Floating proudly on Edinburgh’s waterfront is Fingal, a former lighthouse ship converted into a luxury hotel. It has 23 “exquisite” cabins and has been described as “a hotel with all the glamour and style of a superyacht but with an old-world elegance that is completely unique”.
While guests can admire the stylish furnishings and enjoy the outstanding menus, what many won’t realise is how it is connected to Hugh Beauchamp, a craftsman who runs his own bespoke business in the city, designing and building perfect items of furniture. As a designer/maker, Hugh, left, is determined to be as sustainable as he can be and that’s where the MV Fingal comes in. The boat started life back in the 1960s as a lighthouse supply ship before its recent transformation into a five-star hotel. As Hugh explains: “I’m always looking to use reclaimed sources and, when the Fingal came in for its refit, I was lucky enough to get my hands on some lovely teak from the boat. I’m really looking forward to working with that. I try to be as sustainable as possible in what I do and reusing wood from the Fingal is really pleasing.
“I try to source the materials I use as locally as possible so I’ve built relationships with sawmills around Scotland. I’ve recently built a jewellery box from horse chestnut which I sourced from Fife and rippled sycamore from a mill in the Scottish Borders. I’m doing a lot of work with trees that have come down during recent storms.”
Hugh, the man behind Beauchamp Edinburgh, has a passion for his craft that is evident in everything he says and makes. A few years back, he was working in the travel industry and making furniture pieces in his own time. Then, the pandemic struck and things changed. “Covid provided the opportunity for a reassessment and career change,” recalls Hugh. “I’d always been an enthusiastic maker and decided to go full-time. Essentially, my hobby became my job. It’s been hard work but I’m delighted with how it has gone.”
Hugh started out making watch boxes and jewellery chests and has recently branched out into high-end board games. “Everything is designed and made by me using traditional hand tools,” he explains. “One of my clients – I’d built him a jewellery chest which he gave to his wife as a Christmas gift – came to me and said: ‘Can you do me a backgammon set?’ I didn’t know much about the game so I did some research, looking at the type of boards professional players and serious enthusiasts like to play on, and we worked together to develop the design. The counters are solid brass so they have a heavy, satisfying tactile feel and move around the board nicely. As you have to reach across to your opponent’s side quite often to move your counters, we had to find the balance between the size of the set and how comfortable it was to play on. We also integrated his old company logo across the board and that will be a design that’s unique to him. He’s come back and commissioned a further two sets which he is going to give as Christmas gifts.”
Hugh, who has recently been accepted into the Scottish Furniture Makers’ Association, enjoys being his own boss. “The opportunity to be creative is exciting,” he says. “It’s entirely driven by me. It comes with less stability and security than a corporate job but that is more than made up for by the creativity and engagement that I feel in the work that I do. I enjoy building close relationships with clients and making sure the piece I am building is exactly what they want.”
Looking to the future, Hugh is determined to keep control of what he does. “I don’t plan to expand – I want to keep a designer/maker focus,” he says. “My pieces are unique and
exclusive. I have the capacity to design and make maybe 12 pieces a year and the vision for the business is to have a build schedule and an order book that is sustainable – to keep it exclusive and focused. They are high-end products and the time involved means they are not cheap to make. I want to be somebody who people are seeking out. I’m aiming to have a client base where recommendation becomes the way the business is built. I’ve been fortunate that, so far, all my clients have come back to be repeat customers so they are obviously happy with what I am producing and see the value in it.”
When asked to sum up his business in three words, Hugh considers for a while and then says:
“Beautiful. Bespoke. Handcrafted – that describes my work.”