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Designer Upcycles Vintage Wooden into Sustainable Furnishings


Bengaluru-based Gracy Elezebeth’s enterprise is a mix of her two passions — sustainability and outdated, classic materials. “I’ve all the time cherished the feel and appear of outdated issues, as a result of they’re of fine high quality, and easy, but elegant,” she says. 

The 53-year-old design advisor has, for the final 19 years, been designing 35-40 homes in and round Bengaluru by restoring and reusing this outdated wooden. She turns the fabric into sustainable fixtures like doorways, home windows and kitchen cupboards, and furnishings like chairs, tables, wardrobes, and so forth.   

Was sustainability an integral a part of Gracy’s life whereas rising up? 

“I don’t suppose it was a aware factor. However we all the time lived a minimalist way of life. I’ve three older brothers, so I’d get hand-me-downs, be it cycles or faculty luggage. The truth is, I all the time rode a males’s cycle. We grew up very conscious of the worth of issues, whether or not it was water, meals or garments. So, the idea of recycling and upcycling was all the time part of my life,” she says.

Her enterprise started with visits to Puducherry and Kerala, the place she would choose up vintage wood items for herself. 

“There have been quite a few retailers promoting outdated furnishings on the East Coast Highway in Puducherry means again in 1998. There can be beautiful stuff simply piled up, unappreciated. I’d rummage by all of the wood stuff and choose up what caught my eye,” she recollects.  

bengaluru design consultant gracy elezebeth
The 53-year-old design advisor fashions homes in and round Bengaluru by restoring and reusing this outdated wooden.

When associates got here dwelling, they cherished her wood furnishings (straight-back chairs, bookshelves, and varied different items) and would ask her to supply some for them. She began shopping for standalone objects for associates. 

Enchanted by the fantastic thing about outdated wooden, in addition to her sense of fashion, a couple of associates began asking her to do the interiors of their properties

“My first challenge was to do up the brand new house of my husband’s colleague in Bengaluru,” she recollects. “The shopper had visited our dwelling and appreciated the look.” 

“At the moment, I used to be sourcing from Pondicherry. I bought shutters and planks from there and located a carpenter (who has been with me ever since). After I noticed him reducing the wooden, I panicked, as I used to be unsure he knew what I needed. Within the early days I had sleepless nights. I used to be unsure I’d have the ability to ship. However the challenge turned out properly and from there, there was no trying again,” she notes.     

By word-of-mouth, she started receiving extra shoppers. Gracy’s enterprise took off round 2004-05, and since then, she has labored on about two initiatives a yr. 

For sourcing wooden, Gracy relies on the individuals she has labored with through the years and know her style. They inform her when a constructing is being pulled down in Bengaluru or in different elements of Karnataka, like Mysuru, Dharwad or Belagavi. 

a before and after of a remodelled home with used wooden doors
The wooden used consists of Burma teak, matti, mango, jackfruit, and rosewood.

From these websites, she procures wood elements like outdated wood beams, pillars, faces of built-in cabinets, outdated tables, wood bins, and different issues. These are fabricated from largely Burma teak, matti wooden (native to the Western Ghats), mango wooden, jackfruit wooden, and sometimes, excellent high quality rosewood. Rosewood is much more sturdy than teak, however costly. The outdated pure wooden is then used to make door frames, pillars, cabinets, tables, swings, and different gadgets.    

“Previous wooden is sturdy. It can final a lifetime when you take primary care,” she explains. “Previous wooden furniture and furnishings will be taken aside and refashioned into new issues. You may’t do that with manufactured or engineered wooden merchandise. Most shops don’t promote outdated pure wooden merchandise. Even when they do, they’re prohibitively costly. They promote merchandise fabricated from ‘new wooden’, which is of decrease high quality. New wooden lacks the color, grains and power of outdated wooden.”  

Step one is eradicating all of the metallic elements like nails, screws and hinges, and any layer of paint. 

The wooden is run by a planing machine to even it. Sanding is finished by hand and the wooden is minimize as wanted. Typically, doorways and home windows are used as is in new building. Door frames are used to make different objects, whereas shutters are used because the face of built-in wardrobes. 

After the carpenter finishes his work, the polisher takes over. Gracy favours a matte end and prefers sharpening to portray, as within the former, one can see the gorgeous grains of the wooden. After the hand sharpening, a compressor pump is used to coat the wooden with melamine, a skinny resin movie, that protects the wooden from sizzling or chilly objects positioned on it.  

It takes two months to finish a house, however can take longer throughout the monsoon. “My prices are sourcing the wooden and paying the fees of a small staff of carpenters and polishers. Previous wooden is now in brief provide, so prices are rising. I ask my shoppers to first survey the market. For example, they might discover that furnishing their kitchen with restored outdated wooden would value about the identical as the price of a branded modular kitchen, invariably made with engineered wooden.” 

a team of carpenters work on the used wood
It takes two months to finish a house, however can take longer throughout the monsoon.

Do it your self 

Gracy says her course of isn’t rushed, and that she believes in taking it gradual in order to not compromise on the standard. The truth is, she has refused a number of initiatives as a result of the shoppers needed the work executed in a brief interval. 

“Procuring the correct wooden and items in a rush just isn’t all the time doable. I’m prepared to take up work that provides me pleasure. I’m not eager on scaling up for monetary beneficial properties. I wish to preserve it small and take up initiatives which I can do justice to,” she explains. 

A commerce graduate, Gracy has had no coaching in wooden restoration work. “I’ve learnt on the job, by bodily watching individuals work. After I started, YouTube movies and on-line sources of knowledge weren’t so pervasive. I’m a really DIY (do-it-yourself) individual. After all, I’ve a carpenter and wooden polisher who carry their groups to assist me do the restoration work.” 

The work is usually executed on website, she says, including that as per analysis by her shoppers, they find yourself reducing 25-30% of the common value. “However the actual profit,” she notes, “is in getting higher high quality merchandise. It’s like shopping for a pure pashmina scarf as an alternative of an artificial one.”  

Why reuse outdated wooden? 

Environmentalist and the editor of Sanctuary Asia Bittu Sahgal says, “There isn’t a doubt in any respect that restoring outdated wood furnishings, or utilizing outdated wooden resembling railway sleepers, wood beams and helps of outdated properties, is infinitely preferable to utilizing timber from forests or importing timber.”

“We must always examine and perceive the worth of pure forests and their contribution to sequestering carbon, harbouring biodiversity and thus serving to to average the worst impacts of our local weather disaster.” 

“Somewhat than minimize down forests to plant timber species, it might be much better to make use of farmlands the place bushes will be planted as windbreaks and harvested in a deliberate method. The opposite possibility is proving to be bamboo, which is quick rising and doesn’t want pesticides and different poisonous chemical substances to domesticate,” Sahgal notes.

bengaluru design consultant gracy elezebeth
Gracy says her course of isn’t rushed, and that she believes in taking it gradual in order to not compromise on the standard.

In the meantime, Binu Bhaskaran, furnishings designer and a school member at Srishti Manipal Institute of Artwork, Design and Expertise, says, “Previous reclaimed wooden scores on three dimensions. It’s aesthetically interesting because the grain high quality is wonderful. Second, we use the time period ‘workability’ of wooden. The workability of outdated wooden, particularly teak, is nice. It’s straightforward to chop and aircraft, and the end of the product is best. Thirdly, reclaimed wooden is sturdier and extra sturdy, because it has been uncovered to components like rain and harsh daylight already and doesn’t want a lot seasoning. There are not any worries that it’ll twist or swell up with moisture.”    

“There are lots of restrictions on reducing bushes in India, and we largely import wooden. Imported Burma teak prices round Rs 3,500 per cubic toes. Utilizing outdated wooden to style new furnishings and different merchandise is certainly a good suggestion from the sustainability viewpoint. It’s because you might be upcycling and giving life to one thing that has been discarded,” explains Bhaskaran.

‘Previous wooden by no means goes out of style’ 

The interiors of Anita Gurumurthy’s home ‘Sharan’ in Bengaluru had been executed by Gracy 15 years in the past. 

“Previous wooden is sort of a Kanjeevaram saree and by no means goes out of style. Gracy’s work has introduced an distinctive high quality to our dwelling. The character of outdated wooden lends a heat sense of dwelling to an area. It has a sure aesthetic about it. Additionally, it offers a really feel of solidity, stability and safety. There’s a sense of simplicity and magnificence about Gracy’s fashion, which I like. It isn’t actually about embellishment. Furnishings shouldn’t overwhelm the house,” says Anita, who works on problems with expertise and society. 

The interiors of Anita Gurumurthy’s home ‘Sharan’ in Bengaluru had been executed by Gracy 15 years in the past. 

“Gracy suggested us to go minimalist. We had bought an outdated home that was pulled all the way down to construct a brand new one. We used the small home windows from the outdated home to make cabinets. A wood tray from Kashmir, which my mom had gifted me, was transformed into the highest of a facet desk.” 

“Many such small issues gave a way of uniqueness in addition to minimalism. We tried to make good use of what we had. Gracy advised me to not fear an excessive amount of about harmonising the colors of wooden. We bought some bookshelves. The home has wall mounted wardrobes. I’m very proud of my kitchen too. It isn’t modular. It doesn’t look boxed up and flat. It appears to be like extra vibrant — it’s neat, however has the sense of a dwelling kitchen,” she elaborates.  

As for a way Gracy appears to be like again at her work, she notes, “It brings nice pleasure to see one thing that’s outdated morph into one thing helpful and aesthetically interesting.” 

“I’m additionally joyful that I’ve inspired a couple of carpenters and polishers to maintain the ability of working with outdated wooden alive,” she smiles. 

Edited by Divya Sethu; Photograph credit: Gracy Elezebeth



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