I have spent almost the entirety of the pandemic in London. And though the vertiginous changes in Irish and UK Covid policy over the past 18 months are easy to track through the news, a recent trip back to Dublin offered a fresh perspective.
The atmosphere on the streets is markedly different. And the day-to-day experience of life amid a pandemic worlds apart.
If you thought that having recycled homewares in your house meant accepting hand-me-downs, it is time to think again.
Homeware designers are increasingly looking to use recycled materials, shifting away from throwaway culture and getting involved in the circular economy to help the planet.
We take a look at some of the latest homeware products available, from glass tumblers to bed throws – and even soft recycled carpet runners made out of yarn made from plastic bottles.
We take a look at some homeware products made from recycled goods such as this runner made out of plastic bottles (scroll down for more details)
The products are made by companies such as Weaver Green, which works to turn some of the 135 billion plastic bottles that end up in the sea and landfill into practical and beautiful items for our homes.
Tasha Green, of Weaver Green, explained: ‘The key challenge has been to turn hard plastic into the lovely soft open fibres, so that the yarn genuinely has the look and feel of wool.
‘This process has taken over seven years to perfect, and we now have a robust, soft yarn that is machine washable, stain resistant, suitable for indoor and outdoor use and most importantly environmentally friendly.’
Recycled products for your home
1. Recycled carpet runners
Weaver Green produces this runner called Andalucia Zahara, which is available from £162
Weaver Green produces a range of 100 per cent recycled items, including carpet runners made from recycled plastic bottles.
Ms Green explained: ‘Runners allow you to instantly update and change the feel of a room.
‘A statement runner can be the main design feature from which you complement other interior elements in your home.
‘For example, a simple herringbone helps to create a classic timeless look from which you can add vibrant or strong patterns and prints with other accessories.’
The company produces a runner called Andalucia Zahara, which is available from £162.
2. Recycled planters
The LSA Canopy Collection has shapes inspired by the Eden Projects iconic biomes
These recycled hanging planters are made from 100 per cent recycled glass bottles and jars.
They evolved from a collaboration between London-based design studio LSA International and the Eden Project in Cornwall.
Together, they created the Canopy Collection, with domed and curved shapes inspired by the Eden Projects iconic biomes.
These recycled hanging planters are made from 100 per cent recycled glass bottles and jars
A LSA spokesman for the project said: ‘Each piece is mouthblown from 100 per cent recycled glass, following the sustainable practice of turning discarded material into something useful.
‘A subtle green tint is produced, and air bubbles will occur as part of the recycled source material and handmade process.’
The canopy hanging planter is available via LSA International and costs £26.
3. Recycled glass tumblers
LSA International also produces the Mia Collection, which includes these recycled glass tumblers
LSA International is also behind the Mia Collection, which is also made from recycled materials.
This collection focuses on turning recycled glass into several items, including these tumblers. A set of four Mai Tall Highball tumblers cost £32.
4. Recycled bed throws
Recycled materials can even appear on beds – such as in these throws that are made out of old plastic bottles
Weaver Green has a range of such bed throws, which are made of yarn that has the look and feel of wool (pictured: its Darjeeling rainbow throw costing £65)
Recycled materials can even appear on beds, such as in these throws – pictured above and below – that are made out of old plastic bottles.
Weaver Green produces the bed throws, which are made of yarn that has the look and feel of wool.
Its Darjeeling rainbow throw costs £65, while its Madras pink and gold throws cost £55 each.
Weaver Green’s Madras Check pink and gold bed throws are priced at £55 each
When the New Zealand government announced a nationwide lockdown in response to Covid-19 in March, 2020, newly-arrived Lolsy Byrne was desperately trying to find a flight back to Ireland.
Byrne, a stand-up comedian, had come to New Zealand in March to play a festival in Dunedin. Her plan was to stay for a few months, travelling and gigging, before heading back for the Edinburgh Fringe in August.
Not wanting to take a flight from a medical professional or someone who was in desperate need to get home, Byrne never got a flight home. Instead, she stayed with a relative in Auckland, where she now lives.
Luckily, Byrne became trapped in a country that quickly got a handle on the virus. But being in a brand new place in the midst of all the initial pandemic chaos was challenging. “It was really difficult. When you’re on your own, you struggle to make connections, but, luckily, I was able to get involved in the comedy scene over here and they kind of embraced me with open arms and were really really supportive,” she said. “The sense of humour in New Zealand is so like the Irish sense of humour, we all love telling stories and a lot of self-deprecating humour.”
Byrne regularly plays at a Scottish-Irish comedy night for expats in Auckland, run by a Scottish comedian, who also got stuck in New Zealand when Covid broke out. “You find yourself relaxing into your accent. I tend to put on my phone voice a lot when I’m on stage so people can hear me clearly. But then when we do these Scottish and Irish gigs, all these Irish-isms start flowing out of me.”
New Zealand pursued a hardline elimination strategy early on. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s government had closed the borders to non-citizens and introduced a nationwide lockdown by March 25th, 2020. Since then, Ardern has said on numerous occasions that she would “make no apologies” for implementing strict measures to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
This is the longest time since we’ve been back. We usually go back every 18 months
New Zealand has a similar population to Ireland’s, yet 35 people died with coronavirus while 5,609 people died with the virus in Ireland. For most of the pandemic, their strategy of sharp and strict lockdowns earned New Zealand a reputation as the little island that eliminated coronavirus. New Zealanders enjoyed freedoms that few other nations could.
Seeing Ireland struggling through long lockdowns was also challenging for Byrne. She said there was a sense of guilt about leading a normal life in New Zealand, while friends and family back home were doing it tough.
However, in August, 2021, a Delta outbreak sent the nation into lockdown. By early October, Ardern had abandoned her elimination strategy, focusing instead on living with coronavirus and controlling its spread through vaccinations. 82 per cent of New Zealand’s eligible population is now fully vaccinated.
Auckland has been in lockdown since August, with restrictions now beginning to ease. Byrne says she’s watching her friends in Dublin going out and performing again, while she’s in lockdown. Although she hadn’t planned to stay in New Zealand for so long, or to live through a pandemic there, she says she feels “ridiculously fortunate and lucky” and wouldn’t change her “strange position “ for the world.
At the moment, only citizens are allowed to travel in and out of New Zealand. Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) for seven days is necessary for any international arrivals.
Steve Doran, from Howth, Co Dublin, says the idea of visiting home now is much more appealing now that Ireland has opened up.
But the travel restrictions would still make it very difficult for his family of four to travel back.
Now, with Auckland in lockdown, Doran said he was jealous watching friends of his at the Aviva when Ireland beat the All Blacks in November. An avid rugby fan, he says he would have been there without a doubt, had the travel restrictions not been in place.
Lockdown in Auckland has taken a toll on Doran and his family, especially his seven-year-old, who misses his school friends, he says. Doran also works in retail, which has just recently reopened in Auckland after months in lockdown. But he worries about potentially losing some of his colleagues who are anti-vaccination if a mandate is brought in.
Travel restrictions and uncertainty around international flights also worries Will Ward from Milltown, outside of Mullingar, who moved to New Zealand 20 years ago. Ward hasn’t been home now for more than four years. “This is the longest time since we’ve been back. We usually go back every 18 months.”
When the case numbers started rising in Ireland back at the beginning of the pandemic, Ward said he would be glued to the Irish media, checking the numbers first thing every morning. “I was really concerned about family back home. I was fearful here in New Zealand, but not for New Zealand, more for family back home,” he said.
When lockdown ended in Auckland in 2020 and Ward started going on trips, camping or hiking, he would ask his family if they wanted photos or not. There was a sense of guilt; he didn’t want to rub his freedom in his family’s faces. “They were living in this vortex of despair and hopelessness and that was concerning because here in New Zealand we were living pretty a carefree existence.”
On a positive note, Ward says contact with his family has “exponentially jumped”.
“The contact with mum and dad has never been as regular or as positive…I think my relationship with my parents is at a deeper level than it’s ever been before.
“For two years, this mortality thing has been omnipresent: You need to say stuff now.”
Kilcastle’s a very small community and even though they’re not minding you, they are in a way. We were brought up as a community
But with travel restrictions still in place, he’s still unsure about when he’ll be able to get back to Ireland. “Not knowing now when I’m going to get back and give mum and dad a hug, that’s the key thing. People are getting older.”
Ward says he’s been reflecting on Ireland and his Irish identity a lot more in the past few years.
When he sees new generations of Irish people now, he’s struck by a “confidence, a self-assuredness” that he said didn’t really exist in his or his parents’ generation. “I started seeing almost like a non-acceptance of victimhood…just a proud nation to be Irish rather than necessarily a connection to struggle,” he said.
Anne Marie O’Neill, from Kilcastle, Co Clare, has been in New Zealand for nine years.
O’Neill says she lost her home, her job, and went through a divorce during the last recession in Ireland.
She rekindled a relationship with a man she’d known all her life and together they sold everything they had left and moved to Gisborne on the east coast of the North Island.
O’Neill left Ireland after her mother died and says she hasn’t had much desire to move back to Ireland since emigrating. “For me going home isn’t a big deal but what I’ve lost is that connection: do I know who I am anymore?”
O’Neill says she missed feeling comfortable in her surroundings and not having to constantly “tell her story.”
“Kilcastle’s a very small community and even though they’re not minding you, they are in a way. We were brought up as a community.”
In March, 2021, O’Neill’s brother, who she was extremely close with, died of cancer. In the months leading up to his death, O’Neill said he became uncomfortable with carers coming to his house during the pandemic and that he’d also become dependent on the pain medication he was on. She managed his care via WhatApp or Skype calls, calling for hours each morning and evening.
In his final weeks, O’Neill took time off work and “sat with him 24/7 on Skype… we just let it run.”
She said they prayed, played music, and organised his funeral together.
When he died, O’Neill couldn’t leave the country for the funeral. She watched it on a WhatsApp video call, although she said she just wanted to be home and to be immersed in the grieving process.
“It stopped me from embracing my brother’s final days and death with other people. I wanted to be there and I wanted to be proud to be his only sister walking behind the coffin. I couldn’t do that for him.”
Walls, ceiling and woodwork all painted in the same tone? It’s a bold approach, but the trend for ‘colour drenching’ is taking hold.
‘Softly, softly’ has largely been the approach to painted walls in recent years, but that’s about to change.
Many of us who spent more time at home during the pandemic experienced a desire to express ourselves through our interiors, and paint colour is an easy way to inject personality.
Blended: A dining room drenched in shades of blue. It’s a bold approach but the trend for ‘colour drenching’ is taking hold, according to interiors experts
‘We’re seeing a more liberal use of a single colour in our recent projects,’ says Rosie Ward, creative director at Ward & Co.
‘Known as ‘colour drenching’, the concept might seem daunting at first, but when executed thoughtfully, it can give a home a wonderful sense of cohesion, character and flow as well as creating a surprisingly calming atmosphere.’
Select a shade
Whether you choose a soothing mid-tone or a bold, all-enveloping colour, the idea is to drench your space in one hue — or tonal variations of it — from walls and ceiling to woodwork, the inside of doorways, window frames and even radiators.
‘Using a single shade in this way adds a feeling of grandeur as well as providing a chic, minimalist base,’ says Benjamin Moore’s Helen Shaw.
‘Varying levels of saturation can be a great way to take your home from bland to bold, as well as instantly shifting a room’s dimensions.’
If your home lacks features, colour drenching is a great way to add impact.’
Roby Baldan, interior designer
Colour drenching can work with any colour, but it does require thought and a full-on rather than half-hearted approach. Deep shades of blue or green can work beautifully in kitchens; blood-red can be enlivening in studies, cloakrooms and cosy living spaces — especially those that face north.
For a subtle approach, a dusty pink drench works beautifully in sitting rooms and hallways, and pairs naturally with aged brass or gold fittings.
‘Using the same shade throughout helps flatten less appealing features, like radiators, making them disappear into the background,’ says interior designer Roby Baldan.
‘A single shade makes the perimeter of the room recede and everything else stand out. In period homes, you can use a different tone to highlight architectural elements for a look that’s both modern and dramatic.
‘If your home lacks features, colour drenching is a great way to add impact.’
Work it like a pro
There are a few things to bear in mind to make this look a success.
First, choose the right tone. ‘Bold, saturated jewel greens and teals work very well,’ says Crown’s Justyna Korczynska. ‘Dark greys to near black and deep navy shades are also good choices. But avoid super-brights, as they can be overpowering.’
If you are a little hesitant, start with a small space such as a cloakroom.
‘Select three variations of your chosen colour, ranging from pale to deep,’ advises Roby. ‘Look at the amount of natural light available. Some rooms are suited to pale colours, while others need deep shades.
‘If the room gets plenty of light, select the palest shade as the primary wall colour, choosing darker tones for features. If the room is dark, use the darker shades as the main colour and the palest for the trim.’
How to coordinate
A fashion-forward option is to complement colour drenched walls with furniture for bold cohesion. This is a look that works in kitchens too — deVol’s new Heirloom range looks great in a deep burgundy finish against pale pink walls.
Sometimes, picking out a colour from a key piece of artwork is all it takes to kickstart your scheme.
Furniture, curtains, cushions, lamps, rugs, accessories and even flowers can be used to intensify the look, but stick to no more than a couple of different colours to avoid visual overload.
This is a statement trend that’s all about sticking to your guns — commit to the look fully and you won’t go wrong.
What your home needs is a… festive table runner
Detail: The Nathalie Lete Table Runner costs £58 (anthropologie.com)
Some people refuse to step into Christmas until the last minute. Others deck the halls at the earliest opportunity.
If you prefer the festive middle ground, but still want to bring cheer to your interior before you break out the baubles, your home needs a Christmas table runner.
If you like an understated Yuletide style, the £14.95 Not On The High Street beige linen runner decorated with snowflakes should suit.
H&M Home’s £6 plain red runner would serve as a base for greenery, colourful napkins and candlesticks.
If you want more adornment, options include the £58 Nathalie Lete Table Runner. Wayfair has a £13.99 runner with a grey stag’s head.
But there are also opportunities to go over the top. At Lakeland, you can find a £14.99 gold glitter runner while Marks & Spencer can supply a £25 runner with sequins in red or white, or another, in red and grey and also costing £25, with lights operated by batteries. Ho, ho, ho.