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Designer Kayleigh Andrews, owner of Kookiwood, shares with us how she left the RAF to pursue her upcycling passion and explains why cocktail cabinets are one of her favourite pieces to create.

How did Kookiwood get started?

In 2019, after moving into our new home with a limited budget, my mum's idea of using wallpaper on furniture sparked my interest in upcycling. I started with a few pieces for our home using Cole and Son Hicks wallpaper and soon became hooked! At that time, I was working full-time in the RAF. However, during COVID, I had more free time to focus on this new venture and it grew from there. I started selling pieces on Etsy initially and later launched my own website. The business flourished, and in 2021, I made the decision to leave the RAF after eight years to pursue this full-time.

And where does the name Kookiwood come from?

It originated from my inclination towards quirky furniture and my desire to create unique pieces. I combined "wood" to represent furniture and "kooki" to capture the essence of quirkiness. The name gradually evolved into "Kookiwood," which sounded catchy and memorable, ultimately sticking as the brand name.

Explain a typical day in your studio.

Depending on the furniture piece I'm working on, I usually start by sanding followed by painting. Varnishing or oiling is done in the evening to allow for overnight drying. If it's a large piece, I focus solely on that due to multiple tasks involved. Otherwise, I prefer having two or three pieces in progress simultaneously because I like to stay busy.

How often do you acquire pieces?

I look daily for new furniture pieces, acquiring pieces as and when I see something I like. Sometimes there are quiet periods when I don't find anything, but other times I come across loads of pieces at once and I want them all! I store these pieces nearby, maintaining a ready-to-finish collection, so I always have pieces ready to finish.

What kind of pieces do you typically work on and why?

I prefer mid-century pieces for their straight lines, which are ideal for decoupage and other design effects that can create a striking effect. I also love working with walnut wood which I find to be so beautiful, which is why I think my art deco drinks cabinets have become so popular. Additionally, I seek out furniture with unique shapes or unusual designs - that is what excites me. It can be challenging to distinguish oneself from other upcyclers, so I actively search for distinctive pieces and try to do something a little different with each piece I make.

What materials do you generally use most?

I like to use different materials, once using printed cork wallpaper to cover a piece designed by artist Drew Millward from the Monkey Puzzle Tree. I do like to experiment with new things to not get bored with myself. For instance, I sometimes use Gold Leaf on pieces, or like the piece I’ve done here with the cherry blossoms, this is the first time I’ve created a hand painted design.

And your designs – are they mainly dictated by the age of the piece? Or from the client? Or something else?

It is a bit of both. Some clients are very specific, knowing exactly what they want, while others seek more artistic direction. For those looking for an Art Deco design with particular colours in mind, I tailor my work accordingly. However, when it comes to my own pieces, I often spend some time with the furniture to brainstorm ideas and determine what works best. Sometimes, I immediately know what to do based on the shape and how I feel about the piece.

What do you love about running your own business?

The autonomy that comes with running my own business is truly my favourite aspect. Not having a boss and being able to work on my own time schedule, which is a significant departure from my background in the RAF, is liberating. The freedom of not being bound to a specific time and place, and having the flexibility to change things up by exploring different designs and techniques is what I absolutely love about this journey.

Can you tell us more about this piece being featured?

Since the pandemic, I've been focusing on creating cocktail cabinets, which have grown in popularity and have now become harder to find. I recently noticed these small gentleman's wardrobes that, while not very practical today, had great potential as cocktail cabinets. The challenge was that they had bases unsuitable for adding legs so I’ve been taking woodworking classes and have learned how to create a way to attach brass legs to make them more modern. I've also incorporated mirrors and added glass shelves, where clothes would typically hang, making them fully functional as cocktail cabinets.

For the colours, I love blues and greens, with green being my favourite. Contrasting colours excite me, and so for this piece I found the perfect combination in the RAF Blue-Grey on the exterior, Natal Pink on the interior, and for the hand painted cherry blossoms I used the Dover Chalk White, Shell Pink, and the GILD Champagne and Gold. This colour palette has turned out to be lovely and adds a lovely contrast to the piece.

Kookiwood Floral Cabinet RAF Blue Grey
Kookiwood Floral Cabinet RAF Blue Grey Cocktail Cabinet

Why cocktail cabinets?

Cocktail cabinets are incredibly fun and versatile pieces. They offer so many creative possibilities - you can add wallpaper inside for a stunning surprise when opened, or explore various techniques like art deco designs and decoupage. These seemingly simple cabinets become wow pieces that people wouldn't expect, yet are so versatile in any home.

Kookiwood Floral Cabinet RAF Blue Grey 2
Kookiwood Floral Cabinet RAF Blue Grey Cocktail Cabinet 2

Why do you like working with Guild Lane products?

The coverage is unmatched, unlike anything I've worked with before. Not only is it highly durable, but it also applies evenly without leaving any marks. In the past, I encountered paints that would easily mark upon touch; However, this paint passes the scratch test and leaves a beautifully smooth and silky finish. It may be thin in consistency, but its coverage is remarkably solid, making it an absolute joy to work with.

Kookiwood Floral Cabinet RAF Blue Grey 3
Kookiwood Floral Cabinet RAF Blue Grey 4

Do you have any advice for budding upcyclers/makers?

Don’t get fixated on what others are doing. Especially starting out, embrace experimentation with various products, styles, techniques, and designs. It's easy to get pigeonholed into one specific style early on, which can be hard to break away from. Have the confidence to do your own thing and don't be afraid to venture into uncharted territory and soon you will soon find your own unique style.

Where can people find your creations?

Facebook and Instagram @kookiwood / and at

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