Words by Dan Warden
Reflecting in their work the quality and standard of the materials they employ, is a company determined to do things differently.
Designer and hardwood specialist, Warren Bennett established TreConcepts in 2015 to operate with custom, hand-finished wood flooring, supplying and fitting to order for architectural projects across the south west. Before that, he had worked as the Manager of Woodstock. “I left there in 2015 and set up on my own. When I launched TreConcepts, I wanted to create a wood flooring company that would compete with the best in the country. To date we’ve had the privilege of working on some pretty amazing projects and we’ve done some very exclusive work along the way. What I really wanted to offer, however – as well as the wood flooring – was a service where creative designers, architects, interior designers and private clients could come together and work with us to find design-led solutions in joinery and furniture, as well as wood flooring.”
He leads TreConcepts alongside Co-Director, Lee Endean. “The simplest way of describing our working relationship,” says Warren, “is that I go out and find the work, and Lee makes sure it gets done. Once I’ve been out to meet the client and architects, I usually bring a seemingly impossible design back to the workshop and say ‘Lee, we’ve got to do this.’ After picking himself up off the floor,” he laughs, “he and the team set to work finding the best solution to bring that brief to life.”
Behind this partnership is a growing team that share the pair’s core values. “Andre, for example, has been fundamental in the recent evolution of the company structure,” says Warren. “As our Special Projects Manager, he has brought a much more operational way of thinking to the business. Andre likes data, and loves nothing more than a good spreadsheet or flow chart! He’s very good at making sure we’re working efficiently and effectively.
“We also have Wayne, who’s our Joinery Executive; Josh, our Flooring Executive; Matt, our Production Operations Manager; and Clive, our Workshop Foreman, who heads up the team of Bench Joiners. Clive,” says Warren, “is basically the Gandalf of the joinery trade. He’s an absolute wizard! His key mantra is ‘be bothered’, so he’s very, very hot on quality control and ensuring things are done correctly.” In fact, the same can be said for the entire TreConcepts workforce, who are a testament to the work Warren and Lee have put into nurturing a team that ‘buys into’ their core company values.
“What we’re trying to achieve,” says Warren, “or rather, where we see the future of TreConcepts, is in working closely with interior designers and architects on big projects, and offering clients the complete wood package. This means they can have their fitted furniture, their interior door or door linings, their architraves, skirting boards, floors – everything – and be sure that the design themes are coherent throughout the home. In one particular project we’re working on at the moment,” he elaborates, “we’re working with the architect to do all sorts of different things, from wall-cladding to flooring, to large doors, to hidden storage compartments within wardrobes, to the actual wardrobes themselves. To see all these things come together via one team is really lovely, and it’s on these projects that we really come into our own. Ultimately, clients who are spending a million pounds or more on their new home want quality – they want something unique that’s going to last and that they’re going to love living with, and that’s where we thrive.”
As a case study, I ask Warren to tell me about the wood-flooring installation at Cornwall’s archive centre, Kresen Kernow. Part of a £12M redevelopment project, the flooring element alone took three months to design and plan, and a further six on-site managing the actual installation. Being a Cornishman himself, says Warren: “I couldn’t let that project slip. It involved the repurposing of a building that was on my doorstep growing up – the old Redruth Brewery, into an archive centre for Cornwall.”
So what did it entail? “For the flooring in the main hall,” he explains, “the installation became quite technical, because the developers repurposed a lot of the granite slabs and turned them into little islands. We had to weave the flooring in and out and around these slabs, as per the architect’s design. We also had to ensure that everything was finished to the same floor level, so that there were no steps and everything was nice and even. We were also commissioned to design and install the sub-floor, too, so we created a system whereby we would actually support the floor from underneath, which would allow us to get to the same level as the granite.”
Built of local stone, Kresen Kernow is a beautiful example of Cornish architecture. There is something timelessly reassuring about a building of Cornish stone, particularly granite; it speaks of sturdiness, of reliability and durability, but like every ‘quoin’, it has two sides, and it can certainly come with its challenges. “If you visit Kresen Kernow now,” says Warren, “you’ll notice how uneven the granite walls are. In some areas, the planks of flooring had to be scribed so that they followed the natural contours of original stone walls, and in such a way that they still allowed for expansion gaps. It was a real test for us, technically, because we had to be incredibly accurate with how we fitted the floor – as well as with the techniques and products we used. Don’t get me wrong, it was a pleasure to be involved, but it was hard work! Fortunately we have a great team of fitters who are incredibly capable, and in the end, it was a really satisfying job to be commissioned for.”
As is inevitable in a line of work that relies on heavy industry, we get to talking about sustainability, and Warren explains that TreConcepts only deal with suppliers and importers who have a responsible purchasing policy and, wherever possible, will specify FSC accredited materials, even though they themselves are not FSC registered… yet. They are also proud to work alongside companies here in Cornwall who are pioneering a future for sustainable architecture. “What we’ve found is that it’s the architects who are driving sustainability forwards within our industry, and we’re working with one in particular who are leading the charge. Of course, there’s a cost element to this, so it can’t be applied to every single job, but if we had it our way, we would use the most environmentally friendly products possible.
“Internally, we are taking steps to ensure that our operations are much more focused on reducing our impact on the environment. We are currently in the test phase of a breakthrough that would allow us to reduce single-use plastic by up to 85%. We also try to repurpose as much of our waste as possible, collecting all of the sawdust and turning it into briquettes that can be used as fuel. Long-term, we’d love to regenerate this into heat for the whole factory, further reducing our environmental impact. For now, we’re looking at our use of technology in our building and trying to find a way in which we can reduce our power demand, exploring more energy-efficient machinery and computers. We’ve actually started investing more money in our tools as well, which means they last longer than more ‘disposable’ alternatives.”
In short, sustainability is very much ‘front of mind’ for Warren, Lee and the wider TreConcepts crew, which is important. As we’re discovering throughout this edition of DRIFT Abode, a bid for a cleaner, greener future is beginning to feed into every arm of the homes and interiors industry. Gone are the days of luxury at any cost, and surely any contemporary vision of a dream home must at least consider how it can be brought to life with minimal ‘footprint’. With Warren and Lee at the helm, it is in this direction that TreConcepts is being steered, and what is perhaps most reassuring, is that it will never come at the cost of quality.