From living walls and futuristic vacuum wardrobes to a 24-hour house build in the Welsh Valleys, Johnson Bespoke is revolutionising the notion of traditional carpentry and joinery, delivering ambitious projects for Channel 4’s hit show Amazing Spaces, and employing local craftspeople and engineers of the highest calibre.
Everyone was on-hand to help us whenever we needed. The support has given us a push in the right direction to scale-up our businessRobin JohnsonFounder of Johnson Bespoke
We paid a visit to meet founder and director Robin Johnson, a local carpenter and joiner, born and bred in Hastings with a passion for surfing.
Lining the walls of his studio on an industrial estate in Hastings are various surfboards made by Robin, who initially studied Surf Science and Technology at university before leaving the south coast in search of the swells of Western Australia.
There he took up post as Head of Visual Merchandise for Quicksilver, living in a small town north of Perth, spending much of his spare-time surfing some of Australia’s biggest wave spots. However, like many, the pull of Hastings eventually became too much, and he was drawn back to the UK where a career change beckoned:
I love Hastings, I grew up here, so all my family and friends are here. It’s rich in culture and art, and full of interesting and creative people, and has some lovely beaches with excellent woodland and country walks nearby too.
He continues, ‘it was affordable when we decided to buy a property. We lived in Brighton for a few years when I initially came back from Aus but couldn’t afford to buy anywhere over there really.’
Upon his return, Robin took up post as Head of Design and Technology at Hurstpierpoint College, inspiring pupils with new innovative projects that were relevant to the digital generation, such as a wooden Bluetooth speaker.
Taking a break from teaching, Robin decided to embark on his next life adventure to turn his talent and skills for design and woodwork into an entrepreneurial dream. Forged from a creative and ambitious mind, Johnson Bespoke began trading in 2013.
There are few small companies that can offer a client a completely bespoke design and manufacturing service in-house of the quality of Johnson Bespoke, offering products made with any material conceivable to deliver nothing else but pure craftsmanship.
I have worked with Robin and his team on several occasions, often in the driving rain and half way up a mountain. A more enthusiastic and can-do team I challenge you to findWill Daws MD, Plum Pictures
Johnson Bespoke first started delivering projects out of the basement of the local derelict Hastings Observer building. Robin’s design skills soon put his start-up business on the map for bigger and better opportunities.
Inevitably, it wasn’t long before his rising success outgrew the basement, and more space was needed to cater not only for bespoke commissions, but larger projects and to even develop a future in TV.
As one of the many thriving businesses in the wood-working community in East Sussex, Johnson Bespoke has a well-earned reputation as a collective of innovative designers, joiners and fabricators eager and un-afraid to take on a challenge. Its efforts proven with the collaboration on some ambitious high-profile projects, namely with architect and presenter George Clarke and William Hardie on their design and build of a futuristic rotating house for the hit C4 show, George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.Johnson Bespoke was tasked with creating a ‘living wall’ of moss to fit inside the house and a ‘space age’ wardrobe which could hold vacuum bagged clothes.
One of the tougher projects that Johnson Bespoke took on for Amazing Spaces was the timed house build, based on the Ty Unnos 600-year-old Welsh legend that states if you can create a house with four walls, a roof and have a fire burning inside in less than a day, then the house and the ground beneath it are officially yours.
The team created the cabin in just 24 hours, using only natural, raw materials found in the Welsh Valleys. Despite facing extreme weather conditions, the monumental build was complete by sunrise.
Following a successful application, Robin was able to access a combination of grants through Locate East Sussex as well as partners Business East Sussex to boost business growth by equipping his workshop and expanding the team.
Supported by East Sussex Invest (ESI4), Robin was able to create two new full-time jobs and get machinery that would allow the team to be more productive, taking his business from a one-man-band with casual subtractors to an experienced collective of craftspeople.