Sustainability and all that stuff

Clothes where they don’t belong: dumped in the sea © The Or Foundation
@theorispresent Instagram

It’s complicated – I do not have the answers, but my hope in writing my column as we close secondhand September is at least to explore some solutions and lay out some of the current debates about sustainability, particularly in fashion. 

Responsibility

It can be exhausting to research every purchase you make. So sometimes, to see the word sustainable – which can cover a mix of positive actions toward the environment and climate change, biodiversity, and the welfare of animals and people – is reassuring enough. 

But the sustainability spectrum is broad. Just this month, we heard the founder and owner of Patagonia announce that his family was transferring 98% of the company’s stock to a newly created not-for-profit organisation dedicated to combatting climate change. We also saw Kourtney Kardashian partner with the fast fashion brand Boohoo on a sustainable collection. When writing about the range of 46 limited-edition pieces of clothing, The Guardian reminds us that Boohoo uploads over 700 items on its website every week. 

Compelled to keep clicking, I navigated to Boohoo’s website to look at where the collection was made and evidence of their press release promise to ‘inform our customers and empower them to make more informed choices.’ Unfortunately, personifying details like ‘I am made in Pakistan’ and a duvet coat for as little as £25 doesn’t instil trust that the collection is friendlier to the people making the clothes. A factory supplying Boohoo in Pakistan was among the most recent investigations that workers in poor conditions were receiving well below the legal minimum wage. 

Rather than taking responsibility for its clothes’ end of life, Boohoo’s advice for customers to make informed choices is to ‘Think re-wear, re-sell, share, swap and donate.’ Re-wearing something doesn’t strike me as a revolutionary step towards sustainability unless Boohoo insists it’s producing one-wear wonders. Unsurprisingly they are not offering a take-back scheme when the materials in the range include polyurethane which Boohoo admits ‘can’t be recycled.’

So, what is the Government doing to enforce fashion brands to take responsibility?

The short answer is not enough. It rejected all 18 recommendations made in The Environmental Audit Committee’s Fixing Fashion report in 2019. However, a little hope can be found in the Green Claims Code published by the Competition and Markets Authority, with greenwashing investigations that target the fashion industry first instigated this year. Brands including Boohoo and ASOS are being scrutinised for making vague claims and suggesting clothes are more environmentally sustainable than they actually are. 

Redistribute

Still from a video of clothing waste in the sea © The Or Foundation
@theorispresent Instagram

Secondhand September has been awash with sustainability stories, and an investigation by The Daily Telegraph reinvigorated concern about the UK’s unwanted clothes cast away to Africa. Yet this latest expose found that rejected Oxfam (and other charities) donations ended up in the ocean as rubbish in Ghana. The newspaper reported that an estimated 40% of secondhand clothing exported to Ghana goes in streams, in dump sites or on beaches as stall holders in local markets struggle to sell poor quality or damaged clothing and the waste management systems struggle to cope with the quantities.

I have grown frustrated with the unfulfilled promise of fashion resale platforms and press that suggests you can recoup your “investment” to give us permission to shop, sell and shop some more. Even Pretty Little Thing – owned by the Boohoo Group – just launched a resale marketplace, but providing these platforms doesn’t tackle the waste or make their strategy more circular. Clothes made of petrochemicals will be a problem for ecosystems for far longer than they’re likely to stay in a few people’s wardrobes. 

From a series by The Or Foundation with illustrations by fashion consultant Ronaé Fagon

The Telegraph article gave me more fashion for thought by introducing the work of The Or Foundation, a charity working in Ghana, which is the largest importer of secondhand clothes. 15 million garments come into the country every week, and most initially go to Kantamanto, the market in the capital, Accra. The Or Foundation works for justice, and their Secondhand Solidarity Fund builds solutions from the frontline of fashion’s waste crisis. The charity states that for decades Kantamanto retailers and Kayayei, a Ghanaian term for female porters (who carry giant bales of clothes), ‘have laboured in the service of sustainability, recirculating far more clothes than any resale platform in the Global North, and yet they have received essentially no investment.’ 

Kantamanto stories are shocking. Unsold charity donations and items put into “recycling” bins sold to for-profit companies are sorted and bales are exported to sell to market stall holders, who buy them without knowing what is inside. Even if a bale is full of garments in an unsellable condition, there is no return policy here. However, Kantamanto is also a sign of hope as a resale and upcycling economy, with 30,000 individual entrepreneurs working together to recirculate over 25 million garments a month.

Reimagine

Upcycled runway look by MARYPUP at a fashion show hosted by Recyclerie Sociale

Upcycled fashion is one of my favourite responses to the drive for sustainability. Whilst in Brussels recently, I went to a fashion show at Recyclerie Sociale with recrafted pieces by different creative contributors including Emmanuel Cortés, whom Salvo worked with when he was at the cooperative design practice, Rotor. Recrafted fashion is a good nudge for architects to embrace visible reclamation and reuse artistically. 

Entering the upcycled fashion show hosted by Recyclerie Sociale © Reclaimed Woman

Redefine consumers as humans

Let us refer to ourselves as what we are, humans, because reducing us to consumers normalises the current throwaway culture, a way of life which accelerated since the post-war period when cheaper materials and mass production reduced the cost of consuming new things. 

Wastefulness is arguably nurtured rather than part of our nature. Over the last century, many companies have increasingly baked obsolescence into their products to increase consumption. For example, today people are pushed to purchase new phones if their model is left behind by security updates or a new door to comply with regulations that discourage reclamation. Wearing a less fashionable style of jeans does not present the same sense of risk, but we are social animals, and our habits are influenced by one another. David Attenborough educated us about plastic pollution, but before that, mid-century ‘Mad Men’ influenced people by marketing the convenience of throwaway plastic cups. We are human; we are not perfect, but we can own our power and make positive steps towards sustainability.

How can I dress and act more sustainably?

  1. Despite some surprising reading, do not throw unwanted clothes in the rubbish as they are better off being sorted into their appropriate waste streams and hopefully recycled. Find your local textile recycling banks and collections.
  2. Think about what you want to donate, which charity shop your item suits and make sure it is clean because this avoids contaminating other garments and helps save the charity’s resources. 
  3. If you have good quality workwear, you can donate womenswear to Smartworks (locations across the UK or donate by post) or menswear to Suited & Booted (located in London). Both charities provide interview training and interview clothes for people out-of-work. I volunteered as a dresser for Smartworks for many years and saw how the right clothes give people the extra confidence to change their circumstances.
  4. Try renting your fashion. Or try treating things in your wardrobe with care as if they are borrowed because they will last longer. What I like about the few times I have rented my clothes is the extra respect you give them. 
  5. Buy smarter, buy secondhand and buy less. The carbon cost of clothes mainly comes from production so reuse significantly reduces emissions. Look at what you actually need because many people gravitate towards the same items (for me it’s jackets). Enliven forgotten pieces with proper planning about what goes with what so you know if you genuinely feel you need something. 
  6. Look at what things are made of and where they are made. Certifications can be helpful to trust in what you are buying, but not all certifications are made equal. What constitutes “sustainable” cotton is highly debated. And remember, recycled fabric does not mean it is easily recyclable.
  7. Unless you are buying a very expensive accessory from a small number of brands that hold their value, a fashion purchase is not usually an economically good investment. But you can choose to invest in people by supporting designers behind smaller brands and the environment by shopping locally-made clothes or buying from brands that back up their commitment to sustainability measures that matter the most to you. 
  8. Maintain, repair, alter or recraft your clothes. You can try apps like Sojo or seek repair and tailoring services at local dry cleaners. 

One of the most powerful things we can do is write to our MPs and push the Government for regulation to mandate the largest retailers to take responsibility and incentivise reuse. Read ideas like reducing VAT on repair services in The Environmental Audit Committee’s Fixing Fashion report linked here.

Time for change. Recyclerie Sociale © Reclaimed Woman

© Photographs Reclaimed Woman and courtesy of The Or Foundation

Salvage up my street 

Salvaged Arts and Crafts hall stand
Salvaged Arts and Crafts hall stand

So far, I have salvaged an Arts and Crafts hall stand and the below late sixties lithograph poster from a Chagall exhibition at the Maeght Foundation in St Paul. I knew the Edwardian hall stand had value, but it was not until I researched the poster that I found it offered for sale online for hundreds and even over a thousand pounds, depending on the condition. Both salvages were guided by my love for the thing in the street rather than how much the items were worth. However, it got me thinking about the value assigned to objects and how that influences their future and chance of reuse. 

1967 Chagall lithograph poster Maeght Foundation in St Paul
Salvaged 1967 lithograph Chagall poster from Maeght Foundation in St Paul

We moved to a neighbourhood just next door, yet we never used to see anything in the streets of our old hood. My speculations consider many possible reasons – the most obvious being a different borough equals different attitudes to “fly-tipping”. However, our new neighbourhood has a greater sense of community and more diversity with a greater mix of cultural norms. Sure, some residents are just dumping what they deem to be waste, but I also witness carefully displayed belongings and books that feel less of a nuisance and more like a nice neighbourly gesture. When the owner treats something with value, even when it is no longer of use to them, you can feel the difference, and the likelihood it will be reused increases. Although, the lonely feeling of this picture with cracked glass left as rubbish also evoked an urge in me to rescue it. 

It was not until we picked up the poster to carry it home that I noticed a postcard from the same museum tucked in the back of the frame. The note read, exactly as you would hope with great intrigue: ‘You didn’t miss much on set but how lovely it is here and at the Colombe. The ‘regulars’ are here – And behind the walls is serene.’ 

Maeght Foundation postcard from the 1960s
Sixties Maeght Foundation postcard

Yet more research led me to the story of La Colombe d’Or Hotel and the wall, to which I believe the note refers. A meeting place for artists and thinkers, an expansion of the small hotel included a facade made of stones reclaimed from an old castle in Aix-en-Provence. See the works from some of the hotel guests below…

Work credited to Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely at La Colombe d'Or Hotel
Work credited to Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely © La Colombe d’Or
Guest book with Charlie Chaplin sketch credited to Miró at La Colombe d'Or Hotel
Guest book with Charlie Chaplin sketch credited to Miró © La Colombe d’Or

Internet resale value excluded, the poster holds more meaning to me with this rare glimpse into its past. I learned that the architect Jacques Couelle, credited for initiating architecture like sculpture, designed a fireplace at the same hotel with hand imprints of the people who helped to build it. It’s easier to disregard stuff that strangers don’t want, but once you know the story of the people, stuff suddenly feels more significant.

Ceramic by Fernand Leger for the terrace at La Colombe d'Or Hotel
Ceramic by Fernand Leger for the terrace © La Colombe d’Or

Try SalvoWEB if your street is lacking in good salvage

The Maeght Foundation

La Colombe d’Or Hotel

© Photographs Reclaimed Woman and courtesy of La Colombe d’Or Hotel

Reclaimed listening rooms and our vinyl shrine

Vinyl shrine in our listening room

Tune in. Yes, this column is mainly about how we installed a 200kg slab of English alabaster rescued from a convent in Sussex in our 2-bed flat. However, it is also about the rise of listening rooms. 

So what is a listening room? For me, it is a space to enjoy the soundscape of a room to help you connect or perhaps disconnect. Usually, people create these rooms to listen to music and ours will be that too, but it will also be a place to practise Nāda yoga and sound meditation. Nāda centres on sound, which I have learned more about since we moved into our new place as my husband just trained in sound baths and gong mediation.

32 inch gong in our reclaimed listening room
32 inch gong for sound baths

Whether you are making space for external listening or honing your ability to listen inward, a piece of architectural salvage can transform the energy of a room and set your interior design ideas flowing. 

Sometimes the priorities of a renovation project won’t go as planned. Our bedroom looks like a salvage yard with pieces collected for the kitchen, which we thought we would tackle first. Instead we are rolling with the rhythm of reclaimed pieces we see, which led us to the next chapter we will call, ‘Vinyl shrine.’ 

Before deconstruction
Searching through salvage at the Retrouvius showroom

Salvo Code member, Retrouvius reclaimed the alabaster panel from a chapel. As soon as I saw it, I fell heart over heels. I joke because this piece was definitely heart, not head. We aren’t changing the internal structure, so we couldn’t build around it and installing the thing into an existing wall was proving to be a bigger, more expensive job than we had contemplated. Then we realised that the dimensions of the slab worked perfectly within a fitted cupboard that we could rejig to better suit our storage needs with stronger, deeper shelves for records. 

‘Make friends with a good tailor’ was always one of my go-to tips to shop for secondhand fashion, and this translated well into sustainable interiors when we found a carpenter called Taylor. 

This project required a bit of deconstruction, and we were able to reuse some of the shelves elsewhere in our renovation. But as soon as you start stripping back the layers, you usually find something. We didn’t discover anything too extraordinary, just some wood-chip wallpaper which needed removing to create a fresh surface for the alabaster to be secured, and underwear receipts for M&S and John Lewis circa 1994. 

Taylor designed the cupboard using parts of the original cupboard with additional hardwood. We looked to Ashwells for strong reclaimed greenheart timber to frame the panel, and we sourced Victorian newel posts on SalvoWEB from Abergavenny Reclamation for shelf supports.

Victorian newel posts sourced on SalvoWEB
Repurposing salvaged newel posts as shelf supports

We mixed exposed wood with parts painted in Travertine (319) by Little Greene. There is a wide selection of eco paint to choose from, so you can pick a brand based on the eco creds that best address your environmental and ethical concerns. According to Community RePaint, a UK-wide paint reuse network, around 16% of the 320 million litres of paint sold in the UK each year go to waste. This statistic might not even reflect the full extent of the problem if Little Greene alone is able to prevent as much as 60,000 litres of left-over, unwanted and returned paints from going to waste with their new Re:mix collection. We chose our Travertine colour palette of shades and bought paint before Little Greene released their upcycled limited batch collection, which is worth a look with twenty of their core colours competitively priced in this first line. 

After installation with parts painted in Travertine (319) by Little Greene

One lesson that I am carrying through from my first personal renovation project is that small homes can take unexpectedly grand architectural salvage. The audio system is a huge part of any listening room, but so is your focal point and the arrangement of furniture and soft furnishings that minimise sound reflection. We upcycled our old rug, which was too small for this room, but perfect to upholster pouffes for relaxed dining seats. We are still playing with the objects on our shelves and figuring out artwork to compliment the Art Deco slab. Displaying vintage vinyl sleeves is a versatile decorating idea that allows you to change the art to match your mood. I am pretty sure I am not the only person to buy a record based purely on the cover artwork…

Small home, grand architectural salvage
We upcycled our rug to upholster relaxed dining seats

It’s not essential for your carpenter to like the same music, but if you are working with unique salvage, it helps if they understand and bring ideas to your vision. We got all this plus playlists shared on the project group chat, which Taylor christened ‘Vinyl shrine.’ My husband produces drum and bass music, so our first record had to feature the Amen break. 

Reclaimed Art Deco alabaster salvage

Photographs © Reclaimed Woman

Reclaimed Renovation – Terracotta floor tiles

Reclaimed terracotta herringbone parquet tiles reclaimed renovation

“Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” a friend messaged me in response to my “weekend working on the floor with my husband.” Despite distractions, including mould and moths, our renovation is moving along. We now have reclaimed terracotta roof tiles for flooring in a parquet pattern in our kitchen and hall. 

The floor before
Reclaimed terracotta herringbone parquet tiles
The floor after

If like me, you’re also struggling with moths – have you tried essential oils or filling sachets with dried mint or lavender?

© Matchesfashion.com

Before herringbone terracotta started tiling up everywhere, including a Matchesfashion.com newsletter this week, I first fell for them when Salvo Code member Natural Stone Consulting listed them on SalvoWEB a few years ago. I adored the raw elegance of the colours and textural story hinting at their past life as roof tiles. One of the many benefits of designing with reclaimed materials is even when something is trending, your iteration will still stand out from the crowd. The finish you want to achieve can be equally unique, so after having the tiles laid we are gradually finishing the job ourselves.

Living in our London flat whilst starting our reclaimed renovation
We lived in the flat whilst renovating

Step one was sealing them. We were ready to say goodbye to brick dust, as we were living in the flat throughout the project, yet we wanted to maintain the dusty pink shade of the tiles in their natural state, so we opted for a barely-there sealant. But it was there and we did the water dropper test – where you check that the liquid remains on the surface rather than seeping in to prove it. The terracotta tiles from Natural Stone Consulting were salvaged from derelict rural farmhouses and outhouses in Europe so we wanted to show off the time-worn character which dates back to around 1860. If you choose terracotta or another porous stone then it’s worth doing a quick water drop test every year or so in areas like kitchens to check that your protection is still holding up.

Reclaiming terracotta tiles
Typical farmhouse where the terracotta tiles are reclaimed © Courtesy of Natural Stone consulting
Sorting reclaimed terracotta tiles
Sorting reclaimed terracotta tiles © Courtesy of Natural Stone consulting

Step two was mixing the subtlest sandy grout before applying a second coat of sealer. We had the tiles laid as close as possible, as initially, we were considering going groutless. However, reclaimed terracotta tiles aren’t like laying traditional timber parquet, and they varied in size, so we made a high sand content grout that would blend well with the warm tones of the terracotta. 

I’m not going to lie, tilers were in high demand when we embarked on the project, and ours wasn’t attracting the same quantity of interest as quick regular tiling jobs. So although we didn’t lay the tiles, our hours spent on the floor are totting up to more than our builders’. Step three was sourcing a model makers’ kit of tiny tools to attach to our drill and smooth out signs of our floor layers’ learning curve. It was their first time working with reclaimed tiles.

Model makers' kit to finished our reclaimed stone floor
Our model makers’ kit

So my friend wasn’t wrong, my husband and I are sharing bonding sessions on our floor, and the earplugs he bought us for raves have come in handy to drown out the drilling. I hear that’s what the kids are using them for these days; house music. 

© Photographs Reclaimed Woman & courtesy of Natural Stone Consulting

The Art of Tribal 

Art and design have the enviable ability to break down barriers that traditionally divide cultures. The universality of interiors that involve and speak to people around the world is surely something worth celebrating, so why was I nervous to talk about Tribal Art? My fashion background and thrill in finding antique textiles has given me the chance to see rare tribal pieces over the years. However, like many people attracted to Tribal Art, I have a knowledge gap that can make buying or even discussing the topic intimidating.

I need not have held back as I was in great hands with the insightful words and work of Ian Shaw and Anthony Hepworth, whom you can catch and chat with yourself at the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair 1 – 3 April 2022.

From the exhibition series ‘An Eclectic Eye’ © Anthony Hepworth Fine Art

The creative cohesion we find when people blend different periods with contemporary pieces or different styles arguably defines our time. Some of the most exciting spaces are a reflection of many cultures, as people seek to research their heritage or look for connection through pieces from places that keep craft skills alive out of human necessity. Artefacts like this provide a stark contrast to the consumer culture that exists across the world.

Both Ian Shaw and Anthony Hepworth are experienced collectors so if you are captivated by tribal objects, but conscious of appropriation in design then their memorable discoveries and tips for finding true Tribal Art are a good place to start.

Ian Shaw, the man behind Tribal Arts & Textiles encapsulates the nuances of cultural appropriation early into our conversation with a lovely picture of his wife with her niece, who are both Ashante from Ghana. They are wearing textiles of the Ewe people so they had to ask permission before wearing them for the photo. “Cultural appropriation isn’t just relevant to Europeans, it is relevant to the indigenous population also because these are religious objects within their own spheres,” he says.

Staying safely in the realms of appreciation rather than appropriation, African weaving artistry can be celebrated through interior design and the daily enjoyment for people from different cultures. For example, Ian tells me that some of the textiles work well as personal pieces like bedspreads as they are very durable.

If you keep missing, get closer to the basket

Ian has done his research and explains “there are not that many people that will attempt to deal in (antique) African baskets.” He points out that there are many of them around and people try to fake it but especially “the Tutsi, Chokwe and the Kuba peoples have special techniques for making these baskets that no one can replicate. Only the local women know how to make these and that’s been handed down from generation to generation.”

Both keen runners, Ian met his wife at the National Stadium training. She was a police officer at the time as well as an international runner for Ghana. However, it was long before Ian met his wife, back in 1989 when he was introduced to Tribal Art by friends. Two Glasgow artists dragged him to the Museum of Mankind in London. He describes eyeing huge Easter Island figures whilst ascending a big marble staircase before entering a large room full of Yoruba carvings from Nigeria. “Walking into that room, I didn’t know anything about the images that were there. Even with no knowledge, you had to be impressed by the sculptural quality, it was just incredible.”

You never forget your first

Ian was off on his journey with learnings from friends about art history and the powerful influence on painters such as Matisse and Modigliani, who had big collections of African Tribal Art. Eight years later, a lovely Yoruba kola nut bowl carved as a chicken was Ian’s first purchase, and objects he could never part with include an extremely rare Yoruba Geledi mask. Before you buy a tribal piece it is essential to ask questions, so meeting dealers at longstanding fairs like Bath Decorative is a good first move. Find out about the provenance so that you know what you have is genuine and that your intended purpose is in tune with trustworthy knowledge of what it is.

Norwegian church tapestry circa 1913 Tribal Art & Textiles
Norwegian church tapestry circa 1913 © Tribal Arts & Textiles

Although Ian focuses on textiles of West Africa, he recently discovered a piece from Scandinavia that he will bring to Bath. “Not normally my area, but I do have a smattering of knowledge of these things and this is a really beautiful Norwegian church tapestry.” We muse about the story of how it got here and relate over the joyous moment when particularly textiles just speak to you.

An Eclectic Eye

Anthony Hepworth’s eye for pairing Tribal Art with Modern British Painting and Sculpture can be traced to the ‘70s from art college to the start of his career for the British Museum.

A series of 'An Eclectic Eye' exhibitions Anthony Hepworth Fine Art
From the exhibition series ‘An Eclectic Eye’ © Anthony Hepworth Fine Art

“A museum by its very nature has all of these different cultures, different ages all together. The departments can be quite insular, but when they put on shows all of these things come together.” He recalls a library show with “big glass cases, and at one time they had fabulous Oceanic objects in a cabinet and then they had an African object, and then some Greek objects. That’s what set me off.”

Anthony Hepworth Fine Art was established in Bath in 1989 with locations in London and their own returning exhibition ‘An Eclectic Eye’ held over the years. Today they represent Scottish artist Peter Seal and you can see their dual passions collide at fairs with Anthony’s specialism in Modern British and Post-War Painting and Sculpture with African and Oceanic Tribal Art.

“We used to spend ages, I mean two days arranging the things, and that’s how I live in my house…So at the moment, I am sitting in a room with a 16th-century carving next to a 1958 painting with some African objects surrounded by Japanese bronzes to the right and then I’ve got some Greek antiquities to the left and a Hawaiian bowl, and then pre-Columbian pieces and 18th-century glass next to a little Henry Moore. It’s just fun. It’s a pleasure to live in this way.”

The cherry on top of this storied setting is that Anthony lives in a reclaimed house, having swapped their Bath townhouse for a bungalow built by the city architect from reclaimed Cotswold stone with a Cotswold stone roof and a bell tower.

Provenance is incredibly important to him, and the stand at Bath will feature things like Oceanic clubs and paddles. “Genuinely old things that were made by a tribal person, for a tribal person’s use. That’s how we define Tribal Art or objects.” Anthony touches on how things have changed and how the TV show Frasier affected the market in the ‘90s with the apartment filled with tribal objects and the “decorator influence.”

Sometimes it feels like the respectful line that art or comedy must tread has become more complex, but for me, Anthony simplifies it beautifully as “professionalism.” It is not about ‘get the look’ it’s about the feeling of truly Tribal Art.

See Tribal Arts & Textiles and Anthony Hepworth Fine Art at the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair. Get your tickets here

Bath Decorative Antiques Fair
Date: 1-3 April 2022
TRADE PREVIEW Thursday 31 March
Venue: The Pavilion, North Parade Road, Bath, BA2 4EU

Rainbows & Tiles

My new flat is the equivalent of workout leggings. It’s comfortable and a little styling goes a long way, but I am anxious that renovating at a slow pace will be the home equivalent of a hard transition out of trousers with an elasticated waist. 

My current sense of urgency is fighting my better judgment and past experience, which proves that slow design enables more reuse because it gives you time to see existing potential and consider possibilities that you might have otherwise missed. To reuse as much as possible and work with antique and salvaged materials is our priority, but this reclaimed reno is more intensive than my last and includes a big (by London standards) bathroom, a kitchen, 2 bedrooms, floors and a possible extension to do.

We need to pace ourselves budget-wise so we just started with the flooring in the hall and kitchen. This was good because consciously planning an area at a time was conducive to more reuse. However, a delay in work on our kitchen means that most of this space will take shape in phase two, which means our flat is starting to look like a salvage yard with a sink here, a copper fire hood there… But as Dolly Parton put it “if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

The trouble with not doing everything at once is that your memory is fresh enough to remember the dust that comes with a renovation. We are still discovering dust inside cupboards that we didn’t know existed from reno round one. I’m excited to share our reclaimed herringbone terracotta tiled floor once we have finished grinding and sealing, but I need to work on our lighting because the cold coloured surgical-like kitchen downlighters are countering what should be a characterful floor of pink and orange tones. With the kitchen as it is our vegetables aren’t so much chopped but dissected. 

There has been a flurry of home renovations over the last two years, so I am curious to hear your experiences. Has the WFH lifestyle made it easier to keep a closer eye on your design projects or have you found the lack of opportunity to escape ongoing building work more challenging? 

Let’s get physical

©Simon Wharton Antiques

As the leaves start to fall, it’s time to feel again with a plethora of physical decorative antiques fairs in the diary. 

The last eighteen months have been challenging, but thanks to an unwavering business drive, digital community (and sales!) the architectural salvage and decorative antiques industries will emerge stronger. Bath Decorative Antiques Fair will be an opportunity to see familiar faces, and new faces with more and more people on the lookout for personality pieces. If you are new to the antiques fair scene then Bath is a great one as it is both fiercely stylish and friendly. 

©Simon Wharton Antiques

Bath Decorative Antiques Fair has a special buzz about it, as returning exhibitor, Simon Wharton Antiques describes it, and the holiday atmosphere that charms anyone exhibiting or visiting the event. Here, Simon Wharton and Geraint Jones, co-founder of Greencore Design which is showing at Bath Decorative for the first time, share reasons to get excited for the next instalment. 

“Digital saved me during Covid,” says Simon, with antiques at a hand’s reach as people shopped from smartphones on their sofas, but “there’s no substitution for meeting people in the flesh.” People are excited to be handling things face to face again, and nothing awakens our senses like feeling the character and hearing the stories from the people that discovered these one-off pieces. Anecdotes include unforgettable fireplace rescue missions, where Simon recalls one particularly hilarious time, with the benefit of hindsight. “We had to let it down a ladder from the window” he describes, having survived being at the bottom as two guys with a combined age of 160 lowered the ropes on a fireplace travelling towards him. 

©Simon Wharton Antiques

Moving magnificent chimneypieces goes with the territory, as Simon’s signature is architectural antiques, stone fireplaces, and boy does he know how to dress them – with decorative and garden delights that complete his collection. The setting of Bath Decorative lends itself to some serious stand decoration, so even just walking around will give you ideas and good connections. I’ll never forget seeing one of Simon’s displays at Bath for the first time. 

Despite the changes that Brexit brought about, nothing has changed business like the pandemic. Simon saw his best August for fireplaces yet, and there is an increasing demand from customers in the countryside in France, as people everywhere opt for a life outside of the city. As well as a strong customer base both sides of the channel, they continue to come from as far as Australia and America. If a desire for eco-friendly design is partly driving your visit to Bath Decorative then you might be interested to know that even Simon’s heaviest antiques could be shipped to America and still save more energy than the embodied carbon cost of making a new fireplace. We know because me and Salvo have been doing tonnes of work on carbon and reclamation this year.

Antique French oak table ©Greencore Design

The attraction to antiques and the urge to design with tactile treasures is also influencing restoration trends with interior designers and other customers seeking unrestored or a lighter touch and less polish. But as Geraint of Greencore Design explains, that doesn’t equal less attention to detail. “Each piece is ‘house ready’ whether it be an old industrial piece or a high end designer piece, we pride ourselves on each item being clean, sound and ready to enjoy. ‘Patina’ does not equal dirt and ‘character’ does not equal a wobbly leg or a broken drawer.”

If you are looking for quality, craftsmanship and a design mash-up that mixes an 18th-century country house piece with a sixties leather chair then you’ll enjoy seeing Greencore Design’s first showing at Bath.

Mid-century modern armchairs by Pieff of Worcester ©Greencore Design
Primitive farmhouse bench seat ©Greencore Design

The company has been trading since 2005, having had a career in architectural cast iron and restoration work on historic buildings, they were initially involved in architectural salvage. “The one great thing in this business is that you never quite know where you will be next,” says Geraint, who rebranded and launched Greencore Design in 2019 with a focus on decorative antiques and vintage furniture. 

Constantly striving to achieve the “right look and feel”, Greencore Design always has some Welsh staples. Geraint explains Wales has it all, from large manor houses to farmhouses, to industrial, which explains why so many of us are falling for Welsh antiques.

“A lot of traditional Welsh furniture has a simplicity and naivety to it which makes them versatile. Very often made from local wood, especially oak so it lasts forever. Interior designers have really embraced antique and vintage furniture and increasingly using new and old alongside each other, which is great to see, both from design viewpoint and the environment.”

Antique Welsh blanket ©Greencore Design

Green to the core, Geraint shows me how they incorporated elements of reclaimed stone into their new build. This got me excited as a sign of where our built environments could expand on what the antiques industry is doing so brilliantly in breaking down the barriers of what eras should sit with what. 

Rules certainly went out of the window in Geraint’s recent rescue of a pair of aesthetic hall lanterns. 

Lanterns before restoration ©Greencore Design

“They were in a sorry state but working with Jolene Farmer Studio, we managed to bring them back to life. The glass proved tricky, I was keen to use some 19th-century glass we had in stock, previously salvaged from a Welsh Church dating to 1860. The glass was a large single pane with a beautiful cross pattern, and the restoration work required us to precisely cut the glazed panel into smaller pieces to fit the faceted lantern sides. Enlisting the expertise of Jolene Farmer we set about finding someone to cut the glass, Jolene had tried all her contacts in London but they all refused on the ground that they could not guarantee that the glass could be cut due to the age and complexity of the glass. In the end, we found someone in Dorset, who worked on old churches and was confident in cutting the glass. The skill and effort that goes into the restoration cannot be underestimated, the cost is also high but it’s an important part of the industry and is essential to save pieces from being lost forever.”

Welsh Church glass cut by Jamie Clark for the restoration ©Greencore Design
Lanterns after restoration ©Greencore Design

See Simon Wharton Antiques and Greencore Design at Bath Decorative Antiques Fair. Here are the details you need to know: 

Bath Decorative Antiques Fair
Date: 22-24 October 2021. Open 11am – 5pm
TRADE PREVIEW Thursday 21 October. Open 12noon – 5pm
Venue: The Pavilion, North Parade Road, Bath, BA2 4EU

Get your tickets here

Salvo Fest of imperfect beauty

Save the dates 16 – 19 June 2021 because the original architectural salvage fair has found its new home, with the best bits of the virtual and real world to toast Salvo’s 30th Pearl Anniversary.

Seven years ago I hadn’t even stepped foot inside a salvage yard, so my renovation took me on a complete education, and Salvo became my go-to resource to find reclaimed materials for my home. Now I am a fully fledged member of the Salvo team, and our upcoming festival is a celebration of reclamation and reuse, Salvo’s last thirty years, and also a taste of the next flirtiest chapter.

As well as architectural salvage, antiques and reclaimed building materials, we are introducing vintage and recrafted fashion for Salvo’s Pearl Anniversary. Slowly, but surely, we are growing Salvo as the destination for reuse to help you not only build, but dress your home and yourself for the world you want.

Our vision represents my belief that the choices we make for ourselves and our homes are so interconnected, as that was my experience and the guiding light behind Reclaimed Woman. Renovating my home with reclaimed, eco-friendly materials gave me daily inspiration to make bigger changes in all areas of my life. With so much in the world already, I am embracing reuse as a lifestyle. For me, some of the most exciting eco fashion out there is either reimagined vintage or upcycled, so I am thrilled to share the designers, makers and collectors that rock this area of the sustainable fashion scene.

We-ResonateSalvo Fest fashion exhibitor

Imperfect beauty is our festival theme, as an ode to Salvo’s Pearl Anniversary.  The concept of perfection is inspiring much debate and the diversification of what the world considers beautiful can only be good – encouraging more reuse.  Our special Pearl Anniversary edit will feature one of a kind garden, fashion and interiors from 60s Dior earrings to Rococo fireplaces to mismatched harlequin flooring. 

Register here for the 24 hour Trade Day preview or the first look at the festival line-up of digital events, plus a handful of real world pop-ups.

60s Dior koi fish earrings from ethazonSalvo Fest Pearl Anniversary edit

Salvofair.com

Aware, thoughtful and deliberate with Wolf & Gypsy, ethical jewellery by Tori Shay

Comfortable clothes continue to rule, and it’s hard to imagine what could come along to convince us otherwise, but that doesn’t come at the sacrifice of decoration. 

Speaking to friends, jewellery has been the mood lifter, and yes an opportunity to shine on conference calls, but particularly if you have gone a while without wearing it, the deliberate act of adding jewellery can positively impact your day. Tori Shay, the founder of Wolf & Gypsy reflects on her journey and creating a brand that gives back to the environment rather than taking away.

I love the expression ‘life can turn on a sixpence’ and often share one of my life’s turning points as an example of how quickly life can change. In short, on the first night of a six day trip to San Francisco, at a restaurant reservation that me and my friend almost cancelled, I met the man that three months and three dates later became my fiancé.  Wolf & Gypsy’s Sixpence pendant pictured below was designed using an original sixpence coin, dated 1914.

One of Tori’s sixpence turns came when she started her brand…

“It was so very important that Wolf & Gypsy was a responsible brand.  When finding a manufacturer, I travelled to India to see the workshops so that I could make sure that they had the same values” 

Anyone can speak of sustainability, and at the moment it feels like anyone is! But Wolf & Gypsy’s commitment as a member of 1% For The Planet not only talks, it walks the walk with a minimum of 1% of annual sales to support environmental non-profit organisations. Wolf & Gypsy jewellery is realised in recycled silver and gold with ethically sourced conflict-free gemstones.

“I think it’s really important in this day and age to be very aware of the choices you make and how that impacts our world… Be aware, thoughtful and deliberate.  I try to stay positive and upbeat in every situation, which has been especially important this year”

Whilst raising her young family, Tori retrained under a talented goldsmith, whose designs were snapped-up by Liberty and Harvey Nichols in the seventies. Swapping a career in event design, she began to create jewellery and practise the art of ear curation, adding professional ear piercing to her new skills before launching Wolf & Gypsy in 2018.

Tori’s journey into jewellery gives the Wolf & Gypsy collection artful earrings designed for different piercings. Rediscovered vintage pieces come re-furbished ‘as-new’ and compliment the rest of the range, which is also designed to last. Necklaces, rings, bracelets and bangles are made for experimenting, layering, mixing and matching. It feels like she’s sharing her personal treasure trove of pieces collected over time.

I ask Tori the impossible, to name her favourite piece. Failing a single favourite, today she is wearing the Pear Rainbow Moonstone ring with diamond halo, the Snake bangle and a personalised necklace with her name on it.

Tori’s high jewellery Pear Rainbow Moonstone ring is available by pre-order

For many, this moment and stagnant lockdown life feels ripe for a sixpence turn and a change of luck. The brand’s name was inspired by her young son Rafe, whose name means ‘wolf,’ and ‘gypsy’ is derived from Tori’s love of travel and adventure. So how does she soothe her adventurous spirit in these unique circumstances? 

“I’m finding happiness from the little things in life and enjoying the beautiful countryside that we have to offer in this country with my children.”

It may seem self centred to think about self-adornment in the middle of a pandemic, but sometimes simply putting on a piece of deliberate design can help you get up in the morning. And jewellery particularly can connect us to people that we may not have the privilege of seeing at the moment. 

One of Tori’s memories of jewellery impacting her day was the first day she went through her Grandmother’s jewellery box: “It was then that I fell in love with jewellery.” 

I think most of us would enjoy reliving childhood moments, where dress up wasn’t about going anywhere, it was simply for the fun of play.

See the complete Wolf & Gypsy collection

© Photographs Reclaimed Woman and most courtesy of Wolf & Gypsy

Reclaimed Woman gifts full of goodness

Reclaimed Eames style leather office chair to make a loved one more comfy wfh. Architectural Forum on Salvo

Organic & Botanic Madagascan coconut rejuvenating night moisturiser Dr Botanicals

Reclaimed vintage silks headband by War & Drobe + We-Resonate. See more styles from the latest collaboration on War & Drobe

House shoes never needed to make us feel chic, so thanks Birdsong for creating these reclaimed leather slippers. [Order before the 26th November to get them in time for Christmas in the UK]

1960s Charles Jourdan mock lizard bag in our latest thrifte edit on ethazon. Follow our private account or message me for details

May you make extra merry this Christmas 🥰

1960s Paris Fashion photos by French Finds under CC by 2.0 license, Old Fashioned Christmas Tree photo by Catherine Clarke under CC by-SA 2.0 license