I often come across a company who completely intrigue me, and that was true of Milestone Eco Designs. Milestone Eco Design are Britain’s first producer of totally green recycled kitchens. Like most businesses their conception was out of a passion but also the challenge of ‘could we?’ Their journey has not been easy but their company is now making their mark on the retail kitchen market.
I asked owner Julian Richards, How did you make the leap into the unknown?.
“Our first faltering steps into eco design began in 2005 where my wife and myself were sat at home treating ourselves to the odd gin & tonic or two (ish) and at some point during the evening one of us said ” go on then … we’ve been recycling for ages and I’ve never seen a thing in the shops that’s made from the things we recycle…. what CAN we buy that’s recycled ? We struggled …… the best thing we could come up with, at that time, was recycled toilet rolls from the supermarket.
Poor effort really, I don’t know whether it was our impaired mental state or what but we decided the following day to try and source recycled materials in the U.K. to build kitchens and built-in furniture from. Giving some reward for effort to help encourage people to recycle more and try to promote the message that we can use these materials efficiently rather than just keep digging massive holes in the countryside to bury the problem, ruining our planet.
There began probably the hardest year I’ve had in business so far and we, as a nation, still do not seem to embrace the use of recycled materials in this country as much as we should.
Cutting out all the positive thinking clichés that kept me going while I felt like I was wading through mud trying to navigate the eco apathy in our wonderful country, a year later, we had a smart new totally recycled content kitchen display sat in our showroom …. we believe it to be the first time it had ever been successfully attempted and carried out in a retail kitchen showroom ever !! And I’m very proud to say that everything in it was ‘Made in Britain’.
We can do it when we try, it’s hard work but we feel it’s worth the effort !, We got loads of newspaper and magazine coverage and we were off and running. The K.O.R.C kitchen (shown below), was, and still is, that very kitchen.”
Julian’s background is in Engineering and worked as a site engineer all over the world. After a few years he was ready for a fresh new challenge and started a replacement door company i.e. face-lifting kitchens. Swiftly Julian starting doing full kitchen projects and due to customer demand also started bathrooms and bedrooms.
“My interests have always been in design, designing and making my own home interior fixtures and fittings so decided to turn it into my job. Right from the early days the kitchen market was very samey, nothing different or exciting so very early on I decided to create my own range of kitchen furniture. Got together with a few people, convinced them that what I wanted would work and so our own range was born. I was called mad, bonkers, etc. for going against safe trends but it worked and it still is !” Julian tells me.
“I needed the freedom to design, invent, create, get it wrong occasionally, move on and go again. Kitchens should not be a compromise between what you want and what some salesman wants to sell you ! You should always be able to have what you want. My ethos has always been when someone walks into our showroom, the answer’s … Yes .. before they ask the question, if they want something you can’t get, I’ll make it, simple ! Everything we do is driven by a desire for us to provide exactly what someone wants, no matter how unusual.”
It’s easy to like Julian, I admire his passion for his craft and more importantly his customers. Many businesses could learn from such an ethos.
Tell me more about Milestone Eco Design?
“I believe that our approach now to green issues and the constant search for new materials makes us stand out above the crowd. We are not a big company so have none of the disadvantages that go with that in terms of the freedoms to get creative. What we do with eco materials is done after much research to make sure they are genuine and suit our purpose. This is quite definitely not a question of “bandwagons ” and “jumping on ” we were doing this properly and before there was a bandwagon to jump on !”
How is working in the UK Eco market?
“The eco and recycled materials market in the UK is a very difficult and challenging market to work in, you really have got to want to do it and believe in what you do to make any headway. More development is needed in materials and we believe that only by creating awareness of what we do and how it can be used, will anybody take any notice of the phenominal market possibilities for the use of recycled materials. Finding materials is still our biggest single challenge.”
What Kitchens do you offer?
We do now have 4 very different styles of kitchen in our stable with four distinctly different price groups, from entry level to satisfy the builders, EcoSelect, right up to premium handmade bespoke, Eco Elite.
We are working on Eco Organic which is something really exciting and the reclaimed timber kitchen which has proved to be viable, valuable and just simply fabulous to build and enjoy.
What is Eco Organic?
“We believe this is our most significant step forward in environmental design since we began our Eco kitchen range back in 2005. In fact … another Milestone … in our quest to make the world a greener, healthier place !! We are using two tried and tested door designs: A timeless Shaker style and a
contemporary Flat panel door, equally popular choices of today. In finally sourcing a good Eco paint, we have achieved two important considerations: One; is that we get the right quality finish with good coverage and Two; that we can supply a tin of exactly the same paint with every project so that long term, you can touch up panels to cope with life’s little knocks.”
What is your proudest moment?
“We are proud of everything we’ve done so far and the fact it’s made in the UK ( which seems to be untrendy at the moment ) so it’s unfair to single anything out. However, in terms of the project which was the most satisfying, it has to be the “Reclaimed Madness” kitchen as everything was built from scratch, on site and by hand. We thought it was madness to try it, without the safety net of a workshop to do it in but at the same time a very exciting challenge to see if we could pull it off. We had total confidence in our ability to rise to the challenge and it was an enormous leap of faith on our customers behalf to let us even try it. She had a ball helping us, we had a ball doing it and the results make me feel like all my 25 years in this industry have been leading up to that one kitchen!
This really is the pinnacle, where we go from here, who knows ?? We’re probably going to have to wait for the next customer with a vision, a dream of something you can’t get anywhere else. And … yes ..,. I don’t care what it is, we’ll do it if it can be done !”
What does the future hold for Milestone Eco Design?
“The future for us as a company is to keep searching, finding, investigating new materials and building kitchens, bathrooms, bedroom, whatever out of them. Every house in our country has a kitchen …. why shouldn’t it be built out of recycled materials ?? I said that back in 2005 and it’s still true today. We’re only just scratching the surface !”
Thank you so much to Julian for taking the time to tell us all about Mileston Eco Design.