Creative Upcycling with &hobbs Vintage Furniture and Artwork
In the modern world our material consumption is constantly on the increase, with man’s desire for commodities of all shapes and sizes seemingly an insatiable one. Meanwhile the resources feeding this need are diminishing before our eyes, since the demand for the materials and energy that make a product typically outweigh any attempts at conservation or careful, environmental management.
It follows, then, that those concerned by this issue are starting to search for new ways to support sustainable lifestyles, foregoing the long, utilitarian aisles of Ikea in favour of reusing furniture and fittings with a soul. Upcycling is just one increasingly popular way in which we can reuse, reduce and recycle.
A fresh new face on this scene has this exact concept as a central motif to their business model. &hobbs Vintage Furniture and Artwork holds the true value of a piece’s history and biography at their heart. Set up by stylist and display artist Libby Hobbs, who has an informed education in textile design along with years creating the dazzling displays of Anthropologie, this start up company focuses on bringing beautiful, bespoke pieces of furniture into the homes of their clients.
Humble enough to know when a vintage school chair or gentlemen’s trouser press speaks for itself, &hobbs provides only gentle care to restore it to its former beauty. Equally though, they aren’t afraid to add their creative flair to renovate a well-used piece, one most people would walk past without a second glance, and transform the most expended, antiquated article into something bespoke and exceptional. Creative director Libby is always mindful of the item’s original elements, and never compromises its story.
&hobbs, whose name is foundational in their desire to collaborate and fuse ideas with like-minded creatives, believe that the most unlikely fit can be made between vintage piece and home. Libby is certain that even though a potential owner might have no personal connection or story with a particular item, the furniture’s own narrative brings more than enough to the table. Its story draws you in, cultivating connections with its new keeper and ultimately adding to its history in the process.
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At &hobbs, they truly have a vision and they have us convinced that their pieces really do have character and soul.
Here’s what we found out about this wonderful start up.
Firstly, tell us a little bit about why you started &hobbs and what you set out to achieve with it.
I have been so lucky that since I graduated I have worked in such collaborative, creative environments. There has always been that little niggle, though, in the back of my mind reminding me of a funny little dream of owning my own little shop – a shop with pieces that makers have skilfully created along with pieces of my own. Taking an item and giving it a new lease of life. A typically magical image in my mind looks like this – a white wall, colourful prints, wood and beautifully painted pieces of furniture. We shall see! With or without that romantic imagination, I strive to create a home brand that encourages natural home building. Supplying people with the confidence to create their homes and feel proud with what they end up with when they get home from their daily life. So, I’d say that is what really drives me. I’m just lucky that the backbone of my mission is this artfully consuming vision.
We absolutely love the premise behind your name, leaving yourself totally open to collaborating with other artists is a fantastic opportunity to grow and create new material. Can you tell us about some of the partnerships you’ve been working on so far and what they’ve meant to &hobbs?
Oh my, this is the part that I’m super excited about! I am collaborating with artists, photographers and culinary whizzes to feed that interactive drive for the beginning of my journey. For me, this is what pushes my mind and keeps me on my creative toes. Hopefully, these artistic relationships will help me to create the brand that I am aiming for, a brand intriguing to others but always relatable and accessible.
As for the collaborations we have already made, I cannot express how lucky I am to have so many talented individuals around me, the very first of which was with my sister Kate. This was such an amazing experience for me as we have been brought up with the home as such a hugely influential focus, alongside my mother’s homemaking skills. For Kate, it was all about what was put on the table and together we have evoked our childhood memories and created imagery showing natural meals that are inspiring, both visually and conceptually.I’ve also been lucky enough to work with a super talented photographer from Cedar Film Co. So far, Ed and I have worked on all &hobbs projects together. He has an innate ability to capture people and products in total familiarity, but with a fresh feel. He has helped me to visually realise my concept.
We’ve noticed that your style is very organic in nature, for example lots of adornments featuring leaves and wildlife, is this something you seek out and is it important to your vision?
It’s funny, whatever my aim, I always seem to gravitate to natural forms. Whether it is something more permanent, such as floral scenes, or an ever-changing sky or seascape. I am usually inclined towards painting florals, as I find their natural designs really therapeutic and I like to contrast them against solid piece of furniture and more geometric designs, keeping it fresh. My wall art, on the other hand, is often less literal, and originates from imagery I have stored away from my childhood spent on beaches and more recently on evening walks up in the hills. These landscapes are my endless inspiration.Tell us what it is you look for when you’re out searching for your next piece, does the discovery come naturally or do you find it difficult to seek out these fantastic pieces?
I have to say, so far I have been so lucky in that my finds have been extremely natural. We are so fortunate as there are so many sources accessible to us in this country and those close by.My first finds were the cabinets that are now in my ‘Hidden Treasures’ range. They were just sitting there, already beautiful in an extremely worn way, ready and willing to tell a story. So that was that – they were mine!
That goes for the items that I simply source and restore too, like the vintage linens and enamels. Of course, as I work my way through new finds I have to be careful to check myself and ensure the items are cohesive to that vision, but due to the fluid style I am working towards, this usually happens naturally.Could you explain how you work on your new finds, for example when you first get a new item home, what is your process in restoring it for a client?
First things first, check it over and repair any bits necessary. It’s so important that they are well and no longer damaged and sad. The first port of call once I begin any project is to establish the colour palette, as this can really set the tone for the projected outcome. Then, if it is a piece for the collection, I decide what the piece requires. Is it something quite full and detailed, or is it less complex and more about working towards simply highlighting natural elements of the piece. This can be an incredibly absorbing process for me, and before I know it days have gone past and details seem to grow and grow.
For a commissioned piece for a client, I will begin with thoroughly discussing their vision before I begin to add my own. Then, after producing a pack of imagery, samples and sketches, I can begin. Again, this can be so consuming. As I get working on the project, little quirks and tales can appear which I will then encompass and integrate with the design.I love both processes equally, as when it’s for the collection I can really just go with what I feel is right. Then with a client’s brief, I can use this as a challenge to think of new ways of working out a task, whilst still staying true to the piece and its owner’s aim.
What is one piece of advice or comment you might offer to someone who is wary of venturing into the world of buying vintage pieces for their home?
Don’t be afraid if it isn’t an obvious choice. Sometimes the things that you stumble across are not necessarily ones you are predisposed to choose. If anything, this is more exciting as there must be an element to that individual piece that caught your attention enough to stop and pick it up!
Think of where you would place it, how it can be used and if you would like to do anything to it, how…what with? Any item that you will live with and will be happy within your space needs to be imaginable – for me, anyhow – before it is there.
Words by Kadie Regan
Photos by Cedar Film Co