Slow Reno

My partner and I recently made it onto the first rung of the property ladder (I say recently, but in reality it’s coming up a year we’ve been homeowners). Our 120 year old miners cottage has been both our haven and headache over the pandemic. Homes have had to work a lot harder recently – no longer just a space to retreat to after a long day and commute home; but instead, spending all our time working, relaxing and socialising in one place – around which, we’ve also been slowly renovating.

— For Sale: Previous owners blinds sold on Facebook Marketplace

Slow in many aspects. Slow; because things are expensive, take time and I cannot decide between 5 shades of Lick white paint. And slow, in the sense of the Slow Movement’ which promotes a more ethical and sustainable way of living and consuming.

As much as I would love to have instagram ready interiors, rather than living under a blanket of renovation dust – slowing down has helped me make conscious decisions to reuse, repurpose or re-sell where possible. Granted, this can take time and energy. I spend evenings scouring facebook marketplace, ebay and auctionet. We have regular doorstep collections for things sold and countless trips to the post office for things sent. This circular economy of consumerism is just a small step towards tackling current issues such as climate change, waste and pollution.

As nice as it is to have the time to curate one’s home bit-by-bit, I can appreciate the need for household goods on demand. I have found though, that I soon become tired of these need/​want purchases and mass produced items tend to lose value very quickly. As there are so many of the same Kallax, Malm, and Billy bookcases in production, there is less demand on resale sites and (speaking from experience of fitting 2 single beds, 2 mattresses, a duvet and 2 pillows in an old Polo) it’s often a lot easier to get large items delivered straight from the company website anyway.

— Bemz velvet covers for Ikea Söderhamn Sofa

Refacing rather than replacing counteracts this mass produced approach to manufacturing. There are so many options now to up-cycle items to give them a new lease of life. Bemz offer custom sewn covers to update your Ikea sofas (even the discontinued ones) – prolonging the life of your furniture. Plykea use sustainable materials to reface Ikea cabinets, again extending the lifespan of a kitchen which may previously have been ripped out during renovation.

“Time gives these materials a second skin. It’s a gesture of love, a product of nature as transformed by human beings and the cosmos, which, over the years, has come to accept and integrate new forms. We must accept what nature and time have wrought.”

Axel Vervoordt

I have come to accept the fact that a house from the 1900’s is not going to look perfect. It is warped and wonky and when things go tits up, I like to apply the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi – appreciating beauty that is imperfect and incomplete (not to be confused with wasabi). In western culture, we are so intent on reaching perfection that we have become less accepting of the unique patina that can give so much character. (We’ve been watching a lot of 80’s movies recently, and I cannot tell you how much I love to see squinty teeth. Our house is a snaggle tooth).

— Sam Shepard, 1983

Our main aim during this renovation process has been looking into how we can keep materials in use for longer. Kintsugi – an ancient Japanese art form, mends broken objects with gold fillings. I can’t say we’ve been filling our original floorboards with gold, but we have certainly embraced their flaws.

— Interiors of renowned designer Axel Verdoordt.

Signs of use mark the passage of time, however the best results will come from those products that have been well designed and made to last, using high quality, sustainable materials. These items can be passed between homeowners and with a little TLC, can be brought back to life.

I’m currently on the look out for various bits to update my home. Waiting for the right item, at the right price, in the right size will see my zoom backgrounds empty for a little bit longer, but I will cherish it all the more when I finally find the perfect fit!