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Kelham Island Concrete shortlisted for national award

Posted by: Chris Wilson
Kelham Island Concrete shortlisted for national award supporting image

Holland Harvey - Gail's Earlsfield © Nicholas Worley

The Sheffield company are in the running for the 2019 Great British Entrepreneur Awards, so we caught up with owner Oliver Miller to get a more concrete idea of what’s going on…

When Oliver Miller decided to swap carpentry for concrete some of his closest friends - not to mention wife Lucy - wondered if he might just be losing his marbles.

 

When Oliver Miller decided to swap carpentry for concrete some of his closest friends - not to mention wife Lucy - wondered if he might just be losing his marbles.

 

“I had a workshop making fitted furniture and just decided to make a concrete table. It looked pretty good so I made a full range,” Oliver recalls.

“Everyone thought I was a bit stupid. Concrete has a reputation as a quite aggressive product, and it’s labour-intensive, so although the raw materials are relatively cheap the finished product certainly isn’t.”

 

Concrete was cutting edge - there were features about it in the trendiest design magazines. But it was a long way from mainstream thinking, and perhaps the distance was too great for Oliver to sustain a living.

 

Any doubts were understandable but Oliver, who has worked in the building industry since 2005, stuck to his guns and a few years down the line his instincts have been proved him right.

 

“I had spent a lot of time working on building sites and through that gained an appreciation of the finish on various materials, for example how wood can be smoothed to a particular finish.

 

“But concrete can also be smooth and tactile. It’s a man-made product with a hand-made finish and that makes it unique. We mix it here, high performance concrete has a very complex recipe with various additives, depending on whether it needs to flow, or be flawless, or whether it is a 3D item such as a sink.”

 

With a growing workforce and an ever-expanding order book, it seems Oliver was simply getting ahead of the curve. Concrete is not only cool but widely accepted and he finds himself at the heart of a revolution in building and design.

Oliver founded Kelham Island Concrete and in June 2016 moved into his own premises on Copper Street in the heart of S3. The workshop is ideal for everything from huge kitchen worktops to smaller scale pieces such as clocks, plant pots and coffee tables - everything finished to perfection according to customer specifications.

 

With different colours and patterns available, and laser etching for the finest of detail, concrete furniture is anything but the rough-and-ready. And an increasing number of people are starting to appreciate that it can be both practical and easy on the eye.

 

“It’s interesting to see the demographic change among our customers,” he says. “It’s a slightly older age group now, perhaps a little more conservative in outlook but they still want modern fixtures and fittings in their home.”

Oliver came to Sheffield from East Sussex in 2002 to study business and finance at Sheffield Hallam University. He went on to do a course in carpentry and joinery at Chesterfield College, working for a Dronfield-based building company before setting up his own business doing full house restorations, kitchens, bathrooms and woodwork.

 

“I’m one of those students who came to Sheffield to do a degree and just didn’t want to leave,” he says. And now he definitely finds himself in the right place at the right time.

 

“Kelham Island is perfect for a business like ours, it is part of Sheffield’s industrial heritage and a very exciting place to be right now.”

 

But work also takes Oliver further afield. Recent commercial projects have included several prestigious London companies including Holland Harvey Architects, Gail’s Bakery, Sodo Pizza Café and Gymnasium Gym.

 

One of the very first jobs commissioned for Kelham Island Concrete was a bar for Peddler Market, just across Kelham Island on Burton Road, and they’ve gone on to work for many other landmark local businesses including Tamper Coffee, Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Jaywing, Monk Bar, Chambers and Kelham Barber.

 

To cope with the growing demand Oliver recently welcomed Conor Povall to the team, a graduate with a Masters in furniture design. Conor’s dedication and design talents have allowed Kelham Island Concrete to grow and develop, and there are plans to increase the workforce again before the year is out.

 

Meanwhile recognition is starting to flow in from further afield. Oliver was delighted when one of his pieces was chosen to be displayed at Salon Mobile in Milan, the world’s largest furniture expo. They were in good company, being placed alongside British fashion legend Paul Smith’s one-of-a-kind tandem bike.

 

Kelham Island Concrete have also been commissioned to design art works for the Singapore-based fashion designer Li Chan.

 

Meanwhile, recognition is starting to flow further afield. Oliver was delighted when he was commissioned by Wallpaper* magazine to produce a one off piece of art work, designed by Singapore-based fashion designer Li Chan for the 10 year anniversary of their handmade exhibition.

 

The piece was displayed in the national gallery of Singapore before being shown at the Salone del Mobile in MIlan, the worlds premier furniture expo. They were in good company, being placed alongside British fashion legend Paul Smith’s one-of-a-kind tandem bike and renowned furniture designer Sebastian Cox.

 

And in October they’ll be heading to Manchester for the regional heats of the British Entrepreneur Awards run by NatWest, where they’ve been shortlisted in the Creative Entrepreneur of the Year category.

 

If you want to add a touch of concrete to your home or business get in touch with Kelham Island Concrete.

 

17 Copper Street

Sheffield

Tel: 07717 435797

S3 7AG

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