Annie Smart of Smart about Wood, runs her own thriving business as a carpenter and is one of a growing number of women working in the building trade in Brighton.
She started her relationship with wood on her degree course in Furniture & Product Design at Nottingham Trent University. “Out of all the materials we worked with, I really loved the tactile qualities of wood and variety of applications”, recalls Annie. She did, however, take a job managing a stained glass workshop for seven years before moving down south to the bright lights of London. There she started volunteering on a building site in Southwark for a charity, Habitat for Humanity, and with her aptitude for practical work and people skills soon landed a full-time position working alongside experienced tradespeople and teams of volunteers from large City companies whilst studying carpentry at the local college. “Most of my friends and family questioned my decision to enter such a male-dominated field,” admits Annie “but I was determined to do what I enjoyed rather than work in an office or manage staff. The work gave me a tremendous sense of satisfaction and I was sure that I could succeed.”
After serving a carpentry apprenticeship with a major contractor on the large council estates and public buildings in South East London, Annie decided the time had come to go it alone and set up Smart about Wood. “I felt very vulnerable as a woman on my own in people’s homes in London but Brighton feels very different. Here I soon became part of a loose network of female tradespeople, including decorators, plasterers, tilers and plumbers, who support each other as lone workers and work together on larger jobs”.
Smart about Wood is bucking the trend in the current credit crunch and Annie has seen her client base grow month on month over the last year, working on a range of projects from hanging doors and basic house maintenance to building bespoke furniture, storage solutions, kitchens, flooring and decking. “Most of my work at the moment is creating extra storage space with shelving or fitted cupboards – I guess people are commissioning small-scale improvements to their homes to make it more comfortable as they know they are probably going to be staying there for the next couple of years and have some extra cash available whilst mortgage interest rates are so low.”
Annie provides free estimates and is always willing to give advice on any ideas you have for improving your home. Her contact details are: 01273 554 344 or 07776242780.