There’s nothing offensive in putting a smug smile of emulsion on an orphaned Victorian balloon back, but it is horrifying to see a good Danish mid-century sideboard slapped in startling harlequin colours and proudly up for re-sale.
Review the furniture before gifting it that new look. There are late 19th century to brand new pieces gaining ground as collectibles, already beautifully composed and finished. If you’re not sure, take advice.
There is an army of canvas apron pelted creatives out there who will spend a slab of their lifetime working on the most unprepossessing old thing. I applaud that cheery, demented spirit. If loving, patient restoration, tearing something back to the frame, is beyond your talents, stick to a superficial aesthetic reinvention, discarding anything that’s going to take professional attention to make usable. Look for strong furniture, without any rock & roll in the joints, intact veneers (not too bad if the sides are peeled in places) and above all without much value. Paint, fabric, pulling apart and reassembling, is a fascinating hobby. Go online and sign up with Pinterest to see what tens of thousands of humble crafters and celebrated artisans are up to: www.pinterest.com.
Boot sales, mixed lot auctions and classifieds for second-hand goods such as Jumbletown and DoneDeal are fertile grounds for cheap up-cycling goodies from lamp stands to mixed Edwardian chairs, sideboards, bedside lockers and more. Look for pre-war to modern ‘brown furnishings’, boring lamps, forgotten coffee tables still stable enough to use. A great line might draw you to a piece of otherwise horrible tat worthy of rescue. Open up your senses to potential.
If you’re too terrified to pluck up a staple gun, there are a growing number of inspirational design houses and craft specialists offering well-priced, truly up-cycled antiques and vintage furniture, lighting and accessories. If you find something you like, put it into more assured hands for an up-do. Founded by creative hero Jill O’Neill, the Belfast collective www.refoundonline.com offers the work of a number of artists, including composer Philip Hammond, who channels music through his beautiful reinventions. Go online to view an ever-evolving collection, their history preserved, but imprinted by a new hand and available at Refound’s pop-up events.
Ringing the changes in Dublin are the handmade curiosities of Sarah Harding and her team at Busy Bee: www.busybee.ie. Upside in Dalkey have just begun their spring cycle of workshops, and sell gorgeous semi-antiques in new dress: www.upside.ie. In Cork, explore the affordable vintage pieces in ‘free-range design’ with Niall McCarthy: www.niallmccarthydesign.ie. Cliona Higgins’s work is now at Quay designs Atelier, No 3, The Stables on Alfred Street, www.quaydesigns.ie, and The Paint Pot on Anglesea St, run workshops in eco-friendly Annie Sloan chalk paint: www.thepaintpot.ie