Sentimental value is probably the last thing you’d associate with reclaimed office furniture or army ammo boxes. But the idea that even the most workaday object from an industrial or institutional context can trigger emotions and memories – as can antiques and heirlooms – is central to the philosophy of husband-and-wife team Caroline and Steven Cass’s e-commerce site, Bubbledrum, which they set up last year.
Half-English and half-French, Caroline grew up in Paris where, she says, her parents “regularly salvaged objects from businesses, schools and shops to furnish their home with. That inspired me later to do the same.” Indeed, she and Steven – who are also motivated by the desire to recycle objects – have filled their Surrey home with pieces of a similar ilk from flea markets and antiques markets. They now source the objects they sell from factories, schools and office suppliers that have closed down in France, the Czech Republic, Holland and the UK.
“An industrial piece from an old factory is a slice of history that looks original in a house,” says Caroline. “Individuality is key to an interior with personality.”
Individuality – eccentricity, even – is one of Bubbledrum’s major selling points. The website (divided into the categories Lighting, Storage, Furniture, Accessories and Garden) makes you realise that industrial-chic style is far from homogenous. Storage encompasses such disparate things as a wooden cabinet incorporating 75 vintage tobacco tins (first picture, £185) and a three-tiered trolley on castors from a former textile factory (£295); furniture ranges from carts with wheels – once used to ferry merchandise around a workshop and now useful as coffee tables (from £295) – to a pair of vintage faded pink-and-yellow striped deckchairs (£48). There are also plenty of 1930s enamel pendant factory lights (from £155) and funky, inexpensive accessories such as a tomato-red enamel bread bin (second picture, £26).
Unusual as an industrial-chic piece for being vibrantly colourful, the last of these objects is proof, once again, that this style is multifaceted and unpredictable.