Looking to inject that rustic, industrial-style vibe into your home décor? We’ve found just the brand for you…
Female-owned business Barrel & Bird create gorgeous, high-quality furniture made entirely out of reclaimed scaffold boards
In Partnership with Barrel & Bird
Long-term friends Lindsay and Sarah first met in 2002, back when they were both working in the legal field. Funnily enough, they didn’t know then that nearly 20 years later, they’d be business partners working in a very different sector… home décor.
Dipping their toes into the waters of upcycling furniture to begin with, the pair’s creativity was ignited and they soon branched out to create their own wooden furniture and decorative items – made entirely from reclaimed scaffold boards.
High quality, sustainable, homely and full of character, Barrel & Bird’s creations hit the mark every time. We caught up with the dynamic duo behind a brand you really need to have on your radar…
Tell us about Barrel & Bird.
Lindsay: Barrel & Bird is all about offering unique, stylish, handmade furniture and home accessories – along with a smooth, friendly and down-to-earth customer experience. Like most small businesses, we’re passionate about what we do and put our heart and soul into our work. We want that to be reflected in the products we make and the service we provide.
Sarah: As two women working in what is typically a male-dominated field, we’ve encountered the odd challenge here and there, but it’s very important to us to show our children that gender shouldn’t place any restrictions on what can be achieved.
Lindsay: In terms of our current style, we choose to work with reclaimed scaffold boards because they offer such an authentic industrial look and feel. Our products work well across a range of interior styles – they blend in well with more traditional homes but also offer a rustic edge that complements more contemporary spaces too.
Sarah: And on a personal note, Barrel & Bird is about having fun… A lot of laughter takes place in our workshop!
You and Sarah met while working in the legal field. What made you both decide to leave that sector behind and enter into business together?
Sarah: Prior to going self-employed, I was working as an Operations Manager for a managed legal services company, having worked for the same employer for over 16 years. Following a turbulent time, the business was taken over by one of the big London firms. And while the future looked bright, it had never been clearer to me that my heart wasn’t in it. I desperately needed to make a change.
Lindsay and I had started the business seven months earlier, in September 2017, not really knowing where it would take us. We both have a keen interest in interiors and wanted to do something creative. Plus, having young families, we wanted to have more control over our lives. Whilst we certainly weren’t generating anywhere near a full-time (or even a part-time!) income at this point, it felt like the right time to take a leap of faith and fully commit to Barrel & Bird. I’ll never forget the feeling I had, handing in my notice – it was slightly terrifying, but hugely exhilarating and I’ve never looked back!
You make furniture and home décor products. Was this already a hobby before you started the business?
Lindsay: We had some experience upcycling furniture, which gave us a starting block. But we knew that, ultimately, we wanted to create our own products rather than making-over existing pieces. We started looking at furniture trends, taking into account our personal tastes, and came to the conclusion that working with reclaimed wood was the route we wanted to go down.
We began Barrel & Bird by making scaffold board furniture for our own homes. Most of our learning has been self-taught via a process of trial and error. It certainly wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be at the outset! But we’re both quite practical and resourceful… and very determined. We’ve also found that, for most challenges in life, there’s a YouTube tutorial!
A part of your offering is creating made-to-measure products. If we were after something bespoke from Barrel & Bird, talk us through what we’d need to do?
Lindsay: We understand that a ‘one size fits all’ approach isn’t always appropriate when it comes to furnishing our homes. So while we offer a range of standard-size items, we welcome bespoke orders and invite customers to get in touch to discuss their requirements. Once we understand a customer’s preferred dimensions and the overall look they’re interested in, we can offer a quote. We also always invite our customers to tell us about any preferences they have.
Sarah: Reclaimed scaffold boards are all unique and can vary in terms of their characteristics, such as cracks and dents, burns, paint remnants, staples and sunken nails. We love these and aim to retain as many of them as possible, but we’re happy for customers to let us know just how rustic they’d like their item to be.
Where would you say you find inspiration for your pieces?
Sarah: We love scrolling though interiors accounts on Instagram for ideas on the latest trends. We also enjoy flicking though home magazines, especially the ‘before and afters’. It’s always interesting to see how people choose to furnish their newly-renovated spaces. Inspiration for new products sometimes comes from our customers or from own homes, too, especially when it comes to designing a piece of furniture around a particular space or requirement. We also get a lot of inspiration from local bars, cafés and restaurants, particularly those with a strong industrial feel to them.
What are both of your favourite Barrel & Bird pieces right now?
Sarah: I really love our slimmer style rope shelves at the moment. They’re great for displaying plants and other decorative items, and we’ve just started offering them in longer lengths – up to 150cm long.
Lindsay: We’ve recently introduced a tall storage unit to our products. This has to be one of my favourites, as it works so well with the reclaimed boards and offers the perfect combination of a rustic finish with a stylish look.
When you’re not working, where in the North East are you most likely to be?
Sarah: In recent times, I’ve been most often found at home, on my sofa, binge watching Netflix! However, during the slow move out of lockdown, I’ve enjoyed some lovely walks with friends along the Quayside and in the Ouseburn Valley. We’ve also had a lot of family walks around Watergate Forest Park and we love hunting for sea glass on Seaham beach.
Lindsay: We welcomed a puppy into our family last September, so you can usually find me on muddy woodland walks with our crazy cocker spaniel!
What are your ambitions for the future of Barrel & Bird?
Lindsay: When deciding on a business name, we purposefully avoided selecting anything that would limit us to one particular product or style – so the world is our oyster! We plan on expanding our range to include more varied products under the Barrel & Bird brand.
Sarah: We absolutely love our North East customers, many of whom we’ve met at local events, so we want to continue to grow our local customer base. Ideally, we would like to move to premises with better heating (it’s been a cold winter!), with the option of a shop front so we can welcome our customers in person. Watch this space!Shop Now