Leeds-based Brouns & Co, a business that manufactures traditional paints based on linseed oil made from Yorkshire-grown flax, has seen orders from the US for its natural and sustainable products increase by more than 120% in the last 12 months, with the support of the Department for International Trade (DIT) in Yorkshire and the US.
CEO Michiel Brouns is about to embark on his third visit this year to the east coast of the US as demand for the firm’s products grows, and a series of landmark restoration projects have recently been completed using Brouns & Co linseed paint in New England, Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia.
“Thanks to US architectural heritage, there are huge numbers of timber-build properties in the States and we’ve been focusing our efforts over there, particularly on the east coast, where the maintenance and preservation of historic wooden buildings is a major conservation priority,” said Brouns.
“In Europe we assume the US does not have old buildings, but the majority of the historic properties there, as in Britain, date from Georgian and Victorian times. The great thing is that these American historic buildings are young enough that with the right care and maintenance they can easily exist for hundreds more years.
“Linseed paint is a centuries-old, natural way to protect timber from exposure to the elements, which is both sustainable and durable. Unlike plastic-based coatings which seal in moisture, linseed paint works with the timber and allows wood to breathe, which ensures that it won’t rot. Linseed paint doesn’t flake or peel.”
One of only a handful of linseed paint manufacturers in Europe, Brouns & Co had already seen US orders, fulfilled from the firm’s Leeds warehouse, top over £100,000 for the first time in March this year, and orders are now coming in every day from US clients, compared to weekly just two years ago.
As part of a drive to educate architects and preservation specialists on the benefits of linseed oil paint, earlier this year Brouns delivered a programme of continuing professional development events with the American chapter of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
On this month’s US trip Brouns will visit restoration projects recently completed using Brouns & Co linseed paint including a landmark Maine bakery, and the Printmaker’s Inn, a luxury hotel in Savannah, Georgia. He will also provide lunch-and-learn sessions as well as RIBA approved CPD presentations.
The Yorkshire firm’s linseed oil paint will also be used on the Wilton House Museum, a 1750s building converted to a museum in Richmond, Virginia. Brouns has also recently advised on the restoration of the Ailey Young House, a historically important African American building in North Carolina.
Michiel Brouns said: “I very much see our product as preserving the past as well as future-proofing buildings, given that our paint is natural, sustainable and environmentally-friendly. Not only does it contain only natural ingredients, across Europe, original coats of linseed paint have survived perfectly well on houses that are well over 500 years old.”
Conservation expert Brouns, originally from the Netherlands, relocated to Yorkshire in 2006, launching his Garforth-based business with Histoglass, a specialised thin double-glazing product ideal for historic properties, before recognising the demand for high quality natural paints.