Reclaimed interiors and renovating the Wabi-Sabi way

I recently discovered that my nickname at university was the swan. Okay so I have a long neck, but my friend suggested that it was more likely to do with my perfect hair. Rest assured, I also dislike the woman with the “perfect hair” my friend described, as perfectionists never see perfect in themselves. Nor am I a fan of people referring to themselves as perfectionists, but before I hit the back bar on this whole paragraph, I’ll get to the point. Renovating my flat with reclaimed materials gave way to a total mind shift. From perfection seeker to imperfection appreciator. When you buy new, the shine often fades with the first scratch or signs or wear.  However, buying reclaimed pieces and reusing old materials freed me to be less precious, knowing that loving signs of use would only add to their characterful beauty.

Born from Zen Buddhism, wabi-sabi cannot be bought. Your appreciation might start with a single chipped vase you have had forever. Rather than discarding it, the Japanese philosophy encourages you to accept things as they are. Wabi-sabi is the wonky, handmade, home-grown and weathered with age. A u-turn from the mass-produced, single-use society, it teaches us to be content and cherish what we have.

I am not pretending to have found zen, I still fuss with my hair for about fifteen minutes every morning. But through reuse and renovating my home with natural materials, I am making a more genuine environment that will continue to get better with age.

Difficult to translate into words, I am still working at my definition of a wabi-sabi way of life.  However, I think I am close when I appreciate the imperfect pattern of white ceramic tiles at the back of my wardrobe (that was once the kitchen).  Rather than sending the tiles to landfill, they live with my clothes and accessories as an accepted part of my home’s history.

 

Reclaimed doors and sanitary ware at V&V Reclamation  /  my irregular wardrobe tiles

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

4 home fashions to note now for the cosy season

Whether you’re into antiques or not, Tallboy Interiors takes a new approach to old interiors that can inspire us all for the cosy season ahead.

On his 18th birthday, Matt Dixon of Tallboy Interiors was given £1000 from his parents to spend as he wanted.  Instead of blowing it, he decided to invest the money in various antique pieces and thus his addiction and business was born.

 Red or dead 

No, I am not referring to the controversial Brit shoe brand, but a desire for darker interiors, a new take on tapestry and rich reds.  Once upon a time wearing different tones of red, mismatching scarlet with crimson, gave the impression you got dressed in the dark.  Matt describes his style  as “mismatched but works.  I like to try different pieces, patterns, colours, ages.  Nothing needs to match for it to work necessarily.”  Now is the time to embrace mismatched.  Enjoy ebonised antique wood, dark interiors,  and dress yourself and your home in red.

 Lady boho 

This tapestry and velvet covered table sits on the edge between elegant and artsy.  Pom Poms are trending big time, but antique pom pom tassels will retain crafty charm.

 Inside out

An awareness for more thoughtful purchasing has produced an abundance of green living trends, from eco friendly antiques and natural materials to literally green coloured interiors.  Merging our environments by bringing the outside in and inside out is increasingly popular.  These Mid-20th-Century Willy Guhl planters are statement greenery that can work inside and out.

   Earthy velvet

Relaxed rose, terracotta, cinnamon, rust.  All great shades and even better in velvet, both grand, intimate and above all, cosy.

Shop Tallboy Interiors

©Photographs courtesy of Tallboy Interiors

12 discoveries from Salvo Fair for a sustainable luxury life

Dip into Deco bathrooms 

Resurfaced roll top baths, Deco bathroom suites, Belfast and Butler sinks.  With so much salvaged sanitary ware out there, it is not necessary to buy new.  Look to salvage dealers like Mongers that supply reconditioned taps too.

Mongers Architectural Salvage

 Period old things from playful young things 

  

Standing tall, Matt Dixon of Tallboy Interiors and Buster below, part of the Vagabond Antiques family.  Both businesses won a free Salvo stand in the Antiques Young Guns competition – a support network for people under 39 working in the antiques industry.

These dealers are changing the stuffy image of antiques and getting playful with period pieces. What could be more sustainable than buying furniture built to last, and reused over-and-over again?

Tallboy Interiors  /  Vagabond Antiques

 Ethical eating and drinking at Silo with Old Tree Brewery 

Zero waste restaurant, Silo chef Douglas McMaster’s mission is always the first thing critics note. The taste however, is just as mind-blowing.  V for veggie, I ordered the contemporary calzone filled with curried plant-based goodness in the Silo at Salvo pop up.  Washed down with Kombucha from Old Tree Brewery, a social enterprise that combines brewing and gardening to make nourishing, delicious drinks.

They supply ethical restaurants like Silo in Brighton, where Old Tree also run their Brewhouse Café.  And if you’re nowhere near Brighton, you can buy their drinks online.

I sampled their Sencha green tea Kombucha, which is both earthy and energising and packed with probiotics.

Silo  /  Old Tree Brewery

 Time for change with Clock Props

I haven’t worn a watch since I was a teenager. Perhaps because I grew up with a phone to tell me the time, but I fell for this Salvo Fair stand of clocks.

With a collection of over 500 clocks, a visit to Clock Props’ showroom back in London is high on my to-see list.   Buy or hire. They probably have the largest selection of clocks in the UK, and they are a go-to for interior and set designers.

Clock Props

  Mahala and Roomi Apparel 

I’ve been banging on about ethical homeware and accessories brand Mahala for a while and I finally got my hands on one of the signature bags made of old military canvas and British saddlery leather.  I must however leave room to mention Roomi Apparel.  Designed by the talented husband of Emily Griffin, the woman behind Mahala, Roomi Apparel is a new unisex brand made in East London.  Colourful coats on the left hand rail below suited both the tall men and petite women that tried them.   One sustainable size fits all.

Stocked at Mahala, follow Roomi Apparel on Instagram  here

  The real deal in retro arm candy 

I’m a shoe woman, but exhibitors in my Fair Fashion pop up converted me into a bag lady.  I rarely buy bags, but Salvo Fair had me spending on salvaged and vintage arm candy including this ’50s Corde bag with rare lucite handles.

Bag from Mary Jones Vintage worn with my ’70s jumpsuit from Snooper’s Attic, Snooper’s Paradise, 7-8 Kensington Gardens, Brighton. 

 Conscious shopping with Chris Holmes Antiques 

Also a bag of sorts… this French antique hod from Avignon was worn on grape pickers’ backs in the ’20s.  Hand painted with Chateau Neuf Du-Pape – until the 14th Century the Pope resided in Avignon and this is the crest representing his vineyard.

We thought it would make a special statement piece in our patio that could double as an ice bucket for parties!  I’ll be revealing more of my flat and the reclaimed renovation project soon.

Chris Holmes Antiques

 Grand Clearance Auctions

Fresh from the fair field, exhibitor Insitu is organising a clearance auction in Manchester on Saturday 8th – Sunday 9th July 2017.  Clearing stock ready for the final stage of renovations to their Italianate style Grade II listed Victorian building.  Auctions are a great place to pick up rare pieces at good prices.

Insitu  /  find future auctions on Salvo

 Vintage furniture house Metroretro  

Saxon of Metroretro dressed London’s Sky Garden with his bespoke collection of reclaimed furniture and this weekend he dressed the Silo at Salvo pop up restaurant.  Also a regular at Modern Shows, look out for Metroretro with mid-mod and industrial pieces at Midcentury East on Sunday 15th October 2017.

Metroretro  /  Midcentury East

 

  The all-electric pollution free supercar 

EVision Supercars is the first UK chauffeur-driven car hire service that chauffeur in London with a nationwide fleet that exclusively comprises of all-electric, Tesla.

A conscious alternative for a luxurious airport transfer or a special event (the white gullwing Model X is popular for weddings).

They also offer self-drive hire so you can experience electric as the new car era ushers in.

EVision

©photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

Divorce lawyer to dealer in rare Dior

Julia Jones put the Jones in Mary Jones Vintage, a divorce lawyer that sources and sells vintage fashion.  Based in Liverpool, stocked in Liberty of London and preparing for her first Salvo Fair in my Fair Fashion pop up, which opens in Henley tomorrow (23rd until the 25th June 2017).

I caught up with Julia before she exhibits her vintage finds for women and men, including a rare collection of Christian Dior hats.  Kind of a genius business plan… who doesn’t want Dior after a divorce???

How did you get your start in vintage fashion?

I am a divorce lawyer by trade but have always loved fashion and bought and sold designer clothing on EBAY and the like. Some years ago a friend, Mary, approached me as she had been left an estate of vintage clothes which was too much for her to manage. I fell in love with vintage and Mary Jones Vintage was born. Mary retired a few years ago and I, as the Jones, carried on.

What should we look for from Mary Jones Vintage at SALVO 2017?

Passion for vintage! I hand pick all of the items I sell and pride myself on doing them justice in my display. I want to give these items a new life.

This is a sneak peak of my favourite piece on Julia’s Salvo stand so far.  A 1970s Gina Fratini maxi dress. 

Is there a trend in the pieces you are currently sourcing?  

In Liverpool at the moment vintage Kaftans and Kimonos are big. Vintage fur is always sought after, but generally people are looking for that unique piece that no one else has.

Do you find it hard to part with things once sold?  Does a single piece stand out as the one that got away?

I am terrible for trying not to sell things. Because these items often have a history it is hard to part with them. I bought an Edwardian French crystal hair slide from a car boot sale a few years ago. It was exquisite. At that time I was doing some dressage to music on my horse and I sewed it into her tail as our music was Diamonds are a girls best friend.  We won the competition but I forgot to take the slide out of her tail and she merrily galloped off into the muddy field with it on! Panic ensued but, after hours of searching, we did find it again. I subsequently sold it  and  have regretted it ever since.

What are the dos and don’ts people should be aware of when shopping for vintage fashion?

Do buy what you like. Don’t let anyone tell you, you look like your Granny in it.

What do you think of the eco-friendly side of buying reloved pieces? 

I think this is particularly pertinent to vintage fur. I only sell vintage fur and believe very strongly that the quality of the fur and the standard of the craftsmanship was far higher. There is so much vintage fur available that there is no need to buy new.

If you buy carefully, vintage pieces can last a lifetime and cost a fraction of the price of lesser quality designer items.

How does wearing vintage fashion personally make you feel?

I am  what is commonly known as a “fuller filly” so I struggle to get into most of the dresses. However I do indulge myself with hats, bags and jewellery!

See salvofair.com for more details and join me for a dose of Fair Fashion, the antidote to fast fashion festival style. 

Follow Mary Jones Vintage on Instagram

©photographs Reclaimed Woman & courtesy of Mary Jones Vintage

Greek green living in Athens

I just visited Athens, city of marble for the first time.  The Greek side of my husband’s family visited us in London before we all headed to a big fat Greek wedding in Athens.

I’ll keep references to that film brief, but it’s been a running joke since my first dinner with them. “What do you mean she don’t eat no meat?” A good excuse for me to share some good Greek spots for vegetarians visiting Athens.

Teasing over the Elgin Marbles was also inevitable.   Stereotypically English, I neatly queued up their banter, as my eyes started tearing up in the heat as we queued for the Acropolis.   “Awww she’s crying at the sight of the other marble they could have taken.”  Elgin marbles aside, Athens is a city with marble in abundance.   I walked on pavements, staircases and curbs made of the stuff.

I wore vintage Zandra Rhodes (above) from Circa Vintage and gladiator sandals I bought from a local London based brand IRIS.

Outside the Acropolis museum, running as a tour guide uses my shirt dress to describe the meaning of the colours in the Greek flag, blue sky, white ocean waves.  Accessorising my Greek flag with Castañer espadilles and a vintage cork backpack from People of 2morrow.

Stay

We chose an Airbnb with views of the Acropolis, solar thermal energy and homemade wine in the southeast neighbourhood, Koukaki.

I packed Bentley Organic shampoo and conditioner and Aloe Pura Organic Aloe Vera sun lotion with pomegranate, protecting echinacea, nourishing Jojoba and avocado oil.

Eat & Drink

Greece has a cornucopia of natural products that promote wellbeing. Vegetarians visiting Athens can’t go far wrong with the salads.  Vegans should check out both Mama Tierra and Avocado.  As a pescatarian, I feasted on vegetarian starting plates in more meaty Greek restaurants, which shouldn’t be skipped for the traditional live music.

I loved the salads at Skoubri (above) Σκουμπρί, Drakou 14, Athina and the floral vintage wallpaper, old Athens style decor and dishes at Cherchez La Femme (below) Σερσέ λα φάμ, Mitropoleos 46, Athina.

In local Lotte Cafe – Bistrot (below) Tsami Karatasou 2, Athina and Birds & Booze in Plaka you could feel like you are in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  Both are fun day and night.

Shop

Athens is painted in graffiti, so I couldn’t resist sharing this.  There is some great guilt-free shopping to be had in the independent shops amongst the touristy traps in Plaka and Monastiraki .  Check out repurposed accessories made in Greece at 3Quarters with bags made from leftover balcony awnings.

I couldn’t leave Monastiraki without handmade sandals from The Poet Sandal-Maker of Athens. Good enough for John Lennon and Jackie O. Good enough for me.

The store opened in 1920 and remains a family business today, run by the grandson of the founding artisan.  The makers know your sandal size just by looking at you.  You choose a style and they fit and cut the leather to your foot.  I chose Aeolian No. 2.  

©photographs Reclaimed Woman

Jewellery from repurposed antique cutlery to mark National Upcycling Day

I know I am not the only one to have jewellery boxed-up in drawers, saving it for best.  The same goes for antique silverware, often passed down through family, brought out for special occasions when firstly, we remember it’s there, and secondly, we can digest more than the daily cutlery drawer by the time dinner is prepared.

Not that I am suggesting you consolidate your treasures into fewer drawers, but Joseph Bucsi created his brand Boochi & Co, crafting antique silver cutlery into jewellery.  A concept worth chewing on.

“In a world that is so transient and increasingly unstable, history is one thing that we can learn from and hold onto. All of my pieces have travelled through time and had many lives.  A spoon made in 1750 has seen more than we can imagine throughout its lifetime.”

Joseph was introduced to antiques by his girlfriend Charlie and her family.  Hard to believe he became a craftsman just 3 years ago, he immersed himself in the history of found items and began researching hallmarks and makers through auctions and fairs.  Joseph came across stories of servants appropriating silver cutlery to reshape them into wedding rings when they wanted to marry.

Dating back to the 1700s, hallmarks, initials and patterns throughout the sterling silver Boochi & Co collection tell stories of their provenance. Available to shop online and at The Vintage Look in Henley.  Boochi & Co is also joining my Fair Fashion pop-up at Salvo Fair on 23rd-25th June 2017.

I can’t think of a better way to mark national upcycling day (Saturday 24th June) than with a spoon ring, destined to be used everyday.

SALVO 2017 at a glance

Where: Icehouse Lane, Henley on Thames, RG9 3AP

When: Saturday 24 & Sunday 25 June 2017

Open: 10am to 5pm

Smart Works Charity Gala Preview and late night shopping with organic wine from Vintage Roots: Friday 23 June 2017, 5pm to 8pm

See salvofair.com for more details and to book tickets

©photographs courtesy of Boochi & Co

Me and my home want to be dressed top to towel rail in Mahala

I’ve got my eyes on a pair of made in England clogs stocked at Mahala, an independent homewares and accessories shop selling handmade bags and handcrafted pieces by designer/maker Emily Griffin.  Emily’s East London shop is based in an old fishmonger, where a material sign waves you beyond the fish shopfront signage with the aroma of organic candles and wild pistachio soap.

Bags made from salvaged army surplus fabric and British saddlery leather first introduced me to Mahala when I interviewed Emily for London Design Festival last September.  I was thrilled when she agreed to swap East London for an eccentric Henley estate to exhibit at Salvo fair .  I am collaborating with Salvo, the original architectural salvage fair to incorporate zero waste food and fair fashion for this year’s Green Living Fest on 23rd-25th June 2017.  A showcase of salvage, reclaimed interiors and antiques, not simply for their beauty, but for their green value. The Green Living fest will celebrate salvage as a lifestyle choice.

There is no perfectly sustainable material, but getting to know the materials you dress your home and yourself with is a good place to start.  Upcycled and carefully sourced, materials at Mahala include antique and traditionally crafted modern Turkish towels.  Currently completing the renovation of my flat with reused and reclaimed materials, I visited to buy bathroom towels.

If you have yet to experience a hammam. Let me fill you in with my first experience in Morocco.  Wearing nothing, but the traditional towel around my waist, I was scrubbed with black soap made from olive pulp and vegetable soda.  My two friends got lucky with beds to rest on, whilst the kessa gloved women worked their magic, and I was left to be exfoliated in the shower room.  Suitable for all skin types, we were equally pleased with the soap’s purifying properties, I just left slightly more attached to the durable, yet soft Turkish cotton towel protecting my hips, whilst flat-out on the floor tiles.

I joke, but the experience is a ritual of relaxation that I was keen to replicate at home.

Back soon with inspiration for turning tiny bathrooms into tranquil spaces, and how I tackled my tiny bathroom renovation with reused and reclaimed materials.

Mahala

Join me and Mahala at SALVO 2017 

Salvo fair, Icehouse Lane, Henley on Thames, RG9 3AP

Book tickets for the zero waste Silo at Salvo lunch with a weekend fair pass

Follow Emily Griffin on the beautiful @Mahala_london Instagram

©photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

A reggae fuelled road trip to the organic grapes of wine merchant Vintage Roots

If you love wine, but you are less attached to the sulphites, perhaps in search of vegan or biodynamic wine, then you need to know about the organic wine people, Vintage Roots.

The name was derived from a reggae compilation tape on a road trip the  founders took to France in 1985.  They started the business with a sheet of road trip “research” – a list of fifteen wines, and now sell over 400 organic wines and drinks.  Co-founders Neil Palmer and Lance Pigott continue to fly the flag for organic, biodynamic, natural and ethically produced wines from around the world, not to mention quirkier offerings such as organic cachaça, a seaweed gin and the imminent arrival of their first organic Tequila.

Vintage Roots is  joining this year’s Salvo fair in Henley, 23rd-25th June.  Salvo fair is the annual event of Salvo.co.uk, the online marketplace and directory where I source a lot of salvage for my flat, so I am getting involved for this year’s Green Living Fest.  Zero waste food, vintage and sustainable fashion are set to join the unique mix of architectural, garden, midcentury and industrial antiques.

Just like antiques, wine can be a stuffy business, but Neil (pictured above in his eighties bins), is admirably honest about Vintage Roots’ struggle at the start.

“This is not meant to sound arrogant, but I wouldn’t have given too much advice to my younger self, as it is important to learn by your mistakes. We grew very slowly in the early days (about 10 years!), and earned little from the business, but all came good and we had some fantastic memorable times.”

Vintage Roots is giving Salvo’s (Fri 23rd June) evening preview party plenty of fizz in support of Smart Works Charity, and unique fashion reuse that both supports out of work women and reduces landfill.  See the details and buy tickets here (all proceeds to Smart Works Charity)

Vintage Roots are planning to be in my Fair Fashion marquee for tastings over the weekend too.  They describe wine as bottled history, which begs the question – what is the future for winemaking and the favour for organic or biodynamic wine?

“In the wine trade there is a growing number of wine makers and producers who are choosing to return towards older ways of making wine, using little or no intervention. Only natural yeasts to start the fermentation, sometimes ageing in old Amphora pots and adding little or no sulphur dioxide. Wine should not be a mass produced, ‘industrial’ product, more treated as something that is living. Organic and biodynamic farming methods keep the soils alive, which in turn feeds the grapes, and produces higher quality, more complex wines, whilst maintaining the soil for the growers of the future.”

Since 2005 their office has been powered by 100% renewable energy and in 2006 the company became the first in the UK to offset the carbon footprint of all its wine and beer imports. Last year saw the introduction of a “Vine to Lips” logo, designed to communicate the carbon commitment of a firm that sets the standard for green retail.

Vintage Roots  /  Salvo Fair 

©photographs courtesy of Vintage Roots