I’m home from a weekend visiting longtime friends in Dublin. Don’t you just absolutely love that feeling that you just got together with your friends yesterday… even though it has been over a decade? I love it! And while I was there I also kept my eyes open to find good stuff happening in the recycled and repurposed world. I did a quick Google search one of the days, found BusyBees Furniture Recycling, and set out to go have a look.
Joe met me at the door and set about enthusiastically showing me the place and telling me about their business – of course with the jovial Irish demeanor one becomes accustomed to in Dublin. At first glance it’s simply a 2nd hand furniture resale shop. But on closer inspection you start to see pops of color, upcycled pieces, and items in various stages of renovation that are tucked here, there and everywhere around the store.
Forgive the grainy pics, but I didn’t have my regular camera with me.
When Joe shared more and more with me while we walked around the shop and workshop… I realized they are so much more than just a resale store. They are a social company that is focused on creating jobs in the community.
How does it work?
First, they offer pick-up service for people that have furniture they want to get rid of. That’s done for a minimal fee, around €20, and thus the first group of jobs come into play. Get old furniture to resell or redo, and simultaneously create new jobs for the removals. Sounds good so far.
That part seems to be working just fine because their workshop-slash-warehouse is stacked with furniture pieces and then stacked some more!
Some of the furniture goes out on the floor for immediate resale. In my opinion, little gems like this mustard-colored velvet ottoman are ready to go to their new homes and families just as they are. And guess what? More jobs are created for a retail sales staff that work in the front shop.
Now the fun part begins. They have an in-house designer that has the awesome responsibility of choosing pieces from their treasure trove to be upcycled or repurposed. She also decides what that project design will look. How great would that job be? When we peeked in her office there were pictures of inspiring ideas taped to the walls. I’m sure she’s out here with us in blogland having a look around and gathering more inspiration for their own projects. Hi BusyBees designer (if you are reading this)!
Then it’s like an assembly line of different areas of responsibility for the various upcycled and repurposed projects. The furniture painters and sanders get their own enclosed spaces.
The painting continues out on a side shelf in the workroom. No space here goes unused.
There are pieces sitting everywhere in various stages of being remade.
They’ve got an upholstery section beside a mountain of foam inserts and fabric shelves.
There is an on-site seamstress, a decorative painter that adds flair to pieces, and a general build-with-scraps woodworker named Pigeon. The section assignments for any given day are easily found on a chalkboard that hangs in the middle of the workshop. It’s that simple!
It’s like an assembly line of good deeds for old furniture saved from the landfills.
BusyBees has been steadily making a name for themselves and they have regular customers and interior designers that come in looking for pieces or to place orders for something they have in mind. They also have individuals bringing their own pieces in to be remade. And they’ve made connections with local department stores like Clerys to create window and in-store displays with upcycled and recycled pieces.
One chair that was nearly complete was the GAA highback, reupholstered with jerseys from every team in the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association). The color popped from across the room and was going to make a fabulous addition for a traditional office space. They’d made a similar chair before with Dublin football jerseys. Are you a die-hard sports fan or do you have one in the family? Imagine the possibilities!
Each time I turned my head I caught a glance of another upcycle or repurposed piece, adding to my joy of knowing they were going back out into the world to absorb a new story and create a new history. But matching that joy was the knowledge of jobs being created right in their community.
It’s a job scheme that is tied to the government and employs people who’ve been in the unemployed system for one reason or another over a longer period of time. Joe started with BusyBees two years ago as a sander and is now one of the retail sales people. This location of BusyBees alone employees around 40 people. What a great story!
I featured several more of their projects on our reCreate Design Co. Facebook page over these past days to make sure to have a look (and don’t forget to ‘like’ the page so it will show up in your Facebook newsfeed).
Unfortunately I couldn’t get home a piece of furniture on the plane, but I did ask if I could buy a funky little pair of lime green table legs I saw back in the sanding room. Joe laughed and said, “Really? Well, you know what they say about one man’s trash…”. I smiled as I carried off my new treasure.
I had a great time looking around the treasury of old furniture at BusyBees, and I’m inspired to continue to find a way to bring these kinds of ideas into my own community here in Sweden. Hope you enjoyed the virtual tour with me, and be sure to check out the BusyBees website for more examples of their furniture restyling. And let me know about any groups like this in your area – it would be fun to get to know them better!