Monday, 30 November -0001

Home Help 10th feb

Old tyres can become stylish planters and colanders transformed into ceiling lights when objects are readapted, says Hugh St Clair

Written by Hugh St Clair

There’s recycling and upcycling, then there’s a sort of surrealist readapting – objects that were intended for one purpose, but have been readapted for another. RE, the mail-order home store, is particularly adept at readapting; they have a huge warehouse in Corbridge, Northumberland, stacked full of colanders and jelly moulds adapted into ceiling lights and old tyres made into planters.

RE also refires vintage blue and white plates and decorates the centre of them with a butterfly, and etches 1960s pressed glass in bright colours, with tattoo motifs. For the more conservative buyer, they have taken old moulds to make jugs and glasses and had vintage scarves reprinted to make cushion covers. The founders Jenny Vaughan and Simon Young were both fashion designers in London before both independently moving up to the North East and converting a garage into a showroom in 2004.

high-000358The company also does excellent work with township schemes in South Africa who make wire animal heads for
them. But Simon says he is also keen to help craftspeople closer to home. ‘We place adverts locally for knitters and
embroiderers and get loads of replies. Needlework skills aren’t dying out in Britain,’ he continues. ‘A young mum in her early 30s does beautiful embroidery for us. She learned how from her granny.’

RE has definitely been getting something right –  perhaps it’s those beautifully put together catalogues it sends out – because last year the company was approached by Liberty in London. A temporary pop-up shop was set up, which was so popular that RE is taking a permanent concession there from March. home help. ‘Prices will be the same as mail order,’ Simon assures.

The Furniture Re-use Network aims to help people in this country who are having financial difficulties. They are an information hub to point you in the direction of 400 local shops or maybe a housing association office in the UK, where you can take old furniture, lights and sometimes electrical goods and bedding. The majority of shops open to the public aren’t affiliated to the well-known large charities but benefit local people by offering low prices to the unemployed and students. This does not prevent the better-off from shopping there – they just have to pay more.

high-000419In addition, the local stores affiliated to the Furniture Reuse Network employ jobless local people to restore, refurbish and collect and deliver the furniture. The Furniture Re-use Network thinks that the furniture and household items going through it will double in three years and is developing partnerships with local authorities to collect bulky waste and get accreditation to sell refurbished electrical goods to those on low incomes, one in six of whom, recent statistics show, don’t have washing machines or fridges.

The greatest thing about the trend for re-found objects is that it benefits both those who have too much and those currently struggling in this very hard economic climate. So everyone’s a winner.

Furniture Re-use Network, 48-54 West Street, St Philips, Bristol: 0117-954 3571,

RE, Bishops Yard, Main Street, Corbridge, Northumberland: 01434-634567,

Email your interior design enquiries to Hugh St Clair at

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