Turnstyle Designs | “I prefer to say responsible manufacturing”

Having taken over the reins as Turnstyle Designs MD, Oscar Roberts talks about the company's approach to design and why he doesn’t like the word sustainable

15 Aug, 23

Having taken over the reins as managing director of Turnstyle Designs, we talk to Oscar Roberts about the company’s approach to design and why he doesn’t like the word sustainable

Turnstyle Designs appoints new MD

Managing director Oscar Roberts with father and chairman Stephen Roberts


“Quality. British. Responsible” are the three words recently appointed managing director of Turnstyle Designs Oscar Roberts uses to describe the luxury door hardware company.

“I don’t like the term sustainable because anything non-circular is not wholly sustainable”, he explains, adding: “I prefer to say responsible manufacturing. I think that is probably more appropriate.”

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Already a value of the family-run company, responsible manufacturing is only going to grow in focus for the North Devon-based business, as Oscar Roberts plans to balance legacy with a need to be future-facing.

Speaking about what he will bring to the company, Oscar Roberts adds: “I like to think, I bring a slightly different mindset and hopefully some new ideas. We have always been a young company at heart, trying to push into new areas and be dynamic, and I definitely can lean into that”, he says.


Quality exports

Founded in 1992 by his father Steven Roberts, who is now the chairman of the company, Turnstyle Designs manufactures handles and knobs for high-end residential, commercial and yacht design from its factory and headquarters in Barnstaple.

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Bracket handles


The business, which employs 50 people at its factory, also has a showroom in London, for design professionals, and in Rhode Island, New York, as its clients number designers and architects in over 30 countries.

In fact, export accounts for 75% of its sales and, in 2018, Turnstyle Designs won the Queen’s Award for Export.

Most recently, however, Turnstyle Designs has exhibited at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York, where it displayed its latest Bracket and Stepped handle suites.

Oscar Roberts states business is strong and while its British credentials lend to its cachet overseas, he also points out it is a stamp of quality for UK designers.

Super forward designs

But it is the company’s “super forward” approach to designs, which has seen it become a success.

Turnstyle Designs | “I prefer to use the term responsible manufacturing"

Stepped collection of handles


It offers a wide range of door, furniture and window hardware, with any model available in any combination of finishes.

The company can also create custom designs to order.  “We offer a pretty unique set of designs and there isn’t any other manufacturer or brand out there that can really match it”, says Oscar Roberts.

Driving the future of the company’s design will be responsible manufacturing. Oscar Roberts comments: “We’re certified Zero Waste to Landfill. Our leather is all naturally tanned, so we’re in good shape. But it would be great to start exploring different materials. We’ve been looking at some quite cool, different things.”

So what can KBB designers expect of upcoming products from Turnstyle Designs?

“I can’t give you specifics because that would be giving the game away”, says Oscar Roberts.

Remaining tight-lipped, he says the company will launch new products in September and these will be revealed at Focus and London Design Week, at its London Design Centre showroom, as well as the Decorex exhibition in October.

Alongside new technology in materials, will he look to introduce tech into the design process, with Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

Oscar Roberts adds: “I don’t know a lot about AI. I suppose I would be naïve to say ‘no never’ – because anything is possible and I don’t know where it could go.

“But we design everything by hand, which starts with drawing on paper, and the ideas come from Mum and Dad’s head. So to try and replicate that with AI, I think would be very challenging.”

Global challenges

The global issue of increasing costs – from raw materials through to energy – has proved to be one of the biggest business challenges for Turnstyle Designs. And Oscar Roberts hopes prices will start to stabilise over the coming 12-18 months.

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Handcrafted by an artisan workforce


However, its environmental focus has seen a reduction in energy spend in the company, as Oscar Roberts states: “We’ve got solar panels on the roof, so we are able to draw electricity from that.

“We did that from a responsibility perspective, but it is now paying dividends, as the energy prices have gone up.”

Although he also points out by employing artisan craftspeople, who manufacture by hand, its beneficial for lower electricity use too.

Sustainable growth

Reducing its impact on the environment, even as the business grows, will be a motivation for Turnstyle Designs.

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Headquarters in Barnstaple, Devon


Oscar Roberts explains: “The more we do, the larger that footprint is, so the more conscious we have to be of it. We should be growing in terms of sales and the size of the business, but our carbon footprint should be coming down.”

However, he points out responsible manufacturing is not simply focused on product but includes the company’s impact on society too.

He adds: “We already support a good number of charities in the local area, and will continue to do that, as we like to help sustain the North Devon eco system.”

Although Oscar Roberts has worked for the company for the past eight years, he admits taking the helm of the company “is a big step up”. But he is supported by an experienced team of directors, including his Dad. “There’s a lot to learn, but I’ve got good teachers.”

He concludes with his business vision: “We’re in a strong position. The market seems buoyant. But it’s about growing the business in a sustainable fashion”, which he says is the correct use of the word.