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Design + Decorate: Upcycling at its best



We all love a good rummage in a vintage shop, ever hopeful of finding that amazing one-off, mint condition, yet somehow affordable, piece of amazing retro furniture that will transform our living room/life. But how many of us would know how to upcycle a long-neglected junk shop find into something really special?

Upcycling breathes new life into old furniture. It's recession and eco-friendly and interior designer, stylist and lover of all things vintage Caroline Key is really rather brilliant at it. From her studio in Edinburgh, Caroline has created Trash furnishing - a collection of unique bespoke upcycled furniture, so we asked her for a few tips on how to get started.

To be inspired by some of Caroline's current collection, check out the gallery below.

Caroline, please us a little about your work and how Trash furnishing began.
Trash furnishing came about as a result of my background in interiors and retail as well as a love of everything vintage and retro. I love using things that may otherwise be thrown away - hence the name Trash furnishing. My degree is in fashion and textile design, so I sort of fell into interiors when I started working for Habitat as a Visual Merchandiser. I then went on to work for a property developer designing luxury interiors for show homes. I still love fashion and am very much influenced by fashion designers and current trends as well as 1950s textile designers like Jack Lenor Larsen and Lucienne Day. I have always wanted to work for myself, so alongside my interior work I decided to launch my own range of vintage furniture.

Where do you tend to find most of the pieces that you work on?
I find pieces everywhere from auctions to friends. As my business has grown I find that I get offered furniture by people who want to sell pieces or friends who want to get rid of things. There is so much second hand furniture out there, although it is getting more expensive as the trend for upcycling continues. I find it very hard to say no if I am offered interesting pieces, so my workshop is always full.

Which are your most popular pieces?
Definitely the Ercol coffee table [see gallery below] is my most popular piece, I think because there is always such a lovely grain in the wood and it is such a classic shape. Ercol pieces in general are very popular at the moment - they are so well made and well designed in the first place. People also love my vintage mirrors [see gallery below] - they really show how vintage pieces can be brought up to date.

Which are your personal favourites from the current collection?
I love the pair of French bedside tables [see gallery below] that my husband and I found in France. They are retro but in a different way to pieces you find here, and they were in a really bad way so I am amazed they now look so good. I also love the Ercol armchairs.

Do you have any tips for any of our readers who might fancy giving upcycling furniture a go?
Charity shops are great for finding bargains or have a look in granny's attic. Be prepared to use a bit of elbow grease if you want a good finish, it is worth spending a bit more time to sand and strip something if you want to preserve the wood. Water-based paints are now just as good as oil based and more eco-friendly. Don't be afraid to go for it, it is very satisfying seeing the end result.

www.carolinekey.co.uk