RUINS to Relics

Breathing new life into unwanted waste by Joshua McKenzie

Upcycling Vintage Furniture London Cabinet

from cracked bathtubs to torn curtains, the philosophy of upcycling asserts that anything can be infused with new life and longevity, creating something both practical and beautiful.

While the idea of recycling is that unwanted goods or waste can be broken down and recycled into useable materials, upcycling takes this approach a little further by ingeniously using the waste to create something of both better quality and greater value. The possibilities are endless; from turning cars into sofas, curtains into dresses and forks into wall hooks, literally anything could become useful again with the proper application of thought and time.

Upcycling Vintage Furniture London
But why does this matter? What is the point in turning an old road sign into a chair, when you could just as easily go to the shops and buy a new one?

One of the most important benefits is the boon granted to the environment. Waste has become a serious environmental problem, and it is estimated that consumers are throwing out almost one million tonnes of textiles each year, most of which will ultimately end up in landfills. Instead of contributing to this staggering number, we could upcycle our unwanted or broken items, giving them new life and a reprieve from the landfills.

Another great advantage of upcycling is the rest given to your wallet. Instead of paying to have your old bed frame removed, or buying a new chair for the lounge, you could upcycle the bed timber to make a chair and save money twice fold. You could even take it a step further and sell your creations, making money where you otherwise would have spent it.

Upcycling Vintage Furniture London Cupboard
A major appeal of upcycled goods is the artistic quality to them. In the hands of a talented artist, anything can become an incredible and beautiful piece of art. In fact, it is the philosophy of upcycling that these new items hold a value far greater than that of the original items used to construct it. The great allure to these pieces of art is that they are truly unique and special, whilst also being practical, functional and useful.

Due to the unique-yet-functional properties of upcycled products, there has become an increasing demand to blend the technique with interior design in order to create impressive, fashionable and environmentally-friendly spaces both at home and work.

Upcycling Vintage Furniture London Piano Shelf
Dani Murru and Naomi Doran are two such people who have embraced the philosophy of upcycling in order to create beautiful and artistic pieces of furniture. Dani moved to London from Sardinia in 2000 to study photography, but, deciding that he would prefer more physical work, he instead embraced his hobby of carpentry. With his partner Naomi, who moved from the outskirts of London to the big city at the age of eighteen to study Interior Architecture, they began experimenting with reclaimed timber in Naomi’s studio. After the brilliant success of their early pieces, they established Relic Interiors, which has now been running strong for four years.

“rustic and reclaimed but contemporary and timeless

Combing and honing their respective skills of carpentry and design, they create beautiful and bespoke items of furniture from tables and drawers to TV units and sideboards, all of which are infused with a character that is, as Dani enthusiastically describes, “rustic and reclaimed but contemporary and timeless”. Using only quality reclaimed timber, they ensure that their creations are both strong enough and fashionable enough to stand the test of time.

Upcycling Vintage Furniture London Cat Bed Monitor
Dani and Naomi pride themselves on the important foundation of their business, which is to commit themselves to helping the environment by using only upcycled and reclaimed materials. Dani states that in “taking old things and giving them a new lease of life, we can create fashionable pieces that also make people aware of these important issues”. Their message and products, including a very personal and dedicated customer experience, have clearly struck a chord with many people, as they now find that their work is in high demand.

You can see Naomi’s interior design at work, alongside some of Dani’s bespoke furniture at the recently opened and renovated St. James of Bermondsey Pub, so be sure to pay it a visit. Alternatively, you can get in contact with Relic Interiors about having something made, during which you could even arrange to visit their showroom – which also doubles up as their home!

If you prefer something more unusual, then browsing Amazon, eBay or Etsy, among many others, reveal all manner of treasures. From the ‘Road Tested Chair’ by John Carter, made of American traffic lights, to brilliant wall clocks that were once turntables, there is an incredible plethora of upcycled goods available at just the click of the button.

Upcycling Vintage Furniture London Skateboard Stool
If you fancy giving it a go yourself, but your imagination isn’t quite as inventive as you might have liked, then a quick search of Google reveals dozens of blogs just brimming with ideas. A particularly great one to check out is Francesco Mugnai’s “Recycling at Home: 30 Fantastic Items Made Using Recycled Materials” which shows many inspired and useful pieces made from the most unusual of items; from stools created using skateboard decks to an entire library reception desk composed entirely of stacked (and hopefully, glued together) hardback books! The blog is a showcase of items that truly inspire the imagination and let it run wild, containing some pieces that can only be described as pure art, such as the stunning portrait of Audrey Hepburn made of 8mm film created by Erika Iris Simmons, who has many other pieces of art in a similar vein on her website, which is most certainly worth a visit!

Mugnai’s blog shows how literally anything can be upcycled and repurposed to create an incredibly diverse and inspirational range of items that appeal to people of all ages and walks of life. For the little ones, you could use old canvas to create a children’s tipi-styled play tent, or use a retro iMac G3 to create a cat bed for the animal lovers among you. As a book-loving musician, my personal favourite is the bookshelf made from a grand piano! Upcycling creates an infinite source of possibilities than can only be matched by your own imagination and creativity!

Relic Interiors
Stoke Newington, N16
m: 07949 473807

St. James of Bermondsey
72 St. James’s Road
SE16 4QZ

Erika Iris Simmons

Upcycling Vintage Furniture London Road Sign Seat

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  • RUINS to Relics Breathing new life into unwanted waste
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  • SPOTLIGHT Property ARCHES and Cloisters
  • A Picture of KENNINGTON A profile of an often over-looked corner of town
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