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During the second world war Sydney Schreiber, the owner of a small metalworking business, helped the British war effort by making boxes for radars and other equipment.
Afterwards he needed to find a peacetime use for his new machinery. The company – changing its name to Kaymet in 1947 – began manufacturing anodised aluminium trays and trolleys. Schreiber exhibited his new wares at the Festival of Britain in 1951.
Over the next decade the company flourished, moving to a bigger factory and equipping the Royal Household. Sydney’s son, Ken, who has worked for the family company since he left school, remembers taking deliveries to the tradesman’s entrance at Buckingham Palace.
But lifestyles changed and, during the 1970s, households no longer wheeled tea trolleys into the drawing room at 4pm. As plastic and melamine became available on the mass market, Kaymet’s aluminium products fell out of fashion and the company went into decline.
Then, earlier this year, Ken Schreiber teamed up with architect Mark Brearley. Together they relaunched the company with a new line of coloured trays and trolleys. “I had been running Design for London and was looking for something else to do,” says Brearley. “This seemed like the perfect opportunity . . . We have added rubber feet and shaped the handles and just changed the details. It takes time to get [the design] so simple.”
More than 60 years after the Festival of Britain, the company aims to re-establish its brand by exhibiting again – most recently at Design Junction, which was part of this year’s London Design Festival. “The products have been received really well, especially the coloured trays and the monochrome trolleys. We can adapt a little bit faster these days and we will be adding new colours every week,” says Brearley.
Currently sold in Harrods and at online design store clippings.com, Kaymet trays will also be available in the MOMA shop in New York. “They are taking the aluminium trays with the black rubber non-slip lining,” says Brearley. “They were designed in the 1960s and while they still look modern, they are also completely of their time.”
Under Brearley’s guidance, the company has also launched a range of powder-coated aluminium trays in vibrant orange and green with pale pink and indigo to follow.