Meet The Team: EJ Ryder
Edwin J Ryder and his team specialise in bold, creative design and impeccable workmanship in their joinery and interior finishes. They are unusual in that they offer design and production, all carried out under one roof at their East London studio and workshop. We spoke with Edwin to find out how they work with clients on their property renovations.
How did you get started in this industry?
I guess the journey up to setting up the business is as interesting as the bit after. I grew up in a house that my dad was building… for the whole 15 or so years I was living there. So, I generally knew about buildings and studied building surveying at Uni. Once I’d finished, after going on too many snowboarding trips and feeling very broke, I helped my dad build the kitchen extension he wanted – that’s how long he was building for, the kitchen had gone out of date by the time he finished the rest of the house!
I ended up doing absolutely everything; the roof, the underfloor heating and electrics, all the plumbing, the slate floor, bespoke glazing and all the interiors. It all came together really well. After going travelling again for a bit, I came back and started using those skills to earn money.
With all that building experience, what made you specialise in joinery?
I was on a road towards being a high-quality reliable builder, but I realised it was not what I wanted to do at all. After moving to London I did some work for a set designer. She had this idea for a kitchen, which she sketched but there was no actual design, and she wanted it made out of ply and Formica, which I’d never heard of before. I didn’t even know which way round the Formica went, that’s how naïve I was, but we got it done and it looked great. From that I got more work and started the Limited company in the summer of 2014.
At first we were doing full residential refurbishments, but I soon realised that it was the joinery that we could do incredibly well. We were doing the design and production of tables and various other things and that’s when we realised we were doing something different that not everyone can do.
Quite often people want a lot of bespoke joinery in their renovations, but underestimate how expensive it is. How do you deal with that?
Although we specialise in joinery, our aim at EJ Ryder is to change the way the entire construction industry works.
All too often with residential refurbishments, there will be a misalignment of expectations or miscommunication between the homeowner and the architect and/or builder. This can often lead to delays, a rise in costs, and ultimately a real sense of dissatisfaction on the part of the homeowner.
Due to our collaborative process, in which we manage entire projects - from design through to completion - we can far more easily meet the unique needs of our clients. We have an impeccable track record of delivering projects within budget and on time. We form close relationships with everyone we work with, from clients to our specialist subcontractors, and speak the many varied languages required in this industry.
If someone is having their house refurbished and would like a kitchen by you, when should they get you involved?
The moment you have a basic layout design for the property. It’s best if we design the kitchen from the start because any design work done before that by the architect might be lost. Even if it was a good idea, we might go in a slightly different direction or look at different material samples with the client. All we need really is a line drawing and then full interaction with the client.
So the service you offer clients is a complete design service, down to where they keep the cutlery?
Yes, absolutely everything. We work very collaboratively with clients. It’s usually the case that they will look at our work and our materials library and something will wow them and then that sets the tone. We show them examples of kitchens we’ve done that we’re excited about and clients pick out the features they like. In the office we have a range of materials in different colours and textures, and can tell clients if they are cheap or expensive, durable or fragile. They can immediately have feedback on their choices.
What makes a successful, or enjoyable, project for you?
The brilliant thing about having a design studio and workshop fabrication all in the same place is we can make sure the job is done to a high standard, which makes it successful. The most exciting projects are when clients trust us; when we can draw them out of their comfort zone, to move away from white and use a texture or colour.
It’s really amazing when there’s a creative client to bounce ideas off. We can co-create the detailing and this is where we excel. We can guide a client but we also rely on them to keep things in line with their style, so that what they get in the end isn’t just amazing, it’s also personal to them. That kind of co-creation is where we really thrive.
We are increasingly placing sustainability at the heart of everything we do, and encouraging our clients to do the same. This means minimising waste where possible, using reclaimed or environmentally friendly materials, and adhering to energy efficient processes. We intend to push the use of technological innovation further, to improve ways of working and encourage more extensive collaboration.
What product or finish to you like at the moment?
Our work on black kitchens seems to be exciting people most at the moment. Also this product called Fenix, which is like an ultra-matt laminate. It’s heat resistant, scratch resistant and really durable. It looks impossibly matt, like rubber, but is actually a pure black smooth, wipeable surface. It’s quite versatile and it has a really high-end feel.
If there was one thing you could change in an ideal world to make your job easier, what would it be?
Every project is different, but it would be to have a realistic programme. If we waited for the contractor to finish everything before we started work, I guarantee that we would be fitting while the clients are already moving in - every time. There are always delays and changes to a project and the project time is always underestimated, but the client has been given a date and is waiting to move back in, when actually they could do with an extra month. I think that the client understanding what impact changes have on the programme is a massively big deal, but I also think that most clients would benefit from just letting the project take longer and not being so strict on deadlines. But then, if there’s no pressure, the project will never end… There’s no simple answer. When I find it, I’ll let you know!