For most people, a discarded drawer is just junk, but for furniture designer Rupert Blanchard, it’s a challenge. From his East London workshop, he transforms landfill-bound street finds from many eras into stylish, functional and in-demand tables, chairs and storage units for modern living. In the lead up to London Design Festival 2012, he shares how his green ethos extends across all stages of his process, from sourcing material locally to delivering his work by bicycle whenever possible.
Blanchard’s supply of orphaned drawers, collected from the street or dumpsters, lines a wall of his workshop, waiting to be incorporated into upcycled dressers, sideboards and cabinets. Using reclaimed plywood from construction sites and a steel base, he artfully builds custom housings and frames to fit the drawers, ensuring for one-of-a-kind as well as practical pieces. A single unit might include components from a ’60s kitchen, a ’30s filing cabinet, an art deco dressing table, and Victorian jewellery cabinet. Even the hardware used, like drawer pulls and knobs, is salvaged from estate sales and flea markets.
He’s continually experimenting with new materials, like the large metal vegetable oil tins thrown out by the many Vietnamese restaurants in his neighborhood. Victorian floorboards and wooden fruit crates become tables and chairs. Recent commissioned work includes shop fittings for accessories designer Ally Cappelino, including drawer handles made from leather off-cuts, and Bauhaus-inspired geometric side tables with reclaimed wood tops and handwelded metal bases, for the Barbican Centre’s gallery shop.
For the upcoming London Design Festival (September 14-23, 2012), Blanchard will be opening his workshop to the public, with the front room displaying his products and works in progress, and the backroom set up as an open studio, giving people the chance to see him and his team at work.
He’ll be launching a new collection of furniture during the festival, including sofas, lamps and a coffee table. Most of his furniture pieces are one-offs or custom-made, but the new collection will have a more streamlined production process and shorter lead times to meet demand. True to his commitment to sustainable design and responsible production, all components will be sourced locally, and the pieces constructed in Blanchard’s workshop. For instance, the metal frames of the sofas, which have a hint of midcentury modern influence, are made by an East London company that usually manufactures roof racks.
Stop in to Blanchard’s studio, part of the Shoreditch Design Triangle during the London Design Festival, to get a look at the new collection and see how Blanchard turns waste into something wonderful. You can find his furniture for sale at Elemental in London’s Spitalfields Market.
Product photos courtesy stylingandsalvage.com, all other photos © Charlene Lam