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About Us

Our Story

A Family Firm using traditional skills, with modern aesthetics, to create crafted, sustainable kitchens and furniture in our workshop in Sussex

Custom Fronts is run by a husband and wife team, carpenter Ian Thurlby and Rachel Carroll, as a new venture alongside our sister carpentry firm, Dovetail Carpenters which Ian has run for over 10 years. 


We wanted to offer sustainable, high-quality kitchens and furniture with a simple, crafted aesthetic, at a reasonable price. All of our products have a provenance and a sense of place. We don't think high end design should only be available to those with deep pockets.  And we want to help you wave goodbye to MDF, and hello to beautiful Scandanavian birch plywood and native hardwoods - all FSC certified.


We not only design, but also handmake and handpaint all of our products.  We use the traditional craftsmen and cabinetmaking skills, but we are influenced by many different disciplines including art, design and architecture. It's important to us not only that our products look good (and we hope they do) but that in addition they work.


In fact our Mottos could be:-


"Never design anything that cannot be us" (paraphrasing  Jean Prouve, maker and designer)


"Form follows Function" (Frank Lloyd Wright, architect)


"Design for all" (we'll claim that)


Ian Thurlby comes from a London family of master craftsmen and is our Head Maker. He is a fully qualified carpenter and furniture maker with many years experience building and installing custom kitchens, cabinetry and furniture. 

His previous training was in Fine Art, design, goldsmithing and trekking.  After completing his Fine Art Degree at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, he exhibited his landscape paintings in galleries throughout the UK.  He also worked as a goldsmith alongside his master goldsmith father for many years. He founded and ran a trekking co-operative which partnered with local experts in Nepal, India, Turkey and elsewhere to provide authentic, meaningful experiences and local employment.

Rachel Carroll has a background in law and grew up in coastal Ireland.  Because of this, she has an eye for detail but also a huge appreciation for nature and simple beauty. She is drawn to natural materials with a sense of place.

Rachel handles most of the other tasks that aren't making.  Design, PR, social media, answering queries, book-keeping, drinking of which she doesn't enjoy very much (clue: it's book-keeping).

Creating local jobs, supporting local communities, and using ethical and sustainable materials are central values.

       Sustainability, high functionality, community and affordability are our guiding principles. This is why we hand make our products locally, test that everything works properly, work with FSC plywood and hardwoods, and hand paint with ultra low toxic paint.

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