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Celebrating 25 years

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When my fathers heart first began trading on 6th November 1995, furniture was still seen as a ‘for life’ purchase. I remember one charming lady who, following a divorce, wanted to replace a husband with an heirloom quality writing desk at which she would write her first book. It was exquisite and something she would hand to her grandchildren.

Then the Ikea thinking hit. Rather than invest in handmade pieces of high-quality furniture, the trend moved towards furniture as fashion. A bookcase was expected to last just a few years and this became acceptable. The market for finely crafted handmade furniture died seemingly overnight.

However, what Ikea did bring to Britain was a long overdue shake-up in our design preferences. In the past, the only choice seemed to be whether to have dark oak or mid-oak stained furniture. Ikea broke us free of our backward-looking taste and got us all thinking Scandi minimalism with light fresh timber finished such as ash and maple.

For a furniture maker this was liberation and designs grew bolder and brighter. And now, with the help of Pinterest, Houzz and Instagram, the design palette in the UK is truly cutting edge with an appetite for boldness and modern sleek finishes the norm.

25 years ago, I sketched designs on an ancient draughtsman’s table that I got second-hand from one of Sheffield’s former steelworks. The end result required customers to be able to visualise their furniture from 2D images with the occasional 3D perspective sketch thrown in for good measure…If the job’s budget permitted.

Now, at my fathers heart, we have three highly skilled designers who work with sophisticated computer aided design software creating photo realistic images including ‘whole house’ presentations…a far cry from the traditional ‘back of a fag packet’ sketch of yesterday’s furniture makers.

Another huge change is, of course, the way we market ourselves. Today, It's not unusual for us to attract 50,000 'impressions' a month on social media. None of that was around when we started. And it's pretty impressive. But nothing can beat the power of personal recommendation. For many years that - word of mouth via our satisfied customers - was our only marketing. Today, it's still our most prized reward for our hard work. Knowing our customers are so delighted, they pass on our name. We are grateful to all our customers, and to all those who have worked with and for us over the last two decades, for their support and dedication.

But it still comforts me to know that despite all these changes, when I walk through our lovely bright workshops, some things haven’t changed at all. The handtools that our cabinetmakers use are identical to those of 25 years ago, although battery-powered drills and screwdrivers are de-rigeur now. And, this week, we have just put the finishing touches to a sideboard and display cabinet that was made in the same way as it would have been 125 years ago let alone 25, with gorgeous timber, dovetailed together, and luxurious veneers applied by hand.

It’s good to know some things never change!

By Jonathan Coulthard04/12/2020
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