Unique Vintage Industrial was founded by Jacqui and Graham. One a dreamer and one a maker, their areas of expertise compliment each other, combining to produce truly original, outstanding pieces.
With Jacqui’s vast experience in the design industry, she is able to see the potential in redundant items which might otherwise become scrap. Her tastes have always been for the unusual and as such, she brings another perspective to design, often finding items a new purpose… a new life.
Graham on the other hand, with his team of craftsmen and a tool for every job, is able to actualise Jacqui’s ideas and sketches. This is where artistic license becomes apparent as what looks good on paper doesn’t always work in reality. An idea is nothing without execution so hours and hours are spent turning dreams into reality whilst always being sensitive to our fragile environment.
The balance, strength and safety aspects of each piece is taken into consideration and even though some pieces are dismantled, next to nothing is thrown away. 99% of the materials used are reclaimed although, due to Health & Safety reasons, some components have to be brand new. All work is undertaken with respect and care of the original piece. To over-restore is a cardinal sin in this business. The aged patina and the history needs to be allowed to shine through.
Thanks to the pair’s passion for hunting down and restoring pre-loved industrial pieces—the sort that appeal on both aesthetic and moral levels—they are a natural choice to speak to about sustainability. Their ethos: “Waste not, want not, is usually attributed to wasting food,” explains Jacqui, “but our business is based on a version of this saying, as we endeavour to waste not, what is no longer wanted or needed.’’
This cast iron window frame was salvaged from an old cotton mill in Manchester that was being converted into apartments. Unique Vintage Industrial transformed it into a mirror.
With this guiding principle, Jacqui and Graham have curated an eclectic collection punctuated by beautiful Chesterfield sofas and reclaimed stage lights, presented alongside sturdy safes and the occasional fire hydrant trolley-turned-bookcase. They describe their collection thus: “Ever-changing, unique, authentic and environmentally-friendly vintage industrial and reclaimed furniture and accessories, with the odd eclectic piece thrown into the mix.”
These portable bookcases started out as fire hydrant trolleys.
Jacqui and Graham’s sourcing process is a bit different from that of other vintage dealers. They do not restrict themselves to flea markets or vintage fairs; rather, they are always on the lookout for potential pieces, and will happily turn their van around if they glimpse something old and rusty at the roadside. “We have no shame!” the pair confesses. The goal, of course, is not only to source, but also to save. “We hunt high and low, near and far, mainly off the beaten track, endeavoring to prevent so-called scrap metal and aged timber from being weighed in and chopped up for firewood,” says Jacqui. They also approach individuals and businesses to ask for items that they no longer require. Many people Jacqui and Graham deal with—such as farmers and car mechanics—are initially skeptical. “Barriers [generally] crash down, however, the moment we show interest in their years of stockpiled, old machinery and tools,” says Jacqui. “We are well-suited to this job and its challenges. We usually leave with a couple of special items.” Thanks to Unique Vintage Industrial’s green reputation, individuals also frequently approach the boutique to offer up items they no longer want or require. “This is perfect for us,” says Jacqui, “as we get to hear the full story of each piece, which adds to its authenticity and charm.”
Asked their number one tip for the budding vintage lover, Jacqui and Graham say it is to not feel restricted by a piece’s previous life and function. As an example, they point to the re-imagined life one could give an old industrial mangle: “It could live on as a garden structure for a rambling rose or clematis, or—with the addition of sections of reclaimed wooden planks—it can be transformed into a vintage industrial table.”
Pedestal tables, created using the wringers and turning wheel from a mangle.
The majority of Jacqui and Graham’s customers are looking for something with a special history that also appeals to their aesthetic senses—as well as a sustainable investment. “Customers’ initial surprised reactions are soon overtaken by the joy and appreciation of what was…and what is now” says Jacqui. “To say that we get job satisfaction from clients’ reactions is an understatement.”
The focus on sustainability is easier in some businesses than others but what is important is spreading the word. The more publicity these sustainable processes receive, the more people and businesses accept and embrace them.” Jacqui and Graham’s ethics extend into their personal lives as well. “We’re not big consumers,” says Jacqui. “We live well and don’t go without anything but we only buy what we need and we buy locally’.
World Earth Day is just one day each year but it highlights how precious and fragile our environment is. We all have a role to play in preserving this planet so as the recycling and up-cycling trends grow, more and more will be encouraged to ‘do the right thing’.
There is a saying along the lines of: “If one person copies you, it’s called plagiarism… if a number of people copy you, it becomes a trend”. So, whether you choose to use the word up-cycled, re-worked or re-created, the message remains the same:
“All that is needed is the idea, the ability, and the determination to be different, and we can all make a difference.”