Different by design

CFJ talks to Mark Findlay, founder of Harvey Maria, about the company’s objectives as well as the colourful way it got its name.

How was Harvey Maria founded?

Harvey Maria was founded in 1994 by Mark Findlay, from his home in Battersea. A much-loved dog called Harvey gave the company its name, along with an appreciation of ‘Ave Maria’ by the composer, Franz Schubert!

The Harvey Maria vision was to create colourful, dynamic designs for surfaces that, up until then, had been largely neglected by the design community. Initially, prototype designs were created using a natural cork substrate overlaid with printed pattern and protected with a lacquer finish. As the company grew, the move to LVT provided greater opportunity to scale the business.

Where is Harvey Maria based and how many employees does it have? What exactly does the company do?

The company is based in Balcombe – a village in West Sussex, around four miles outside Haywards Heath. Harvey Maria currently has eight office-based employees, a national sales manager and a further six regional sales agents. The core functions of design, customer service and marketing are all kept firmly in-house, while finance, logistics and warehousing are all outsourced.

Harvey Maria specialises in the design and manufacture of premium LVT collections, for commercial and residential specification. While best known for its striking designer patterns - with collections from British Designers, Neisha Crosland, Dee Hardwicke and Cath Kidston - it also offers a wealth of wood and stone patterns. Its latest introduction, the ‘MSeries’, is a range of impressive in-register embossed wood plank designs, tailored for contract specifications.

The company also has a passion for ‘one-of-a-kind’ custom printed floors for commercial and residential clients. Typically used to create transformative spaces in museums and schools, and for corporate branding in offices, leisure and retail spaces. Its floors offer a raft of performance benefits, including tough slip-resistant finishes for high traffic environments.

While the company’s key market is the UK, Harvey Maria is flying the flag for Britain with an increasing portion of the its revenue coming from export markets, with particularly strong recent growth in the US where appreciation of the company’s quintessentially British design is growing.

How does Harvey Maria distinguish itself from its competitors?

Harvey Maria is different by design; it’s all about the transfer of high intensity pattern and detailed natural realism onto a material that’s traditionally been more focused on function than form. From bold ceramic patterns to detailed wood emboss, it’s about creating great design in a hugely functional surface. In the past, a floor would be laid and the interior design elements would be introduced around and on top of it – at the windows, on the walls and throughout the space. Harvey Maria designs allow you to lead with the floor, as a key interior design element.

What is the hierarchy of the company?

Harvey Maria has a collective and entrepreneurial company ethos. Mark Findlay is the founder and Richard Contreras is Mark’s joint business partner. Within its flat structure, everyone within the team is encouraged to flourish and evolve within their own individual roles and to put their own stamp on the firm. And all are tied in to the success of the business.

What vertical markets does HM work with (healthcare, offices, sports etc). What are its areas of speciality?

Predominantly, Harvey Maria focuses in retail, leisure and office spaces. It also manufactures custom-printed floors for leisure and retail branding.

What big developments does HM have coming up this year? (partnerships, acquisitions, new premises, contracts etc)

We’ve just launched Neisha Crosland’s new Dovetail design, which is absolutely stunning and further new designs are set to join the Signature Collection during 2019 - under the Harvey Maria and ‘Dee Hardwicke’ banners – so watch this space! The new Master Craftsman Series was also officially launched on 1 February and sampling packs are now available.

We’re also increasing the number of installation courses to one every month, with our training partners at FloorSkills, and in light of the high technical proficiency required of our trained fitters, we’re also sponsoring the LVT fitter of the year competition for the first time.

To accommodate its current and future plans, the company is also moving to larger premises in the spring.

How does HM know what its clients want without directly asking them?

The company is mindful of trends in colour, fashion and interior design, which are important considerations for Design Director, Andrew Smith, for future product development. And working with design partners who are key influencers in British interior design allows Harvey Maria unique insight into design trends. This is reflected in an exceptionally strong product pipeline set to keep the company at the forefront of genuine ‘design LVT’ for the foreseeable future.

How important is social media to HM in its marketing and business development?

Social media is very important, in terms of sharing ideas and rubber stamping what we’re doing.  Photos and comments work well; fitters and consumers love sharing their own designs and creations, and (from this perspective) it’s a thoroughly positive platform.  We all love a bit of good news, inspiration and positivity! And sometimes, being a bit smaller, means that we benefit from greater authenticity than some of our corporate competitors.

If there was one piece of advice you could give contractors, what would it be?

To see what’s possible. It’s human nature to stick to what we know best but there are so many fabulous new designs and concepts that some consumers may not even know about. Sharing these can only be a positive thing.

What technical issue do you find contractors come to you with the most, and how do you help them overcome it?

A Harvey Maria floor performs in the same way as any other quality LVT, so fitting requirements are similar in terms of subfloor preparation, temperature and acclimatisation, etc. But the intricacies of fitting some of our designer collections can sometimes present new challenges, even for the most experienced installer. So, we recommend our many training courses at FloorSkills, in the Midlands; they’re very popular with contractors and are scheduled throughout the year.

Are there enough training mechanisms for contractors in the flooring industry?

It’s certainly an area that we focus on, as the nature of some of our designer patterns requires a high level of expertise. Our current FloorSkills training courses run on a monthly basis, and this is an initiative that we intend to continue with and expand upon.

Is sustainability an important part of your manufacturing processes, and – if so – how?

In terms of our own product, we have all the necessary certifications in place, including ISO14001. Within the factory, material is also recycled back into the product.

But, from a sustainability point-of-view, the real advantage with LVT is its low lifetime environmental impact. Our latest flooring achieves the highest possible BREEAM ratings of A and A+ for the appropriate class of building. Our new MSeries range complies with the M1 standard for buildings designed to BREEAM NOR standard and exceeds the requirements of both the DIBt French A+ air quality standard and the Eurofins ‘Indoor Air Quality Gold Standard’. The range also has

REACH and FloorScore IAQ (indoor air quality) certification and all designs are eligible to score points when specified in buildings designed to LEED protocols.

Harvey Maria designs last a very long time and you don’t have to treat them, restore them or use any chemical solutions. You just maintain the surface with a neutral cleaner. Recycling is also more common nowadays – thanks to initiatives like Recofloor and Recovinyl – and the industry is becoming far more environmentally aware.

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