Turning scrap into functional art for your home interiors

Upcycling and re-purposing is a passion for Jamien Rao. While working on interiors, he helps turn anything that’s scrap — pieces of metal, wood or even a bullock cart wheel — into functional art

Updated - July 24, 2019 12:25 pm IST

Published - July 22, 2019 03:29 pm IST - Hyderabad:

Jamien Rao stands beside a dish antenna that has been repurposed into garden furniture

Jamien Rao stands beside a dish antenna that has been repurposed into garden furniture

Jamien Rao’s office JNRO Interiors in Sainikpuri, Secunderabad, is a meeting place of technology and sustainable living. The interior design consultant uses drone technology for design solutions. A drone is used to take aerial photographs of a plot of land and a virtual image of the proposed building’s design is superimposed on it. “The images give a realistic view of the project, simplifying architectural jargon for people to understand how their office or farmhouse would look, and the design can be modified to suit their requirement,” Jamien explains. This comes handy in cases where parents might be coordinating a project in the city for their children who live abroad, or for larger projects that involve a collaboration of city-based and international architects. “Digital data can be shared easily and reduces the number of site visits; drone images can also help visually document a site, recording the transition over the years,” he adds.

As good as new

At the other end of the spectrum, Jamien’s studio has been diligently re-purposing scrap. The tables and chairs in his office are made from leftover wood, glass, metal and anything he has found over the years. Plumbing pipes have been remodelled into table lamps, glass bottles have either become planters or hold decorative lights, and drink crates have been turned into bookshelves. Plywood pieces have been redesigned into bird houses and at the entrance of the studio, two spades have been redone to resemble arty scare crows — Jamien calls them spade crows.

A cycle prop made from leftover metal at Jamien Rao’s studio in Sainikpuri, Secunderabad.

A cycle prop made from leftover metal at Jamien Rao’s studio in Sainikpuri, Secunderabad.

The roof of Jamien’s office cabin is a layer of bamboo and a transparent acrylic sheet that allows light to seep in, negating the use of lights during the day. Jamien believes that being eco-friendly should go a step further than installing solar panels and having rainwater harvesting systems in place. The garden area is mostly unpaved and covered by gravel to allow rainwater to percolate into the ground. The planters are varied. An old stone grinder, a stack of tyres are all used like pots to grow plants. A dish antenna has become a garden umbrella, sheltering anyone who would use the stone benches for an informal meeting. Leftover wrought iron from construction material have been designed into curios, and broken pieces of wood have become wall clocks.

Jamien began working in 1998, armed with a diploma in carpentry from Boys Town Hyderabad, and a course in interior designing, welding and fabrication from Pune. He’s been experimenting with the carpentry toolbox since his school days and creating utilitarian items from scrap before upcycling became a cool term.

Bullock cart wheels repurposed into wall decor and coffee table at a home office designed by Jamien Rao

Bullock cart wheels repurposed into wall decor and coffee table at a home office designed by Jamien Rao

However, he doesn’t make an array of similar things. A factory line of production, he feels, defeats the idea of re-purposing by turning it purely into a commercial venture. When he takes up a project, he looks at what’s already available with the client — it could be furniture from the grandparents era — and refurbishes them. When he converted the car garage into a home office for a client, the unused ancestral furniture in the house was mended, polished and reused. He also found an old bullock cart in the corner of the garden. One of its wheels is now a wall décor prop at the entrance. Another wheel has been used to design a coffee table, making the home office look like a contemporary café with quirky décor. The v-shaped wooden part of the cart is now perched on the roof, with small decorative lights hanging from it.

Different strokes

Jamien doesn’t use the term ‘recycle’ because he finds a lot of people resisting the idea, “They think I am selling them something that’s old and discarded. So much is being discussed about global warming and reducing wastage, but I still find people shying away from recycling. Upcyling or re-purposing works better.”

Drinks crates have been upcycled into bookshelves

Drinks crates have been upcycled into bookshelves

The interior design firm has worked on several projects in Hyderabad — schools, hospitals, residences and corporate offices. A psychologist is also on board to help clients turn buildings into spaces they can connect with, by choosing the ideal colour scheme and décor. “Hospitals and educational institutions are mostly open to the idea of re-purposing things. Corporates work towards fulfilling the criteria for green building ratings, and the bigger firms fork out an extra sum for upcycling. Small institutions may not always have the resources to invest in re-purposed articles,” says Jamien.

Upcycling involves time, energy and money. A discarded piece of metal or wood has to be cleaned and restructured, tested for strength and durability, and this involves labour. The lamp designed using a plumbing pipe, for instance, is priced at ₹1,000. Compare this with cheaper alternatives available in stores across the city. “This is a challenge, but wherever possible, we try and re-purpose things into functional art items,” Jamien sums up.

This column celebrates eco-conscious initiatives. If you know an eco-warrior, write in to hydmetroplus@thehindu.co.in

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