A company commissioning and selling high quality reproduction furniture across the country began life in an old village grocery store. More than 30 years have passed and Brights of Nettlebed has flourished to the point where it now has stores in other areas, and built up a turnover approaching £4m a year.

In Nettlebed itself, Brights gradually extended into neighbouring properties as they became vacant and the company is now a major, yet discreet, presence in the Chilterns village a few miles outside Henley.

Its success has been one of steady growth and the firm also has showrooms in Wimborne, Dorset, and at Topsham, an old port on the river Exe, near Exeter.

In fact, its branches have become what are these days called retail destinations,' where people are willing to travel considerable distances and stay longer than they would on a trip to their local town centre.

Patrick Voysey, product development manager, explained: "We have discovered that people will book a cheap flight from their local airport to fly to Luton, where they arrange transport to Nettlebed.

"We are fortunate in having a special arrangement with the White Hart next door where customers can park, have a meal and even stay the night if they want to."

Mr Voysey believes that encouraging unhurried visits means people have more time to make their choices and can appreciate the relaxed atmosphere of the showrooms which retain their village shop atmosphere.

Furniture of all kinds, ornamental mirrors and paintings are all displayed in room settings often carrying specific themes.

Robert Stamp, chairman of Brights, added: "We gradually expanded into neighbouring shops as they closed. We have even moved into some of the buildings of a pig farm that was at the back of us."

Mr Stamp, who can trace a family connection in the furniture business back to 1866, set up Brights 35 years ago in the former International Stores grocery shop, and he was able to call upon the skills and expertise of a number of independent cabinet and chair makers.

He explained: "I had worked from the age of 16 for my uncle Roy Stamp at his antiques shop in Maidenhead.

"He was also involved in restored antique furniture and my interest in reproduction furniture evolved from there. I realised people were buying not only restored but reproduction furniture."

But he noticed over the years that the number of craftsmen from whom he commissioned furniture began to dwindle.

Young people were reluctant to become craftsmen so, 20 years ago, he decided to sponsor an apprenticeship scheme.

"We took on a group of eight young people and, using the skills and expertise of our contacts and the assistance of a tutor, we trained them in the art of cabinet making," said Mr Stamp.

The scheme was successful and the quality of their work was sufficient for items of furniture to find their way into a royal yacht and to the foyers and reception areas of top London hotels.

"Some of these craftsmen went on to set up on their own and we still deal with them," he added.

But escalating costs meant the Nettlebed workshops closed in 1996, and the company spread its wings abroad in its search for craftsmen.

Mr Stamp said: "Brights still works with craftsmen in Britain - for example, our upholsterers are the best in the world."

But furniture is commissioned from British companies that have outsourced their manufacturing to countries on mainland Europe and to the Middle and Far East.

This means Mr Voysey will find himself travelling to Romania and Vietnam to commission furniture and ensure standards are maintained.

He also goes to Brussels to select fabrics for upholstery and has recently begun to travel to Turkey to source fabrics.

He said: "There are some fabulous fabric designs to be found in Brussels."

Brights follows fair trade policies in the making of furniture and also insists that timber should be from sustainable woodlands and forests.

For example, oak comes from England and France, from sources that are managed on sustainable principles.

While offering a wide range of furniture, ornamental mirrors and paintings, the company has adapted to the latest trends.

Householders often now want smaller pieces of furniture and will go for bespoke items that do not look as if they have come from chain stores.

Unlike many similar businesses, Brights has moved with the times and is looking to the future with confidence.

n Contact: 01491 641115, or visit www.brights-interiors.com