Watch us on BBC One's Money for Nothing!

by Karen - Copy Writer for The Prop Factory

Thursday 12th March 2020 10:37:04


Every prop has its own tale to tell. When we make our props we know their history and some are so characterful that it's almost impossible not to imagine a backstory for them. It's not always so straightforward with props that we buy or 'acquire'. Sometimes we're lucky to buy them from the original owner - at a car boot sale, for example - but often they might have arrived via a charity shop, recycling centre or very occasionally, a skip, and we can only guess at their history.

Not so long ago, we purchased some lovely items and were very excited that we could find out exactly where they came from. The two Lloyd loom chairs and laundry basket had featured on BBC tv's Money for Nothing series. The fabulously decadent chairs had obviously received a thorough makeover - which is the entire point of the show. For those who don't have the chance to follow daytime tv, Sarah Moore, a self-confessed 'recycler, maker and user of old stuff' rescues items that she thinks have potential, just at the moment when they are about to go to landfill. She enlists artisan makers to upcycle them into useable and saleable products and sells them, on behalf of their original owners, for a profit.The show's production team came to our HQ to film Carmen - part of the show is to find out where the finished items end up - but, just like everyone else, we had to wait until the show aired to find out their story. As we settled down with a cuppa to watch, we were wondering... Where did our chairs come from? What did they look like before their makeover and how did they nearly end up contributing to the 30 million tons of household waste that we throw away every year?Not everyone is allowed to go rummaging in their local recycling centre, but the purposes of Money for Nothing, Sarah Moore can do just that. Peeking into skips and peering into cars, Sarah describes herself as 'that weird woman who likes rubbish' - surely a woman after our own hearts! She meets Morag and David at a recycling centre in Surrey, unloading furniture from the boot of their car and she pounces!It's the first sighting of 'our' chairs, together with a matching laundry basket. But they don't look like the chairs we know. Their distinctive elegant shape is instantly recognisable, but one is pale green and significantly faded around the edges and the other is a natural light brown - like a basket weave. 'Unremarkable' would probably be a kind way to describe them. 

Morag explains that the furniture has belonged to her family for a long time - she inherited it from her aunt and uncle's property and, although the chairs were previously used in the bedrooms, for the past year or so they've been residing in the garage. 'As examples of Lloyd loom go, they really are immaculate' says Sarah. 'There's a couple of little loose fibres, but other than that they are perfect!'

A design classic, Lloyd loom was created in the early 1900s when American Marshall Burns Lloyd twisted kraft paper around metal wire and wove it on his patented loom. The Lloyd loom fabric that he created was hailed as a 'wonder fibre'. He sold the UK rights to W. Lusty and Sons and more than 10 million pieces were manufactured up until the 1940s. Lloyd loom furniture was everywhere - in homes, businesses, hotels and restaurants. Its success was probably also its downfall and it fell out of favour in the later years of the 20th century - many fine examples probably met the fate that our lucky chairs were rescued from! Now it is valued for its iconic design by lovers of vintage furniture like ourselves.

Morag is happy to hand over her chairs and storage box to Sarah... 'I'm so happy they've been rescued.' she says. 'The best thing would be to give them a nice fabric and some new depth to the seating because I think they've been well worn... well sat on!'

Sarah dispatches the chairs to Jacqui Joseph - 'an all round upcycler who thinks outside the box when it comes to giving new life to old items'. Her studio looks like a dream for any maker or designer with a huge workbench in centre space and rolls and rolls of fabric stacked in the corner. Everything she needs is within reaching distance - there are rows of scissors hanging next to all kinds of tools and a haberdashery stash to rival that of the Prop Factory.Jacqui has a fashion background but makes things for the home that are unique, but also useful and practical. The programme teases us with her phone chat to Sarah... 'I'm toying with two kinds of ideas... a white or maybe light blue or... I was thinking dark and decadent so maybe like a black and a really plush fabric on the seats, and line the storage box with that as well so it becomes a gorgeous decadent collection'

'When I handle the pieces, it's almost like... they speak to me - does that sound weird?' Jacqui looks as though we might think she's a bit strange as she talks about her design process. No! That doesn't sound weird to us at all. In fact, we're fast warming to Jacqui, who obviously feels about her products like we do about ours. 'The chairs have talked to me and they said [whispers] "paint us black", so that's what's going to happen'.Our prop makers would be happy to tell you that it's all in the prep and Jacqui thinks so too. The chairs are given a vigorous brush down and a thorough wash before spraying. Jacqui's top tips for spray painting...

  1. Tie your hair back
  2. Wear a mask

We know there's a lot more to it than this. She painstakingly covers the chairs with short sharp bursts of jet black spray paint. Very light layers of paint are built up slowly to prevent drips, which would be disastrous for the weave.

Next Jacqui turns to the fabric for the seat pads. She chooses the exquisite turquoise blue velvet adorned with giant green leaves and oversized blooms in sunshine golds, pastel pinks and vibrant orange that is already very familiar to us. 'It's got a real nice lushness to it, it's got a gorgeous sheen, I love the colours.' We couldn't agree more, Jacqui.She strips the seat pads back to their upholstery. The springs and wooden frame are in excellent condition so she covers them in hessian and then several layers of wadding on top. The vibrant seat pads are edged with a bold black velvet piping which is no mean feat: 'Piping velvet onto velvet - a very brave lady.' Sarah says, admiringly.It's the big reveal and Sarah couldn't be more delighted with the chairs, but the real highlight for us is still to come. This is the 'so where did the chairs end up' section of the programme. We have a shiver of excitement as The Prop Factory logo fills the screen and a slight squirm of embarrassment that our sign isn't squeaky clean - we hadn't realised it was going to get a starring moment. There's a close up of Carmen, resplendent in Prop Factory purple t-shirt, next to our racks of gorgeous vintage sofas. 'What I like about the chairs is the combination of the black with the tropical fabric and I think our customers will really like that too and they'll hire well for their event,' she says confidently.We've done filming before (see our blog on our exciting experience with the Extreme Cake Makers), but it's always a surprise how a lot of filming condenses down to a few short moments on screen. The programme makers filmed for more than an hour at Prop Factory HQ. You can't see on film as they only shot her head and shoulders, but Carmen was very pregnant and more than a little tired at the time!To wrap the programme up Sarah takes photos of the transformation back to Morag and David. They are not only delighted with the chairs, but also with the £70 profit that the chairs have made. They very graciously decide to make a donation to their local hospice - such a lovely gesture.

imageSo, as the credits roll, that brings us right up to date with the history of the lovely Lloyd loom chairs. But what of their future? Well, you will find our glamorous chairs in our inventory ready to hire, but we've also done a little upcycling ourselves.The laundry basket would be a beautiful thing in a domestic bedroom, but it's sadly just not the type of item that people hire. We loved the fabric, though, so we upcycled it and made a complementary botanical pouffe which we are sure is going to be very popular.We're pleased to say that these lovely items with their upcycled backstory and glamorous makeover fit right in to the Prop Factory ethos. They sit very well with our existing botanical theme props or maybe you could see them parked in a very British country house? We're hoping to feature them in one of our styled shoots - perhaps it'll be an opulent Midsummer Night's Dream where they could play a part in dressing a woodland bedroom, or a Sleeping Beauty shoot - if you're going to fall asleep for 100 years, you deserve some lovely furnishings to wake up to! When we do that, we'll most certainly blog about it, so watch this space to see what our chairs do next!

You can watch our chair's starring role in Money for Nothing on BBC iplayer here until 5 April 2020 - series 8, episode 5.

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