Two Lanarkshire mums are transforming tired, old sticks of pre-loved furniture into treasured centrepieces at the heart of the home in a hobby-turned-business venture that’s their labour of love.
It was a meeting of minds when Denise Cardigan got chatting to Kate Henry at a bus stop, and their Endless furniture upcycling enterprise was born.
Denise had been in banking for 25 years and took a career break after the birth of her first son, Lee, during which she studied events management and graduated with a BA degree from the University of West of Scotland.
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When she discovered she was carrying second son, Lewis, exciting opportunities in the events sector had to be put on hold, and she later returned to a flexible position within banking that allowed her to work around her kids.
Just when Denise felt the time was right to fully launch her events management career, lockdown hit – and she relieved boredom by browsing Facebook marketplace, buying the odd bargain and upcycling the items in her Cumbernauld garage.
Meanwhile, Kate – who had graduated with a first class honours degree in textile design from the Scottish College of Textiles in Galashiels – worked as a tutor at Falkirk College for seven years.
With the arrival of sons Charlie and Joe, Kate took various jobs before launching her own business which paid homage to her passion for cooking and healthy eating.
Her food retailing company, Eat Right Feel Amazing, had her working round the clock and, in 2020, she decided to take her foot of the accelerator in the quest for a better work-life balance.
Both women, whose boys were at school together, admit they were at a crossroads in their professional lives when that chance meeting came at a bus stop.
“I didn’t know what Kate’s background was, but I knew she was quite quirky and creative,” explained Denise, 43.
“So I asked her if she’d like to do some bits of furniture.”
As they parted, Kate told Denise she’d give her suggestion some thought.
“That night, I couldn’t sleep. I just had so many ideas,” enthused Kate.
“There are two subjects I love in my life: food and health, and interiors and furniture. Denise’s passion had really come across.”
After taking space in a brick Victorian former wash house within Glasgow’s iconic Barrowlands – in which talented designers create everything from luxury dog kennels to outlandish socks – Denise made Kate an offer she couldn’t refuse, and the pair became business partners.
“The more I thought about it, I realised I wanted to be here from the beginning, so that we are both on the same page,” explained Kate, 45.
“We are both really different. I am like a straight line, and Denise is a spiral. I love colours and textiles and patterns, and I love to make things look beautiful. With Denise, it’s all about marketing and strategy, selling the thing and making money. I see her as the business brains, that person who will get us there. Like yin and yang, we complement each other. And we’re both as excited about it as each other. There’s so much potential, and there’s such a big market out there.”
Having formed an association with another Barras trader who specialises in house clearances, the overnight entrepreneurs who see beauty in mid-century furniture that has seen better days soon expanded their modest stock, which includes items that are gifted to them at no charge.
Their imaginations then take over to breathe new life into 1970s teak telephone tables on which sat Trimphones, battered, sad, old wooden toys whose original owners now have grandchildren of their own, burst armchairs on which young mums nursed their newborns, and dining tables around which generations gathered to chatter and pass plates.
The pair take delight in not only piecing together the very fabric of a tired item that may have been broken over time, they also relish the opportunity to ponder its past and the journey it has travelled en route to their Barras workshop.
Although they have retained the Wash House as a space that’s conducive to storage, and the dirty work of sanding, painting and polishing, Denise and Kate recently moved into MacKinnon Mills in Coatbridge, where they have a presence from 10am to 5pm, seven days a week.
Within new space The Hub, which opens its doors at the Mills on July 3, Endless has gallery space from which to showcase its offbeat creations.
Within the shopping destination, Denise and Kate have created the Oasis Room – a chill-out zone where they can make their own indelible mark on a blank canvas.
“We want to give it an holistic and vintage feel. Our aim is to give it a whole different vibe,” explained Denise, whose neighbours at the Mills include a masseur and hairdresser.
“We want people on board who will feel invested in it – one big happy team of people who are quite creative, a little cavern of creative juices. We’d like to mirror what is happening at the Wash House, with the difference being that people can come in, see us at work, and chat to us about their ideas.”
The entrepreneurs describe their target market as mums like them, with a disposable income to spend on unusual items for the home.
Kate, who sees age before beauty, continued: “Home is everything, wellbeing is everything, those are the two things we will be concentrating on.”
Increasingly, customers are charging Denise and Kate with responsibility for more than just the aesthetics of a piece.
In a service the women describe as a cross between TV shows The Repair Shop and Money for Nothing, they are being asked to give the kiss of life to items that are of huge sentimental value, but in their present state do not sit comfortably within a stylish home environment.
Take client, Claudia Dursun, who asked Endless to restore a small stool owned by her late grandmother.
Kate transformed it from a tattered and battered, redundant footstool into a contemporary piece that’s not only functional, it’s also a conversation-starter when guests visit Claudia’s home.
“She may not have gone into a shop and spent £95 on an off-the-shelf stool, but what we have done for £95 is bring it back to life,” explained Denise, whose upcycled catalogue also includes mirrors, dressers and bureaux.
“We didn’t realise how popular commissions would be. They are for people with an attachment to a sentiment.”
Delighted with the end result, Claudia took to social media to express her gratitude.
She posted: “Thanks to Kate, she’s turned an old fashioned, unusable piece of furniture into a stylish interior piece that will be forever loved in our home. Thank you, Endless, for doing such an amazing job. I absolutely love it. It’s even more more beautiful than I had imagined.”
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