«Being an interior designer is, in large part, about sourcing, commissioning and knowing where to find the very best products for your client, at the best quality and cost. One of the many joys of working in interiors in London is the sheer quantity of options available, but sometimes that makes it even harder to choose.»
While some brands offer loyalty benefits and gimmicks, there are some furniture makers and suppliers who are offering us a chance to give back to society — and actively improve the lives of those within it — by choosing where we spend our money.
Social enterprises are a hot topic in the business world. While being fully-fledged and often very successful businesses, social enterprises also use their platforms for social good. Check out hashtags such as #ShopSocial and #SocEnt on social media to uncover a world of bright people using their skills and knowledge to set up businesses and brands that support those who need an extra helping hand with practical resources, fair employment and essential training and counselling.
There are amazing social enterprises in every corner of our industry, but one I have recently discovered is London/Shoreditch High Street-based Restoration Station. This wood workshop is part of Spitalfields Crypt Trust, and the furniture restoration work is undertaken by people in recovery from homelessness and addiction as part of their voluntary practical skills therapy. Led by charismatic workshop manager Bernard, the charming workshop allows those in the programme to learn key woodworking, confidence and team skills while restoring and making unique pieces of furniture, often acquired via generous donations from the general public or through house clearances. While many of the vintage furniture pieces acquired are anonymous and simply looking for a new lease of life, some are real design gems such as G-plan, Fritz Hansen and Knoll — there’s even the odd Singer sewing machine!
One of the most exciting things Restoration Station offers (and the thing that interests me most as an interior designer) is its bespoke commissions service. Got something specific in mind? Get in touch with Bernard to find out what unique piece they might be able to produce to your specification. Not only will you get a guaranteed one-off, you’ll also be getting it at a fraction of the cost of most other suppliers as the business is non-profit and any money that is made goes directly back into developing the programme so that more people can be helped back on their feet.
In order to sell the wonderful pieces created in the workshop, the space throws open its street-facing doors three days a week and a few shuffles of the workbenches turn it into a treasure-trove for any design-lover to indulge in. The workshop is located right next to St Leonard’s Church and just round the corner from East London’s ever-popular Columbia Road Flower Market. Pop in on your way back from the market and don’t forget to wander just round the corner towards Arnold Circus (one of London’s very first social housing estates and an architectural icon) to grab a delicious coffee from sister social enterprise Paper & Cup. Prince William recently visited both Paper & Cup and Restoration Station. If it’s good enough for royalty…
One of the best ways to support Restoration Station’s amazing work is to buy or commission one of their pieces for your home or next interior design project. However, for those who can spare a couple of hours once every few weekends, more volunteers are desperately needed! Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about volunteering. Alternatively, if you’re interested in making a furniture donation e-mail email@example.com.
Full address: 118 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JN