Last week I shared some of the things I was doing to jazz up my living room for autumn – including the eye-catching statement lampshade that puts a smile on my face every time I enter the room.
I didn’t realise until relatively recently my weird relationship with lampshades – weird in the sense that I had somehow made it 18 months into home ownership before it even struck me that they were missing. While it might be something to do with the fact that I avoid switching on the overhead light as much as possible – I prefer the softer, more atmospheric effect created by smaller lamps or candles while I’m relaxing at home – there’s also something about the idea of shopping for them that feels alien to me. Not once in those IKEA runs for furniture, or perusals of the catalogues, have I thought: lampshades! That’s what my space needs!
It just feels so … ordinary.
And then Made To Last entered my life.
Because my 20″ “Stacks and Stripes” vinyl-printed lampshade*, digitally printed with artwork by East London designer Ella Doran, is anything but flipping ordinary.
In my original post, I described Made to Last as a sort-of Not On The High Street for sustainable British design. Essentially, the site is a shopfront from which all sorts of independent craftspeople, working with everything from textiles to kitchenware, can promote and sell their products to customers looking for a one-stop shop for something a little bit different for their homes. Working with Made to Last is free (the company takes only a cut of the final sale value, based on what works best for that particular business model) and makers must comply with only two conditions: the product must be manufactured in the British Isles; and the manufacturer must provide the customer with a clear guarantee.
That guarantee is at the heart of the Made to Last ethos. Those who sell through the platform are prepared to vouch for the quality of their products, rather than offering the standard one-year guarantee and leaving the customer to rely on insurance or throw the item in the bin once it breaks. Made to Last is waging war against shoddily designed products piled high and sold cheap, and the knick knacks with little or no utility value that lie around in our homes unused. Their mission is to improve the quality and sustainability of products sold on these islands; to cut down on waste and the environmental impact of shifting huge amounts of unnecessary plastic objects around the planet; and to help people who take pride in their homes to get real value for their money.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Salopian XII cast iron clock, £70; Ella Doran “Stacks & Stripes” cushion (to match my lampshade), £47.50; Netherton Foundry 12″ spun iron breakfast frying pan with removable dividers (genius idea!), £70; Ella Doran “Portables” tea towel, £13.50.
Look, you don’t need me to tell you that kitting out a house is an expensive business. In my 10 years living in Glasgow, I’ve gone from a fully-furnished one-bedroom tenement flat to an unfurnished two-bedroom flat to a two-bedroom house. The first of those was as good as a miracle, the other two required that we pretty much start from scratch. On both occasions we bought the best we could afford – but the best was still IKEA. Our furniture served a purpose, but dismantling a flat-pack to get it out of a building and into a removal van tends to be the death of it.
All being well, we’ll be happily settled in this little house and can start to replace items one at a time, as and when we need to. Those items will almost certainly cost more up-front, but will pay for themselves over the years – and there’s just something really nice about owning things that aren’t mass-produced, where you can see the care and attention to detail that has gone into the making of them. I feel the same about my clothes.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Rowlett Esprit 4-slice ‘thick n thin’ toaster, £198; Bee9 tablet desk, £495; Mullan gramophone-shaped wall light (heart eyes emoji), £280.50; One Foot Taller cube lamp/side table (cat-faced heart eyes emoji), £157.20; Wesley Barrell ‘Campden’ armchair, £1580.
What struck me about Made to Last as I tried to pull together this wishlist (for your benefit and mine) was the wide variety of products available – from that genius spun iron breakfast frying pan, complete with dividers (to keep the bean juice off your bacon) to some really beautifully made clothing and accessories. And the pricing seems fair too: not cheap, sure, but certainly fair, particularly if you break it down with reference to the guarantees. These range from 25 years to life in the case of the big-ticket furniture items, to one year for the cute pair of ballet flats I picked out below – which, given the havoc my flat feet wreak on dainty shoes, still strikes me as a pretty sweet deal.
And, as I’m sure you can see from my picks, the site’s focus on usefulness doesn’t mean that products can’t be beautiful, stylish or quirky-looking: the gramophone-shaped wall light and cube lamp/side table would be talking points in any home. This is definitely a business I’ll be keeping an eye on over the next few years as my own furniture and accessories come to the end of their useful life – what about you?
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Freed of London ‘Zara’ ballet flat shoes, £51; Anya Sushko heart purse, £125; Sasha Kamen 9ct gold fox necklace, £250; Marlborough of England purple pastel leather satchel, £89.90.
This post contains a PR sample, but all views are my own and unbiased.