Coffee aficionados aren’t just addicted to caffeine, they are would-be baristas obsessed by beans, cafetieres, single origin Guatemalan and froth.
Andy Poplar admits he is all of the above and thankful for it. Pondering the merits of cafetieres sparked an original idea that launched his creative business, Vinegar and Brown Paper.
“I was thinking about how boring cafetieres were and wondered why no-one had thought of putting a design on the glass with some quotes about coffee,” says Andy, who spent the next six months working out how to do it.
“I made it hard on myself and there was a lot of trial and error. I was trying to acid etch on to Pyrex rather than glass, and then I discovered sandblasting and that’s when the fun began.”
The fun was in finding exactly the right words, a skill he had honed in a previous job as a copywriter before becoming a stay-at-home dad. Milk bottles etched with “Sometimes what you need most is on your own doorstep” and “Human kindness” were among his first big hits and now, four years on, what was a hobby is a fully-fledged enterprise with a stellar list of stockists and a legion of fans.
“I look for vintage pieces that are beautiful and then I add meaning to them with the words.
“Sometimes I have to keep a piece for months before the words come to me and sometimes it’s immediate. I love that point where you know it’s just right and you get a buzz. That’s the joy in the creative process,” he says.
The Vinegar and Brown Paper HQ is a large shed in the garden of Andy’s home near Otley. It is packed with prototypes, tools, useful junk and various glass objects. Old hand-blown laboratory glass is a favourite and there are various inscriptions including “There is chemistry between us”.
This stock is getting harder to find as schools now use plastic on the grounds of health and safety. Mirrors are also bestsellers and are etched with phrases such as “Take time to reflect” and “Today will be better”. His latest acquisition, a vintage glass fruit bowl, is set to be a “smash” now that its bottom reads “Oranges are not the only fruit”, which was inspired by Jeanette Winterson’s autobiographical novel.
“I love wordplay and I also enjoy looking for something I can etch,” says Andy, who trawls the internet, antique shops, eBay and the York and Ripley car boot sales for items.
His house is also full of great finds and includes a mix of mid-century pieces along with some Art Deco and Art Nouveau items that work well with the property, which was built in the 1920s. Among his best buys are the bookshelves in the study, which were from Leeds City Library via eBay and the beautiful 1930s bookcase that was just £20.
He also has a passion for vintage Ercol furniture, although has recently resorted to buying new as the original 1950s pieces are often more expensive.
It’s elegant and stylish and perfectly suits the semi-detached house, which Andy and his wife Lisa bought almost two years ago.
“The house was good value and it had more space and a garden, which we didn’t have in our terrace house in Harrogate. Trading up there would’ve been a lot more expensive,” he says.
The property had been well-loved and cared for but wasn’t to their taste, so the couple, who share a love of design, have given it a modern makeover.
Unafraid of bold colours, they have used Farrow and Ball to great effect. The sitting room walls are painted in Stiffkey Blue and the woodwork Manor House Gray.
“I like Farrow and Ball because of its depth and the fact that all the colours seem to work together really well,” says Andy. The walls are decorated with clocks, mirrors and prints. Many of the pictures feature literary references, which reflects the couple’s shared love of books – both Andy and Lisa studied English at university. They are always on the lookout for old Penguin paperbacks and first editions and have amassed an impressive collection.
“The Penguin book covers really appeal to me,” says Andy. “They are elegant and simple, which is what I think good design should be.”
Their next project is creating a large kitchen-dining area by rebuilding the sun room to make a more usable space. At the moment, they are making do with the tiny 7ft by 7ft kitchen, although it works well thanks to clever storage and the fact that everything is close to hand.
“It’s something we are saving for but there’s no great urgency,” says Andy, who is gearing up for his busiest time of the year as Christmas orders will soon be pouring in although the stress of dealing with them is nothing compared to his old day job, which had morphed from a creative role into managing people
“It began to make me unwell and that is why I left. That’s the reason why I don’t want to grow my business too much. I want to keep it under control so I enjoy it,” says Andy. One of his favourite pieces is a set of Victorian scales inscribed with two meaningful words: “Work Life ”.
• Vinegar and Brown Paper, www.vinegarandbrownpaper.co.uk; www.vinegarand brownpaper.co.uk. Stockists include the Heart Gallery, Hebden Bridge; The Imaginarium, York, and Limelace.co.uk.