Upcycling creates relationships and transforms design practices. Enter Neighbour, a café in Camberwell is a perfect example. After many years working in hatted restaurants in Melbourne, including Sofitel, Matteos, Garden State Hotel and Tansy as a chef, Kestrel Urban decided to start his own business. In 2016, UpShop started working with him on turning a little cafe in Camberwell into his own.
A benchtop, shelving and lights were included in the brief. Materials were already awaiting a new lease on life in the workshop: pieces of Australian hardwood and some drawers from an old engineering bench – the same type of bench that we retrofitted for UpShop’s kitchen bench. We really wanted to use these materials rescued from landfill but the benchtop needed to be over 2 metres long and the hardwood was only in small pieces. So we improvised and developed a modular design: individual pieces were prepared and then arranged into a patchwork layout. Available materials were creatively adapted to meet the specifications of the brief and the result is a unique benchtop.
We also had to do some creative thinking to design the shelving system. The drawers were perfect to both store and organise items – but instead of hiding them away, they are now on display. They fit so well with the affordances of the work area behind the bench that needs to both look good and be functional. We were also able to install some industrial lighting from supplies in the workshop.
Upcycling inspires innovative thinking, different methods and unique outcomes: these also characterise the relationship between the client and designer in an upcycling project. Traditionally, the designer mocks up a drawing based on the brief and shows it to the client, as well as others involved such as an architect, stylist and/or interior designer.
UpShop’s approach was different. The wood and drawers were easily mocked up in the workshop as a physical layout to give Kestrel a real sense of the look and feel of the design. As UpShop worked directly with Kestrel throughout the life cycle of the project, there was no need for an architect or interior designer.
Kestrel was involved in the process from start to finish – which was important because this new business means a lot to him. And we benefited, too, because we could use materials that would have gone to landfill.
Upcycling extends the life span of both materials and it also creates long-term friendships. Just a few days ago, we were talking to a client whose cafe we also refurbished with upcycled materials. She fondly remembered that, even though she went through two coffee machines and three stove tops, the tables that we built for her lasted the lifetime of the business.
We know we will always be welcome to visit Enter Neighbour in the future – and that the things we created for Kestrel will still be there: unique, functional and beautiful.