Sustainable furniture: upcycling with Bourjois Biscuit

Furniture is one of the best opportunities to make a positive environmental impact in interiors since it’s usually a bigger and longer term purchase. Though its popularity has waxed and waned, upcycled and painted furniture is making a comeback, thanks in part to the fact it is a sustainable choice. Now, to be clear, upcycling isn’t only about ‘shabby chic’ anymore. I recently caught up with Sophie of Bourjois Biscuit, to hear all about her super stylish and eco-friendly approach to upcycling furniture. Read on to hear Sophie’s thoughts mid-century furniture, what might be next, and on how upcycled furniture is a fantastically conscious choice. I promise, there’s not a distressed edge in sight.

Robin: Tell us a little bit about Bourjois Biscuit and yourself?

Sophie: We are based in Fareham, Hampshire on the south coast. We source vintage and retro furniture and upcycle it to give it a new lease of life, using high end eco-friendly paint products. You can read more about us here.

R: How did you get started?

S: I started out in 2010 for a short time, back in the shabby chic era. I picked upcycling back up again when off on maternity with my youngest in 2014. I decided to focus on creating pieces that I loved rather than doing what I thought the masses would like.

R: Do you have a favourite style of furniture to work on?

S: Some of our favourite styles are mid-century, art deco and are particularly partial to a vintage drinks cabinet with a drop down front.

R: What's your motivation to create upcycled pieces?

S: I have always been driven to find items whether it be for the home or fashion at more affordable places, and have scoured eBay, Gumtree, charity shops and the tip to find them. Part of this was driven by necessity but I also really love the style of older pieces, they often have really beautiful details, shapes, compartments and are so much more interesting than what you can find on the high street. It’s also great to have something that is unique to you and helps to create an individual style. Then there's the sustainability aspect.

It’s so very satisfying to take a piece that has been a bit beaten up, that would otherwise end in landfill and re-purposing it for a new style and a new home, you are helping to create a eco- friendly consumer cycle and that feels pretty cool.

I don't think I will ever get bored of the transformation process.

R: If someone was considering buying a new piece vs. an upcycled piece, why should they go for the older piece?

S: It’s unique to you. It’s a great way of finding a one-off piece, or a  talking point for your home that no one else will have. It doesn't have to cost the earth and will often be more affordable than buying new. Vintage and antique furniture will be better made and last longer.  The majority of vintage furniture was built to last, with its solid wood and dovetail joints. All the pieces I find only ever have superficial damage, like scratches or ring marks but are as solid as when they were made. Seeing as most of them are at least 60 yrs old, that's pretty amazing and a testament as to how well they have been made.

Buying upcycled is keeping it from landfill, meaning you won’t be purchasing  another new item that will also at some point get thrown away. You are helping the environment by making more conscious spending choices.

Supporting small.  Every single piece of upcycled furniture that you purchase will be helping to support a small business, from parents working from home to people just trying to do something that they love and make it work.

You are contributing towards that rather than filling the pockets of some huge company.

R: Do you have a favourite piece you’ve transformed?

S: This piece (below) is a particular favourite, not just because of its style and shape but also because it was part of a new project / collaboration with Photographer Steven Stringer. We took this piece out on the streets of Southsea, Portsmouth in various locations and styled it up onsite.  It was great to be something different and be able to be creative with the furniture in a new way. We have some exciting plans for some upcoming pieces in different locations.

photo: Steven Stringer for Bourjois Biscuit

photo: Steven Stringer for Bourjois Biscuit

R: Mid-century Modern (MCM) furniture seems to be very popular right now, do you see that sticking around?

S: Yes I think it will, I have loved it for a very long time and I'm sure there are lots of people that love that style despite trends. I also think now that people can see how you can mix and match mid-century with modern and other eras it will be a sought after style for a while to come. The sleek lines and simpleness is pretty timeless. There has been more of a move towards the 1980s recently with the rattan / cane style furniture and metal framed chairs that are about, so I reckon we will see more of this style in vintage furniture trends.

R: Do you create custom/ bespoke pieces?

S: Yes I do, people often get in touch because they have seen something they like but it's already sold or they would like it in a different size or colour. I will try and find something as close to their requirements as possible and work with them to find the right colours and style to make it right for them.  

R: What about the folks who live far from Hampshire?

S: I have a couple of couriers that I have got to know over time that are really reliable, one of which has delivered pieces up to Scotland as as far as France for my customers.

R: I always like to ask a fun question, so here goes...  if you could be any animal, what would you be?

S: A sloth. I have a tendency to have issues with not being able to turn my brain off and fall asleep, so I reckon I could learn a lot from a sloth! :)

What’s your take on upcycled and painted furniture? Drop a comment below or over on Instagram!