Sustainability with style: The Upcycled Trading Co.

Creativity comes in many forms and one of these is upcycling. Founder of The Upcycled Trading Co. Claire shares how her background in interior design merged with her passion for sustainability to create a company that aims to achieve sustainability with style. The company teaches people how to transform old, worn furniture into beautiful upscaled pieces; you can also buy furniture and accessories to compliment your home. Claire shares what a typical day for her looks like, how she looks after her well-being and offers some tips on how to start your upcycling journey.

I like to focus on what will make an idea come to life. 

Talk to us about your journey with The Upcycled Trading Co. so far? What inspired you to start this business?

I’d worked as an interior designer and was always impressed by anything that was well designed and well made, particularly if it was innovative or a unique style. I was also aware of the impact mass production of furniture had on the environment and it didn’t sit well with me. I discovered upcycling when I was asked to paint a solid but dated orange pine chest of drawers. It made sense to restyle rather than discard and replace and seemed the perfect area of interiors to move into for me. 

Claire, The Upcycled Trading Co.
What is your vision and mission for the brand? 

I’d like The Upcycled Trading Co. to become known for achieving sustainability with style. In the past upcycling has been seen as make, do and mend but more recently with professional upcycling being recognised for the quality of work and design that it is, that image is changing. I like to encourage anyone starting out and buying paint and materials from me to prep appropriately and apply correctly to achieve the best finish. We run workshops teaching these techniques and there are some incredibly skilled upcyclers now running successful businesses taking commission work including our very own TUT Co. Collective professional furniture painters accepting commission work via The Upcycled Trading Co. 

What does a typical day look like for you?

It usually starts around 5.30am, I’m a morning person so this is a good time for me to check emails, post on social media and set any reminders in my calendar for the week ahead. I try to fit a run in at least 3 times a week to keep reasonably fit and it’s a good time to work out plans and ideas without distractions. After breakfast I open the shop and whatever I’ve planned is usually superseded by completely unexpected events. I have talented makers come to the shop on a regular basis with wonderful unique handmade homewares to show me. The rest of the time I might be unpacking stock, uploading products to the website or project managing commission work. At least one day a week and usually a few evenings after closing the shop I’ll spend time in the studio working on commission work which is a nice change to the shop and the admin tasks. The day usually ends with an hour of Netflix or a catch up with friends or family. 

Table at the shop
As an entrepreneur, how do you stay creative, motivated and inspired?

I love what I do and I’m inspired by the people that naturally gravitate towards the business. There’s definitely a tribe with the furniture painting and creative community in general. In my experience it’s a positive and collaborative one. I have very little time off but my customers enthusiasm for what the business offers is so rewarding it’s all the motivation that’s needed. 

I’d like The Upcycled Trading Co. to become known for achieving sustainability with style.

The Upcycled Trading Co. encourages people to be sustainable; what are your tips for people looking to upcycle furniture in their homes? Where should they start?

Start by deciding what you like about your home and would like to keep. Consider the common features, it might be a colour or a style for example that links these items. Once you’ve identified what should remain think about how you can re-style the other elements to work with the space. A mood board is a really good tool to get started with this process and of course we also offer interior design consultations and services focused on sustainability to help with this process.

Spalted beech mirror
I love how you also sell lifestyle accessories such as home fragrances and macrame plant hangers – talk to us about these items? And their importance within a home.  

These really do complete the whole sustainable interiors shopping experience. We sell locally handmade home accessories that add the all important finishing touches to a home. Room fragrances are made with natural ingredients containing essential oils and candles and wax melts are natural soy wax, so no nasty toxins. The macrame and crochet plant hangers are hand knotted by local textile artists as are the gorgeous lanterns and chandeliers. Statement mirrors with spalted beech frames from reclaimed timber, ceramics and upcycled lamps made from car parts or end of use umbrellas are just a few of the unique home accessories we have in store.

There’s definitely a tribe with the furniture painting and creative community in general. In my experience it’s a positive and collaborative one.

How do you take care of your well-being?

Time spent in good company with lots of laughter. Reflecting on all the positives and being appreciative, learning from the bad experiences. Of course regular exercise and healthy eating are very important but so is red wine, cheese and chocolate. 

And lastly, what does creativity mean for you?

Not just thinking or talking about something but making it happen. Ideas are important but often the focus can be on what the obstacles will be to prevent something coming to fruition. I like to focus on what will make an idea come to life. 

To connect with Claire:


Instagram: @tut_co

Facebook: @tutcoSE

Pinterest: @tutco_

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