The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Property -

Then some­thing won­der­ful hap­pened: one of Dave’s care work­ers, Nathan Wal­lis, found a dis­carded cup­board, miss­ing its door, dur­ing a clear-out of the cen­tre’s green­house. Hav­ing trained as a join­er­cab­i­net­maker, Nathan asked some of the cen­tre’s users to help him fash­ion a door for it us­ing an old wooden chop­ping board. “One of the other mem­bers of staff saw it and promptly bought it,” says Nathan. “It was then that I re­alised we could turn the craft ac­tiv­i­ties into some­thing both re­ward­ing and use­ful.” Now, the day cen­tre users are work­ing flat-out on up­cy­cling old, bat­tered fur­ni­ture: sand­ing, paint­ing, wax­ing and re­fresh­ing cab­i­net doors with mir­rors or chicken wire. The look is shabby chic, with the em­pha­sis on chic. The wood is painted an el­e­gant French grey or pale wheat, or is left nat­u­ral. From sell­ing the odd piece to rel­a­tives or other care work­ers, the project has now pro­gressed to tak­ing com­mis­sions from pubs or pri­vate clients and, with the help of Oxfordshire County Coun­cil, has moved to larger premises on the out­skirts of Ban­bury. For Dave, the project has trans­formed his life. Ev­ery morn­ing he is col­lected from his day cen­tre to spend hours lov­ingly coax­ing tired old pieces, bound for the bon­fire or land­fill, back to life. “It’s so much more worth­while than what I was do­ing be­fore,” he says. “I re­ally look for­ward to com­ing here.” His pa­tience and thor­ough­ness mean even a com­plex spi­ralled jar­dinière emerges tri­umphant from its ugly coats of paint. It’s not en­tirely clear whether it is the fur­ni­ture or the people who re­store it who are get­ting their “Sec­ond Time Around” – the project’s name – but, ei­ther way, there are plenty of sec­ond chances on of­fer here. Even the vol­un­teers who help out are get­ting them. Young John Tysoe was all set for a ca­reer in the Royal Marines when he suf­fered a bleed on his brain while out run­ning, aged just 21. The dam­age left him un­able to find a job, so he worked as a pain­ter and dec­o­ra­tor un­til his mother heard about the char­ity and he of­fered to vol­un­teer a day a week. “I was al­ways in­ter­ested in antiques and old fur­ni­ture,” he says. “I look at pieces made more than a hun­dred years ago and won­der what their story might be, who ate at that ta­ble, who sat on that chair. We have enor­mous fun here.” Al­though Oxfordshire County Coun­cil pays the su­per­vi­sory Show­case Pretty glass­fronted art deco cab­i­net, £185 For a touch of glam­our White French wardrobe with mir­rored door, £500 Visit sec­ond timearound char­i­ care work­ers’ wages, the project must clear £18,000 a year or more for rent and other costs. “We get a lot of do­nated paint, and wood of­f­cuts from a lo­cal sawmill, but we need to keep sell­ing our fur­ni­ture so we can keep go­ing,” Nathan tells me. It doesn’t sound as if they will be short of helpers any time soon, though. “There are many more po­ten­tial users of the project,” says Nathan. “But at the mo­ment our places are full up.”

Trea­sures: lov­ingly re­vived by day cen­tre users, the ren­o­vated pieces have been sold through­out the com­mu­nity

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