Why two leading Harrogate design firms are joining forces
PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 October 2015
Shared values are the foundation for an unconventional collaboration between William Woods Interior Design and Stephen Neall
Two family businesses have joined forces to take classic and contemporary design in the North of England to a new level. William Woods Interior Design and Stephen Neall have been long-standing neighbours in Station Parade, Harrogate and have often collaborated on prestigious projects throughout the UK. Now they have consolidated their professional relationship to bridge the gap between construction and interior decoration, creating a quality ‘one-stop shop’ which, they believe, is unrivalled in the North.
‘We are two families with one goal - to share our passion for quality, beautiful design and attention to detail,’ says Stephen Gee, a founding partner of the Stephen Neall Group which initially specialised in kitchens and bathrooms. ‘We have been working side by side, often for the same clients, for many years. In formalising this partnership we are dovetailing a wealth of skills, experience and resources.’
Those resources include in-house production workshops, staffed by teams of highly skilled artisan craftspeople and creative designers, who join forces for projects ranging from single room makeovers to full house renovations in locations all over the country.
At first glance, however, the Woods-Neall partnership could be considered by some to be an unlikely pairing. Sarah Woods is the fifth generation of a family business which was launched in 1895 as Woods of Harrogate and received Royal patronage in the 1920s. The royals are still among Woods’ prestigious client list and the present William Woods, who heads the company, is strongly influenced by extensive classical training, years of experience and a passion for period and classical design. As a result, the company is one of the select members of the British Institute of Interior Designers. Sarah, who attended the KLC interior design school in Chelsea Harbour and was head-hunted by one of London’s top interior designers before moving back to Harrogate, is equally passionate about maintaining the company’s reputation for the highest quality – in both textiles and design.
The success of Stephen Gee, the dapper co-founder of Stephen Neall and an ex-national gymnast, is also founded on exceptional quality, client trust and strong business values – but his early influences were very different and his focus is distinctly contemporary.
Stephen started his career as a trainee silversmith in Leeds when he worked in the polish room. His early memories include the eye-watering ammonia in the sonic cleaning baths, burns, and blisters and ‘seeing my workmates go up in smoke from the open gas flames of the blow torches. In those days of course, they just had a quick cuppa and got back to it.’ He then became a trainee design consultant, working alongside design teams, architects and sales people who equipped him with the foundation skills of his trade.
Stephen is now the driving force behind the ultra-modern Stephen Neall Group of companies which has been evolving for over 30 years and incorporates a mono-brand kitchen showroom dedicated to McCarron & Co; a mono-brand Poliform store; interior architecture and furniture fit-out, and an on-line home furnishings and lighting store known as The Factory.
‘Stephen excels at spacial awareness, planning and construction while our strengths are in beautiful fabrics, soft furnishings and classic styling,’ says Sarah. ‘We have very different skills and styles to bring to the table.’
What they share in equal measure, however, is a passion for attention to detail and ultimate professionalism and it is these shared values which form the basis of their unconventional collaboration.
‘When you are naturally creative you are always searching for new ideas, not just in business but in every walk of life,’ says Stephen. ‘We all travel extensively, looking for inspiration, researching all aspects of design and architecture and constantly working to raise our standards. Although we each offer something very different, we both have the same aims and the same values.’
Sarah adds: ‘Stephen is driven by contemporary design, great spaces and structural detail. I get very enthusiastic about luxurious upholstery, beautiful textures and individually crafted furniture. Our aim in this partnership is to maintain the standards and traditions of the past while embracing the trends and designs of the future.’