A partnership that harmonises just as melodiously as hands intertwined, Unique Homestays and artisan tile makers, Bert & May, have come together at Whitsand Bay property, Suki, to create an earthen home where all the world's elements are celebrated. Here, reclaimed terracotta blends with topaz sunsets that plunge into the sea, warming wool-clad toes and earthing souls in search of reconnection.

We speak to founder Lee Thornley and delve into the ethos behind Bert & May.

A living area with woodburner, curved sofa, dining table and kitchen

Was it during the renovation of your first project, Casa La Siesta, that you discovered your flair for sourcing reclaimed, or did you always have a keen eye for design?

I left my previous job as a barrister in 2004 to learn Spanish in Cadiz in southern Spain. I built the hotel from the ground up, and much of the work involved finding beautiful reclaimed materials, including antique tiles. I fell in love with the aged colours and distinct patina of reclaimed tiles and the way they could transform a space, and this ultimately led me to founding Bert & May.††

Uniqueness is very much the essence of each home that we market; how do you come up with tile designs that are fresh and inspired?

Iíve often looked to reclaimed tiles for my inspiration, and our Antique Collection takes original reclaimed designs and reimagines them in new and unexpected colourways. Weíre particularly excited about our new Marbled Collection, which features a dreamy, dappled texture and was made with innovative new techniques to help us achieve its distinct texture in an encaustic cement finish. We love pushing the boundaries of tile design and coming up with something fresh to create inspiring spaces.†

We keep our portfolio limited in size, marketing†the†most unique homes. Do you deploy a similar tactic when creating new lines, or is your aim to create as many new designs as possible?

We definitely prioritise quality over quantity, but weíre always designing and thinking of new ideas to ultimately refine and create the final collections you see in store. Though we curate a colour palette for each design that we feel best complements the tile, each collection is available in custom colourways (from a palette of over 50 colours)†so each tile can be personalised, offering endless possibilities.†

A living area with sofa, table and chairs overlooking the sea

Bert & May was launched in 2013, how has the company evolved in the last decade? What does the next ten years hold?†

When I first started, I was selling tiles out of my garage, which feels worlds away from our showrooms in London, York, Bristol, and New York. Itís brilliant to see how our tiles are incorporated into people's homes and spaces, and weíre sure that the next ten years will continue to see Bert & May grow.†

Youíve partnered with brands from Soho House to Anthropologie, what do you enjoy about such collaborations?†

We love collaborating with designers; it helps us to bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to Bert & May. Our recent collaborations are all distinct and each one is imbued with the character of the designer, such as Irregular by Kitesgrove, with pared-back geometric shapes in shades of soft yellow and pink, Ric Rac by Samantha Todhunter featuring bold scalloped patterns inspired by ric rac textile trim, and our striking Split Shift tiles designed with Darkroom.

Here at Unique Homestays, we celebrate the alternative; we love that the handmade nature of the terracotta tiles at Suki means that no two are the same. Is this much of the allure of your collection?

Very much so. Every tile is handmade from a mixture of sand, cement and natural pigments with crushed marble for enhanced durability and a distinctive raw finish. Each mould is bespoke and manually pressed; the handmade process from start to finish, combined with the use of natural pigments, allows for slight variations in colour and texture that makes each tile cohesive yet unique.†

A pink bedroom with sea views and standalone bathtub

In our experience, artisanal materials seem to get better with age. Would you say that your tiles get better over time?

Bert & May tiles are all handmade and built to last, which makes them a great choice for high-traffic areas like the bathroom. We always tell our clients to focus on personal style instead of trends, and to choose something they love, whether it be a bold pattern or a simple glazed tile, because they will truly stand the test of time.†Our designs are timeless, as the very nature of tiles means they will not be replaced regularly; they develop a natural, aged look, which in my opinion makes them look more beautiful.†

The tiles we featured at Suki are made for both indoor and outdoor use, creating a seamless flow throughout the different living areas. How much importance do you place on connecting people to the environment in which they sit?

Suki is in a beautiful position, and the al fresco area is just as important as the interior.†As with any interior, tiles can transform outdoor spaces and should complement their environment. Tiles like the reclaimed terracotta ones featured at Suki have natural charm, with warm tones that feel grounding, creating an outdoor space that feels restful and fresh, and an indoor space that feels connected to nature.

Aside from tiles, your collaboration with Box 9 Design sees the creation of home offices and outdoor living spaces. What made you step into this realm?

I met Lou Davies, founder of award-winning architects Box 9 Design, and between us we came up with the idea to create Bertís Boxes;†a range of modular homes, offices and garden rooms that redefine pre-fabricated living. Between us we are committed to making unique spaces with naturally beautiful materials and fine craftsmanship. Every Bertís Box will have a raw yet refined aesthetic, restrained and deeply beautiful, using Bert & May tiles; always with the aim to connect people back to their environment.