Reinvent the wheel with upcycling
The countdown to House 2018 begins with reinvention and some expert advice
It's that time of year again! This month we'll be counting down to House 2018, the great big national interiors show which brings a smorgasbord of international trends and local talent together under one roof.
House runs at the RDS from May 25 to 27 and is brought to you by the Irish Independent. Expect gorgeous stuff for the home, words of wisdom from top designers, and a few nice surprises. So from today, until the show, this column will be featuring topics to tie in with this two-day national event.
New additions to the House format for 2018 include Trend Talks given by a series of trend experts, shedloads of free advice and an Upcycling Area with demonstrations of how to reinvent old furniture. Also on show will be the two winning projects of the first House 2018 Novice Upcycling Competition. Each of the winners will also bring home an Annie Sloan hamper. The theme of the competition is "bringing a tired piece of furniture to life" and the deadline has been extended until Tuesday next (May 8). There's still time to enter!
According to Gerard Griffin of the Rediscovery Centre in Ballymun, the trick to successful upcycling is to do your homework. "The main mistake that people make is lack of preparation," he says. "They dive in without a vision or a plan. Actually doing the work is fun, but you need someone to point you in the right direction."
Griffin will be bringing his expertise to the Upcycling Area at House, with two hour-long sessions on each day. "I'll be doing live demonstrations and chattering away while I work," he explains. "All questions welcome," he says. "I've been in the business 40 years and I want to impart my knowledge. There are no trade secrets!" The Rediscovery Centre is a wonderful place. It's based in the old Ballymun Boiler House (1966) which once housed the largest civic heating system in Ireland and the UK. "We only moved in a year ago," says Griffin, who is keen to point out that the social enterprise project encompasses Fashion and Cycling, as well as his own sections of Furniture and Paint. All aspects of the Rediscovery Centre are based on designing and making new products from waste and unwanted materials.
There's also an educational aspect. "Training and reskilling is part of our business. One of the guys who trained with us has set up an upholstery business locally and another is working as a French polisher with an antique dealer on Francis Street. It's nice to know that when I shuffle off this mortal coil there'll be someone to pick up the ball and run with it." Other former trainees at the Rediscovery Centre have gone on to work at the recovery department at Ikea, where shop-soiled furniture is given a second chance.
All of the furniture restored and upcycled at the Rediscovery Centre is donated by members of the public who no longer want it, but not all furniture has upcycling potential. "We're fussy about what we take," Griffin explains. Turning up unannounced with the family table strapped to the roof of your car is not a good plan. You may find yourself driving it home again. If you'd like to donate an item, email the Rediscovery Centre with a photograph and staff will let you know if they want it or not.
Just now, Griffin's working on a 1940s draw-leaf table. "You've seen something like it in every granny's house - fuddy-duddy but practical," he says. "It's made of oak and polished very dark." While the body of the table is tattered and scratched, the leaves that pull out from either side have never been used. This pattern of usage tells its own story. "Two people had their dinner at this table every day for 50 years, each of them sitting in the same place." The table will be stripped back to bare wood. Then it will be either oiled, waxed or varnished, and sold at the Rediscovery Centre's retail outlet.
At this stage in the project, Griffin has no idea what the finished piece will cost.
"You could pay between €400 and €500 for a really nice table, but if you have to spend more time on it, you need to charge more." The same goes for furniture that comes in for repair or upcycling, which is another of the services that the Rediscovery Centre offers. "You might get a pair of identical chairs. One of them would cost €15 for minimal regluing; the other might be broken and cost €150 to repair." He's also noticed that some clients want their furniture to be returned to them unpainted, so they can do the fun bit themselves. "Paint is quite fashionable and it covers a multitude," he says. "The invention of chalk paint has made it all much easier."
Annie Sloan, who is the inventor of Chalk Paint, is the Upcycling Area's ambassador. She's widely regarded as a world expert in paint and colour so it's well worth dropping by to admire her expertise in transforming wooden furniture with the paints from her own range.
"I'm thrilled to be an ambassador for the Upcycling Area at the House event this year!" she says.
"This is actually one of my favourite home shows and I'm proud to be flying the upcycling flag and sharing my passion for all things paint and colour." Expect to pay around €6.50 for a 120ml tin of Annie Sloan's chalk paint (sometimes that's all you need) and about €17 for a set of four detail brushes. Her company Annie Sloan will be taking a stand, as will paint companies Fleetwood Paints, Little Greene, and Moda by Dulux. They'll all have experts on hand with advice on how to use their paints for upcycling projects. Exhibitors will include some talented lighting designers with an interest in upcycling. Eoin Shanley of Copper Fish Studio makes light fitting from everything from fishing reels to turntables and copper piping, while the Cruise pendants (from €245) from Shane Holland Design Workshops are made in aluminium from recovered aviation pressure vessels. Holland, who has a lot to teach us about making light fittings from unwanted objects, will be demonstrating at the Upcycling Area, as will the experts from Chez Maison.
You can enter the House 2018 Novice Upcycling Competition at house-event.ie.
See also rediscoverycentre.ie, anniesloan.com, fleetwood.ie, littlegreene.ie, dulux.ie, copperfish.ie, chezmaison.ie, and shanehollanddesign.com.