A new lease of life

Karen Neville

White Door Brocante

Second Hand September, upcycling furniture and repair cafes are all fabulous ways to fall in love again with something you once cherished, not only will it save you money but you’ll be doing your bit to help save the planet too!

How often have you bought something (often on impulse) got it back home only for it to loiter in the back of your wardrobe unworn for years? It’s probably something we’ve all been guilty of at one time, so this month rather than a) buy it all or b) leave it lurking unloved, why not get involved in Second Hand September?

The Oxfam run project has been going since 2019 inspiring people to shop in a way that is kinder to the planet and with the recent record temperatures much of Europe has been experiencing it’s only too easy to see the effect of climate change.

In September 2022 more than 26,000 people only bought second hand during the campaign and as one shopper remarked when the initiative launched “I didn’t buy any new clothes for 30 days. Then it became two months and now it’s been nearly four years!”

By buying, wearing and donating second hand clothes you’re helping to reduce the demand for new and thus helping to reduce the damage to the planet. Did you know an estimated 16.2kg of CO2 is emitted for every pair of jeans made, that’s the same as driving around 58 miles in a car.

And it doesn’t just stop with clothing, Oxfam shops and online offer an extensive range of homewares, books and toys too. There are stores aplenty all over, visit Find your local Oxfam Shop to find your nearest one and get donating and buying pre-loved now.

The wonderfully named Absolutely Mintage is the home of upcycled furniture in Bracknell where owner Julia fuses modern and vintage furniture to help keep your traditional home furnishings by turning them into something beautifully decorative and current.

She fell in love with painting furniture as a result of a home renovation in 2015 but adds that while she loves this, “I also have a healthy respect for the craftsmanship of vintage and antique furniture due to the beauty of the wood and the design. Sometimes it is better to showcase the wood and its grain with sanding and oiling or staining, so I spend time assessing each piece I am thinking about painting.”

“As time goes on, my horror of the amount of material waste that goes into landfill increases,” Julia explains. “I have seen perfectly good furniture discarded as it no longer ‘fits’ with a person’s decor and yet through refreshing a piece, it looks as good as new! My motto is very much ‘don’t throw it away!’. Upcycling has allowed me to embrace my passion and explore the limitless number of options there are to create unique finishes while still being able to enjoy the beautiful designs and workmanship of antique furniture.”

If you’re looking for inspiration to revive a much-loved piece of your own, Julia also runs workshops in upcycling, decoupage and furniture painting. Check out her website for more at Upcycled furniture – Absolutely Mintage.

A love of old things, balancing elegance with rustic finishes and authentic materials is the basis of White Door Antiques, founded by Pangbourne antique dealer Elise Harris. Her brocante events bring the affordable style of a French brocante to the countryside with a beautiful array of antique and vintage dealers from all over the country. Look out for future events at White Door Brocante.

Pretty much anything can be recycled, upcycled or repaired and if you need a little help then head to a repair café. The free meeting places invite you to repair your toaster or other appliance, a bike or piece of furniture and just about any items you can think of! They’ll provide all the tools and materials you need there’s expert help on hand to assist you. Repair cafés aim to bring about a shift away from consumerism and viewing household items as disposable.

“If it’s broken, bring it along and we are sure to have a go or at least provide some advice about what your best course of action might be.” So say Reading Repair Café who also invite you to come along with repairs you want to do yourself or craft projects you’re working on. The event is run entirely by volunteers and anyone can pop in! As well as repairs, you can pop in for a cuppa and homemade cake. Everything is free, but donations are encouraged to ensure the cafe can keep running.

Their next meetings are: Sept 17th – The Greyfriar, Reading; Oct 15th – RISC, London Street; Nov 19th – rLab Reading Hackspace, Weldale Street.

The helpful folk at Hungerford Repair Café have recently fixed a toy boat, a winter coat with a torn seam and a blocked soda stream. They want to help the community learn how to repair their broken things in an enjoyable and sociable setting. Volunteers are able to either help mend or advise the owners about how to fix or obtain spare parts, regularly saving about 50kg of waste going into landfill or other recycling facilities. They next meet at The Croft on September 16th and November 18th.

To find a repair cafe near you go to repaircafe.org/en/visit/