According to Robert Ditcham, founder of Ayrton Bespoke , the fact that “London is full of beautiful but sadly deteriorating windows and doors,” was what inspired him to change his building business a decade ago into one that manufactures and fits period timber windows and doors.
Walk along most streets in the capital and all you’ll see are single-glazed windows way past their best. “I realised that there was a real market there,” he says.
Inside the neat showroom on the borders of Southfields – soon to be joined by the company’s first foray north of the river, in Crouch End – are the pristine showpieces of Robert’s trade. There are a dozen beautifully turned horns in all shapes and sizes to add interest to a new sash window; eight different architraves; any number of door handles in different finishes – polished or satin chrome, brass or antiqued? – and shapes. How about monkey tail?
Then there are the multi-point locking systems; fitch fasteners; glass options; different paint treatments for the wood; a vast array of colour choices; and stateof- the-art home security features that will disable locks to enable a delivery or alert you to an open window. The place is a veritable cornucopia of choice.
Robert is keen that homeowners visit the showroom to source every single last item relating to their door or window purchase. “The reality is that you don’t often buy windows so I encourage people to visit the showroom and look at all the constituent parts. The number of variables is amazing. “I recommend active involvement in any big refurb. Your architect will have a broad overview but if you want to get the best out of the refurbishment, come and talk to the experts.”
A visit will mean that you can decide on the glazing spec, the ironmongery choice and even the sash stops spacing, and be able to play with the elegant multifold sliding doors. Replacing windows is not an inexpensive exercise. Ayrton Bespoke’s average order value is £8,000 and if you’re looking to replace the front windows of a house, say a bay window and two other windows, the bill is more likely to be in the region of £10,000 to £12,000. A front door could cost around £3,500 plus VAT depending on size and can soar to £10,000.
“It’s simply not worth buying the cheapest windows,” he says. “As they say in Yorkshire, ‘When you pay too little you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.’ Windows keep weather and undesirables out so think carefully about the quality and sturdiness of the product you’re buying,” he advises. “We’re up against builders who might have a supplier under a railway arch who will knock up some windows for them,” he says. “Builders build, they don’t make windows, so save yourself a lot of money by sourcing your windows and doors yourself. There are a lot of cowboys out there.”
Robert recalls having to replace windows that were only three years old, and French doors warped out of shape and leaking. Ayrton Bespoke is proud of the company’s wood-sourcing strategy, which is to purchase pine from the cold climate and sustainable forests of Latvia and then manufacture in Lithuania by skilled craftsmen in its factory. The average turnaround time is 10 to 12 weeks. “Something that’s good takes a while to make,” he quips. He explains that the Victorians built with pine. “95% of UK windows are made with laminated soft wood glued together, plus a hardwood sill as that’s where damp can lurk.
“Manufacturing in Eastern Europe and in more affordable pine means that we are able to produce something built to last at a competitive price,” he says. Ayrton Bespoke products are guaranteed for up to 30 years. Trucks drive their delicate load to London over a two-day period. Cocooned in multiple layers of bubble wrap, the windows and doors are ready painted and fully finished, ready to be fitted in a Nappy Valley home. The wood will have been spray painted for a perfectly smooth finish or hand painted for an “artisan” look showing the brushstrokes. Fitting is the last piece of the jigsaw. Ayrton uses its own skilled fitters, who are used to minimising disruption when working in customers’ homes.
Ayrton Bespoke’s craftsmen can replicate any period window or door. They can encase fragile stained glass into a double-glazed unit, copy a pretty tulip motif in coloured glass, create a Thirties double-glazed leaded light or replicate a casement bay in an Edwardian home. Ayrton Bespoke claims to solve most challenges thrown at it, ensuring a perfect fit, a quality item and a quieter home. You can say goodbye to noisy planes and condensation in one fell swoop. Robert can’t resist adding: “Most criminals will walk past double-glazed windows so that’s a big step forwards.” Shatter-proof glass is a popular choice for the outer pane of a double-glazed unit, as well as sash bolts, lockable fitch fasteners that will lock sash windows together and myriad other anti-burglar devices. ”Everything we sell has a security angle to it,” says Robert. Ayrton Bespoke windows and doors may hark back to traditional styles but the company is bang up to date when it comes to security.
Ayrton Bespoke Limited
Head Office and South London showroom
406 Merton Road, Wandsworth, London SW18 5AD
North London showroom
61-63 Tottenham Lane, Crouch End, London N8 9BE
Telephone 020 8877 8920