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
Think you are ready for your renovation project, then prepare to neglect your usual e-com candy for sites like Broken Bog.
My daily scroll of choice was Style.com when I started planning my flat renovation, which has since been discontinued as Condé Nast partner with Farfetch for a firmer future in content plus commerce. At least anyone with a bathroom to restore can rest easy with Broken Bog – the destination for discontinued, vintage or retro British-made bathroom ware.
My renovation started when I was woken one night to the sound of my great grandmother’s Deco vase smashing on my bathroom floor. A few tears, shards of blue glass and the discovery that the vase had also broken my toilet cistern lid spurred me into action. I sourced a replacement from Broken Bog, but chose pink instead of a direct copy of my old white lid.
The team is really helpful, so call or visit their warehouse in Surrey Hills if you have any questions about your bathroom.
I first got the idea of a mix ‘n’ match bathroom in the ladies at the Ace Hotel in East London (as you do), where I also discovered Bemis toilet seats. One of these will be my next purchase from Broken Bog. What do you think, should we go Coral Pink, Sky Blue, Indian Ivory or Black?
Salvo is another great resource with preloved and period pieces from salvage and antique dealers. You can also register free and send a Want notification to their database if you’re after something specific. Here’s some bathroom renovation inspiration with stock on Salvo.
Hot and Cold taps (and an Edwardian roll top bath) from a private seller
Rare Edwardian cast iron sign Warehouse 701
Radiac Edwardian oak framed shop display cabinet Art Furniture
Art Deco Modernist side table The Rub Antique
Royal Venton Ware corner cut loo Abergavenny Reclamation
Pink Art Deco basin The Architectural Forum
Bathtub sofa upholstered with cushions made from vintage Welsh quilts Russell Wood Antiques
All listed on Salvo
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman and courtesy of Broken Bog and Salvo