Blackwood-born-and-bred gal’ Blake Watson, has been collecting beautiful and eclectic homewares since she was a teenager. “I have an old smoker’s stand in my lounge that I bought when I was 18 … and two chairs that I bought from the Orange Lane Markets [in Norwood] that I bought when I was living in a flat in Parkside. I used to have mis-matched kitchen chairs around the table and they were part of that … they’re now part of the hire collection.”
Blake’s passion for vintage items stems from fond childhood memories of the homewares and furniture from her grandparents’ house. “As I grew up I started seeing that stuff available for sale second-hand and [that’s when] I decided I’d like to collect it.” Now she has the same design biscuit tin and cracker barrels in her kitchen that her grandmother had in hers. “… I like having things around me that I remember from when I was a kid … things that are familiar. It makes it feel more ‘homey’ ”.
“I’ve never liked ‘modern’ design or mass produced furniture,” she says. The seventies’ wicker chair that sits in her family room is a reminder of the furniture her parents had. “At the time, it was very contemporary and popular.” Now we think it’s funky and retro!
There’s an ecological side to her love of collecting too. “I like knowing that I’ve potentially saved something from landfill and given it a new purpose”.
This big collection has it’s downfall though: “I have a lot of dusting to do, that’s for sure! I try to be minimalist, but it just doesn’t work … every now and then I go through and try and get rid of some things, but then I just replace them with something else!”.
Blake’s hunger for seeking out, buying and selling her second hand items led to the birth of ‘Old Refinery’ in 2012. “… but I couldn’t bear to part with some of the items, so I started the hiring and styling service. It was a way of being able to keep all this lovely stuff – and it was a shame to have it all hidden away and not put to use. So it really made sense to hire it out”.
A favourite resource for brides in search of a vintage style wedding, Old Refinery has a huge selection of furniture, rugs, crockery, cutlery and other knick-knacks and props that are in high demand. “We’re also getting more enquiries for the bohemian/gypsy/tribal style or what people are calling ‘modern vintage’ which is more minimalist. For example, you might have very plain white tables with copper vases but not the busy or ‘fussy’ stuff, like doilies, jars and hessian. There’s also a definite trend toward metallics like copper and brass which can translate to the current fashion for glitter accents – our range of candlesticks, vases, tubs and the like are really popular. We’ve also got a big bell tent that is relatively new to our range. I’m really excited by it and can’t wait to get it out there and being used. It fits the bohemian/gypsy theme perfectly!”
Blake has a great collection of white and timber chairs of all sorts of styles and designs that are super popular for wedding ceremonies and receptions; especially for those who are looking for something a bit different from the typical hire company designs, and she’s always willing to suggest complementary items to match a theme. “I can’t recall a time when we weren’t able to fulfil someone’s request. Many of our items are ‘odd’, so there’s not much we can’t supply!”
Old Refinery has recently teamed up with event stylist Angela from Vintage Prins (another Blackwood local) and together they can provide a full event style and hire service. “This means that people can choose to ‘do-it-themselves’ (including picking up and delivering), or we can organise delivery (through a third-party delivery service) and set up the furniture – meaning we put the furniture and items into place ready for styling by someone else – or clients can choose a full styling service.”
Having spent most of her life in the area (she grew up in Bellevue Heights, married a Coromandel Valley boy, and now resides there too), there’s really no place Blake would rather live or run her business from. Blackwood’s proximity to everything – city, beaches, wineries, hills – appeals to her, and yet it retains that ‘country community’ feel. A member of the Blackwood Hills Baptist Church, you’ll often find Blake helping out in the church cafe: Cafe 72. (She makes a mean coffee!)
She also thinks that Blackwood’s a great place to bring up kids. “I love that when they walk down the street, they know the drivers and passengers in practically every other car; or that they know people who live in the majority of the houses along the street. I also love that we have that ‘central hub’ to our community. Where you can go to one place and everything is right there … or pretty close-by.”
Check out the Old Refinery website where you’ll see Blake’s beautifully curated portfolio of images. Be inspired to style your next private or commercial event and support a great local business!
Who: Blake at Old Refinery
What: Vintage event and prop hire
Photo credits: all photos courtesy of Old Refinery