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Wood is a living material that changes over time and place. An understanding of this goes into the manufacture of bespoke furniture, itself a mix of technical and design puzzles. Co-founded by Philip and Jasmin Ryan, Sonabuild is a family business based in Cardiff. Here, Philip tells us more about sustainability and the design process.

What does your business offer?

Bespoke joinery. People come to us for a professional service. We listen to what they’re looking for. People usually want something long-lasting to fit into a space – we can make a piece fit naturally.

Who’s behind the business and what are your values?

Myself and my wife Jasmin. It’s a family-run business.

The name will tell you our values, Sonabuild. ‘Sona’ is Irish for ‘happy’. I wanted to create something that would make us happy, work that we would both enjoy and that would let us be creative and expressive. We’d like to give people a good product that they can value and that makes them happy too.

Oak curved wooden wall panelling and staircase

Why would you consider yourself to be sustainable?

From the start we’ll recommend materials that can be locally sourced. It’s up to the client – wherever we can, we do.

We’re sustainable in the types of finishes we use. These are environmentally-friendly wood treatments with low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound). We pay a little more for good quality finishes that are 30% more resilient than cheaper ones. This means our products last longer and helps the environment. For functioning mechanisms, I use only one company that offers a lifetime guarantee. That way parts don’t need to be replaced over time.

In the next twelve months, we want to be fully carbon neutral. We’re working with an organisation in India that is planting trees on our behalf. We have very little, if any waste. We repurpose off-cuts for smaller objects and shavings go to my friend who keeps horses. Packaging gets recycled.

What we see today is short-lived and we need to think about the future of our children and our children’s children. I feel that only our generation and the one before it believes in that. Sustainability needs to be taught - Ikea’s doors would close if people didn’t change their furniture every five to seven years. Think of the energy going into furniture.

Bespoke tables designed by Philip

Tell me about a project you’re proud of

All of them. I generally put everything I have into them physically and psychologically.

I’ve been developing a piece of furniture and the process of how it’s constructed for the last four years. I only got it right two months ago. Now I have the finished piece and the first client to receive it is really happy with it. I invested so much time in that piece – it nearly put us out of business a few times.

We have this technique now because we persevered and believed in it. It’s relatively simple in design and very strong in structure. It has at least a hundred-year lifespan. I’m always innovating new techniques.

How has your business changed and learnt over time?

Every day is different to yesterday. I try to take with me what I learn. What we do is always new and evolving – bespoke things are unique. I make mistakes and evolve too.

We’re trying to be a lot more conscious about what we could do to be sustainable and help local businesses grow who support the joinery trade. We want to build a local community so people recognise the area to be important.

What’s your local tip for the home?

Think about the longevity of the piece. A home should be something that’s familiar to you. A home should have good quality furniture that you take with you when you move house. You’ll recognise your home anywhere because it has your furniture inside.

Find out more about Sonabuild

Custom-built bedroom sideboard unit
Custom-built TV unit

What customers say:

“We are really happy with the staircase that Sonabuild has built for our new house. Philip was very professional throughout the whole process. He had great ideas and really listened to what we wanted.”

“I engaged Philip to make me a custom built TV unit. I am delighted with his workmanship and the piece has been subject to much admiration from visitors to my home.”

“Very pleased with the shelving system Phillip has built for me! Now my books are finally off the floor. Would definitely contact Sonabuild again if I needed more work done.”

“Philip has built me my dream kitchen and I could not be happier with it. He included all my wishes and came up with really clever ideas and solutions.”

Find out more about Sonabuild