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5 Minutes with Handley House CEO Tom Cartledge

We were delighted to chat to Tom Cartledge, CEO of Handley House, the parent company of three design businesses, including architectural and design firm Benoy. Benoy’s projects include the Westfield shopping centre in London, the EAST Hotel in Beijing, and retail planning for Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport. With a keen eye for style and creativity, Tom is a big fan of Ruark and a proud owner of our flagship R7.


Hi Tom, how are you?

Not bad at all! Enjoying the balance of work, life, family and friends.

Please could you tell us a little about what you do?

I am lucky enough to be CEO of a family of design companies delivering solutions to clients’ problems in the built environment.

Benoy began in 1947. How would you say the company has grown and evolved over the years to where is it now (2020)?

We call our story ‘from cowsheds to Kowloon’. We started as a small rural design business in Nottinghamshire designing cow sheds for farmers. Under the banner of Handley House, we are now a family of architects, master planners, interior designers, graphic designers, wayfinding experts, landscape designers and creatives working from seven offices across the world.

With Benoy there is more to architecture than just internal/external structure, each building is its own work of art. Where does the inspiration for a project come from, is it based on the local town or city?

On any of our projects we try and create a positive economic, social and environmental legacy for the communities who use our designs. You can only do that by immersing yourself in the local culture. We tend to say that great design from an international company like ours is 60% local and 40% our global thinking. What’s right in London isn’t right in Singapore, for example!

Nowadays consumers are more conscious of the environmental impact and economic sustainability. How would you say Benoy takes this into consideration with your work?

We have a promise to clients - our aim is to deliver economic success, social mobility and environmental sustainability through design. We use our knowledge, our skills, our design processes and collaborate with others (who know more!) to challenge ourselves at every stage of the design process.

Benoy has created incredible architecture all over the World, from EAST hotel in Beijing, to our very own Bull Ring in Birmingham to the Westfield shopping centres in London. What would you say is the most interesting project Benoy has worked on and why?

Projects of scale are of course exciting and grab the headlines, but I am equally excited by the small spend interventions which create greater community places. I also enjoy working in new emerging markets where the consumer has always had chance to travel and experience great design elsewhere in the world.

Changi Jewel Airport, Singapore has gone viral lately for being known as the ‘World’s Craziest Airport’, with a 12-metre-high slide, Cactus Garden, Swimming Pool and Movie Theatre being just a few of the amenities built within the airport. Benoy delivered the retail planning and interior design for Changi Jewel, can you tell us where your ideas came from?

Changi are a brilliant client. They won’t settle for what others have done before. They also have a total focus on the customer. They want each and every person visiting the airport to leave with a great experience. They are unique in the aviation world which has in the past tended to focus on plane vs person. We of course played our part in T4 and Jewel but the quality of the end design was also down to the client’s vision and our collaboration with many others.

Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore

We hear you have an R7 at home. What attracted you to Ruark’s flagship product?

The product looks amazing, sounds even better and I also like the similarities with Ruark’s journey as a British designer working overseas.

You also have recently purchased a pair of MR1 Mk2s. With a keen eye for design and architecture, what was it about Ruark that stood out against our competitors?

Jo, my wife, was never going to allow her dining room to be filled with a set of big black speakers and when we talked an understated flexible product… the MR1 was our only choice!

And lastly, do you have any exciting projects coming up that you can tell us about?

I’m very excited by the team’s work on a mega new project in Montreal – Royal Mount which is our fig project in the Americas and it’s going to be world-class.

Royal Mount, Montreal

If you’re like Tom and have an eye for detail, then discover our range of handcrafted audio products online.