Hanging Out with The Sterlingham Company
Getting to know Lina Gaveikaite of The Sterlingham Company and some of the magic behind those elegant Sterlingham towel warmers
The Sterlingham Company Limited has had its roots in bathroom fixtures and fittings for over 30 years. They are proud manufacturers of high quality brass bathroom accessories, towel warmers and washstands, all made in England. Their philosophy is to design and manufacture hand-crafted products that combine the traditional with the innovative using the best materials and processes to deliver a product that is of remarkable, lasting quality.
Lina Gaveikaite is Business Development Manager for Sterlingham, and in September she spoke at our first post-lockdown Live Brunch Event about their stunning luxury metal finishes for bathroom washstands, towel warmers and other bathroom sanitaryware and how different periods of time in the tank can change the colour infinitesimally. She showed us some super samples too.
Getting to know The Sterlingham Company…
How long has The Sterlingham Company been going for and what prompted your joining the team?
The Sterlingham Company has been trading since 2010, but the founder of the business has been manufacturing bathroom fittings since the late 80’s. After working for over a decade in showrooms I really wanted a different challenge and liked the idea of representing a manufacturer. I knew the knowledge and experience I had gained in the showroom would be of huge benefit to me and the company I represented.
I don’t think the owner will mind me saying that The Sterlingham was little known as a brand when I joined. They had lots of customers but spread all over the world with a lot of products being made as ‘white label’ goods. The brands that the company already manufactured for gave me huge confidence in the company. My initial thought was, if they are good enough to make products for X, Y, Z brands, surely they are good enough to sell direct to retailers.
I was blown away with their dry line electric towel warmers, an innovation that I felt the world knew very little about, including me. I saw the potential selling such an excellent product and have since discovered that the company has lots of loyal customers, who, once they appreciate the value of the dry line electric, very rarely order the hydronic or dual fuel option, if ever.
What has been The Sterlingham Company’s most tricky and yet successful design?
Tricky comes up quite often but impossible isn’t necessarily in the Sterlingham vocabulary; we like to believe that anything can be done.
A few years ago, we were asked to manufacture the legs for a bar room table, using square tube and intricate end detailing. It didn’t really lend itself to any existing products or designs so it was a challenge for the team but one they successfully completed. You can see a couple of the factory and completion pics here:
We have a project underway currently where we have been asked to make ceiling mounted towel warmers which have a ‘shelf’ for plant pots. I’m really looking forward to seeing the end result.
The finishes that The Sterlingham Company offer are all just so lovely. Please could you describe the finishing process and how each of the finishes are achieved.
In 2013 the founder of The Sterlingham Company brought chrome and nickel plating in-house so that the company had full control over quality and lead-times. Whilst the majority of sales are still polished brass, chrome and nickel, we have seen increasing demand for the living finishes (bronzes) as well as gold and powder-coated finishes in recent years. For these finishes, we have managed to partner with some really good local experts who care about quality as much as us.
Where is the majority of your work based and how has travel help to shape and influence your ideas on design?
I hope it’s not too judgmental to say that Greater London is a step ahead in being brave to try new products and finishes. Designers and retailers are very open to bespoke products, hence I spend the most of my time in London.
Saying that, there are different demands for Europe and US. I’m not sure if people in the UK are aware how obsessed Europe and US is with what they call ‘English Style’. The fact that they are getting ‘English Style’, 100% made in England, helps us to build successful relationships outside UK: over 50% of our sales this year have been exported to countries all around the world.
New Sterlingham products sometimes are born by adapting an existing product for a different purpose.
What do you think should be a key focus for designers moving forward in 2022?
I hope off the back of COP26, sustainability and buying products from companies that are actively trying to fight climate change will become more important. I think when a designer sits with a client, to have the ability to sell both design and sustainability will be critical, not just in 2022 but increasingly in the years ahead.
Sterlingham have already started addressing their role in climate change these past few years, moving to 100% renewable electricity contracts and installing LED lighting in the company and in December we are launching a campaign to promote the green benefits of the electric towel warmers as well as confirming our commitment to net zero and carbon neutrality.
Can you tell me about your ideal client?
My ideal client is the one who has a strong aesthetical knowledge of what they want but listens to our suggestions on practicality and what is the best product technically for their home. I’m referring to those that think they want hot water, dual fuel towel warmers but allow me to prove to them that dry line electric is the best.
What are the three implications for Interior Designers if they order a highly bespoke item via their distributor, from The Sterlingham Company i.e. what could go wrong and how to avoid any mistakes right from the start?
We offer an extended support for designers and architects where we discuss product in detail, provide drawings as well as RRP prior to sending them to a retailer. We make sure the designer is happy with everything before an order goes into production. I’m not aware of any issues that we have had with any bespoke order placed by a designer through a retailer.
If an Interior Designer walked up to ask for your advice on how to design a beautiful bespoke Sterlingham washstand and you only had a few minutes to give them your 3 best tips, what would they be?
Style, purpose and, of course, price. Knowing the answers, I think it is pretty easy to propose something. There are a number of washstands that we have produced in the past that we kept drawings of or have pictures. Those can be a starting point for discussion. We could add extra features to make it unique, a one-off. If I understand a designer’s vision then I can go back to our technical team, give them the brief and develop a bespoke washstand.
Getting to know you…
You are actually from Lithuania originally, I believe. What has been the biggest culture shock for you, moving to the UK?
So I came to UK when I was 21. The first thing that jumped out was the mixture of nationalities, races, religions and all that came with it (ie. overall appearance, behaviour aspects like how different cultures greet each other).
Food was challenging too but I was very open minded to try anything new and ‘exotic’ at that time (like olives, avocado, some fruit I have only seen on TV or in a magazine). Custard was my best find that I still love. Houses and their interiors were unusual. I still do not understand the purpose of pillar taps (sooooo English), carpets in the bathrooms (rented a house with blue carpet in the bathroom), pull cord switch. These are just few examples.
What is your typical work day like? (Do you wake up early, work late, communicate, what jobs do you do yourself, who do you talk to etc)?
I’m an early bird but not a morning person. I usually get up early and just have a peaceful morning while getting ready to go on the road. I’m aiming to have all meetings in the morning when my brain is the sharpest and reply to emails, call back people if I missed anyone’s call, catch up with the office work in the 2nd part of the day.
I do work in the evenings sometimes too. Our factory closes at 4.30pm but we have some retailers that work till 6pm in the UK, but of course retailers around the world. Therefore, I’m here if they need anything. Also, working late gives you the peace and quiet time to concentrate.
When did you realise you were successful/made it (a million visitors, most profitable day, featured in the press etc) and how did you feel or celebrate?
I think the first big scale schedule full of Sterlingham products gave me that success feeling. Also, the knowledge that our products are installed in famous hotels like Mandarin Oriental, The Ritz in Paris, Landmark…makes me feel proud of our achievements. Did I celebrate? No, I just shared how I’m feeling (joyous and proud) with my family, friends, some retailers that I have a close relationship with. I celebrate every day, happy to represent the company I so believe in.
Looking back, what could you have done sooner to have got to that point quicker?
I believe everything happens for a reason. I joined Sterlingham after nearly 15 years being a salesperson in bathroom, kitchen businesses. My desire to succeed was larger than my knowledge about production processes. I think I have wasted time on trying too hard to please every enquiry I received. But that was a learning curve.
I’ve learned how we make products, what costs are involved to make a certain product and how to manage people’s expectations. I took that knowledge on board and went to retailers, designers and architects. I was confident enough to finally make Sterlingham worth everybody’s attention.
What is the greatest sacrifice you’ve made?
The decision to make UK my home. My family is in Lithuania and I’m here all by myself battling the guilt that I’m not there for them when they need me. My parents are my biggest supporters and they are very proud of my success but it doesn’t make any easier to be so far away from them.
Tell us about your own home… or perhaps about your favourite room in your home. What type of property do you live in?
I live in mid terrace house that I renovated last year. It has been built in 1980’s and previous owners didn’t love it that much. I always wanted a cloakroom and I have achieved it! I think it’s stunning with navy blue metro tiles, Sterlingham industrial washstand in brushed brass, a new mirror that we are about to launch and marble vanity.
How would you describe your own interior style?
Practical, homely but elegant.
Tell us about a recent buy for the home …OR … Tell us about your favourite room in your home.
I’ve bought so many things last year as my home has undergone full refurbishment. There were a lot of decisions to be made and I don’t think I’ve got them all right. But hey, I’m only human. I’ve mentioned my cloakroom already, but I’m pretty pleased with my main bathroom too. I think it’s beautiful as well as very practical.
What has been your biggest home extravagance?
Stairs. I managed to convert an old fashion staircase wrapped in carpet into something modern.
What is your favourite thing about your home or garden in the summer?
I’ve revamped my garden too so I have a spacious patio for outdoor socialising as well as raised flower beds. I think I’m getting old now, I love working in the garden, looking after plants, going to garden centres. It’s great to have an outdoor space that you can relax after a hard-working week.
And what is on your coffee table?
Not much right now. Few magazines, fancy coasters that I bought in Vietnam on my travels.
Who inspires you on the design front?
During my retail years I have seen lots of central London homes where I spotted one or another detail that made me think oh that’s cool. Pinterest is another go to place to gain some inspiration, I watch some interior design programs like Grand Design and always comment ‘oh I do or don’t like how they’ve done this or the other room’.
Lastly, if you had a blank cheque, what would you be splashing out on for your own home?
Depends on the figure I could write on that cheque, I guess. If it’s a substantial amount I would consider solar panels, other green innovations that give not just benefits to me (ie free energy) but also is good for environment. After all, I’ve got a Bachelor degree in Environmental Treatment so it must be in my blood to care for the planet.
A huge thanks to Lina for such a wonderful presentation packed full of inspiration – what a way to kick off the in-person Live Brunch Events after so long. Take a look at The Sterlingham Company’s amazing creations here.
You can also find and connect with The Sterlingham Company Limited via the usual social media platforms
The Sterlingham Company on Facebook
We look forward to keeping in touch with Lina in the future and watch how The Sterlingham’s products continue to develop in the future.
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