Recycling | Upcycling | Salvage | Vintage

Interview with Sibella Court

“I could find no better way to spending an early  weekend morning rifling through old things whether it’s at a brocante, car boot sale or flea market" - SC. Even the smallest of pre-loved objects can lend a charm, a sense of nostalgia that instantly enriches a space and home with story.


Why do you include vintage pieces?

Not only do I have a home layered with vintage finds but also a shop and an interior design studio. I have been collecting for over 30 years and the vintage finds have my stories embedded in them,  of  where I was & who I was with that are then woven into the rich tapestry of my spaces. I always blend a large percentage of my interior spaces with vintage furniture & curiosities with their own palimpsest shown through their  patina and marks which I embrace wholeheartedly.. These marks of time in salvaged finds give any interior space that extra something special with the palimpsest of their history celebrated through their patina & marks mixed amongst newly purchased pieces & designed spaces. They add an emotion and essence that cannot be achieved otherwise and make new joinery and finishes instantly anchored to a space.
Even the smallest of pre-loved objects can lend a charm, a sense of nostalgia that instantly enriches a space and home with story.





Why do you salvage things & why is it important?

Anything made with humble hardwearing materials that last a lifetime is worth salvaging.
There are so many positives, not only do they add charm & interest to a space, you are supporting cyclical community and sustainable closed loop system.
There many reasons to love old over new. One that is top of the list is to keep objects out of landfill; I avoid plastic as much as I can and look for objects made from materials that are steadfast & age well, so I’m less likely to have to replace them in the future.


Interested in reading more about our heritage & sustainability at The Society inc? Read about it here




 Do you have any vintage favourite pieces to look out for?

I always have a long list for my interior projects including furniture, doors, windows, sinks, tiles, lights, hardware, art, textiles, rugs and the list goes on
I am constantly buying and storing items for jobs months , even years in advance.
I look for equipment for my art studio as well as items for my kitchen or table setting. I would much prefer to include old things to new
And as it’s no secret I love  ambient lamp lit interiors, I am always seeking vintage table & floor lamp bases – I look for ones that are interesting, made by an artist or a material that patinas well with age. I don’t get too worried about the shade as I love making new ones with the right dimensions from vintage textiles and fringing!



Each year, I have a running list of presents for people. I take note of things they are lusting over and what they may need at home. I look out for these curiosities through the year and it always feel very special when my friends & family open a vintage hotel silver cocktail shake, a hand whittled game or a bone handled letter opener.
There’s is really no limit to what you can find. Go with an open mind, imagination and a list.
And even the smallest of pre-loved objects can lend a charm, a sense of nostalgia that instantly enriches a space and home with story.




What interior projects have you included vintage/salvaged/recycled things in ?

As salvaging & recycling are deeply embedded in my personal philosophy and that of The Society inc , every project I have designed has a solid investment of upcycled, salvaged & vintage items from Hotel Palisade, Long’s Lane, Palmer & Co, Bullo River Station & my own home.


You can see my hospitality & residential projects here





What kind of building materials are great to salvage when you’re renovating? Why? And what could you use them for?

Marble sink – I bought French marble sink from the 1800’s that’s 2.4m long instead of a wedding dress! It was stored for 5 years and now it sits very proudly in my bathroom at home


Read more about my bathroom design here


Baltic pine floors – I purchased a bunch of vintage flooring from Victoria for my kitchen walls with all intention of painting it but its patina was so great we left it as it and it adds all the warmth to the space.
Timber – constantly on the look out for good timbers, I store old Baltic pine planks that were once used for cheese curing. They still have the wheel marks and the wax from the rinds on them. And long lengths of weathered Australian hardwood are always handy. I recently added into 2 projects as exposed joists and bench tops.
Stone tops – I buy old marble at auction that  we recut to fit joinery works
Furniture – I’m always buying tables, chairs, bedheads, stools and everything in better. It’s great to have a furniture restoration in your black book.
Doors _ A stash of French doors & speciality doors are always in hand at the studio.


Explore our Vintage furniture collection at The Society inc.




Slate thresholds _ I’m passionate about thresholds, so keep a keen eye out for slate ones that I can use for top steps, internal thresholds & hearths
Terrazzo sink tops _ I recently found 4x 50’s or 60’s terrazzo sink tops that now reside in my studio and throughout my house renovation
Bricks – I recently completed a project with 2x 6 metre high chimney stacks that we made in recycled Haveli bricks from India
Lights – Like sinks, there are endless piles of lights & lamps in my studio that are a feature of all my spaces.. It’s ideal  to have a handful of electricians that understand how you like to work!




How do you repurpose/upcycle objects & curiosities? And how do you display them?

Endless objects and curiosities are upcycled and used as artwork  collectibles on walls and in cupboards as the all-important top layer styling.
I have created Cabinets of Curiosities, art  & plate walls and 3D hardware textures, tool installations amongst many other interesting colllections.
When collecting art I will generally come up with a theme or a muse. My go-tos themes are ships, portraits and still life in the form of paintings, drawings on various templates & shapes! But your linking the could be a colour, tools or even an era! If the frame is not right, I have no hesitation in painting the frame, hanging it without it or having it sent to be reframed. And then I arrange them together or separately depending on the interior
I was asked so often,  how to display vintage collections, that I wrote a book about it called Bowerbird!


If you're interested in Bowerbird, explore our bookshop here




What’s your advice to people who are buying secondhand pieces, furniture or otherwise?

As you come across items that you need around the home, jot them down and keep a running list. That way when you are out & about and come across a vintage store, you have something to refer back to. I have mine on a note in my phone.
If you’re looking to fill a particular space or find a piece of furniture of a certain size, take note of the ideal dimensions. You can keep a lookout for something that matches the size you’re after and shop with piece of mind that it will fit when you take it back home
I always have a pocket tape measure in my bag when I go shopping, so I can size up any furniture pieces that I find and refer back to the dimensions as previously mentioned
Do some research - if visiting a place you don’t normally go to, do a quick search to see if there are local antique stores. I try not to miss any opportunity to pop in to a vintage store wherever I go!




What are you tips for restoring old pieces and what trades or skills are required?

I don’t recommend buying furniture that needs too much work, unless you have the right tools or trades and are willing to spend the time & know-how in restoring it, it will never get done.
However, if something has a lovely shape like a mirror frame or lamp base that you can imagine in another colour or a lamp base that needs a new shade fabric or even a beautiful chair that needs new upholstery – go for it!!
I do find having a black book of local trades is very handy - furniture restorers, framer, seamstress, upholsters , lampshade makers,  blacksmiths, metal workers,  lamp shade makers & speciality painters or even being in contact with your local Men’s shed





Where can you sell or donate your old furniture??

My motto is definitely, one’s man trash is another’s treasure!
Be sure to keep your unwanted heirlooms in the cycle as its important to keep these items out of landfill
There are so many ways to do this
  1. Offer it to a friend or family first
  2. Your local auction house will have regular or even weekly auctions.  Generally you can send photos and then they have weekly drop of days
  3. Vinnies or Salvos or other charity / thrift stores
  4. Gumtree or Facebook market place
  5. Council pick up – as the pickers & locals work the streets. Make it presentable so it’s a desire to take before the trucks come through. I sometimes add a note. ‘Great working order’ or ‘super comfy’ etc




Any tips to help a novice vintage shopper?

Don’t be deterred if nothing is uncovered in a visit, as the next week you will hit the jackpot. I find its always worth taking a second or even third walk around a market, shop or auction house and in reverse to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Often Viewed from a different angle, you uncover something on your list. Even if its online!
Its great to Get to know your shop owners, stall holders, auction houses and dealers in person or online to be in-the-know when new things come in. My motto when shopping, if you love it, buy it as it will not be there next time and best to have some loot in storage and at-the-ready.



So if you are like me, &love a house with patina and rooms filled with interesting pieces & curiosities (that often don’t cost a lot of money) Ill share some of my tips of the trade when hunting for treasure.
There’s is really no limit to what you can find. Go with an open mind, imagination and a list.
Don’t be shy to put anything that may go on the ‘IKEA’ list here and I even have all my Christmas present shopping on it!

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