What do Nicole Kidman and a 1940s chest of drawers have in common? They’ve both been beautified at the hands of Zoe Pocock, a former celebrity nail technician who now runs Brockley-based furniture upcyclers Muck N Brass.
Words: Russell Higham
Lead image: Zoe Pocock photographed by Russell Sachs
Through the same process that she used to wrap the nails of Hollywood A-lister clients such as Angelina Jolie and Barbra Streisand, Zoe Pocock is turning south London’s old and unloved furniture into bold and colourful pieces of functional art.
Pocock takes G-Plan and other vintage solid wood furniture, professionally restores it and then applies designer wallpapers, vintage posters – in fact, anything that can be printed on paper – plus a hard-wearing, clear varnish top-coat to create unique, distinctive statement pieces that start at £150 for a three-drawer chest.
‘We’re the Topshop of the furniture world – our stuff is funky, functional and affordable,’ says the 43-year-old, who started the business four years ago. In her previous career as a manicurist to the rich and famous, she came up with the then-unknown idea of applying a printed wrap that didn’t require heat to bond it to the fingernail, making it ideal for fashion shows and magazine shoots where models don’t have time to literally watch paint dry.
Flustered by her attempts to find a TV cabinet that wasn’t, in her own words, ‘either flashy or trashy’, she saw a gap in the market for fashionable, well-made home furnishings that don’t cost the earth. She applied the nail wrap principle to vintage furniture, giving it a new lease of life.
‘It’s like doing nails, but with a bigger brush!’ Pocock jokes. ‘There’s all this beautiful, well made, solid wood furniture from the 40s and 50s lying around, but it looks old fashioned and nobody wants it in their homes any more.
Your surroundings affect your mood and your life. Having good, stylish furniture in your home can really make a difference to how you feel
‘So it’s not expensive yet it’s far better than anything you can buy flat-pack and has still probably got another 50 years of life in it. And if your taste changes, you can bring it back and we will apply a new print to the front that fits with your new style so you can keep it practically forever.’
As well as selling their own off-the-shelf items from used furniture that they have sourced themselves, Muck N Brass also take commissions to create bespoke work from customers’ own pieces, often inherited family heirlooms that don’t fit with a new decor.
Most of her customers are in London, but she will deliver anywhere in the country for £30, often going along in the van herself to see the look of satisfaction in her clients’ eyes as they take possession of their home’s new talking point.
‘Your surroundings affect your mood and your life. Having good, stylish furniture in your home can really make a difference to how you feel about yourself.’
Pocock has a keen eye for good design and loves mooching around south east London in search of inspiration. That now-ubiquitous pink flamingo print that you’ve seen everywhere (even on the set of EastEnders recently) was actually rediscovered by Pocock in the bargain bin of a wallpaper shop three years ago. It has now become the signature style that has made Muck N Brass famous and earned her the respect of even the fashion world crowd which she left behind.
That now-ubiquitous pink flamingo print that you’ve seen everywhere was actually rediscovered by Pocock in the bargain bin of a wallpaper shop
‘Matthew Williamson is a customer,’ she smiles. She is just about to launch her own range of wallpaper featuring an animal print she designed herself called Chimiracle which, she claims, ‘you can slap on your sideboard or hang on your bedroom wall’.
For those wanting to learn the art of funky furniture transformation, Muck N Brass run a one-day up-cycling school every other Saturday. ‘We cover everything, from prep to painting, how to work out your design, how to find and buy the right furniture, even how to use social media if you want to start your own business.’
Pocock herself has 13,000 Instagram followers and regularly takes sales enquiries and orders via the app. ‘It’s £120 for the day and we supply a piece for you to work on. Nobody leaves without a big smile on their face and a good table under their arm!’
Muck N Brass Boutique, 72 Brockley Rise SE23 1LN (Studios & Upcycling School, 2a Codrington Hill SE23 1LW); 07806 335 622; mucknbrass.com