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

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

Ardingly wants to bring you flowers

Ardingly Antiques & Collectors Fair showed its mettle (albeit disguised as petals )this week, as a major fair that continues to attract a strong following of dealers, designers and private buyers.  It could have been the sunny start and morning light hitting the showground, but the architectural and decorative antiques looked especially pretty, like the first daffs in March.

My highlights included Mangan Antiques’ marbeled apothecary pots circa 1870 from southern Italy, coloured to signify the herbs they originally held. A floral telephone chair also caught my fancy for its fringing detail and so did numerous painted reclaimed doors.  

@SmithsofStraford Instagram

This late Victorian stained glass panel rescued from Birmingham by Smiths of Stratford, and the ‘60s bag bursting with flowers were under the same roof at Ardingly and could arguably both be considered romantic gestures🌹. 

The next Ardingly Fair will be held on Tuesday 23rd and Wednesday 24th April 2019 at the South of England Showground near Haywards Heath (as usual).

Photographs ©Reclaimed Woman & Becky Moles


Ethical & vintage finds for sustainable shopping in the San Francisco Bay Area

Had I not already left my heart in San Francisco in 2015 when I met the man I would marry seven months later, Love Street Vintage would have stolen it.  Sustainable gems are dotted in many neighbourhoods, but High on a hill, Haight Street calls if you are after a single destination to explore vintage and pre-loved fashion.  Berkeley is a must for Ohmega Salvage if you’re into reclaimed interiors.  If time allows, I thoroughly recommend crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County for giant redwood trees and environmentally conscious communities.  I had the vegan sausage of my life at Gestalt Haus in the town of Fairfax. But enough about my love life. Here’s some ethical and vintage finds to start your own love affair with the SF Bay Area.  

Amour Vert

Marina District – 2110 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123, USA. Plus more Amour Vert stores to explore in numerous neighbourhoods in the Bay Area…

photograph courtesy of Amour Vert

Starting with green love. These sustainable staples are what you would expect to find if you raided the wardrobe of a chic French woman: classic tees, great silk blouses, a boyfriend blazer, relaxed sweaters, a slinky jumpsuit. AND then added free-spirited prints; this is after all San Francisco, where 97% of Amour Vert’s clothing is made (within just a few miles of the brand’s head office).  Natural, quality fabrics are arguably the building blocks behind both French and Californian style, which Amour Vert translates beautifully with eco-friendly materials like GOTS certified organic cotton, Mulberry silk and modal. 

 

Love Street Vintage

Haight & Ashbury neighbourhood – 1506 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA

Visit the kaleidoscopic corner of Haight and Ashbury and absorb the setting of 1967’s Summer of Love and then explore bohemian sixties and seventies fashion at Love Street Vintage.  From paper-doll-making childhood days spent cutting out Sears catalogs to setting up this dress-up heaven, the owner edits beautiful clothing for women and men alongside accessories that date back to the twenties.  Discover new jewellery made in California and antique Native American turquoise pieces.  

 

Static Vintage

Haight & Ashbury neighbourhood – 1764 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA

Caution: one may leave Static Vintage wanting to paint one’s walls a ‘90s shade of lime green.  There is a lot to look at with painted walls decorated with women’s and men’s fashion. Stock ranges from reasonably priced rare pieces to cabinets reserved for vintage Vuitton luggage, designer jewellery and bags by the likes of Gucci and Chanel.  Other accessories include lots of ties and shoes, which range from secondhand so-wrong-they’re-right to vintage Yves Saint Laurent. Rails are packed so it’s a good place if you are in the mood for a rummage. Take intermittent breaks in the brown teddybear chair. 

 

Decades of Fashion 

Haight & Ashbury neighbourhood – 1653 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA

As the name suggests, here you can shop by the decade of fashion that takes your fancy. Most pieces fall between the thirties to the eighties, but the collection spans 100 years from the 1890s.  I’ve shopped everyday attire, but it’s particularly good for party-wear.  Sadly I don’t drink champagne everyday like the late Cilla Black was said to, but on my last visit I was tempted by a pair of ‘80s champagne bottle and coupe earrings (that would be a perfect blind-date identifier). Don’t worry if you’re not reading this from the UK or you were born after 1995 and these Blind Date jokes are lost on you because if you’re into vintage then Decades of Fashion definitely won’t be.

 

Wasteland 

Haight & Ashbury neighbourhood – 1660 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA

There’s nothing like a good window display to make you appreciate the pleasure that is unique to visiting a shop built with bricks instead of clicks.  In fact the whole store front of Wasteland’s San Francisco location is worthy of a minute or two before you dive past Art Deco tiles to discover pre-loved fashion peppered with vintage.  Expect high-end and contemporary designers, and when I last visited there was practically a cabinet dedicated to collectable Prada accessories.  Of course stock changes quickly, but men’s clothes and accessories always maintain a healthy share of the space.

 

Eden & Eden

North Beach neighbourhood – 560 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

Not everything in Eden & Eden is sustainable, but the store and staff exhibit such respect for both new and vintage that it is truly a place to shop forever pieces. Eden & Eden’s vintage clothes and jewellery is so well-edited that it could even convert people that don’t usually do vintage. They also exhibit in A Current Affair, an event for premier vintage retailers and private dealers that comes to the Bay twice a year.

 

Seedstore 

Inner Richmond neighbourhood – 212 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA

Step inside Seedstore and you feel a flowering spectrum of the sustainable fashion scene – ranging from local labels with collections made in California to independent brands from around the globe that nurture traditional in-country techniques. A pop-up of ‘80s and ‘90s vintage by WRN FRSH, a local SF label that also sells their own non-binary cut and sewn collection made of recycled denim sits well in this store of mainly new wardrobe staples for women and men and gifty goods. 

 

Gravel & Gold 

Mission District – 3266 21st St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA

Let’s just say they had me at the doormat welcome message.

Gravel & Gold is home to an independent, woman-owned design collective and is mainly stocked with things the women make themselves including clothing, accessories and gifts featuring their handmade prints.  Joyfully crafted items for your own home dome include stained glass shaka signs and unusual sculptures and ceramics. Expect a multi-sensory experience with warm, cruelty-free Californian scents from the likes of Fiele Fragrances.

 

Reformation 

Mission District – 914 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA. One of Ref’s two locations in SF.

It is increasingly rare to find a brand that you can’t get on home ground, so if you’re not based in San Francisco, New York or LA, Reformation calls for some revelling. Tech-savvy stores invite shoppers to add items to the fitting room from a monitor, but as a Brit usually restricted to viewing Reformation’s sexy strand of sustainable from behind a screen, I preferred to cruise the gallery-like display.  Save your upper-arm workout for another time because unlike stores with jam-packed rails, Reformation dresses theirs with just one of each item.  Then you can test sizes across bottoms, dresses and tops ready for future screen-shopping.

 

Ohmega Salvage 

Berkeley – 2400 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702, USA 

Exploring Ohmega Salvage is a happy excursion to inspire interestingly dressed interiors. This place is a staple of community for reuse with unusual objects that fit a need and tell a story.  It’s a given that you will eye-up salvage bigger than your suitcase could carry; which in my case was a trough sink circa 1960, but there are smaller shoppable items too (like the glass pendant light shades pictured).   It’s also fun to look at different architectural elements and furniture that you don’t find back home.  

 

Mystic Rose 

Fairfax in Marin County – 9 Bolinas Rd, Fairfax, CA 94930, USA

Mystic Rose is a new jewel to the treasure town that is Fairfax.  Stepping inside is like entering a fortune tellers cabin with vintage clothes and ‘90s iridescent Moschino boots waiting to tell you about the life you could have if you choose them. This store has trinkets galore, gifts and great American vintage accessories for women and men.  I saw mostly one-offs on my visit, apart from this trolley out front holding deadstock handbags from the seventies. It’s well worth crossing the Golden Gate Bridge for a taste of intentional living here. 

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

Seasonal vegging & voguing

This edit sums up my mood for the month ahead. It’s that time of year when your pinkie ring should give you super powers and you can cloak your face and your body in pillows [when not showing off that you’re capable of dancing in white whilst eating cranberry canapés].

Repurposed men’s cuff link Super Hero ring Pushkie 

Hero high-waisted trousers & Aegis drape top  Laura Ironside
[also available at The Maiyet Collective Concept Store in London. See Maiyet Collective for their next event]

Cushions & quilts Mother of Pearl 

Eye Pillow by Blasta Henriet from The Keep Boutique

Vintage floral jacket from Lime Green Bow

Eko collection BomBom bag made from decommissioned seatbelts From Belo

Dancing Queen socks Birdsong London

Monica trousers 31 Chapel Lane

©Photographs courtesy of the brands featured

 

 

Going Zero Waste could be the best thing to happen to you hair

Is it me or are haircare ads stuck in the 1950s? Can the contents of one plastic bottle really deliver on all of those promises? And are we even looking for those things at the end of a good shampooing?

Hair diaries of women with great locks usually involve a lotta steps and it is easy to succumb to the idea that we need a complicated routine to achieve the hair of our dreams.  I just discovered a shampoo that needs no conditioner step, which is quite a significant discovery for my habitual hair routine. So could zero waste be the philosophy that actually delivers the haircare promise without a long, product heavy process?

Having heard that I was working to overhaul my beauty routine, Olivia of ethical homeware and accessories brand Nido Collective introduced me to Hanna of Acala, who offered to let me sample zero waste shampoo called Beauty Kubes.

Fellow member of Ethical Writers & Creatives, Hanna Pumfrey created her online store Acala to empower people with easy sustainable alternatives. Expect natural, organic and vegan health and beauty. But before you click to discover Acala’s plastic-freedom, let me spoil the end with the promise that I am a zero waste haircare convert.

My Acala delivery arrived in reusable packaging by RePack, which I was almost equally intrigued by so I put the whole thing in my weekender ready for my night away in Paris.

Good timing for a hair treat trial, I chose shampoo cubes for normal to dry hair, as living in the city I tend to wash my hair a lot and my lengths get dry. Plus I’m a sucker for anything rose or grapefruit and this formula is infused with rose extract, a blend of organic palmarosa, orange and grapefruit essential oils.  

If you are less than thrilled about taking plastic bottles into the shower, but quite like an escape to the Cornish Riviera then Beauty Kubes could be for you too. Made in Cornwall, the product and packaging is 100% biodegradable. The cubes are cruelty free and free from palm oil, sulphates, and packed with vitamin E and pro vitamin B5 to promote growth, a healthy scalp and hair.   

Apart from an unfortunate purple Halloween hair-in-can incident when I was about eleven, I do not dye my hair and I am particular about what I subject it to. It took me a moment to balance the right amount of water to shampoo cube – whilst sussing out how to work the shower in my hotel – but back home I perfected the crumbling technique. In the palm of your hand you gradually work it into a paste and a pleasing lather.  If you’re accustomed to equating lather with cleanliness then it will take some getting used to natural shampoo, but honestly my hair feels clarified and cleaner.

Upon return to London, I posted the RePack packaging, which is returned to its source for free and then cleaned and redistributed to brands and stores using the service (many of which offer incentives through RePack’s online community).  Then I washed my hair. Beauty Kubes passed the was my head just happier in Paris? test and my hair still feels softer in London’s hard water.

[Cue shot of woman in urban jungle having sexual experience with freshly washed hair]

And she’s back. Shop Beauty Kubes at Acala 

Wearing hair washed with Beauty Kubes in Paris with pre-loved fake snake trousers & hair washed with Beauty Kubes in London with a poppy print jumpsuit from People Tree for their collaboration with the V&A Museum. See the latest V&A collection here

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

Designing a happy wardrobe

I didn’t see myself squeezing into another capsule challenge so soon – having spent 6 of the coldest weeks in just 6 items of clothes for Labour Behind the Label at the start of the year – but this was too good to resist… 10 items, 10 days, easy right? Ah, but this time the count includes shoes. And this challenge calls for the most out there, fun, fashiony pieces, hence the name #GlamCapsule to show that our wildest eco-glitter filled dream where fashion and sustainability hold hands and skip into the sunset can be a reality. 

Designed to prove that sustainable fashion doesn’t just do neutrals, the Glam Capsule is the brainchild of fellow Ethical Writers & CreativesElizabeth L. Cline and Benita Robledo.

I’ve never been a capsule wardrobe kinda woman because a career in fashion has given me A LOT of clothes, but I am eager to make my wardrobe sustainable and one way of doing that is by giving more life to the things I already own. 

So at the start of #zerowasteweek, here’s to reuse and designing happy wardrobes by wearing all the beautiful things we usually save for best. Wear, don’t waste and put your clothes and accessories somewhere you can see them [like in this ex museum display cabinet below].

And if you reaaaallly want something happy and new [or new for you], here’s some reclaimed and ethical ideas to get those fashion juices flowing…

Slip dress made from upcycled vintage silks We-Resonate

Jacket made from surplus furniture fabric Noumenon

Rose gold plated recycled silver Millie Hoops Gung Ho x Chalk Designs      [£5 from every purchase goes to Friends of the Earth]

Vegan snake Lulu boots Beyond Skin

Reclaimed Museum display cabinet Retrouvius

Above, I am wearing an ’80s dress from Revivals 42 St Peter’s St, Canterbury, UK, Paul Andrew shoes, ’60s bag from Wolf & Gypsy Vintage and sunglasses from Klasik

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman & courtesy of the brands featured