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This week, we’re talking to Chris Billinghurst, the founder of Upcycled Hour on Twitter. She is the owner of Upcycled Homes, an eco-interior decorator, an eco upcycler, workshop host and writer…
CB: Decorating and designing has been something I’ve engaged in one-way or another since I learnt how to hold a pencil. I’ve received commissions for artwork and interior decoration since my late teens and strange though it may seem, it wasn’t something I considered as a full-time career until I was in my forties. For many years, alongside evening and weekend painting and decorating, I worked in a variety of roles from marketing exec in property development to IT help-desk management. Things didn’t actually change until I became a parent, when moving home three times whilst my son was small meant I had the opportunity of creating a special bedroom environment for him with each new home. I began to receive commissions to design and decorate children’s bedrooms (as well as other rooms) and was eventually asked to paint and repurpose furniture too, which is where my interest in upcycling as a way of introducing individuality and sustainability to homes started.
CB: I’d worked as a freelance artist and decorator for many years but by 2011, with the increasing concern at the damage being caused to our environment as well as to our wellbeing, I began to focus more on making sustainability and upcycling a key element of my work. I became frustrated at how little people knew about this subject even though toxic chemicals of one sort or another surround us in our homes. However to develop the eco and upcycling sides further, it meant launching on a full-time basis and so in 2012 the business became a reality.
CB: I don’t always get time to upcycle items for clients and sometimes there are pieces where I design the upcycle but need to engage an artisan with specific skills to create it. As part of the sourcing process I met some incredibly talented creatives in real life as well as via social media. The need for a society or community platform where they could engage, share the work they had produced, discuss products and materials and most importantly, receive support, was suggested to me over and again. With many upcyclers using Twitter, it seemed a great place to start and so one Tuesday evening in September 2014 #UpcycledHour was launched.
CB: I veer between being a night owl on Tuesdays to being a lark the rest of the week. On my lark days I wake up around 7am and after breakfast, normally either muesli or brown bread and fruit and taking a shower, I’m at my desk by 08.30am. I try to keep Monday and Tuesday as office days. On a Tuesday, #UpcycledHour day, time is mostly dedicated to social networking and preparing images and tweets for the evening. The rest of week can be divided up between a variety of activities: designing, upcycling, meeting clients or business associates, visiting trade events, decorating and keeping in touch with other members of the #UpcycledHour Facebook Forum. I try to be in bed by midnight although on #UpcycledHour Tuesday it’s often the early hours of the morning.
CB: Firstly, lack of time! With #UpcycleHour’s popularity gaining momentum almost daily as well as running my Upcycled Homes business, I have to manage my time very carefully and could often do with a 48-hour day. The second biggest challenge is people’s concept of what upcycling and eco interior decoration is; neither is a passing fad. Just because something is upcycled doesn’t mean it’s of poorer quality than products you would find on the High Street in fact, its often exactly the opposite and decorating and filling your home with environmentally and wellbeing friendly products just makes good sense.
CB: What don’t I love about my job?! From designing mood boards to decorating client’s homes, upcycling furniture to hosting #UpcycledHour and particularly meeting and working with amazing, incredibly talented people – it’s a grand job. It can be physically and mentally challenging and as a sole practitioner, the buck stops with me, but I’ve not had a day yet when I regret what I do.
CB: It’s a new voyage into the realms of creativity every time; from the initial sourcing to designing the upcycle, the decorating process and then the result. Each element has its challenges but it’s always highly rewarding. I began my creative journey in life as an artist and still engage with every new item being reinvented as if it were a unique piece of art being produced. Upcycling is all about creativity, individuality and the bonus is that its supports the environment, what’s not to love?
CB: There are some great blogs around that really make you want to be creative: www.brittanymakes.com, www.thegatheredhome.com, www.recyclart.org to name but a few. Joining a craft or upcycling workshop and being surrounded by others who are keen to get create is a brilliant way to get in the zone. Of course, there is Pinterest and YouTube, both of which offer lots of tutorials to inspire you.
CB: Everywhere; I make notes and take photographs all the time, I still keep scrapbooks and also have a box file of some wonderful cards I have been sent over the years. I love Pinterest – 264 boards says it all I think! I also find a lot of inspiration in interior design styles from the past too and love to wander around the London’s Museum of the Home, the Geffrye.
CB: I follow around 100 accounts; of these my current favourites are House and Garden, Firmdale Hotels, Libertys, LivingEtc and the Design Museum – their images are always stunning and so inspiring.
CB: My favourite room in the home is the bedroom because it’s somewhere you can have such fun with when creating a scheme. Children’s bedrooms can be places of pure storybook fantasy whilst adults’ bedrooms range from those decorated in restful hues to dark and dramatic colour schemes. Most bedrooms also have to be functional and are not just places to sleep in so must have the right atmosphere for the range of purposes it needs to fulfil. And I always consult Feng Shui recommendations for the positioning of the bed … just in case!
CB: My dream home would be a Georgian Rectory house in a beautiful town or city of the same period (I’m not a country girl). I feel very comfortable with the architecture of this period and having lived in a couple of Georgian period homes myself. I adore elements such as the wonderful sweeping staircases and curved balustrades, statement fireplaces and ceiling heights. Georgian homes have a grace and elegance about them but are they are also easy to adapt to modern living and contemporary design: light, space and symmetry are in desirable commodities for a home whatever the century.
CB: We seem to be having an interior design love affair with the seventies and eighties at the moment with an increased interest in macramÃ© and crochet. By progression, paint techniques beloved of Changing Rooms, such as stenciling, rag rolling and sponging, are probably due for a revival too.
Join in the action on Twitter by following Chris @UpcycledHomes and tweeting to #UpcycledHour every Tuesday 8-9pm