The brilliance of Brintons: How the Queen’s carpet makers are still going strong after 235 years

Brintons are a genuine British institution. They’ve been making carpets for almost a quarter of a millennium, working with everyone from Vivienne Westwood to the Queen – and are showing no signs of slowing down.

In this world of boom and bust, instant fame and almost-as-quick obscurity, not many things manage to keep going for two hundred years.

Those that survive don’t do so by luck. They manage to do so while staying ahead of the trends of the day, earning a place in the collective consciousness of all those who value quality and heritage. Take, for example, Savile Row tailor Henry Poole, founded in 1806; the cheesemonger Paxton & Whitfield, founded in 1797; or wine merchant Berry Bros, who have been going since 1698. All are as renowned today as they’ve ever been. Quality shines through.

Carpet-makers Brintons have absolutely earned their right to be mentioned in the same breath as those other august institutions. They’ve been making carpets in Kidderminster – still the company’s headquarters – since 1783, pushing innovations both technical and stylistic throughout that time. They’ve carpeted everything from the White House to Singapore’s Changi Airport – where they laid arguably the largest carpet in the world, in Terminal 3, a 100,000sq m creation which used the wool of 65,000 sheep.

And then, of course, there are the royal clients. In 1958 Brintons became one of the first companies to be awarded a Royal Warrant by the then-recently-acceded Queen Elizabeth II. The company has carpeted royal palaces throughout the land ever since.

The LA Epsom Stripe Duck Egg carpet by Brintons

Laura Ashley Epsom Stripe Duck Egg carpet by Brintons

Yet as powerful as the story of Brintons heritage is, equally fascinating is its determination to remain relevant in today’s world – something which seems to come naturally to a company that has always been on the cutting edge. They patented the first machine capable of weaving Axminster carpet, in 1890; the first to establish, after the Second World War, the 80-20 wool-to-nylon ratio that all the world’s best carpet-makers use to this day; and yet they’ve done so while keeping the changing aesthetic tastes of the day in the forefront of their – and our – minds.

In the 1990s, for example, they collaborated with Vivienne Westwood; more recently, they’ve worked with everyone from Laura Ashley and the National Trust to cutting-edge Glaswegian design firm Timorous Beasties (as in the example at the top of this page), producing carpets for everyone and anyone – anyone, that is, who cares about the marriage of timeless elegance and outstanding beauty to unbeatable quality and design.

The Laura Ashley Malmaison carpet by Brintons

Laura Ashley Malmaison Faded Gold carpet by Brintons

Brintons quality comes in large part from the materials used: great British wool. Country Life’s interiors editor Giles Kime made the point earlier this year that natural materials are back in vogue, something that this carpet-maker has never stopped appreciating – they’re the largest user of wool in the country, with the fleeces of one in nine of our sheep ending up in a Brintons carpet.

It’s a point that can’t be overstated: top quality wool looks, smells and feels wonderful – and, unlike the stripped floorboards that have taken over so many of our houses, won’t leave you deafened every time a pair of shoes comes into contact with it.

Abbotsford Heather Kilgour carpet by Brintons

Abbotsford Heather Kilgour carpet by Brintons

The feel is only part of the equation, of course: look is just as important, and Brintons have everything from old favourites – such as the ‘Renaissance Classics’ range – to fresh looks that bring in new ideas. That feels more relevant than ever as patterned carpets make a hugely-welcome comeback, and Brintons latest range, named ‘Perpetual Textures’, is inspired by rattan and handwoven techniques but using hard-wearing materials such as tweed. ‘It gives a modern twist to nostalgic prints,’ says the company’s creative designer Jodie Hatton. And no doubt we’ll keep seeing them – everywhere from Buckingham Palace to Pennsylvania Avenue – for a long, long time.

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