Samuel Heath's beautiful bathrooms have been a British institution since 1820. Arabella Youens spoke to the boss to find out how they keep up standards, almost 200 years on.

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An early idea for this photoshoot involved managing director David Pick standing beneath one of Samuel Heath’s hand-finished showers – in full flow. It was quickly vetoed. ‘I don’t have enough decent suits for that spectacle,’ he laughs. ‘We opted to use our factory for inspiration – we’re pretty proud of it.’

The Birmingham-based 150,000sq ft factory has been the firm’s home since 1850 and everything it produces takes shape under the one roof. Although its façade is listed, the interiors incorporate some of the latest technology. ‘It’s a blend of old and new that seems to work for us.’

Founded in 1820, the firm’s majority shareholders remain the Heath family; today’s chairman, aptly named Samuel, is the fifth generation to oversee its progress. The business started out as a traditional brass foundry and went on to produce a vast array of products from bedsteads to fireside accessories.

Today, it’s one of the best-known British manufacturers of high-end bathroom accessories, taps, showers and architectural hardware.

Each piece is formed using solid Northern European brass, which is then hand-polished to create a flawless finish before undergoing a high-quality electroplating process. ‘We go against the grain by not outsourcing elements. Lead times, even for larger projects, are getting shorter and shorter, but we have to be in control of the product and its availability,’ explains David, who joined the company on the production side before working his way up through the commercial teams.

 

Product collections range from collaborations with Royal Crown Derby through to the company’s latest range, Landmark, which is inspired by the Bauhaus era, so historical detailing takes a primary role.

‘We like to take cues from a particular period in time, such as those of the Art Deco and Arts-and-Crafts movements, and design products that are instantly recognisable to an informed audience, but not so much that they end up being pigeonholed,’ says David.

‘The Art Deco range, for example, could work equally well in a contemporary setting as it could in a 1920s house.’