Goldfinger Factory, based in Notting Hill’s Trellick Tower, is revolutionising the way we think about interior design. Kat Hopps meets the social enterprise’s founder and CEO, Oliver Waddington-Ball
As interior design showrooms go, this one definitely deviates from the norm. It’s 4pm on a dark, dank weekday and I’m sat sipping coffee inside what looks like a shabby chic interior that wouldn’t look out of place in Shoreditch. In fact, it is Goldfinger Factory, a two storey hub located beneath Hungarian architect Ernö Goldfinger’s brutalist Trellick Tower on Golborne Road, West London. Should you have blithely wandered in, happy to swap the grey concrete and Westway traffic outside for the warm lighting, café setting and assortment of furniture and furnishings inside, you might struggle to work out what exactly it is.
Educating me on what is what is a floppy-haired and relaxed young man, called Oliver Waldington-Ball. He’s the founder of Goldfinger Factory and is leading a revolutionary concept of how we configure interior design businesses. A social enterprise model, Goldfinger Factory describes itself on its website as ‘an upcycling production and learning hub for London’s most deprived residents, that sells desirable home furnishings and fit-outs for London’s trendsetting residents and businesses.’
An exciting, innovative concept, Goldfinger Factory is simultaneously ticking a number of boxes: saving unwanted materials from a landfill graveyard, maximising green credentials through the reuse sector, providing much needed training for deprived community members, work and exposure for skilled designers, artists and craftsmen, and beautifully refurbished bespoke pieces for individuals’ homes and corporate spaces. ‘We’re trying to provide a bespoke luxury service. We want to be a charity shop without the charity shop feel,’ says Oliver. ‘We can custom make anything you want. It’s custom or limited run furniture either starting from something that was a nice piece of furniture that needs work or building it all from scratch. Then we do the building work. It’s like a building services company but at the end of it, you get a report saying these are the people you’ve helped and they’re in work now.’
Since opening its doors in September, the team have been busy training 20 trainees who are being led through entry-level workshops by skilled designers, learning how to making lights, ceramic heaters, create mosaics and even knit and sew. To date they have created fit outs for some high-end customers including Men’s Fashion week, in which they made two reception desks and a main bar in Victoria House – ‘they ended up buying our reception desk off us at the end’ says Oliver, and Westfield Shopping Centre. ‘The head of the PR company that gave us the work is now using us in her own home,’ he adds.
To get a full sense of the experience, I’m taken on a tour of the premises, featuring 100% reclaimed materials, which is divided into sections. Above ground sits healthy, gastro café Redemption, presided over by a bright neon light made Kerry Ryan, who does all Tracey Emin’s signs. Next door, local makers are given shop floor space at a low rent to produce items that can be sold by Goldfinger Factory. They also come along to teach a workshop to the community for free. Downstairs is the sustainable workshop complete with work benches, tools, and big blocks of wood and furniture lining the room.
Donated materials come from all corners: The Conran Shop, the Notting Hill Carnival and local residents included. They are then are graded and what cannot be used ‘finds a suitable home at a local charity,’ Oliver says. ‘All of the surpluses that we generate go into free building works/furniture for other charities.’ Each product or project is bespoke so the price considers the labour involved. What kind of things have been produced to date then? Although Oliver is coy, saying that the full range of products won’t be launched until April, he references Poltrona Frau Italian leather chairs that start off at £2,000 each. They have an Eames chair that has sold for £120 and a teak table for £1,700 – ‘there’s either very affordable pre-processed furniture or designer stuff,’ says Oliver. ‘The team has designed high-end flats in the borough, kitchens and bathrooms, nice living features and lighting. We try to make everything low energy and low carbon.’ Potential customers are advised to come in and have a look around and discuss their ideas. There is the option for architects to be involved on larger scale projects with a guarantee that the job will happen on price and on time.
Having opened in September 2013, Goldfinger Factory is so far doing pretty well. ‘Everyone seems to want us to really succeed,’ Oliver says. ‘Everyone walks in and loves the look of the place.’ How would he describe it? ‘It’s bohemium chic, soft industrial.’ Throughout our interview, many people come and say their hellos to discuss some aspect of the project, swap news, or even return some tools in the case of the new tenant from upstairs. Oliver is obviously a very approachable guy, and his friendly demeanour and patient manner is matched by his passion and vision to create a successful self-sustaining community endeavour. I think it would be hard for anyone not to be carried away by it. Just 28, his roots are in social enterprises, having run a social enterprise consultancy in China during university and he seems unfazed by all the practicalities of the project, although understandably he knows he has a big task ahead of him in trying to reach his year one £90,000 target to secure further funding. ‘Sometimes steam comes out of my ears!’ he admits. ‘I try to surround myself with great people. I genuinely enjoy the feeling that when I go home at the end of the day that I’ve helped people. It’s quite fulfilling.’
Utilising his experience deftly, Oliver seems to understand crucially how to make the proposition attractive to others. ‘If you’re not getting passing footfall, you need to make it a destination so by combining community event space, café, store and then the workshop, all in one unit, we have created something whereby people want to come in and enjoy a cup of coffee and then maybe enquire about the workshops’.
In line with this, Goldfinger Factory has its first Guest Creative Directorship on the horizon. Up first is lighting and furniture designer, Ben Rosseau, whose exhibition ‘Wasted’ featured at the V&A. ‘We’re doing a special range of products with him,’ Ben says. ‘We just sold a light that we developed here called the Trellick lamp which is a piece of the Trellick Tower that was drilled out from our disabled toilet. We sold it at the Houses of Parliament alongside a Banksy. We’re doing a whole range of lights around that.’
Oliver’s ultimate aim would be ‘to put our mark on a building, Goldfinger style and to have someone to buy into the vision. That would be the dream,’ he smiles. For now it’s back to work, raising funds, taking donations and getting the workshops up and ready – all from a site that was once empty for nearly two years. ‘Trellick Tower tells a story that we want to tell,’ he says. ‘They were going to knock it down and then the community got together and got it listed so it’s like the ultimate waste building and basically waste is all about your perception of value. In nature there is no such thing as waste, the value is always reappropriated into another system. And that’s the message that we want to tell. It’s the perfect place for us to be. They were going to throw Trellick Tower away, but they didn’t and now everyone loves it.’ Goldfinger Factory is changing the rules, creating quality products while reducing exclusion and creating opportunity – interior design never looked so good.
For further information, visit goldfingerfactory.com