Love Lucy's Studio Under the Arches

Creative Workspace Tour

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Name: Lucy Higham of Love Lucy UK
Location: Fishing Quarter; Brighton, UK
Size: 100 square feet
Years in business: 3 years

Lucy Higham describes herself as "a proud member of the growing upcycling movement". In her tiny studio under the arches on Brighton beach, she strips back old battered pieces of furniture to their bare bones and then builds them up again with poppy paint colors and vibrant fabrics. She has just brought in a wooden Ercol sofa she picked up at a car boot sale for around $20. "I stored it at home for a while and we found a mouse living in it." She shows me how the fabric and stuffing have rotted away. Once she has rebuilt the sofa, she plans to cover it with a 1950s reproduction fabric from Sanderson.

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It is an unseasonably chilly day, the wind whipping off the sea, when we meet in Lucy's tiny studio and shop. Inside, the electric fire is going and it's warm and cozy. It feels sociable too, with artists and craftspeople from neighboring arches swinging by to say hello. I knew the old fish market was here once, but I didn’t realize the arches were actually tunnels that extend back under the road, connecting to the seafront hotels. Apparently a hundred years ago fashionable hotel guests would be pulled along the tunnels by horse-drawn cart to the water’s edge, where they could bathe in private. “It’s one of the things I love most about working here, the amazing history. My great-grandmother was a flapper in Brighton and would have come down here.”

Lucy started her upcycling business three years ago. She kitted out her studio and shop with items that she already owned and donations of second hand furniture from friends and family. Her workbench was salvaged from an engineering factory, and her father made the shelves from an old wardrobe. Even her tools were picked up at garage sales. This meant Lucy could afford to invest in a few good quality power tools, and high-end fabrics for her upcycled furniture. “I started out small, with fabric covered toy boxes. They sold really well, especially the bolder designs, and I built up my business up from there.”

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I love classic furniture shapes, and the fabrics I use have to be bright and vibrant. I like mixing the old with the new, bringing twentieth century design into the twentyfirst century.

Inspiration: My designs always start with a piece of fabric. I spend a lot of time browsing at C&H Fabrics in Brighton, and I love Clothkits in Chichester.

Favorite Element: I love the location and the history. In winter it's so tranquil here, just the odd dog walker or jogger, and in summer it is packed with crowds. I have great neighbors too. There are lots of creative people, and I get a lot of inspiration from them.

Biggest Challenge: It is so cold in winter. I have two electric heaters and I wear thermals, salopettes, a fleece, hat and scarf. After a couple of hours I start to warm up.

What Friends Say: They love it. They pop round with their children for a coffee. I have quite a few fair weather friends who only come round in the summer.

Proudest DIY: Everything in my studio was repurposed or recycled. I didn't need to spend a ton of money to get up and running.

Biggest Indulgence: Fabric is the most expensive thing I buy, but it's a necessary indulgence. Cheaper fabrics don't sit right. I love vintage fabrics, but they won't survive the wear.

Best Advice:  Don't sink a lot of money into a project. Start small and work up gradually when you have gauged what your customers want.

Dream Sources: If money were no object I would buy a compressor to run a staple gun off, and I would buy some of Josef Frank's bold prints.

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Resources of Note:

HARDWARE

  • Sewing machine: Singer Tradition
  • Jigsaw: Bosch PST 750 PE
  • Detail sander: GMC 130w
  • Dremmel cordless drill
  • Bosch GSR 14.4 2Li drill driver
  • Russell Hobbs electric knife for cutting foam
  • Staple gun: Tacwise 230v staple tacker 53 EL
  • izettle "There is no phoneline so this attachment allows me to take card payments with my iphone."
  • Paints: Fired Earth
  • Wood treatments: Colron Danish oil, Colron finishing wax

FURNITURE

  • Workbench: salvaged from engineering factory
  • Shelving: made from an old wardrobe
  • Dresser: carboot sale
  • Wooden table with metal legs: carboot sale

ACCESSORIES

  • PVC table cover: Dunelm Mill

FLOORING

  • Recycled floorboards

RUGS AND CARPETS

  • Rug: "I bought this in Greece 20 years ago."

WINDOW TREATMENTS

  • Floral curtain: donated by my mother-in-law
  • Yellow velvet curtain: car boot sale

ARTWORK

  • My children's artwork and family photos

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Thanks, Lucy!

(Images: Rebecca Bond)

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Main, Style, UK, Workspace

Rebecca Bond is a House Tour contributor at Apartment Therapy. She is an interiors-addicted, design-obsessed, Italian-speaking former TV producer director and mother of two gorgeous kids.

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