Byline: David Jones
FITTING carpets in modest semi-detached houses across North Wales may be bread and -butter work for Gareth Hughes but he's just as much at home doing business in the sumptuous surroundings of a Royal palace.
As managing director of Llandudnobased floor covering consultancy Linney Cooper, his job takes him and his team into some of the grandest mansions in the land.
It was Linney Cooper the Royal household turned to as restoration work got under way after a disastrous fire at one of the Queen's best-loved residences.
``Windsor Castle was my favourite job, without a shadow of a doubt, because of the huge responsibility and the sense of achievement to have completed the job to the quality that was demanded, `` says Hughes.
``We handled the supply and installation of all the carpets in the castle and to be part of that project was very special.
``We are a small provincial company and for us to achieve that was a job well done on the part of everybody who took part. That job gave us a profile within the industry and the ability to go on and secure similar work. ''
Linney Cooper has been working for the Royal households for the last decade and now holds two Royal Warrants of Appointment -- symbols of excellence and quality. It was invited to apply for the Queen's Royal Warrant after carrying out the work at Windsor Castle. The following year it received a similar invitation from the Prince of Wales' office.
Hughes says working in the Royal residences presents particular problems, for example the scale of the buildings, the security and the fact that most of the buildings are in use by the public. The Royal households specify the floor coverings needed and Linney Cooper provides the workmanship to ensure they are installed to best advantage.
``We do a lot of work with historic properties. We work for English Heritage, Cadw and the National Trust. We are able to lay reproduction carpets in a traditional way.
``All our operatives are proficient in traditional techniques. We do believe in new techniques but we also hold on to these traditional values.
``There is a good feeling after finishing an installation in a historic building. You turn around before you go through the door and look back at a well laid, highly decorative carpet and think you were instrumental in achieving that. ''
The company's ability to handle more difficult installations, coupled with its reputation for quality workmanship, culminated recently with the laying of carpets throughout the Royal Albert Hall. The oval shape of the famous building meant the job had its own unique specifications. The mammoth task was, admits Hughes, the biggest challenge he's faced professionally.
``The client wanted the carpets and borders to have a curvature to match that of the corridors. There were to be no joins, so the carpets were woven in one piece and that made it technically difficult, '' he says.
``We made the carpet in 120ft lengths with the borders woven through. It was done over a period of eight years, from the first day I went there, to the last day I signed it off. ''
For its work in the Royal Albert Hall, the company was awarded the Contractor of the Year 2003 award by the Contract Flooring Association.
Linney Cooper's business falls into five areas, chief among them the domestic retail side. Commercial organisations and interior designers are other markets. There's the historic and Royal establishments niche business. And then there are the owners and operators of what Hughes terms, probably accurately, ``super yachts''. The company installs high quality carpets in some 15 of these vessels each year.
Hughes reveals: ``These are yachts in the $30-80m bracket, owned by celebrities. …