“Enter Neighbour”: Upcycling for community

Upcycling can provide new life to unwanted materials – and spark new friendships. In 2016, UpShop started working with Kestrel, a chef who has spent many years working in hatted restaurants, including Sofitel, Matteos, Garden State Hotel, and Tansy, on transforming his little cafe in Camberwell,  Enter Neighbour, into a place he could call his own.

A benchtop, shelving and lights were included in the brief. We already had materials 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. However, 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 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 store, organise, and display items. They fit so well with the affordances of the work area behind the bench. The UpShop workshop also provided reclaimed industrial lighting.

Industrial Lights installed at Enter Neighbour

Our design solutions are an example of the benefits of upcycling: not only by reusing materials but also allowing the client to be involved in the process. Traditionally, a 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. In this case, we worked directly with Kestrel throughout the life cycle of the project; there was no need for an architect or interior designer. With materials already at hand, we were able to mock up the design in the workshop as a physical layout to give Kestrel a real sense of the look and feel of the design.

Just a few days ago, we were talking to a client whose cafe we also refurbished with upcycled materials. She fondly remembered that the tables we built for her lasted the lifetime of the business.

We know working with Kestrel with upcycling added real value to his new business and that when we visit Enter Neighbour in the future what we created will still be there: unique, functional and beautiful.

The bench and shelving system in use at Enter Neighbour