Interiors: Kirsty’s upcycling secrets

Photos: Douglas Gibb
Photos: Douglas Gibb
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MANY of you may be familiar with the work of contemporary jewellery and homeware designer Kirsty Thomas. Her company, Lovely Pigeon, has recently relaunched its website, and it shows off her work perfectly. Her family home, in the fishing village of Cellardyke, in the East Neuk of Fife, is an equally ideal showcase.

The family moved here from Liverpool five years ago and it was less of a major lifestyle shift than it sounds, as the East Neuk is well known for its vibrant music and arts scene.

pics by Douglas Gibb

pics by Douglas Gibb

Kirsty exhibits every year at the nearby Pittenweem Arts Festival. The indie record label, Fence, are based in Cellardyke, so you can regularly see bands in one of the village halls or go to open-mic nights at the local pub.

Her husband, Pete has continued in his role as Futures Director of design agency, Uniform, in Liverpool. Working remotely has been no problem, “I keep in touch with regular visits, and find the space here helps me think creatively,” he says.

“It’s amazing to have the sea on your doorstop, to be able to walk out the door and be on the beach in a couple of minutes. You never tire of the scenery and big skies,” says Kirsty. The setting is, without doubt, of major inspiration to her work, as well as a wonderful playground for her two children, Jude and Eva, aged 12 and ten.

“My work is often inspired by seaside life – the washed out colours of seablasted paint and the geometry of sails, masts and buoys – but I also like to create pieces that make people smile. I’d like to think that I make things that add a bit of cheer to people’s lives,” Kirsty says. Lovely Pigeon also hosts a series of pop-up shops, which showcase the work of Scottish artists, designers, makers and musicians.

pics by Douglas Gibb

pics by Douglas Gibb

The house itself is quite a grand example of the many Victorian terraced fisherman’s cottages that line the local streets. Kirsty and Pete suspect that it was built for a captain of one of the fishing boats. “There are particularly elaborate skirting boards and fireplaces in this house,” Kirsty remarks. “All the houses have net lofts, sometimes separate from the house, in the back garden, but ours is attached and downstairs was converted into the kitchen by previous owners, the upper room was still a working net loft when we moved in.”

The house was in need of upgrading when Kirsty and Pete bought it. “We had to do everything, gutting it from top to bottom, but there were some amazing original features such as period fireplaces, a sweeping wooden staircase and a cast iron bath. We knocked down a few walls to create bigger, lighter spaces and restructured the old net loft to accommodate a new Ikea kitchen downstairs and studio upstairs.”

Kirsty produces her Lovely Pigeon products, contemporary jewellery, homeware, prints and stationery in the former net loft.

The decor is a reflection of Kirsty and Pete’s car boot, auction and skip-raking habits. They rarely buy new pieces and most of the furniture in the house has been upcycled, reclaimed or handed down.

“We are both pretty obsessed by mid-century design and are always on the look out for original pieces. Often these pieces need a bit of work but we are both reasonably handy and can reupholster and refurbish pieces if necessary.”

More recently Kirsty and Pete decided to use their rummaging skills to develop a new aspect of Lovely Pigeon. “Pigeon vintage allows us to source, upcycle and resell some of our salvaged finds. We source a wide range of pieces including mid-century furniture, homewares and textiles, and materials which can be upcycled or refashioned into cushions and jewellery.”

A lot of the homewares on display are also the work of local craftspeople or other designer-makers. The ever-growing collection over time of quirky, individual, vintage and contemporary pieces has transformed their home into an atmospheric and eclectic space.

“We painted the main living space in a dark grey, ‘Downpipe’ by Farrow and Ball, as it was already a dark room and we thought it best to embrace this rather than fight it. It is counterbalanced with an adjoining dining space in white and connected with a bright yellow painted archway. so you get the best of both worlds,” Kirsty says.

The vibrant rug from John Lewis is a colourful accent. “I am sure a lot of people fill their house with new things and add one vintage find, whereas Pete and I have filled our house with vintage and used one newly-bought thing as an accent,” Kirsty says. Over time a seam of dark grey has crept in and runs through most of the house either on floors or walls. It makes a good backdrop for retro homewares and furnishings in bright colours, natural wood and white.

Ask Kirsty to explain her fascination with pigeons, and she replies: “Believe it or not, I am not really obsessed with pigeons. The company name stemmed from a nickname I once had and the pigeon products that I create have become an ever-growing signature collection. I guess it comes back to making people smile!” k