work on the Broughton Hall Estate, between Barnoldswick and Skipton. This lead onto more work, but this time it was to create 16 bathrooms for Aldrouie Castle on the banks of Loch Ness.
Ant said: ‘I was told it was going to be a bigger job than the first one but I couldn’t quite believe it when I found out it was a castle.
‘We created an old Victorian shower which filled one of the turrets. Water is sprayed out from all around it. It was a fantastic job and a good one to get when I had just started. After that I just got more and more calls so decided to launch the business.’
Since then Ant, and sister Catherine who now helps run the product and interior design consultancy, have worked for everyone from lords and ladies and owners of country estates to dozens of home owners across the Lake District, Lancashire and further afield. They have designed more than 100 bathrooms and kitchens.
They create bespoke designs, with prices ranging from �1,500 to �40,000, and work with local craftsmen at Lancaster Woodcraft to make them a reality.
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Ant said: ‘The kitchens are hand made and completely bespoke. The quality is excellent. All of our work comes through word of mouth and we offer the kind of things you wouldn’t get anywhere else.
‘All of our things are classic British designs. We pick from lots of specialists to get the right products. We both love what we do and it’s not about making money for us. Of course, we would like to make a few pounds but it’s more a labour of love.’
It was in 2010 that the pair decided to start designing their own products to sell. Ant and trained design teacher Catherine, 38, have recently launched their Juniper radiator, an item that makes a stylish statement as well as serving its primary function. It has been designed by Ant and is made from stainless steel.
Wax and ceramic moulds are used to create the shape of the handcrafted radiator, which is produced in China. The wax is removed and metal poured into the structure. It is then hand polished to a mirror finish. The whole process takes five days and the design took several years of development. But the effort has been worth it.
Ant said: ‘There is nothing like this in the world. People describe it as quirky. It’s been a challenge but a good one. It looks good in a modern interior but it also really suits an older house.
‘I’d like to think it’s a classic design. I didn’t want to produce a fashion item that won’t last. I want our products to stand the test of time. This should last 100 or 200 years. There won’t any rusting at the joins like you can get in traditional radiators.’
It was soon after the launch of Juniper Interiors in 2008 that Ant moved to Kirkby Lonsdale, where the business is also based. He came to the town – venturing across the right side of the border from Skipton - without ever having visited before. But his gamble paid off.
He said: ‘I couldn’t be happier here. Everyone is so friendly and it is such a lovely place. I have a lot of customers in Kirkby Lonsdale too and many of them have become friends.
‘I’m really lucky that I love what I do and I have a fantastic sister who is brilliant to work with. She has a business mind but also brings a totally different approach to it all. We love working together. Things couldn’t be better.’