Reclaiming Style is written by Maria Speake and Adam Hills and explores the ways in which you can create an elegant home by using salvaged materials.
The pair met whilst at University in Glasgow, where they were studying architecture. In 1997, they moved to London and opened the Retrouvius warehouse. It was from here that they embarked on their mission to reclaim and salvage architectural elements from soon-to-be demolished buildings such as schools, libraries, museums and law courts.
In addition to their reclamation work, the pair later opened a design practice that demonstrates how reclaimed materials can bring the richness of previous use into an interior, whilst adding a warmth and elegance that can be difficult to achieve with modern materials.
The book starts out with a behind the scenes look inside the Retrouvius warehouse and explores the various materials and items that have been salvaged with a view to being reconditioned and intelligently reused. From iroko laboratory tops and dismantled cinema seats to oak handrails and fossil limestone, everything that Adam has collected has been diverted from landfill. With a little care, style and an adventurous spirit, these items will all live to see another day as part of someone else’s design project.
The following section contains a series of 12 case studies that show how Adam and Maria have used their expertise to turn discarded items and materials into treasure that continues its story in a new home. We follow the authors as they show us around a 17th-century cottage, a converted barn, a 1970’s tower block and converted Victorian factory building amongst others.
Interspersed throughout these case studies you will find material profiles which provide a deeper look at some of the items and materials that Retrouvius salvages and reuses in its design projects. They focus on lighting, wood, stone, and fabric and explain what to look for and how to use them.
Reclaiming Style is extremely pertinent at a time when society as a whole is questioning its tendency towards overconsumption and what affect that is having on the planet. Many of us are now reassessing our choices and making a concerted effort to reuse and repurpose our belongings. We are starting to re-evaluate the value of the products that we choose to fill our homes with and a new appreciation is being given to long-lasting, durable design that can pass the test of time. People no longer want to invest in fast fashion pieces that will need replacing within a year or two. They are looking for quality craftsmanship.
Maria and Adam have a unique company whose re-use philosophy goes beyond a mere commitment to salvage and sustainable design. It actually offers a new vision for sophisticated, thoughtfully constructed living spaces.
Reclaiming Style by Maria Speake & Adam Hills is published by Ryland Peters & Small, £19.99, available here.
Photography by Debi Treloar.