How three friends launched London design studio based on sustainability

When Bibiana Farenzena moved to England to study a Masters course in Design for Communication, she never expected to run her own design consultancy business eight years later.

The Brazilian-born designer is the co-owner of Upcircle along with friends Ophélia Gisquet and Mercedes Alvarez-Fojo.

Upcircle, which was launched in 2017, is a design studio based in London that offers sustainable design consultancy services in digital, graphic, furniture and interior design.

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Mercedes Alvarez -Fojo, Bibiana Farenzena and Ophelia Gisquet

“We are all friends and we bring different skills to Upcircle. The idea behind our business is to promote the circular economy and the tree pillars of sustainability: economic, environment and social”, says Bibiana.

“Ophélia went travelling to South Africa when she discovered places and people that had the ability to design and create from very little resources, recycling and upcycling materials.

The community had a creative and very clever mindset and it was then Ophelia had the idea of applying this into her designs too.

“The three of us decided to set up Upcircle using our different skills on projects, which support sustainability and recycling.

She said Upcircle’s approach to projects focuses on design, the type of materials used, how they are manufactured and the impact it has on society.

Bibibana studied a BA in Visual Design at a university in Brazil, going on to study Digital Print in Textiles at Saint Martin’s College in London. She has also completed a Masters in Design for Communications at the University of Westminster.

The 32-year-old has a wealth of retail experience and has worked with Marks & Spencer, Asos, Body Shop and TKMaxx, to name a few.

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Asos Activewear campaign
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Asos Activewear campaign
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Asos Activewear campaign

Ophélia, 32, was born and studied in France where she did a foundation year in design in Toulouse, followed by an interior design course.

She studied a Masters in interior design and architecture and has worked on projects designing offices, homes and hotels across the globe.

Mercedes graduated in Business and Accountancy from the University of Barcelona and holds an MBA degree from the University of Westminster.

The Spanish-born business developer has worked in the construction industry for 15 years working on projects around the world.

Bibiana said: “Our extensive skill set allows us to work on projects together to promote sustainability and recycling.

“For example, we have worked on student accommodation projects where we use materials, which are recycled and sustainable.

“Many people do not realise but furniture in student accommodations usually have a life of five to seven years because the trend of interior design changes, so the contractors decide to refurbish it and the furniture ends up in landfills.

But if we design with a different mindset by reusing the same furniture or recycling it, we can create a big positive impact on the environment.”

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The trio are currently working on a project with PhD students at the University of West England to create a permanent installation to increase awareness about sustainable palm oil.

The set will include trees, ferns, moss and the furniture will be made out from offcut plywood (reusing common waste in joinery workshop). The joinery will be produced by a Bristol-based company who share the same values about sustainability.

Palm oil is one of the world’s widely consumed vegetable oil and it is used in everything from soaps to biscuits and cosmetics.

Bibiana said: “The aim of the project is to raise awareness about sustainable palm oil because production often comes at the cost of the rich of biodiversity in the rainforest.

“We want to change consumer’s decisions about palm oil and how it can be sourced in the future.”

Upcircle is also working on a project with the university to refurbish four external courtyards, adding manifestations on the floor which is an affordable and sustainable solution. Some of the furniture will be supplied by an outdoor furniture company named Vestre that has “strong sustainable values”.

Bibiana said: “Some of the furniture will be produced by Bristol Wood Recycling Project, who use recycled elements.

It is a charity that offers free training to people who want to learn joinery or develop their social skills.

“We are also designing three new student accommodations with the aim to implement as much sustainable product and finishes as possible.”

In addition to the university projects, Upcircle is gearing up to take part in the London Design Festival in the summer.

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Installation for London Design Festival 2017

Last year they had an installation called Roots Grow Love, which was a striking wooden structure ​containing plants to celebrate the love of gardening, to promoting Loughborough Farm and bringing the community together.

Upcircle worked with Loughborough Farm and a group of volunteers from different associations to build the structure which was made of recycling wood and plants from the farm.

The last 18 months have been a whirlwind for the team at Upcircle and there is plenty of exciting projects in the pipeline for them.

Bibiana said: “Our approach has been well received by the industry and we are very happy to see more companies working with us.

“We believe that Upcircle will have a bright future thanks to the great collaboration of each business partner and the hard work.

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Palm oil project at the University of West England

“Our values at Upcircle will be a plus for our designs and our clients. By producing a great design and having a positive impact in our society, we hope our studio will make a difference in the creative industry.

“At Upcircle we want to be part of this movement of start-ups that have new ways of working, changing lifestyles and perceptions about work.

“It’s time for us designers but also consumers to change the way we live and produce things. Slow design is about time and so is Upcircle.”

See more from Upcricle over at their website – www.upcircle.co.uk

 

Copyright: Upcircle

 

Product Designer Nathan Hulman on Upcycling and Sustainable design

Nathan Hulman is an upcoming and talented product designer, specializing in upcycling and working with found materials, which he brings back to life by giving them a new purpose.

Nathan graduated from Nottingham Trent University, having studied a BA in Product Design and has been working as a product designer since. Nathan explains, whilst he always loved fixing and creating things, deciding his career path was a difficult choice.

“I’ve always been interested in creating new things and solving problems but took a while in deciding what career I wanted to go down. Having taken applied science, geography and product design as my A levels, I ended up doing an art and design foundation course before deciding on going to university to study product design full time. Since then I’ve helped Constellations, a furniture and interior design company, come up with new ideas for their range of storage products through a graduate internship.”

Bits ’n’ Bulbs Was Nathan’s final project for his foundation course. The idea behind this project was repurposing and upcycling to create usable lights. Upcycling is a way to transform old things in a way that turns them into something new without breaking the product down into its raw materials. Instead, upcycling gives new life to an old object, and this is exactly what Nathan achieved with his Bits and Bulbs project.

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Bits ‘n’ Bulbs

In today’s society, more and more young designers are diverting their focus on to sustainable design and recycling/upcycling. Sustainable design is a new method of designing objects, the manufactured environment, and services to conform with the philosophies and values of social, economic, and ecological sustainability. The purpose of sustainable design is to reduce the harmful impact on the environment through clever and thoughtful design. Sustainable design must use renewable resources, impact the environment minimally, and connect people with the environment.

Bits ‘n’ Bulbs was Nathans first upcycling project so he says he had difficulty adjusting to the organic way of working and not having entire control over the finished product.

“I already had the components to use and hadn’t much control over what the finished product would look like, so it was a fun play on “form follows function” since it was reversed.”

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Bits ‘n’ Bulbs

Nathan adds the challenge was balancing the aesthetics of the components in a way that works functionally and had to overcome challenges to ensure the finish product not only looks good but is fully functioning.

“One of the lamps uses a kettle as the lampshade which was too heavy for the base, so I used the wire from the bulb to anchor it in down which actually worked well aesthetically. I learned to be a bit looser in my design projects and see where any mistakes or unintended outcomes take the project.”

Bits ‘n’ Bulbs inspired Nathan to continue his investigation in to Upcycling when he got to university and kept on working loosely without restricting himself. He explains how embracing mistakes can work in your favor, how you can capitalize on them.

 “I was prototyping a desk lamp using foam, and halfway through I completely changed the design. A dent in the foam looked as if it could be a nice visual cue that the base is touch activated, and the loose stalk gave me an idea for how the lamp could be adjusted. In the end it turned out much better than I expected, and I found the unintended outcomes in finding a solution that don’t seem ideal can actually really help with coming up with new ideas.” 

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Touch Lamp Prototype
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Touch Lamp

You can keep up to date with Nathans work at https://www.behance.net/njhulman

Juxtaposition: Turning a period home into a contemporary piece of art

Scrolling through Instagram posts, it is only natural to pine over luxurious houses and their extravagant interiors.

Many of us are guilty of it, all those interesting designs and brave splashes of colour.

I have been researching just how interior designers such as Kelly Wearstler and Nina Campbell create such spectacular spaces.

Juxtaposition is often used by placing objects and themes together to create a striking contrast in a home.

Having a traditional period property and not have a contemporary interior, is a myth, there is no reason why homeowners can’t transform something old into something new.

Victorian homes are full of unique character, open to elite design activities and they can be decked out with exclusive artwork.

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In a recent interview, interior designer Louise Ives-Wilkinson said it was about mixing accessories and not being afraid to try things.

To start the decorative process, it is about making spaces open and bright, so get rid of the patterns and busy designs and make way for neutral colours.

Colours such as greys, whites and cream are becoming extremely popular and rightly so, it can give a room that clean finish to it.

Neutral colours can make a cluttered room feel open and spacious without the need of knocking through walls.

Many homeowners can be reluctant to change the features of Victorian homes, which is understandable but why not but show them off and restore them?

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