A village resident who lost her job in graphic design during the Coronavirus pandemic has literally carved out a brand new career – which has proved so successful she’s been invited to showcase it to a national audience!
Ruddington’s Ally Booker is over at the Birmingham NEC from this Wednesday to Sunday (5th – 9th October) for Channel 4 TV’s ‘Grand Designs – Live’ doing demonstrations in their ‘Sustainable Future Theatre’. Organisers found out about Ally and her upcycled furniture business Restoration Hut from her linked Instagram account.
“They are really invested in discovering and promoting businesses who place sustainability at the heart of everything they do” explains Ally, who was shocked but delighted to receive Grand Designs’ invitation. “They got in touch to ask me to promote the benefits of re-imagining furniture we already have at their Birmingham event – demonstrating the various tools and tips for upcycling unloved vintage furniture.”
Ally, who’s lived in Ruddington for 16 years, reveals: “Pre-COVID, I worked as a Graphic Designer for close to 13 years. I loved my job but COVID hit the creative industries hard and so I was one of many in the sector to lose their job. Looking back on it now, I’m grateful it happened – as it forced me to push myself out of my comfort zone and try something different.”
After Ally was made redundant she decided to take some time to work out her next career move. “To quieten my busy mind, I began refinishing some of the vintage furniture we had inherited. I loved the pieces but they didn’t fit in our recently renovated home. It was a joy to discover that underneath the smelly, murky brown varnish of Nanna’s sideboard was a beautiful piece of furniture which I could transform into a piece to be cherished again” she says.
“I realised lots of people would feel this way about older furniture, leading to pieces which are unwanted and often disregarded. The good news is that these pieces can be revitalised and loved again, saving them from landfill. I found an amazing woodcraft teacher and went away on some incredible courses to learn the professional tools and tricks of the trade. Restoration Hut was born and has grown from there!”
Ally says the ‘recycling’ aspect is very important to her: “I discovered some pretty shocking stats when it comes to the furniture industry and the hugely negative impact it has on our planet. In 2019 alone, Brits threw away a staggering 22 Million pieces of furniture. Since discovering this, and after sucessfully transforming my own pieces, I’ve made it my mission to show people how unwanted furniture can be re-imagined into perfect pieces which work with homes, not against them.”
So what’s the favourite item Ally’s restored so far? “It’s tough to answer this, as I’ve learnt so much from doing each piece. I’d have to say the Lebus Drinks Cabinet I refinished in 2021 (pictured below) for the Ruddington Maker’s Night is my most favourite piece. After struggling to find a look which felt like ‘me’, I really felt I’d discovered my design style with this cabinet. And it got a great reaction, too, as it sold at Makers’ Night – which was the most wonderful feeling!”
She is hoping her appearance at ‘Grand designs – Live’ this week may open up new business opportunities beyond Ruddington. “I’d love to help people fall back in love with their existing furniture again. More than anything, it will be an amazing opportunity to educate more people about the endless design possibilities available when it comes to re-imagining older furniture.”
Ally adds: “If I get to meet Kevin McCloud, too, that really would be the icing on the cake!”