What do you get when you cross a law degree with antique materials? Nope, it’s not a trick question. The answer is of course Lee Thornley, the LDNER we’ve been chatting to this week. Still not getting it? Neither did we, so we asked Lee to explain how graduating with a first in law resulted in him starting up Bert & May, a business that sources unique building materials and furniture for the home…

Where do you live in London and what do you like about the area?

I live on a canal barge in Bethnal Green. I love being opposite Victoria park for early and late dog walks and enjoy Broadway market for late night dinners and leisurely walks at the weekend for inspiration. I love the vibrancy of East London, especially the quirky pop-up shops and restaurants that are built and run by passionate people who love what they do. It’s so inspiring to see.


You graduated as with a first in Law, how did you get from there to antique materials?

I love academia and a challenge and obviously running your own business (regardless of what type) is hugely challenging and needs a strong analytical mind – so law was perfect preparation for this. I’ve always had a passion for antiques and fell into creating the business I have today by building a boutique hotel in southern Spain – Casa La Siesta – which is full of reclaimed treasures that I sourced from the local area. The valued, Spanish contacts that I gained from that experience still offer unique products for Bert & May today, such as the stunning reclaimed marble sinks which are available in our bathroom collection.

What’s the most unusual material you have ever sourced?

It’s not particularly unusual but antique, cast iron stoves from an old bakery and iron pillars from a Spanish railway station both stand out. More recently, I have been sourcing beautiful pieces of vintage furniture to cover in our new collection of hand silk screen-printed fabrics. I tend to choose classical pieces of furniture that create a statement piece in the home once re-upholstered. The best thing about sourcing vintage and revamping them is each piece is totally unique and rather special.

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You moved to Spain for a number of years, what brought you back to London?

I have two young kids with very enthusiastic grandparents – so bringing them closer to their family was the primary reason. I still visit Spain often on sourcing trips which gives me the best of both worlds. Spain is a fantastic place to get away to and enjoy some sunshine. However, the UK and in particular London offers such a rich culture of all the things which are close to my heart – design, food and antiques.

What would be your perfect day in London?

The perfect day would include a walk in the park with my dog Bertie (not too early!), coffee and pastry outside in the winter sun, a wander around Kempton market or any sort of antique shop, followed by a lot of wine and food at lunch time with friends. My favourite places to go and visit for lunch are Bistroteque and Andina.

Bert & May, 67 Vyner St, London E2 9DQ