Why sometimes only a human touch will do

The world of design is a huge industry and, in a way, it always has been. But in the modern, globalised world, when it comes time for people to kit out a new home, there will every now and again be a style that establishes itself as a must-have.

This works in trends, as is the case with any kind of fashion. A select few trailblazers will sport it first, then as it catches on and gains widespread popularity, the mainstream will follow suit and put it into mass production.

But for those with the cash to handle it, a bespoke approach is sometimes preferred. This adds a uniqueness that sets the item apart from its contemporaries and shows a desire from the owner to stand out from the crowd.

This is not always the intention though. It’s all about perception and despite money being no object, others argue that standardisation is a sign of consistency, reliability and guaranteed quality. But which best suits you?

A renaissance in hand-crafted fixtures or a desire for affordable quality?

Interior design is a more hotly-discussed topic nowadays than it has ever been in the past and the approach that homeowners take in terms of their purchasing habits could tell you a lot about them.

If a customer orders a new fireplace, for example, this is the kind of living room centerpiece that some might like to be the subject of special attention. A stock design can be slightly altered and given an intriguing twist or those who are even more particular might rather start from scratch, employing high-end architects and designers to come up with the their dream fireplace.

This is a trade-off that faces long-established stonemasonry firm J Rotherham, which has spent most of the last century coming up with fireplace designs that are attractive, high quality and to the exact standard of the customer.

The company’s Design Director Jamie Rotherham explains that the passage of time has changed the way in which its products are manufactured, but claims there is still no ‘one rule fits all’ approach, with varying price ranges a constant constraint.

He said: “Using the technology as opposed to using hand-crafted techniques can be quite a big decision. But you can have the best of both worlds. Using technology in the right way can actually bring the cost down.

“If you add carvings to something, the man hours increase dramatically. I think that it can make a fireplace look beautiful, whether you put a lot on or just a very small amount. But it does increase the cost rather disproportionately. We have measures that can help with that to bring the cost down, but because it’s relative it’s always going to cost more.”

Mr Rotherham even goes as far to say it can be a “frustration” when the final portion of a manufacturing project is responsible for half of the cost because it has to be carried out by hand. But the company would not offer such a service if the demand was not there.

This throws up the question of whether or not it is the actual aesthetic value of these small extras, or whether the price hike is such that it becomes favoured because it is seen as a symbol of wealth.

In certain cases both are probably correct. But this seems to give an indication that even as automated manufacturing techniques become more advanced, there will always be a section of the buying public who insist on a human touch to truly complete their home.

The wider constraints of the home

Of course there is one overriding factor that will always take precedent and that is the home a fireplace is being placed within.

Whether it is the space available to install it or the period of decor in a person’s living room, the existing features of a person’s home could well dictate their decision. Modern homes with a minimalist interior may not require the flair of a hand-crafted fireplace, whereas those with older homes may simply try to create a model that reflect the room’s period of origin.

To gain an insight into a wealth of options in both off-the-shelf and bespoke fireplaces, look no further than J Rotherham.