It’s a quarter of a century since Ronnie Clifford and brother Iain decided to set up Ornate Interiors and in that time this specialist plastering firm has forged a reputation as one of the premier experts in restoration.
As the West Yorkshire-based firm prepares to celebrate its’ 25th anniversary Ronnie is quietly satisfied as he looks back on the achievements of the business which now employs 16 staff including 2 former Ornate Interiors’ trained apprentices focusing predominantly on fibrous and traditional lime plastering.
“We started off with just two staff in 1989 and have steadily and carefully grown in the intervening years,” explained Ronnie. “The ethos we started out with still holds today and we continue to apply the highest standards to everything we do.
“Protecting the integrity of our architectural heritage is vital if we are to maintain effective and productive links to our past for future generations. To that end we’ve applied our skills and knowledge to hundreds of iconic and historic venues right across the British Isles and further afield.
“Working with some of the best architects in the business is a great pleasure. Their appreciation of the importance of applying tried and tested methods to restoration work has played a big part in our own development and we’ve become the ‘go to guys’ for many exciting and exacting projects.
“Ensuring that these skills are not lost has been another key objective of the Ornate Interiors philosophy over the years with a proactive approach to apprenticeships contributing to keeping the past alive for the future.
“We value the apprentices we take on each year and they have all derived a great deal of satisfaction from working in such stunning and important environments,” added Ronnie.
The industry has changed a lot in the past 25 years. He went on: “This is primarily down to the legislative hoops we have to jump through just to secure work. We trained as plasterers but now require full awareness of health and safety, environment and waste management. Legislation has its place but should be used alongside common sense too.
“We have, so far, survived three recessions and each brings with it its own adversities with “subbie bashing” high up there. This is where main contractor prices are squeezed and it is subsequently felt by the sub-contractor as well as having to wait longer for payment.
“These times also bring out the cost over quality ethos, but we learn to adapt and don’t lose focus. One of the more positive moves over these years has been the increased industry awareness of how to restore our traditional buildings. We believe that we too have played our educational part in this sharing of knowledge.
“It’s not too long ago that sub-contractors were told how to perform on a job without their voice being heard but we’ve worked tirelessly to change contractors’ perceptions and many now appreciate the benefits of the knowledge and experience that a specialist can bring to a project,” added Ronnie.
The long list of landmarks that have benefited from the skills of Ronnie and his team is indeed impressive. From historic sites such as Nostell Priory, Durham Cathedral and Gorton Monastery to nationally acclaimed new build projects for private clients; the demand for traditional plastering skills remains undiminished.
It’s difficult for Ronnie to pinpoint the project that’s provided the most satisfaction but, when push comes to shove, he’s drawn to restoration work carried out at a Georgian property in Cheshire.
“The client wanted a first class job and that’s exactly what he got. The restoration utilised all our plastering skills including the restoration of highly ornate plaster mouldings, traditional lime plastering and the manufacture of bespoke plaster and GRG mouldings to architect’s designs. It was a pleasure to work alongside the whole project team and has left many lasting, good memories” he added.
A number of prestigious awards have also come Ornate Interiors’ way as a result of their work including the 2007 Plaisterers Award, the highest industry accolade, for their work on a private new build chapel in Scotland.
Ronnie continued: “Of course it’s great to get national recognition for your work but the ultimate reward is derived from seeing a finished job done to the very highest of standards and a satisfied client.
“I know it’s a cliché but that is the best form of promotion that a business can have. We are craftsmen in a very real sense and have to believe wholeheartedly in what we do. That’s a way of thinking that all of our apprentices learn from day one.”
As for the future Ronnie is not content to rest on his laurels.
“As with any business you have to keep evolving and you can never be totally satisfied but we will continue to deliver to the very best of our ability and deliver work that stands the test of time. You can’t ask for more than that.
“Our skills and craftsmen provide a living and breathing link between the past and the future and we are fully aware of our responsibilities to future generations,” concluded Ronnie.
Ornate Interiors clearly does exactly what it says ‘on the tin’ and plain speaking Ronnie wouldn’t have it any other way.