British Standard

  • Vintage Fairs You Don't Want to Miss

    London is home to some fabulous vintage fairs, crammed full of treasures waiting to be snapped up for less than you’d expect. Here are 5 to look out for in the big city…

    1. The Antiques & Collectors Fair, Alexandra Palace

    Hosting regular vintage and antiques fairs throughout the year, Alexandra Palace is a fabulous spot for a good old-fashioned rummage. From ceramics to clothing, the Antiques & Collectors Fair is a staple on many treasure hunter’s calendar of vintage events.

    2. The North London Vintage Market, Crouch End

    Held in St Mary’s Parish Hall, Cranley Gardens, the North London Vintage Market regularly hosts 50 carefully selected stalls, trading a dazzling array of affordable vintage wonders, from art and fashion to homeware. With each market taking place over the course of a weekend, there are plenty of chances to discover vintage finds here. Get more information here.

    3. Vintage Fashion Fair, Hammersmith 

    If your wardrobe pre-dates your mother’s, the Hammersmith Vintage Fashion Fair is a must visit. Now in its 16th year, this much-loved fair is a hotly anticipated date in any vintage fashion lover’s diary. With over 100 stalls selling pre-loved style from across the eras (at prices that trounce those found in trendy vintage stores), get down to Hammersmith Town Hall for your next vintage fix.

    4. So Vintage London, Old Spitalfields Market

    Retro editions of Vogue, taxidermy, hand picked vintage jewellery – the trendier side of the vintage scene is well-represented at So Vintage, London’s regular event at Old Spitalfields Market. The market is full of attractions too, if you’re searching for a fun day out, with retro photo booths and food stalls to keep you occupied! Find out more here.

    5. Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair

    Held in the beautiful art nouveau building, Old Finsbury Town Hall, Clerkenwell Vintage fashion fair is a truly immersive retro experience, complete with live music, a traditional tearoom and an on-site alterations service so you can turn your vintage finds into made-to-measure garments. Taking place regularly throughout the year, and home to over 50 hand-selected traders, this is a fair not to be missed. Get the details here.

  • Traditional Craft Focus: Thatching

    Over time, with the advancement of modern technology, some traditional and quintessentially British craft skills are slowly being consigned to the history books. Thatching however is one such craft enjoying a revival.

    Dating all the way back to the Bronze Age, thatching is a roofing craft that has been used in Britain for thousands of years and is still used today. The technique has gradually evolved from the first archaeological evidence of thatch found in Europe, dating back to the early medieval period, and since its original use on round houses in Britain during Celtic times.


    Thatch’s “Hay” Day

    Thatching styles have steadily progressed over the centuries, however the true “hay” day of thatch ran from the Norman period,right up until the late 1800s. The reason? Thatch was incredibly light. It was ideal for roofing buildings that were made from less stable materials such as wattle and daub, and cruck beams.
    Thatch was also accessible. Originally made from easy-to- straw, tied into bundles known as yelms and then attached to an open roof using twisted hazel spars, thatching was an affordable and readily available roofing solution.

    It wasn’t until commercial production of Welsh slate began in earnest in the 1820s, and the burgeoning British infrastructure (including canals and railways) made a variety of new roofing materials more readily available, that the use of thatch began to decrease.

    The Decline of Thatch

    Once the decline of thatch began, the sight of thatched buildings became increasingly less common in the UK. Although a good quality straw thatch could last for up to 50 years, the results often required considerable maintenance and was less dependable and durable compared to more modern alternatives. It was also notoriously flammable.

    In the 1930s and 1940s, agricultural development and the introduction of combine harvesters, reduced the amount of good quality straw that was available, impacting on the practice of thatching even further.

    The Thatch Revival

    It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that thatching experienced a revival. With increasing interest in conservation, heritage preservation and the ‘rural idyll’, thatching is steadily regaining popularity and is even being used on new builds.

    Today, thatched properties are still in the minority in the UK, but with more than 1000 full time thatchers plying their trade in Britain, it’s clear that the craft is alive and well – particularly among wealthier home owners who are keen to recapture the nostalgic, historic charm of our nation’s old roofing style.


  • Perch on your sofas, C4's 'Restoration Man' swoops in to visit British Standard project, 'HMS Owl'

    This evening, all at British Standard will be eagerly awaiting the airing of Restoration Man on Channel 4 at 8pm! The first of a two-part programme follows the dedicated and sympathetic restoration of HMS Owl, a dilapidated World War II control tower at Fearn airfield, built on the shores of Moray Firth in Scotland…and in a very welcome and exciting turn of events, the owners looked to British Standard for their kitchen, utility and cloakroom!   fearn A newspaper clipping documenting the sale of HMS Owl (image source) Justin Hooper and his wife, Charlotte Seddon, purchased the tower in 2012: “We bought it because we both loved the concrete brutalism of its exterior and the huge blank canvas that the interior offered”. As one of five similar control towers in the country, HMS Owl is the second to be bought for renovation. 501586_96bf52da HMS Owl before the restoration work began (image source) Fearn airfield, originally built as a satellite to RAF Tain, was subsequently occupied by the Royal Navy from 1st August 1942, renamed HMS Owl, and used as a Torpedo training school. The airfield houses two control towers, the initial single storey RAF structure, and the latter four storey RN building which is Justin and Charlotte’s labour of love. hmsowl Justin and Charlotte painstakingly transformed the building’s exterior (image source) The first of the two episodes will document the substantial structural renovation that has taken place over the last two years, with a follow-up programme scheduled for the end of the year when Channel 4 will revisit the site to look at the couple’s choice of interior styling, including their British Standard kitchen! Until then, we shall remain patient and enjoy watching the project progress, and Justin and Charlotte’s hard work pay off!

    exhib ww2 owl 3

    HMS Owl crest: an owl stands watch upon a torpedo (image source)

  • Antique Printing Methods

    Printing techniques have come a long way since the days of Chinese woodblock printing. Over many centuries, these ever-evolving technologies have made it possible for us to share knowledge, create art and express ourselves all over the world. Here we celebrate the provenance and progress of some of these processes, many of which are today considered an art form…

    Printing Press

    You’ve probably heard of Gutenberg’s press, invented in 1436 by Johannes Gutenberg in Germany. It isn’t commonly known however that the history of the movable printing press dates all the way back to 1041 and the work of Bi Sheng, a Han Chinese printer from China. These essential early methods of printing text used raised characters made from wood blocks and later metal (developed in Korea in 1234) which were arranged to make up the desired text in a page-shaped block known as a forme. Once the text was set out and the forme was covered in ink, paper could be laid out and pressed on top, then repeated, to print numerous identical copies of the same page.


    The process of etching is a little bit like creating a batik print and was especially popular in the 17th century. Today etching is still used as an artistic technique. To create a design, the printer or artist uses a metal sheet covered in wax. They must then scrape away the wax from areas where marks are required. With the design scratched into the wax, the metal sheet is dipped into an acid bath known as a mordant. This process burns away the parts of the metal which have been exposed by the creator’s scratches, leaving the rest of the sheet untouched. To complete the process, the sheet known as a printing plate is cleaned, covered in ink and wiped, leaving ink only in the hollows burned away by the acid. Finally, the plate is put in a high pressure printing press to transfer the finished design onto paper.


    Invented in 1796 as an inexpensive way to print text or artwork, lithography is still used today by printers producing large volumes of illustration in books and magazines. In the 21st century the process has become more sophisticated and is now known as offset lithography, but the principals behind the method remain the same. To print using the traditional technique, fat, oil or wax was applied to a smooth lithographic limestone plate in the shape of the desired image. When the stone was moistened with gum arabic and acid, the oily or waxy areas would repel the fluid. Finally, an oil-based ink was applied, which would take to the oily or waxy area alone, leaving the untreated areas blank. The lithograph could then be pressed onto a blank page, creating an afforable, precise print.


    This method is similar to lithography but was used to make coloured prints. In some cases, more than 20 stones were used to make a single image, with each transferring a different colour. In other instances, hand-colouring was used to complete the print. With so much time and skill going into each chomolithograph, this was an extremely time consuming and expensive process.

    Rotary printing press

    The rotary printing press machine consisted of a rotating drum, used to continually print onto paper, card or plastic that was fed into it. This technology, invented in 1842 by Richard March Hoe, allowed printing to become much faster and more efficient. Presses varied in terms of the techniques they used to print as they spun; as an alternative to lithography, some used a process called gravure, where an ink-filled drum pushed ink through small letter-shaped holes in its surface, and others used flexography,which used a raised, ink-covered stamp to make each mark.

    Hot metal typesetting

    This process is used for letterpress printing and took the historic creation of the printing press to the next level. Molten metal is poured into either letter or word shaped molds (known as glyphs), creating accurate, uniform “stamps” to print text.

    The development of this technique was all part of making printing evermore mechanical and efficient, reducing the need to lay out pages and texts by hand (known as handsetting). The Ludlow Typograph, invented in the early 1900s, was the first printer to use hot metal typesetting which required no handsetting whatsoever.


    In 1880, Thomas Edison received a patent to use authographic stencils for printing. With this invention, mimography was born. It was an incredibly cost effective printing process which pressed ink through a stencil (made from a fine metal plate, perforated with a blunt stylus) onto paper. Over time, it was found that this printing technique worked very effectively with a rotary press, which is exactly how the beautiful piece of machinery above worked.

  • Weird & Wonderful Woodworking Tools

    Whether you carry out design and woodwork as a hobby or as a trade, there are a number of unusual and useful tools out there to help you. Here are a few of our favourites:

    1. Point to point layout tool

    This attractive tool can be used for any number of crafts, from woodworking to sewing. With 7 extending markers, it maintains an equal distance between each point, making it easier to mark set intervals or find the centre of a piece of wood or fabric. A handy addition to your DIY arsenal.

    2. Japanese handsaw

    Japanese saws are unique because they cut on the pull stroke rather than the push stroke. This creates a faster and neater cut as the blades are thinner.

    3. Dovetail marker

    A tool worthy of Georgian furniture makers, this marker can accurately outline dovetail joints up to 1” long and can be used on hardwoods and softwoods.

    4. Hand drills

    Few people nowadays use manual hand drills, instead opting for battery powered alternatives. Easy-to-use hand drills however still have their place in the woodworker’s tool box.

    5. Carbide sharpeners and burnishers

    Look after your knives, scrapers, drawknives and woodturning tools, as well as plane blades and chisels, by keeping them razor-sharp.

    6. Screw starter

    Securing a screw into a piece of wood, without drilling a hole and using a rawl plug first, can prove a difficult task. This tool, which was a faithful friend of many a carpenter for decades, is enjoying renewed popularity in the trade and with ‘DIYers’ alike.

    7. Ryoba saw

    This Japanese saw offers the same benefits as its traditional counterpart, except that it has teeth along both edges; one side is for crosscutting and the other for rip cuts.

    8. Wood threader

    Create handcrafted wooden screws with this unique little tool. It gives a more professional and traditional all wood finish compared to using metal screws.

    9. High pressure glue injector

    Glue injectors are perfect for joining all manner of woodwork joints together, whether it be while repairing existing furniture or creating something new. The precision tip ensures little mess.

    10. Nail pullers

    Much more efficient than using the claw end of a hammer, nail pullers are specifically designed to grab hold of the nail head. The longer handle allows greater force to be applied when puling the nail free.

    11. Face frame clamp

    Fixing together long pieces of wood can be a tricky business. Make things easier with these simple but effective face frame clamps.

    12. Burning tool kit

    For use on wood or leather, a burning tool kit can be used to make patterns on the material’s surface; it’s great for personalising your work.

    13. Digital snap depth gauge

    Something for the modern gadget lover. This gauge allows you to check the depth of any joint hole or slot, so that you can achieve an accurate, secure and long-lasting fitting. A far better alternative to the trial and error approach. Image Credits:

  • And Now, an Announcement from British Standard...

    British Standard is very pleased to announce that we have chosen to support The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community, by sponsoring a joinery apprentice as part of their Building Skill in Craft programme.

    Given our shared interest in the preservation of traditional design and craftsmanship for future generations, this sponsorship marks the beginning of an exciting, long-term collaboration between the two camps: our objective is to broaden public interest and understanding of the importance of sustaining traditional building techniques, and provide relevant training for those working within a built environment context.

    The course, which is offered by The Prince's Foundation to craftsmen and women who want to develop their knowledge and experience of traditional building methods, will provide them with the training and expertise needed to work on heritage projects and new build construction, as well as enabling them to start up their own businesses in the future.

    British Standard will make a donation from the sale of every kitchen to the foundation, to help support a joinery apprentice on this course, and we hope that we can eventually fully fund one apprenticeship annually. To see the British Standard cupboard range that is helping us to fund an apprentice, visit Learn more about The Prince's Foundation for Building Community and their Building Skill in Craft programme, at

  • Nader Khalili - Designer of domes for the Moon and maybe Surrey

    The sometimes bleak terraces of the Southbank Centre were transformed recently by various architectural constructions as part of it’s 'Festival of the World'. Amongst stalactites of plastic bottles and a baobab tree made of rags were several blob-shaped adobe structures with portholes and fake grass reminiscent of ‘hobbit’ or ‘teletubby’ dwellings.

    Adobe structure at the South Bank Centre by 'Small Earth' (Photo by Belinda Lawley)

    Built by ‘Small Earth’ eco builders, these were a fun-examples of a building system with huge potential to provide cheap and durable housing for the developing world and disaster-zones and perhaps for the developed world as well. The system is called ‘Superadobe’ and was created (originally as a proposal for dwellings on the moon) by the late Iranian architect, author and philosopher Nader Khalili who was interested in developing traditional low-tech building techniques to help alleviate the global housing crisis. Sandbags (filled with earth and cement) and barbed wire (often the by-products of war..) are built up in layers using the wire as reinforcement before the structure is rendered.


    The technique is perfectly suited to the traditional forms of arches, domes and vaults but as these can look alien to Northern and Western eyes it’s hard to imagine them dotted around the British countryside.


    A shame, perhaps, as they could hardly fail to be an improvement on the endless poorly-detailed, historical-pastiche developments that are inflicted on us.. and at a fraction of the cost.


    A slightly more mechanised version where tubular ‘sacks’ are extruded by machine can be used with beams to create buildings to suit Western archetypes with typical apex roofs..or could the Hobbit-house displace the executive cul-de-sac development?
    Adobe Villa, USA


  • Imagined Fictions

    Belgian Photographer Filip Dujardin deftly bends and reimagines reality in his Fictions series. Through the digital manipulation of his own architectural portraits he explores a seemingly endless and increasingly magical range of structural possibilities.  


  • Surreal Furniture

    Epater la bourgeoisie

    There’s a lot of ‘surreal’ design about these days, design shows and galleries are full of twisted or melting household objects. Elements of surrealist imagery were appropriated from the beginning by the worlds of fashion and advertising but not, on any scale by the world of furniture and industrial design.

    Chair(s) by Sebastian Brajkovic, Light by Pieke Bergmans

    How, then has an early 20th century avant-garde movement whose aim was to challenge rational thought and bourgeois values become so prevalent in the artefacts of our daily life? The answer is probably the advent of ‘design art ’- the elevation, by galleries, of ‘applied art’ objects to the status of ‘fine art’ (due to the paucity of interesting, saleable modern fine art?).

    Chair by Pablo Reinoso, Pouffe by Ron Gilad

    Still, isn’t life disturbing enough without our furniture shrinking or dissolving in front of us? As Harvey Molotch put it in ‘Where stuff comes from’: ‘Given the inherent ambiguity of all reality and the nagging suspicion that we always exist on the edge of existential chaos, objects work to hold meanings more or less still, solid and accessible to others as well as to one’s self. The presence of goods (i.e. furniture/objects) helps anchor the consciousness against the social vertigo of living in a world of random and dreadfully unsteady meanings’.

    Bifurcation by Robert Stadler

  • Georgian Ladies Swiss Army Knife


    Men are the stereotypical purchasers of Swiss army knives; Leathermen and the like – something to do with the technical aspects of folding and miniaturization perhaps or maybe it’s just the thought of all the whittling and camp-building that the gadget can facilitate.


    The female housekeepers of the 19th Century developed their own more practical and certainly more expressive solution: The Chatelaine – a collection of useful items, which hung like charms on ribbons or chains from a large clasp. Tools included; scissors, tweezers, keys, watches, writing pads and sewing kits. The great variety of Chatelaines in museums suggests that these were an acceptable form of decorative and status display for both domestic servants and some ladies of the house – a trend explored by cartoonists of the time.


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