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Vintage Stories: When the stars align

Louise from Shoreditch Design Rooms shares her vintage story with Olive Road.

Gliding seamlessly from studying astro physics to setting up a successful upholstery school isn’t the most obvious of career paths but Louise from the Shoreditch Design Rooms did just that. Louise lived on Gower street in central London, a pebbles throw from the beautiful university buildings of University College London (UCL) where she was studying. Twenty years later and a further few miles to the east, Louise was building a different type of school. The Shoreditch Design Rooms on Hackney Road teaches around 70 students in upholstery and soft furnishings from beginners to professional upholsterers. The college is renowned for having small classes so students can learn on a one to one basis, pick up tips from each other and learn from the commercial workshop attached to the school. 

I bumped into Louise whilst she was demonstrating her skills at Sew Amazing on Roman Road. Owner Robb helped Louise source the industrial machines she needed for the college and he continues to service the machines ‘A sewing machine is so important and I can rely on Robb to look after it really well’ Louise she tells me.  We share our excitement of transforming a much loved old piece of furniture or fabric into a brand new object when Louise tells me the most wonderful coincidence that happened to her whilst she was in the midst of building the school. ‘I was looking for something that would work as a good cutting table. The right height so students didn’t have to bend down but long and wide enough to hold a length of upholstery fabric’. She came across some benches outside a reclamation yard, discared on the street, left to fend against the elements. The benches are solid mahogany oak and from inspecting the detail, Louise could see they were obviously hand made. Each of the drawers underneath the bench are numbered as they only fit in that custom made home. Sadly Louise only had room for five benches out of the 250 available and the rest were probably damaged beyond repair from being left in the rain. There was something familiar about the benches, when Louise asked the trader it turns out he had acquired them from UCL. Not only the same university Louise attended but from the same science labs. ‘I knew they were the same as when I sit up at them I can’t get my legs underneath and I remember that from being at college. It felt like such a good omen’.

The Shoreditch Design Rooms offer AMUSF accredited courses or taster evening classes for upholstery and soft furnishings. Full details on their website