WHAT MY HOME MEANS TO ME Upcycler Max McMurdo
His innovative designs for upcycling furniture won investment from TV’s Dragons plus spots on shows including George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. Here, Max, 41, tells how living on a houseboat makes him happy WHERE I LIVE
My home is a converted shipping container, moored in Bedford Marina. It’s 40ft long and has a kitchen with a pop-up dining table, lounge, bedroom with storage and a bathroom – everything I need. It started off as a holiday home but I loved it so much I live there permanently now.
The houseboat is cosy in winter, and I’m just about to install the log burner I’ve made, which was inspired by a pizza oven. The walls are a grey-blush colour, which has an industrial texture created by mixing woodchip sawdust into the paint. I’ve fallen in love with a dark teal though, so I might be decorating again. Although I have plenty of upcycled pieces in my home, I’ve deliberately mixed them with original designs, as I like to be open to new ideas, materials and textures, and I wanted to show that you don’t need money and space to create good design. My style is mid-century modern, and my pride and joy is an Eames lounge chair and footstool – pieces I’d wanted from a very young age. I also have an upcycled frame with a limitededition print of Tom Hardy in Peaky Blinders, which I think every home should have!
Mum was a dinner lady and Dad worked for a firm of accountants, and they were post-war babies who were keen on DIY and fixing things. If I got a toy car, Dad and I would take it to the garage to make a car park and ramp out of an old pallet. And I was fascinated by the old-style Fairy Liquid bottles. I’d decant the liquid into a mug and use the bottle to make a rocket or car. I’m glad I was born in that era where we had to make our own entertainment.
After studying product design at Bournemouth, I went to Germany to design cars. I didn’t enjoy the work, but I was impressed at how far ahead the country was with recycling. I quit my job, bought an old VW campervan and drove it home to my parents’ driveway in Bedfordshire so I could start my own upcycling company, Reestore. My dad died after I secured £50,000 for my company from my appearance on Dragons’ Den in 2007 and before I started presenting on television, but I think he realised I was going to do well and would be able to look after Mum. Knowing that helped me work through the grief. He was the local mayor so was used to speaking in public, and, in many ways, what I do now isn’t dissimilar.
I got divorced last year and have had to adjust to being on my own. It’s been hard but I’m starting to rediscover who I am. My friends are important to me. At weekends, a group of us take the canoes I have tied to the houseboat and paddle up the river. We stop in the town, take our oars into a restaurant and have some good food before paddling back. Last summer, a friend and I went to Portugal where he taught me to surf. I’m very open to new challenges – I’d like to try thatching next. I’m never happier than when I’m waking up in my houseboat and seeing the sun from the river reflected on the ceiling. When I look outside, I’ll often see kingfishers or herons. It’s wonderful to be surrounded by nature.
FROM TOP Max’s Eames chair; the houseboat interior is an eclectic mix of old, new and recycled; a stove/pizza oven he cleverly designed from a gas canister
FROM TOP The restored shipping container in Bedford Marina; Max mixed woodchip sawdust into the paint to give a textured feel to the walls of each room; he drove a VW campervan back to the UK from Germany to start up his company