Emily Smith and Tom Stead are the duo behind Upcycled Life Norwich – taking in old and unwanted furniture and giving it a new life whilst using eco-friendly paint and planting trees with each sale. Emily explains how it all came about
The two of us have both have been working together at Café 33 for a few years now and although, when we met, we were quite different, recently we have become very close friends and introduced each other to new things. Tom has become vegan and I’ve got into road cycling but together we have found a shared interest in upcycling.
2020 was looking pretty good. I had a trip to Japan booked and other trips planned, and Tom was looking at buying a new house, but eventually none of this came into fruition.
Both of us have had very positive lockdown experiences probably because we have kept so busy. In the first lockdown we were able to focus on our no dig, organic vegetable garden and this is when Tom introduced me to road cycling which is something he is passionate about. In the second we were able to bubble with my mum so we redid her kitchen and bathroom, learning lots of new skills along the way and this is also when Upcycled Life was conceived. Then, in this current lockdown, we have been able to focus a lot more on the business whilst once again getting ready for the next vegetable season. We have kept very, very busy.
Upcycled Life came about at the end of lockdown 2. We both enjoy doing practical things and it was an eco-friendly premise and we thought we’d give it a go. We are very passionate about living an eco-friendly life and would only start a business if it matched our beliefs. I liked the idea of using things that were already around and making them useful again.
I think upcycling is incredibly important – now more so than ever. We need to stop producing new things and start reusing all the ‘stuff’ we already have. With a little bit of love and effort you can turn something ugly and broken into something beautiful.
My advice to anyone interested in upcycling? Take time to sand and prep your piece – you’ll appreciate it in the long run. Try to get good quality solid wood pieces of furniture – they upcycle best. And don’t be afraid to experiment – no idea is a bad idea.
It would be amazing if this could be our full time work but for the time being it would be nice to just know that our work is stopping unnecessary production and purchasing of things.