Delightfully eccentric, with a humorous, eclectic style, Guy Chevenix-Trench is an upcycler extraordinaire. A genial eco-warrior, with a flair for finding quirky charm in almost anything , Guy takes vintage household objects, memorabilia, or just ‘other people’s junk’; which he turns into original yet functional objets d’art.
Lighting is his particular passion and, in his collection at The Old Cinema, you might find a table lamp made from an aged cricket bat, trumpet or fishing rod, or perhaps a quirky pendant light fashioned using a vintage straw hat, or an old soda syphon. Guy also has a wonderful furniture collection, including tables made from 1950’s dolly tubs, wall mirrors made from antique wooden doors, or benches created from old water tanks.
Guy also makes bespoke items, which are extremely popular as unique and inspired gifts. Whether he’s presented with an a fishing rod, a pair of ice skates, or even, as on one occasion, a coin-operated electric meter, Guy revels in the challenge of a new brief: Has he ever been presented with anything he can’t work with? “I haven’t been beaten yet” he chuckles.
His fascination with the old, the quirky or the unusual, was inspired by his antique-dealer grandmother; a redoubtable lady, whose accuracy with a shotgun earned her the distinguished reputation as ‘the best shot in Sussex”. With a voracious appetite for a bargain, she careered around the countryside in an old, open-topped Bentley, with a posse of barking dachshunds, scouring junk shops and scrap yards. She often took the young Guy with her on these determined forays and they would both poke about about amongst dusty memorabilia and bric-a-brac for hidden gems.
Guy’s first job, however, was as a diver in the North Sea where he spent much time welding and mending equipment underwater, usually in difficult conditions; “If it needed fixing you somehow had to find a way to do it” he says. He then ran a water sports centre, and taught windsurfing, but his real passion was always antiques. Eventually, his wife, an interior designer, suggested he started a business selling vintage furniture and chandeliers. When this didn’t take off, Guy decided on a more creative approach and with his combination of imagination and practical know-how, he began creating his own pieces.
His first project was a light made out of a old piece of decorative balustrade which he couldn’t bear to see wasted. It looked terrific and it worked; he made a few more and took them to an interiors fair where they immediately sold out. He then made a series of lamps using bowling balls, the same thing happened, and from then, there was no stopping him. He began turning rifles and fishing rods into desk lights, crafted wall mirrors from tennis rackets, old wheels and cricket bats and even turned a collection of tractor seats into a quirky set of kitchen stools.
Now, Guy’s collection is almost limitless. Church railings are used to make console tables, chandeliers are created from bits of rusty agricultural machinery, including one made from an old harrow, and an old K2 telephone kiosk door is made into a wall mirror that would add stupendous charm to a loft apartment or barn conversion. What’s his success down to? “ I think I’ve got a good eye” he says “the older, rustier, shabbier, more pock-marked the better‘. Everywhere he goes, he keeps a magpie-like eye out; on walks,or in scrap yards, junk shops or skips; discarded items usually hold some sort of allure and Guy loves nothing better than working on a way to bring it out and make something new and completely original out of something which has outgrown its original purpose.
Guy’s eclectic, eco-savvy style recently caught the eye of Charlie Gilkes, the owner and proprieter of Mr Fogg’s, a quirky Mayfair cocktail bar, themed around the travels and exploits of the fictional protagonist in Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days’.
Charlie wanted to create a sense of history, fun, adventure and imagination and he sought Guy’s help in tracking down a list of weird and wonderful travel memorabilia including a balloon basket, a huge bird cage and a stuffed crocodile. Guy also made and supplied some delightfully quirky trademark table lamps made variously out of leather riding boots, shot guns and old snow skis. The collaboration was a huge success and Mr Fogg’s opened to rave reviews earlier this year.
“To me upcycling means taking a throwaway thing and making it into something else with a purpose’ says Guy. “It has a ‘wow’ factor; you walk into a room and see something that is completely different’. One of his favourite household items is the original Kodak concertina camera; “It’s such a well-designed and engineered piece of equipment and it brought photography to the masses. I love the fact it can be turned into a thing of beauty and passed on to the next generation instead of just being forgotten about.”
Guy founded Antiques by Design in 2002. He also shows his work at interiors fairs and shows nationwide . Guy also keeps a large collection of his work in a huge converted barn in Essex.