How did you get into upcycling?
Growing up in the '70s & '80s my parents taught me to respect the value and worth of things and to not throw away something that someone has worked so hard to create. Something that I feel we are all losing sight of these days.
It all started 18 years ago, when I started saving furniture from ‘the tip’. Seeing so many sturdy, hand carved, solid wood pieces being thrown away at our local recycling centre was utterly heartbreaking for me. I wanted to set up a tent there and save them all! It finally got to the point when they would see my car pull up and almost shut the gates in my face!
Explain a typical day in your workshop.
My husband Ryan, of 24 yrs, is also my business partner. We try to keep work fun, so each day is different. We usually start with tea - outside when possible and following the sunshine with our 2 chairs. After that, work begins for the day and includes music in the background, regular tea breaks, chats, and an occasional argument to keep it real (lol)!
We work very hard knowing this is what pays our bills but we want it to always feel it’s our choice to do this. The minute either of us feels like we have to do something - it takes the joy out of it - so we prioritise making the process fun and enjoyable.
What kind of pieces do you typically work on and why?
Quality, quality, quality - this is a non-negotiable subject in our business. The pieces we work on are usually solid wood and hand carved and preferably vintage or antique. The piece must be something we can transform to a Wow, or already be a Wow !
Another important thing we adhere to is that the furniture must serve its purpose. This means not turning a display unit into a drinks cabinet that can’t fit full size bottles, or up-cycling a linen cupboard into a wardrobe that can’t fit full size hangers.
Can you tell us more about this piece being featured?
Is a big beautiful double bow front sideboard in English oak from the 1860s. The craftsmanship on this piece is pure joy. It came from an old, massive manor house in Scotland that is now being turned into a luxury hotel.
I wanted the piece to be opulent in keeping with its rich history. It was also important that we chose a heritage colour and use a British made paint for this piece. We decided a dark purple was a perfect colour because of its association with wealth and regal status - so what better shade than Jubilee Heraldic Plum! To add to its crowning glory, we used the GILD Gold paint, which I’m a big fan of since it was introduced to me about 2 yrs ago. I couldn’t have asked for a better combination: the piece itself + the rich plum + gold trim = an absolute Show stopper!
Why do you like working with Guild Lane products?
That’s an easy one to answer. Like I said before…it’s Quality,Quality,Quality for us. When I first tried the Guild Lane products about 2 years ago, I felt and saw the quality with the first few samples I tried. I like the whole package Guild Lane offers - which mirrors our business ethos to a T - quality British made products, with honest, small business values and great customer service.
Do you have any favourite GL colours to work with? Do you have a favourite GL colour combination?
I wish I could use them all because I think all the colours are beautiful and meaningful but some of my favourite combinations are Heraldic Plum with Gild Gold, and Jet Black and Gold.
What do you find is your biggest challenge running your own upcycling business?
We get absolute joy introducing a new design idea to clients. This has become our trademark. But our biggest challenge we face is finding those ideas duplicated by others under the banner of taking inspiration. People say that copying is a form of flattery but we like designing unique pieces with unique touches for our clients but when they get copied that uniqueness becomes diluted, which is unfortunate.
What have you been most surprised to learn through running your business?
That people value quality results and customer service before anything else, like price. Which is why we strive to give the best personalised service to our clients.
Do you just work on commission or sell online, or in shops, etc?
We’re both a bit old school and not very computer and social media savvy. We still use pen and paper to come up with our designs and ideas! Ninety percent of our work is commissioned and it’s always our inventory that we sell. We never paint clients own pieces or go to clients property to undertake work. We keep a few slots free throughout the year to showcase our new ideas and designs and these pieces go up for sale to everyone. We also create and sell one piece every year completely for charity during the Christmas period.
Where can people find your creations?
We are very fortunate we don’t have to advertise much as our waitlist is always busy either by returning clients, referred clients, and new clients with a good eye for quality. Online, we can be found on Instagram @monsoondragonflyinteriors, and on Etsy (MonsoonDragonfly (use it to view portfolio))
Do you have any advice/tips for budding upcyclers?
Use your imagination and embrace it but always be original. Remember there is a very fine line between taking inspiration and copying an idea and if you are bold enough to start this as a business, be bold enough to bring a new style to the table. Once you build a name for yourself buyers /makers / sellers get to know “your style”. This is what we did almost 18 yrs ago and we are still imagining new ideas together. Thank you from our hearts.