Apparently customers kept going into the Warren, the cafe/restaurant/bar opposite us at ‘Found and Seek’ shop and saying how much they liked the little shop over the road. Our personally curated mix of handmade and vintage appealed. We have had a symbiotic relationship with the Warren since we opened three years ago. We didn’t know each other at all when we both set up within a couple of months of each other but it became clear that our customers and their customers were in the same bit of the Venn diagram. We send customers looking for somewhere nice to eat across the road and their customers often spot us through the window and cross over for a curious browse (and buy). So when we were approached by Deri, the owner of the Warren and asked if we would like to refurbish their upstairs office into a funky drinks lounge, we were more than happy to say yes.
The Warren is a family run restaurant café known locally for its great food and regular events. (https://warrenmanselst.co.uk) They pride themselves on their ethical and sustainable approach and their ethos of “simple, honest, wholesome food”. The downstairs restaurant area has a homely natural, feel and is decorated in earthy and neutral tones with rustic elements. Deri wanted upstairs to be different; a little bolder, a little more colourful, something with a twist, a little quirky. He also wanted it to have an intimate relaxing feel with a cosy club vibe, with comfy chairs for sinking into (perhaps with a glass of locally sourced gin or whiskey) maybe read a book, play a game of chess with a friend, or just chill out.
Downstairs at the Warren
We discussed various styles before settling on an eclectic bohemian look. There were a few central tenets
- The interior had to reflect the strong eco credentials of the Warren, so anything that was put into the room had to be considered both in relation to its material and the journey it had taken both in relation to distance and time.
- It had to retain some sympathy with the overall feel of the Warren. We wanted to reflect the nature related aspects of the restaurant, albeit in a more colourful, exotic fashion, with naturalistic forms and finishes.
- Whilst being in harmony with the general Warren atmosphere it also had to be significantly different. A little quirky would be great but not so quirky that it tipped over into the downright peculiar (that was my plan for a whole wall of faux-taxidermy rabbits wearing the hats of all nations and a giant flashing, Bowie inspired, automatic musical rotating drinks trolley dashed!)
- It had to be completed on the budget of a small semi-destitute medieval miser with very short arms and very long pockets or, failing that, as economically as possible within the agreed monetary limits.
For this blog I want to focus on the first of these – the requirement to be as eco as possible. Found and Seek sells a mix of contemporary handmade and vintage/antique goods so we were already aware of how vintage and antique items were a great, cost effective, way of furnishing but they can also play a part in a more sustainable way of living. It’s obviously really when you think about it, buying ‘second hand’ keeps that object circulating and out of landfill. Reduce, reuse, recycle – the three R’s. Using second hand goods in interiors settings reduces waste, reuses the item for its original use or, with some creativity, it may be repurposed for a new use.
I’ve used the words ‘second hand’ deliberately, not everything that went into the Warren project was vintage – items ranged in age from the 1800’s right up to modern day. The trick is to mix and match them in a way that works.
In the corner of the lounge is a Victorian jardinière. It was in a poor state when we obtained it, not in a condition that we could sell it as an attractive antique. It also had a few chips that would have reduced its value so we didn’t mind adding a bit of paint to improve it. Before anyone throws their teddies out of pram disgusted at us painting something over a hundred years old; it was not rare, it was not a recognized make, it was in a bit of a state and was an ugly thing (If it had been a Hepplewhite chair we wouldn’t have dreamed of slapping a coat of paint on it, damaged or not). The gentleman we bought it off had been trying to sell it for a while and was about to consign it to the tip. Now it looks wonderfully majestic filled with a huge spider plant.
The two brass urns standing on the wall shelf (which was given to us for free) are German Art Nouveau but they had been filled with some kind of heavy concrete filling which had warped the bases and made them unsaleable.
On the other hand the black metal shelving in the bathroom is totally modern. It was given to us for free by someone who no longer wanted it. It is from a well known Swedish superstore and is designed for use in a kitchen but it looks great as a bathroom rack.
Check out the fabulous sink
Ex hotel curtains from floor to ceiling
Public settings are different to domestic ones. Upholstered furnishings, curtains and flooring needed to be compliant with the necessary commercial fire regulations. The curtains were made by a specialist hotel curtain manufacture and would have previously hung in a top end hotel. New contract hotel curtains can be extremely expensive, these were around a third of the ‘new’ price. We added some glamorous tassels as a finishing touch which hang from hand forged hooks made by Aaron. (#ferricfusion)
We needed some cushioning on the floor, both for comfort and to provide a baffle so that the downstairs diners weren’t disturbed by people clonking around upstairs. We obtained the carpet tiles from a really super Welsh company called Greenstream Flooring CIC https://www.findcarpettiles.co.uk/ They are an award winning, not for profit company who specialise in reclaiming contract tiles and keeping them from landfill. The tiles came in at far less cost than new carpeting and were fairly easy to fit ourselves. We were mindful of our fuel usage and combined pickup with a planned visit to a family member nearby.
The focal point of the room is the large printed mural on the back wall. Yes, produced abroad and imported rather than hand painted and local but it was not purchased as new, it was a return which would otherwise have been discarded. The information we had was that the packaging had been damaged. We were fully expecting the entire mural to be damaged and possibly only good for cutting sections out of but it turned out to be perfect apart from the end packaging cap. We love its giant hibiscus flowers and cheeky parrot.
The eye catching mural and flooring from Greenscape flooring CIC
The furniture was chosen for its looks, comfort and robustness. We wanted heavy, well made pieces that would stand up to the rigours of being sat on by many people. One early visitor to the lounge was taken aback to realise that we had actually purchased their pre-owned leather three piece suite! (They had sold it as it as they had replaced it with a chesterfield. He did say that the one we bought was more comfortable). The gorgeous golden brown mid century wood and cane chair seats were reupholstered with fire retardant foam obtained from a specialist company locally and some upholstery fabric we already had. The removable cushion covers were expertly made by Trudi’s sister, Marian, an experienced seamstress.
The lighting was a mix of ones that we had in our shop and some that came from a local couple who had just refurbished their living room and had sourced new lighting as a result of this. They were checked for safety by a qualified electrician who fitted them .
The low wavy edge tables were already reclaimed once. They were made in the 1970s and early 80s by someone who had helpfully signed and dated them underneath. They had legs from earlier 1950s furniture attached. There are old woodworm holes. The woodworm is long gone now but we treated it anyway.
Not everything could be replaced. Stripping the old wood chip from the back wall and the bathroom would have been the ideal but would have added significantly to the cost and time (and probably our sanity!) so we painted over it. The colour choice came from a free leftover half can of paint that we were given by Squirrels Collectables just around the corner from our shop, we then had it colour matched to complete the job.
Vintage mirrors bounce light around the room whilst a few carefully chosen pictures including a rather lovely antique bird print originally sold in the early 1900’s by a London based fine art gallery and an original 1970s Athena print, adorn the walls.
There were a couple of pictures left over from when the Warren was Caban Y Dderwen. We were delighted to find a watercolour of the restaurant by local artist Mark Cox, one of his earlier pieces and a nice bit of Warren history. See Mark’s blog here http://carmarthenartist.blogspot.com
We wanted the lounge to be a place of relaxation. Books were provided for free by the Free Book Shop in Carmarthen (https://www.carmarthenfreebooks.co.uk/ does what it says on the tin, they keep books from landfill). Downstairs books have a food theme, we went for drink related literature and poetry (a bit self indulgent on my behalf but hey!). We also sourced a nice chess set and backgammon board.
The bathroom has undergone a transformation with new doors, a new floor (done by the builder – not us) and the most incredible huge Italian sink, big enough to bath a small child in. At some point in the future the walls will probably be stripped and tiled. The builder did a great job of cutting and laying the floor tiles so there would be minimal waste.
One of our favourite items is the vintage wall hanging map of the UK. This is currently for sale via Found and Seek and is on loan to the Warren.
Plants were chosen for their boho attractiveness and air purifying actions as well as ease of care (spider plants and zz plants). Over half of them were obtained second hand along with all of the pots. Trudi and Pearl made the macramé hangers. The brown ones were made from 1970’s jute donated by a friend who had lst used it for an art college project. If you get up close and sniff it smells like 1976 (for those of us old enough to remember).
The view of our shop from the Warren's window
Quirky touches included a gold wash over the green gloss stair sides and doorway to the bathroom, a series of brushwork gold rabbits at the side of the stairs and striking floral decoupage on the stair risers.
Downstairs we painted over the door in white but it looked a little stark so Trudi decorated it with one of her doodles, well quite a big doodle, of a hare and flowers in gold. Yes, we know it is rabbits that live in warrens but give a girl a bit of artistic license wont you? (Anyway Deri has now decided to call it the ‘Hare’s Drinks Lounge’). We’d initially put up some very cheap canvas prints just as a cover up but it was decided that they didn’t go. Deri sourced some artwork from a friend for the downstairs wall
Trudi’s hare doodle was admired by the staff so she decided to paint over the largest unwanted canvas and do another hare doodle for the bathroom. This one represents the connection that the Warren has with nature and the earth, with trees, flowers and roots reaching down towards the Warren ‘leaf’ logo. We then asked customers and staff to come up with a word that they connected with the Warren and we wrote these down. It was very inspiring to hear such positivity. Our favourite word was “ fabulicious!” (delicious food/fabulous place).
Trudi's hare doodles
Antiques (vintage/second hand) are ‘green’. Recent research by carbon-clear.com has attempted to quantify this. Two chests of drawers, one modern, one antique (over 100 years old) were considered. the antique product had an annual carbon footprint of 0.72kg CO2e, whereas the new product had a footprint per year of use of 11.36kg CO2e. Therefore, a new chest of drawers has a carbon impact sixteen times higher than an antique chest of drawers. It was calculated that a new piece of furniture would last 15 years and an antique piece would be resold every 30 years http://www.antiquesaregreen.org/index.pl?id=2276
Our furniture was not that old but can only be impacting positively on the planet by being reused. Sami Grover on the ‘Tree Hugger’ website questioned the green credentials of antiques pointing out that antique dealers regularly travel many miles to source items. This may have a negative effect on the item’s carbon footprint. He did conclude that even of this were the case it is more likely that the carbon footprint of antique goods overall are likely to be smaller https://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/are-antiques-green-not-a-simple-answer.html
However we were mindful of Sami’s question and are concerned about being as local as possible with all of our sourcing. With the exception of the curtains, flooring and mural (two of the three being posted) all the items we obtained were sourced within a 15 mile radius of home. Where possible we combined trips. The only downside to sourcing locally and pre used is that it is not as quick as simply going online and ordering everything. What is available is only what is available so flexibility within the brief is a necessity. Whilst we could probably source you an 18th century gentleman’s wardrobe in flame mahogany with a blue silk interior and mother of pearl inlay it may take us quite a while and might not be particularly inexpensive! However we are really very good at finding things that will fit in, whether that be a pared back minimalist Scandi theme, a maximalist country house interior, a colourful art deco, or cool mid century modern look. The boho eclecticism of the Warren project was great as we had much more flexibility and choice than if we were constrained to a strict style or time period.
Not everything was purchased pre used. The gold speckled wall paper was new , bought from a shop within walking distance and carried home on foot, most of the paint was obtained from a shop just outside the town, items such as stain, lining paper tools and adhesives had to be sourced new. However we are pleased to say that around 90% of everything that went into the Warren was something that was pre used, making it surely one of the most eco friendly interiors around
If you are visiting Carmarthen call into the Warren and see the lounge and call into our shop opposite. If you like what you see please consider leaving us a comment or a like on our facebook or instagram pages. we would love to get to know you. If you want a massive hare doodle - give us a shout.