Select Page

Luxury interiors designer Shelley Boyd on the beauty in upcycling

Published June 21, 2020
In HomePeople
Shelley Boyd, of Boyd Blue, at home

Having bought her first sewing machine with hard-saved pennies at just eight years old, Boyd Blue creative director and founder Shelley Boyd was always going to forge a career in textiles.

Today she’s one of the few higher-end designers to successfully marry luxury with sustainability, providing the Australian interiors scene with striking pieces that incorporate luxe natural materials like linen, cashmere, mohair, alpaca, stone and bronze.

Her key message to anyone with a passion for home decorating is put down the cheap pieces and “buy once, buy well” – echoing the ‘considered curation’ of my three Cs of sustainable living.

“A decade ago it was the rise of budget homeware chains and rapid renovation TV shows sparking demand for low-cost products made with veneers and engineered wood, which rot when exposed to moisture so end up in landfill – in greater Sydney alone 48,000 tonnes of furniture are dumped every year,” Shelley says.

“Now we have a savvier customer, whether hiring an interior designer to fill their home with bespoke furniture, or a home decorator realising that one signature piece in a room can draw the eye away from a multitude of cheaper items and last decades longer.”

Here’s Shelley, in her own words:

On ensuring her business is sustainable and her pieces are built to last

“We use the best materials we can purchase including FSC-certified renewable hardwood timber frames in our upholstery, and minimal energy consumption and material wastage in production due to the small-scale, hand-cut bespoke nature of our upholstery business.

However, one of the most important factors that is often overlooked when talking about sustainable furniture is a product’s longevity. We are a trusted supplier and design for longevity. Our pieces are durable, easily maintained and repairable.”

“We tend to push the boundaries with our use of unique materials,” says Shelley. “Our product enhances the buyer’s personalisation and, in turn, our pieces are loved for longer. Very often we supply upholstered pieces and clients come back to us years later requesting the same piece to be reupholstered. We also have an in-house furniture polisher who is skilled in remodelling pieces that have been damaged, worn down or need a new life.

Sometimes reworking original pieces can be much more rewarding (and sustainable) than buying something completely new.”

The best sustainable materials to work with when it comes to furniture 

‘One of our favourite materials to work with is flax Linen. We source this quality material from Belgium and Italy. The wonderful thing about this materials is it insulates in the winter, cools in the summer and has has a wonderful textural quality. This material has a very small ecological footprint, all parts of the flax plant are used. The linseed is used for the next flax season, as well as to feed people and animals. In addition our linen fabric is completely bio degradable.

Every one of our pieces is made by hand. We start with the finishes: recycled bone, fossilised clam, petrified timbers, recycled timbers, brass foil, marble, stone and grass weave wall covering, which we are even using on furniture now, like our classic Clifton console and Clifton bedsides; then mohair, wool, silk, cotton and even recycling sari’s into hand-knotted rugs – so many unique finishes that we are using in the mix of products we are passionate about.”

And ‘cheap’ materials to avoid 

“Throw-away furniture is money wasted – anything mass produced that ends up as land fill. We employ a full-time furniture polisher, not only to give our clients the opportunity to get a complete bespoke finish; we also bring in a few items in the raw, so our clients can customise the finished paint or stain colour. We also offer our services to people wanting to refurbish older pieces, and we offer reupholstery services for clients who have purchased quality furniture, wanting to update the fabric or leather cover, recycling, refurbishing, ensuring longevity.”

On trends and materials that will never go out of fashion

“Plantation or British Colonial is a style that I personally love. I think this look is timeless, you can pare it right back or layer it right up with rich fabrics and rugs, Rattan furniture, grass weave wallpapers, beautiful linen curtains, simple luxurious sofas in larger scale, large classic hand knotted rugs, interesting finishes like inlayed bone into furniture, brass and bronze I feel are timeless.”

African-inspired accessories and any accessory made of natural materials like our Emerson Rings, our Singita Sculptures, our beautiful hand-blown glass like the Ravi Vases and Palar Vases, trays like our Exton and Clifton are also timeless, while our oversized inlayed bone and timber Marley Tray, rugs like our Talo range have simple, elegant understated luxury and would work in many styles of interiors. Scatter cushions must have a feather insert unless you are allergic (Ed’s note – be sure to look for cruelty free).

“Nothing looks better than a big, plump soft cushion in a beautiful textile – 60cm x 60cm is my favourite size,” says Shelley. 

And what will be big in coming years

“Personally, I try not to follow trends, I prefer to have an eclectic mix of timeless pieces, no particular theme or style – it’s just my own global mix of understated, luxurious comfortable pieces that I love.

“However, I know that curves and arches are very on trend, seeing a return to the 70’s, indoor plants have made a big comeback, and modern wood panelling. We are still seeing a Scandinavian mid-century feel in interiors, and also a very natural coastal Boho look is big on the Gold Coast and in Byron Bay. I see curtains are making a big comeback, which I love – voluminous linen curtains really frame a window and give a sense of luxury to a room.

“I am hoping over the next few years the trends will be to purchase quality – buy once buy well, only buy pieces you really love, take your time, spend your money wisely, buy Australian made upholstery – ours is just as good as anything from Europe and you don’t have to wait 20+ weeks for it, buy handmade timeless pieces that have a back story.  We are supporting so many family businesses in Australia, Italy, Portugal, India, Indonesia and the Philippines, these families are our friends, our partners, they are passionate like we are, we don’t negotiate with these factories, they make beautiful pieces that we design, we pay them what they deserve and we extremely proud to offer these unique one off pieces to our clients here in Australia.”

Honest To Goodness co-founder Karen Ward on health food store success

Karen Ward, co-founder and owner of Australian-owned health food store Honest to Goodness, has been named Organic Woman of the Year at the 2024 Australian Organic Industry Awards, acknowledging her pivotal role in pioneering a movement towards organic, sustainable...

How ILIO NEMA Co-Founder Ariane Leondaridis Styles Her Sustainable Wardrobe

Ariane Leondaridis is the co-founder of Sydney label ILIO NEMA, alongside Katia Kelso. Both of Greek heritage, the pair met in New York where they held senior positions in design. What I love even more than ILIO NEMA's minimal-romance-meets-tribal vibe is the brand's...

The Melbourne fashion company set to transform Australia’s textile recycling industry

It's no secret that Australia’s recycling industry is in a pretty wanting state. Uplifting our capability right across the waste management spectrum – from collection to sorting, processing, recycling and repurposing – is absolutely mission critical to achieving the...