Meet the furniture restorer reviving vintage pieces in Gracie’s Attic business run from Batley home
In much the same way customisation is breathing new life into our clothes, it’s also being applied to furniture as practical pieces from the past come full circle - and with stunning results.
Chatting with Georgina Green took me back to the beautiful mahogany sideboard that had been a feature in my late Grandparent’s living room for many years.
I can remember every characteristic of the Sixties’ centrepiece, the sweeping pattern of the veneer, the smooth circular drop metal door and drawer handles, and the wonderful smell of polish which had protected its beauty over the years. It was the sight of a similar sideboard on Georgina’s website that drew me into her wonderful world of upcycling and furniture refinishing.
Understood to originate from the 18th century, sideboards became a status piece – a centrepiece offering the perfect storage solution. Their utility purpose provided an extension of kitchen storage. I recall cutlery being neatly arranged in the top drawer of my Grandparents’ sideboard. The drawers were flanked by a cupboard either side, each accommodating glasses and the proverbial ‘bits and bobs’ accumulated over the years. Of course, trends change and sideboards seemed to go out when de-cluttering and minimalism came in.
Mahogany couldn’t compete against the demand for pastel hues and the eventual brighter and bolder colour palettes that were transforming interiors.
The arrival of self-assembly flat pack furniture and simpler, space saving storage solutions led to cumbersome pieces falling out of favour – until the retro resurgence brought them back into fashion.
Interestingly utility sideboards are among Georgina’s favourite pieces to work with.
“Sixties and Seventies is the period, the lovely curves and legs on them, aesthetically I think they were on to something then with the design,” says Georgina.
The aforementioned utility sideboard featured on Georgina’s website has been re-fashioned with gold feet, intricate gold stencilling on the cupboard doors and the Forest green paintwork sympathetically enhances the areas where the natural wood has been retained. Interestingly green is the ‘in’ colour, according to Georgina, whose surname befits her favourite colour. Georgina’s artistic eye enables her to take furniture that has become unloved and give it a new lease of life.
Dark and dull chests of drawers have been transformed into statement pieces, creating the wow factor as well as providing a place for clothing and keepsakes. Tables and chairs, desks, bureaux and wardrobes have been refreshed in this planet-saving and sustainable way of preventing furniture from going to the tip.
For Georgina the emphasis has always been on recycling and upcycling and, combined with her love of art, Georgina has turned her pastime into an enjoyable and hugely satisfying profession.
“I have always been interested in art. My mum and my grandma were both painters. My mum still does botanical illustrations. I loved art at school and I went on to do a Fine Art degree at Leeds University, but unless you want to teach, a career in Art is really difficult to get into.”
In the proceeding years Georgina worked for British Gas and Asda, but it was working in a furniture shop in Canada that opened her eyes to the ‘funky’ potential of furniture. After marrying and becoming a mum, she settled into a new routine of life – until her sister sparked an idea that would lead to her current career.
“My sister gave me a chest of drawers in 2016 and I transformed it,” says Georgina, who still has the drawers which brought her so much enjoyment. “I absolutely fell in love with the process of completely transforming something brown and boring nobody really wanted into something that looks great. I started doing it as a hobby, pieces around my home and started selling them on Marketplace.”
Redundancy from the company where she was working at that time gave Georgina the opportunity to focus on making a business out of furniture upcycling. Gracie’s Attic – Georgina’s middle name is Grace – was born.
“I had a chat with my husband, he was really supportive, and I started my own business,” she says. “And I am amazingly happy with what I do.”
Transforming charity shop finds or unwanted furniture from online marketplaces and selling them on online platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and Instagram expanded Georgina’s audience. Eventually she opened her own shop on Etsy, the online marketplace for all things creative.
Although Georgina still buys furniture to sell, commissions from customers have become an integral part of the business she runs from her Batley home.
“Customers would come back time and time again with their own pieces and say ‘I know you can work your magic on it,’” she explains. “The pieces I absolutely most love doing are the art deco sideboards. Working with them they have such beautiful wood grain underneath the old varnish.”
Drinks cabinets are also seeing a retro resurgence. Beautility and Stonehill cocktail cabinets, produced in the Sixties, are among Georgina’s repertoire of bespoke furniture which she hand paints using a brush and microfiber rollers, and using the best quality and eco friendly materials.
“Commission work is great. If you get a sideboard to do, or a drinks cabinet, it’s really fun, I really enjoy that,” says Georgina, whose transformations can take up to three weeks – depending on the intricacy of the piece.
“This is furniture people don’t want any more and you are making it for the modern day for people to put in their homes and the wow factor as well.’”
Georgina says her styling is inspired by the piece of furniture she is working with.
“I get a feel from the piece. I think what that piece of furniture needs and wants to bring it up to date. I also look at what is trending – green, dark forest and sage green they are very ‘in’ at the moment.”
While conscious of the trends, Georgina also likes to create her own styling and works closely with clients to incorporate their ideas into the design. “If somebody contacts me for a commission where they need me to find a piece for them I will find one. I offer them a free design consultation, talking through ideas, colour samples and giving them ideas of what I can do with onlays and stencils. The process of the design is pretty much a combination of myself and my clients.
“The main buzz is making people happy. There is so much job satisfaction,” says Georgina, who sources unusual and eye-catching knobs and handles to create statement furniture pieces. Recycling things that people throw out is another appeal for Georgina. “It’s stopping things going to landfill, and it’s about sustainability at the moment and people want to be doing their bit.”
Georgina is also a member of the House of Upcycling – an organisation which supports and promotes the work of its member artisans.