A FURNITURE designer who helped to kit out Downing Street during the Blair years will be welcoming Cherie Blair back to the North East to open his new production base.
Michael Stephenson started bespoke furniture firm Herrington Gate almost two decades ago. In addition to prime ministers, his client list includes Premiership footballers and top North East businessmen.
He said: “We had a house at Herrington Gate Lodge, which has its own grounds and we made our first couple of jobs in the keep. We moved to a more or less derelict building and it’s grown approximately four times in size since then.
“But we were desperate to build our own manufacturing facility. We found the site and started work three-and-a-half years ago at Houghton le Spring.”
Now employing 18 staff including Stephenson and wife Ashley, the business has been in the new building for around six months.
The headquarters, which includes a design suite and two floors for manufacturing, will be officially opened by Mrs Blair next month.
Stephenson said: “She has offered to come along and officially launch the business. She’s been a client since the Downing Street days.
“In the North East we have clients such as Tom Maxwell, Sir Peter Vardy and some football players.”
Stephenson, who still lives at Herrington Gate Lodge and is originally from Chester-le-Street, first dipped his toes into furniture design because he could not find what he wanted in the shops. He said: “I was building a rental portfolio years and years ago and I was refurbishing Herrington Gate Lodge. I didn’t find the designs in the quality I was looking for so I drew up my own designs.
“We get a client who comes along with ideas and we build on them. It all starts with the design; it’s all bespoke. We’re also planning a London showroom in the next 12 to 18 months,” said Stephenson. “We’ve got a lot to offer across the country, not just the North East.”