If it’s broke, fix it and win £5million


The Technology Strategy Board has just announced a competition to “invest up to £5m in collaborative research and development that aims to preserve the value of products and/or materials at end-of-life and keeps them in productive use for longer” with business.  The competition aims to stimulate innovation and progress towards a circular economy.

The TSB  is seeking proposals that make supply chains more circular, that is to reduce the environmental impact of material life-cycles and dependence on materials with a supply risk.  TSB expects applicants to cut general waste stream losses in half, or more.  Speaking yesterday at the LDF session entitled, Make It Better: designing products that don’t cost the Earth, Sophie Thomas of the RSA, noted, “currently for every tonne of household rubbish, a further 5 tonnes of materials were used in the manufacture of that product”.  Waste is a design flaw.   To this end, the TSB is offering two days free access to Design Mentors for applicants prior to submitting an initial expression of interest.

The opportunity in a circular economy is to use materials many times, and to retain the quality and economic value of those materials at a high level.  The prize for business is to reduce their supply risk as the prices of increasingly scarce materials, become increasingly volatile, and cost reduction.  A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation together with McKinsey & Company setting out the economic case, estimated benefit to be over USD $680bn a year at EU level for the medium complex goods sector alone

Full details of the competition are available online at the Technology Strategy Board website.

Get your thinking caps on!

Sofa saved!


After much anticipation, the sofa for my office has returned, and is looking very smart in its new livery of 100% wool Caledonia Peppermint from Kirkby Design.  The upholsterers, Escott’s, a family-owned business and member of the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers, provided a very efficient, competitive and personal service.   The sofa is just the colour we want, and I saved myself a third of the price of an identical sofa I saw in a mid-century shop!  I think it will be a popular addition, my daughters climbed straight on to the sofa for a story, so time to find a suitable throw to spare the fabric from sticky fingers, and I think they would like a cushion or two too!

To find an upholsterer in your area you can search the directory of members on the Association’s website or call them directly on 01494 452965.

Too good to eat?


Butterflies are the product of a remarkable transformation and the same is true of the decorative flair given to vintage tableware by designer Melanie Roseveare, the designer who started Melody Rose.  Vintage ceramics are refired with new and vintage images to create quirky, bite-size pieces of art, some of which can even go in the dishwasher.  The butterfly plate I bought is too beautiful to eat off, and is hung on the wall in my daughter’s bedroom.

After much success upcycling vintage tableware, Melody Rose has introduced a range of new fine bone china tableware, manufactured in Stoke-on-Trent.  Pieces are gilded by hand and fired with designs from the Melody Rose collections.

Priced from £30, the products are available to buy online or at select markets and events, next up will be Tent London, which is running 19th -22nd September 2013, Old Truman Brewery, Hanbury Street, London, E1.


Ardingly Antiques Fair Approaches


This restored chandelier is made from original vintage drops that have been reworked to create a beautiful, unique light that is a real centrepiece in our living room.  The mix of different warm tones are picked up by other decorative elements in the room.  We bought the fully, refurbished chandelier at Ardingly Antiques & Collectors Fair, the largest fair in the south of England, which is held twice a month.  If you fancy a rummage for vintage treasures, the next fair is next week, Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th September, 2013.  For more information, future dates and list of other similar fairs visit the IACF (International Antiques and Collectors Fairs) website.

Similar vintage chandeliers are available to buy, or even splash out and commission your own from The Vintage Chandelier Company.

Making it the good life

Inspired by my recent furniture painting course, I went in search of other courses to restore, recycle, renovate, reuse, and found The Goodlife Centre in south London, near Waterloo station.

The Goodlife Centre offers practical workshops in DIY, decorating, woodwork, furniture restoration, upholstery and traditional handcrafts. The courses vary from evening workshops, day or weekend intensives or longer, such as the popular 4 week Basic DIY course. Prices start at £60 for a 2.5 hour workshop. You could even host a private party!

So if you fancy getting your hands dirty learning a new skill, someone is about to set up home and create a personal touch on budget then check out their upcoming courses. I am spoilt for choice!

Sofa saving


A mid 20th century sofa bed caught my eye in a retro furniture shop in east London a few weeks ago, but it had a fairly hefty price tag.  The sofa was made by Greaves and Thomas of Bond Street and I soon found another on eBay that needed some T.L.C. with teak oil and reupholstery.  The only decision now is which fabric?

Earlier this year, I went to the Wool House exhibition, organised by the Campaign for Wool,which was full of inspiration and explanation of the benefits and uses of wool.  So why wool?

  • Wool is warm and cosy, helping to reduce heat loss and improve energy efficiency, and save money.  That same cosiness also provides sound absorption so helping to reduce noise transfer between rooms.
  • Wool is durable, and bounces back under heavy footfall when used as a carpet, retains its colour and form in upholstery and provides continued support in a mattress.
  • Wool is clean and help the indoor environment breathe.  It is hypoallergenic, captures dust, contaminants and moisture, so reducing the level of humidity.
  • Wool is naturally fire retardant, and so does not need additional treatment of fire retardancy that some upholstery fabrics do.   It has low flame spread and will not drip, melt or release noxious fumes.
  • Wool is also low maintenance, as the fibre’s structure repels spills and soiling.

It is also a beautiful natural fibre available in every texture, pattern and hue, with lots of it produced here in the UK.  So on my shortlist are some 100% wool fabrics from Linwood, Bute Fabrics and Kirkby Design…..


A fresh lick of paint

I recently spent a morning down at the Phoenix on Golborne, an antiques and vintage home wares shop just off the Portobello Road in London, getting to grips with painting furniture.  The class covered basic tips and advice on a range of finishes and paint effects using the Annie Sloan range of paints and waxes.


Annie Sloan’s chalk-based paints are really versatile as they can be used on any surface, without priming, sanding or preparing, so very forgiving for the enthusiastic amateur. The paints are extremely low VOC (volatile organic compounds) so kind to you and the environment!   The Annie Sloan website is full of advice and inspiration on colour mixes and combinations.

My first experiment was with a chest of drawers I found abandoned on the pavement, and just what I was after for baby R’s room.  It did need a bit of sanding to get rid of the yellowing, flaky old varnish, but after a few coats of the quick drying chalk paint and I had a blank canvas to experiment with some homemade stencils……..


Not bad, for a beginner!