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Through the Keyhole: Kathy’s upcycled work of art 12 February, 2010

Posted by Bethany Wrede Peterson in Bethany's blog, Through the Keyhole.
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Image credit: Kathy Dalwood

We may be rooted in a recession, but there’s no denying the nascent decade has found us willing servants to a disposable culture of decadent design habits.  While we love nothing more than splurging on the newest homewares, too many of us have succumbed to the vices of the throwaway throw cushion and the (wince!) fashionable flat-pack.

Is that to say we should no longer strive to make our homes look their Sunday best?  That we abandon our design principles of passion and live in aesthetically ascetic abodes?  Of course not! says Kathy Dalwood of Shift Design.

The upcycling queen has made her career out of making something from nothing.  Kathy is a London-based artist and designer who creates sculptures from concrete – a material most of us take for granted.  In equal respect, her Queens Park home is filled with vintage furniture given a new lease on life.

Image credit: Kathy Dalwood

‘It’s a scandal that old furniture is thrown into landfill when a little time and ingenuity can create something beautiful, unusual and unique,’ Kathy remarks.  ‘I like to mend things – it gives such a great feeling of satisfaction and is the most sustainable way to live.’

Kathy finds sturdy vintage pieces from junk shops and eBay to reupholster or paint to modernise their look. The colonial lines of her inherited dining room chairs, above, juxtaposed against the added modern pinks creates a look that is contemporary and quirky with loads of visual appeal.

‘Colour is very important to me,’ the designer explains of her work.  ‘I use strong blasts of colour for contrast, and choose sumptuous fabrics like silk and velvet with wonderful tactility.  Their colours are intense and shimmer or smoulder in the light.’

Image credit: Kathy Dalwood

Kathy’s white-washed interior is the perfect canvas for statement colour pops inherent in her design style.  This funky, variegated wallpaper could easily overwhelm a large living room like Kathy’s, but it packs a punch perfect for a small walk-through space as her hallway.  Round vintage oil paintings and delicate crystal sconces act as spontaneous accoutrements that break up the harsh contemporary lines of these colour-blocked stripes.

In this respect, Kathy’s home is a great example of how a vivid sense of personality can be injected into a space without a lot of commitment or renovation.  How many of us have moved into a boring magnolia flat just to be thwarted when our landlords slap us with a ‘no painting’ clause?  (Killjoys!) The playful magpie element to Kathy’s living room, below, is evoked through her use of eclectic vintage textiles and paintings which bring individuality and texture to a simple space.

Image credit: Kathy Dalwood

‘I’ve always preferred the mix of old or vintage and contemporary.  I think each style provides a foil for the other, whereas a scheme based on one style or period alone is boring and repetitive,’ she says.

The artist is also a great fan of appreciating the surroundings she’s got to work with.  ‘I believe it’s important to respect the architecture and detailing of a building.  In old houses, a lot of craftsmanship went into the construction – and I like to respect that work,’ she says.

More than any other colour, a white palette will showcase original features and architecture at its best without detracting from your interior design.  If you’ve got great original cornicing  in your home, a scheme similar to Kathy’s will allow the eye to focus on both without distraction.

Image credit: Tom Stewart

While bold geometric wallpapers and neon lacquered furniture might be la mode du jour, (and, we confess, design elements our gluttonous little hearts still swoon over!) we’re digging Kathy’s make-do-and-mend mentality.  We always knew the upcycling trend was one to watch, but Kathy’s home proves you can create a true work or art out of those old throw-aways.  And that’s a design idea worth holding onto.

View our 3D room of  Kathys  bedroom by clicking on the room below.  You can even copy it, redecorate, or add new furniture!

3D room: Robert Brightwell

Read more about Kathy’s home and her interior design services on her blog

Tell us what you think. We’d love to hear your thoughts on Kathy’s upcycling talents and our new Through the Keyhole feature.  Just add your comments below.

Think your home has the panache to be spotted through the keyhole? Send us the dish on your digs along with your best home snaps to editors@mydeco.com – subject line: Through the Keyhole – and your pride-and-joy may be spied next!

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