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Bringing boat building craftsmanship to interior design in South Devon

Devon’s nautical prowess is an intrinsic part of its culture, with the famous Salcombe Yawl at its heart in south Devon.  

So when it comes to home refurbishment and interior design, a touch of the sea is often more than welcome. One of our key partner specialists, Crispin Born, cut his teeth in East Portlemouth as a boat builder and over many years since has honed his craft designing and making custom-made furniture.  Crispin works with our refurbishment team to add a touch of the local nautical to the details in your home.

How did you start your career?

I began my woodworking career at the Goodshelter boatyard at East Portlemouth.  It was a working boatyard building Salcombe Yawls and I went there as an apprentice.  I thought it would be better than a career in the city.  From there I went on and moved to Australia for a few years, kitting out fishing boats with woodwork. 

After a while, I didn’t like the fibreglass that was coming into the industry so I got into furniture.  In that time I decided to branch out on my own.  Then in 2003 I moved back to the UK and have carried on ever since.  I enjoy the hardwood furniture commissions the most - furniture and sideboards in particular.

What do you enjoy about being back in Devon?

It’s the landscape and those soft rolling hills that I used to dream about in that desert landscape in Australia.  Damp Devon can be a bit of a downer at times, but I love it - I love the sea and boats and sailing.  I think the coastline you get here is as good as anything - it’s one of the great beauties of the world.

What type of projects have you worked on with Pebbles refurbishment team?

I have worked with Kat and her team for a number of years now and together we come up with plans that work well for clients.  On Island Street we worked on Captain’s Cottage and built a row of fitted cupboards along with a wardrobe and a dresser.  The original property, which started he ball rolling was a set of built in bunk beds at Seaquest, Hope Cove, which was a great success. 

It’s always lovely working with the team at Pebbles.  There’s always something different to work on, and with someone like Kat it’s amazing because she has a vision from the start.  Together we come up with the perfect solution for clients and make suggestions to property owners, envisaging what they’re imagining to get something they like in the end.

What’s the process you usually work to?

The team at Pebbles usually have an idea that is discussed with the client initially, and we meet on site and work through it together.  I am happy to say I get a lot of repeat customers in my work.  I go to them and discuss what they want - in the early days I took lots of photos with me, but now I prefer to hear what they have to say - perhaps they want a storage solution for example.  

I then go away and put together drawings and quotes, and then we take it from there.  I think only twice in the last 10 years I have had people say ‘not on this occasion’ - most of the time they take it from there and off we go!

I tend to spend a lot of time thinking, designing and imagining the work.  Taking on a design is part of what I like the most about my work.  It’s very personal to me as it’s just me and no team.

Does your boat design background still play a part in your work?  

Yes, absolutely.  From a design aspect I think it comes in in the curves of the furniture but on a practical level it is there in the robustness of the furniture.  

Sometimes I have been asked to put together some of the prefabricated kitchens for people and I am always struck by how flimsy they can be.  I am into thick boards and screws, a durable finish and construction methods and that definitely comes from the boat building background - as you can imagine, a boat going onto the water has to be well made otherwise it won’t stay together!  

So I like to make sure everything’s well and truly constructed.  It makes me feel better knowing everything is well put together and it also makes things easier to rejig if you want to add in new bits at a later stage because it’s just about undoing screws without damaging the whole structure.

I'm into a durable finish and construction methods and that definitely comes from the boat building background - as you can imagine, a boat going onto the water has to be well made otherwise it won’t stay together!
Crispin Born