An interview with Chris Cattrall, Barr Joinery director

Chris introduces himself and elaborates on the team’s shared vision for the company.

STUART CHRIS LUCY 4665 lo res 2

Can you describe the company and your role?

On joining the company in 2020 I was fortunate to find myself working with a really great team. My work here started, in part, with leading the recent changes to the company direction and the exciting evolution of our brand. Our goal was to highlight what makes us stand out from the crowd… that we are a joinery house with a difference. We have an exciting mixed materials capability, made possible through collaborations with trusted specialist craftspeople and our hugely talented in-house team. As such we are able to produce design-led commissions which go far beyond the realms of traditional precision cabinet making.

How did you find yourself part of the Barr Group organisation?

Stuart and I come from similar industry management backgrounds – me on the commercial side and him from build and manufacture – it seemed the perfect combined skillset. We first met as eleven year olds and have been the best of friends ever since. We have always shared an interest in things made well. Although our paths diverged after school, both of our careers remained focused on design-led manufacturing and over the years we often found ourselves mentoring each other professionally. It was through an alignment of circumstances that the opportunity to join forces came about.

Can you tell us a bit more about the management team and your roles?

Working with Stuart (Founder and Co-Director) and Lucy (General Manager) has been an incredibly rewarding experience. For Stuart and I, working together has been as expected, a natural fit. We are both constantly driving towards new ways of doing things (in manufacture and process) to achieve ever more exceptional project outcomes for our clients. Lucy brings balance, calm and operational expertise to the table. As General Manager, Lucy heads up all live processes across the company; overseeing workshop operations, co-ordinating on-site activity and liaising with clients, designers and specialist subcontractors; and as such, is the pivot around which the whole company operates. As a management team, we really enjoy working together and we hope the journey for our clients and collaborators is equally rewarding and enjoyable.

“Whether designing from scratch to the visual aspirations of our direct clients or translating challenging creative designs into functional workshop drawings every commission brings its own challenges and sense of satisfaction in the finished product.”

What drew you to the Barr Group and what do you love most about your work?

Prior to joining the Barr Group, I was working in London, managing cabinetry design, manufacture and fit for large multi-unit luxury developments. My background in commercial manufacture across the industry, with added experience in timber and glazing, has given me a broad knowledge base and I was ready for a new challenge. The projects the Barr Group were working on; for interesting individuals and exciting properties, on challenging commissions in great locations, was obviously very appealing. Going back to direct to client work, where the personal connection with a clients or designer, developed through working on unique, individual commissions, was also a big draw.

What has been your key focus since becoming Barr Joinery director.

To continue producing exciting design-led commissions, but to make the process of manufacturing them affordable for our clients and collaborators was my primary challenge. To do this we also needed to grow our relationship base of specialist material providers, as well as honing the overall design and manufacturing process. Bringing a more ecological focus to our sourcing and manufacture was also very important to me.

Does Barr Joinery prefer working for direct clients and design professionals?

As part of the Barr Group, we are fundamentally a design-led organisation. We find ourselves actively seeking out interesting projects and in doing so we find ourselves with two distinct and equally important client groups. Individual property owners who come to us to design and manufacture for their homes and design professional (architects/ interior designers etc) who have already developed and honed their project vision and need us to bring it to life.

We are fortunate that our studio is perfectly set up to accommodate both types of commission and the team love the variation and interest that this brings to their day to day working lives. Whether designing from scratch to the visual aspirations of our direct clients or translating challenging creative designs into functional workshop drawings every commission brings its own challenges and sense of satisfaction in the finished product.

How is the industry changing and how has Barr Joinery responded?

We are seeing a clear increase in the use of mixed materials and specialist finishes amongst our commissions. As a result, we have formed close collaborations with specialist crafts people and expert trades, who are able to dovetail with us on very specific design blueprints – and in doing so making anything possible.

... and in a nutshell:

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

People – particularly the home owners and designers we end up working so closely with.

Who inspires you?

In design; Axel Vervoordt. For inspirational architecture and spaces; Vincent Van Duysen, John Pawson and Ricardo Bofill.

Do you have a place where you feel most at home/ inspired/ relaxed?

The Barbican Centre; everything about it is inspiring and peaceful, it brings me back to zero.

What's your own personal interior joinery/ cabinetry look?

Neutral, humble, peaceful, paired back.