A passion for upcycling unwanted furniture - The Shabby Geek

PUBLISHED: 11:19 09 March 2016 | UPDATED: 11:20 09 March 2016

Ian at work on a kitchen chair

Ian at work on a kitchen chair


Jack Fowler introduces us to ‘The Shabby Geek’, Ian Hardie-Gleed, whose passion for upcycling unwanted furniture has led to the top prize in an Annie Sloan competition

Ian Hardie-Gleed has a self-taught talent for giving old, unloved furniture a new lease of life. Working from his home just outside Reading, he transforms items from the mundane into beautiful pieces that are snapped up by the buying public.

Originally Ian went to university to study business management, but had to leave three-and-half years into a four-year course when his partner (now his wife) became pregnant and earning money became a priority. Work wasn’t easy to come by and he took on anything that came his way to help with the family finances.

With his wife, Laura, running her own successful business as a professionally qualified hairdresser and make up artist, Ian felt that a home-based job, where he could look after the children and generally run the home, would be ideal (he now has two young boys and baby girl of whom he is immensely proud).

Ian already had a penchant for painting furniture, and would often acquire pieces for little or no money that he could then turn into personal and meaningful birthday presents that would be appreciated by friends and family. This sparked the idea for a business venture and early one morning his wife came downstairs to tell him that she had created a business page on Facebook, and it was from that point on that Ian became known as ‘The Shabby Geek’.

But building a business wasn’t going to be easy because he could only paint after the children had gone to bed, which often meant working well into the early hours of the morning to fulfil commissions he was beginning to receive.

“For most people, working the hours that I do would be a definite no-no,” said Ian. “But I really enjoy what I do: each piece I paint is different and I get excited about the way it is going to look.”

Word-of-mouth is helping to grow his business, with orders coming in on a regular basis. Such is the standard of his work that he recently entered and won a worldwide competition organised by renowned shabby chic expert, Annie Sloan.

“Having become a father for the third time, I decided to celebrate by working on a piece of furniture that a local school was about to throw away,” says Ian. “I decided on an ombré effect, going from an olive green colour at the bottom, up to a white at the top. I was extremely pleased with the results and had some really positive feedback.

“Thankfully, I saw a final call for entrants to the competition and sent in my piece with just an hour to deadline. I thought no more about it until I received an email from Annie Sloan saying that I was the outright winner. I couldn’t believe it. Recognition from such a highly respected source was more than I could ever have hoped for!”

Ian says he is always on the lookout for hidden gems, so if you have a piece of furniture that you think would fit the bill, contact Ian on ianehardie@hotmail.co.uk or visit ‘The Shabby Geek’ on Facebook. 


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