By day, Zoe Johnstone is an optical assistant but whenever she gets the chance or even a spare five minutes she is hard at work taking old pieces of furniture – usually vintage and sometimes antique – and restoring them.
The 26-year-old has had a strong fondness for upcycling since her youth. But as work and everyday life took over, Zoe had to take a step back from her passion.
But as the world was at a standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, Zoe resurrected her devotion for upcycling and hasn’t looked back since.
She said: “I’ve always loved upcycling from a young age as my dad is a skilled carpenter and I’ve learnt from him. I was an only child and I often found things to do up for fun. I started a design page on Facebook many years ago when I used to make items such as jewellery, home decor items and other crafts. However, work took over and I ended up stopping for a while.
“I started back up with it during lockdown and began using upcycling and creating as a way of coping with the loss of my grandmother who passed away in April. I find upcycling keeps my mind occupied and I actually find it quite therapeutic. From there I decided to try and do it as a business.”
During the upcycle process Zoe looks for different pieces through social media or in charity shops. Once her piece has been selected she then sands them down, fixes wobbly bits and then gives the item a fresh new look, whether that be with paint, wax or new handles.
Zoe added: “I do all of my sanding outside and if the weather lets me, I do some of the painting. I do the decoupage on my couch with a cup of tea and a lap tray.
“The toughest part is usually fixing the wobbly parts or sanding off old varnish but I personally find it relaxing.
“The best part of the process is when the last coat of paint or wax goes on and I can see the finished product. I quite often take a before picture on my phone and doodle an outline of what I’d like it to look like and then I will try to copy the look I would like achieved. It’s always nice to see it finished and looking just like I’d imagined.”
Currently, Zoe has a dressing table on the go and is just one more coat away before she pieces it back together for the final reveal. Zoe has used decoupage on the front drawer to add an uniqueness and went for a bold navy colour.
“I’ve always made things a little different as I like to try and be quirky,” she said. “As well as the dressing table, I also have an old chair which I am going to be starting on soon.
“It had been kept in the attic for years by the previous owner and the legs have been chewed by mice but I see good potential in it. I’m planning on amputating the legs and attaching new ones. I like a challenge!”
One of Zoe’s biggest upcycling tasks so far was an antique chest of drawers which she found in a shed in her back garden left by the previous owners of the house. After hours of work which included a lot of TLC she managed to get it back to its former glory.
She added: “I had no idea they were antique and they were covered all over with cobwebs. The old brass handles were crumbling, the wood was sticking out and there was an old vice bolted into the top. It ended up being my biggest and quickest sale yet.”
Zoe has turned a one-time hobby into a part time business but she hopes in the near future she can make upcycling a full time job.
She said: “I have an 18-month-old daughter and it can be hard juggling the family time, work and my business. However, it’s something I really enjoy so when my daughter is napping, I’m usually either painting or sanding much to my husband’s dismay, as he now has an untidy house full of furniture.
“We are in the middle of looking into getting the garage made into a workstation for me though, so hopefully we can have our living room back as it currently looks like a warehouse. I would love to do this full time, that is my goal. I’m doing as much as I can when I can in the hopes of being able to do this full time and have more time with my daughter in the long run.”
Find Zoe’s designs on Facebook by searching Zoe’s Designs or on Instagram at BeeSiDesignsx.