Max McMurdo is a designer, TV presenter and upcycling expert.Not only does he design and sell things like chairs made out of shopping trollies but he also upcycled his entire home – a shipping container that floats on water. The bookcase is made from an old ladder, a table from a wash drum and lampshades from jelly moulds – and, he says, there is more to come, reports Metro.
Where do you live and how important is having an eco home to you?
I live in a floating shipping container. I converted it in 2016 as I was determined to build a floating home that was affordable and sustainable. It took six months to convert and has become my little slice of heaven.
Based in Bedfordshire miles from any coastline, it is really important for me to be close to water. Since moving onto the water I have taken up paddle boarding, which in turn led to SUP [stand-up paddle] surfing and recently I have even started learning to surf.
It is fair to say my home has changed my life. There is nothing quite like waking up to the sound of wildlife and watching the light reflecting off the water onto my ceiling. A wall of bifolding glass doors keep me linked to nature and provide huge solar gain.
You are known for your upcycling, what have you upcycled in your home?
My entire home is upcycled, from the actual container itself to the scaffold board flooring, pallet wood wall and copper pipework. My bookcase is an old ladder, lampshades are jelly moulds, a table made from a wash drum and a unit made from an old suitcase. I also only have the one tap, that pivots between the kitchen and bathroom. Sustainability isn’t just about upcycling it’s also about reducing the items we need and consume.
How important is upcycling to being more eco-friendly and what are the limits?
Let’s be honest, some environmental movements are wonderful but can be a little dull. Upcycling however is fun, educational and saves not only the planet but your pocket, too. The emphasis for my business initially was always simply about the green benefits – but more recently I’ve realised that a lot of people love learning new skills, working with friends and family, getting creative and being proud of their creations, too.
Do you think people will continue to be eco at home or will it be a fad for some?
The planet is struggling. We all know that being eco-friendly isn’t a fad that will pass, it’s an important way of life and for many a mindset change. It’s easier and more affordable than ever to reduce your impact on the planet with advances in technology such as LEDs, lithium batteries, electric cars, better insulation, composting and rainwater harvesting – to name but a few.
Where are the strangest places you have found something to upcycle?
When I first started upcycling I spent a lot of time in scrap yards and antique shops. However access to scrap yards is now limited and antique shop prices have escalated so I had to start thinking differently. I’ve found lots of gems at the local tip and bought the container for my house from an industrial estate in Essex. Some of the best items I have found are in skips, typically on industrial estates where businesses are paying to dispose of an item that is an upcycler’s dream.
What’s the most interesting upcycling job you’ve done?
In the pandemic I decided to buy an old ambulance and upcycle it into a camper van. Needless to say it was a lot more work than anticipated, especially as I wanted it to be as sustainable as possible. Solar feeds a large lithium battery, which powers an electric hot water shower, induction hobs, an infrared heated ceiling and a small bioethanol fire. Initially I thought it may just be good fun but since converting the van it’s been to Scotland, Wales, Devon and Cornwall and has changed the way I see and enjoy exploring the beautiful UK.
What tips do you have for starting upcycling at home?
Keep it simple. I love a lovely old dining chair, they are readily available in charity shops and incredibly affordable once they are unloved. Strip off the fabric, sand back the wood, give it a lick of paint, staple on fire- retardant fabric and watch proudly as your dinner guests admire your unique and bespoke designer chair.
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