18th June 2016
Introduction by Laura La Rosa
Cover image by Laura La Rosa
Fifteen minutes out of the New South Wales regional town of Armidale, nested on a sixty-acre property lies the beautifully crafted home and studio to emerging upholsterer and restorer, Lisa Post.
Originally from England, Lisa flew to Australia not long after leaving school in search of beauty and adventure. It was another five years before she would move back to England with her now husband Nathan to study History of Art with honours at University of York before eventually returning to Australia.
We caught up with Lisa recently to talk about her newly founded upholstery practice Cinderella Projects, what it’s been like restoring one of Armidale’s oldest properties (despite being told to knock it down), and the joy of salvaging history and memories for future generations.
What inspired the name behind your upholstery business, Cinderella Projects?
The concept behind the brand was quite organic really. It grew from the renovation of our home in Armidale, “Meraway North”, which was a total transformation project. I remember standing in front of the North veranda when we had stripped out all of the rotting internal boards and flooring. I went outside to take some photos as part of creating a photographic memory of our journey, and as I pulled down my camera I turned to my husband and said “this is a real Cinderella Project”… I guess the name stuck.
Cinderella Projects resonates everything that I am trying to capture within our renovation journey and within my upholstery business; it’s about revealing the beauty and potential beneath the faded, torn and forgotten by restoring history and protecting the essence of memory. The concept behind the brand, I guess, is ultimately one of transformation, one of discovering the bones and fabric of a home or piece of furniture, and then conserving and restoring its memories so that it can be passed onto and loved by the next generation.
Where does your love for restoration stem from?
I have always loved old furniture, old houses, and anything run down that is looking tired and in need of love – I’m quite a sentimental person, I guess. I have been surrounded by renovators since I was young. My dad helped build our first family home and then in my early teens we moved into a very run down 1930s semi-detached house on a huge block in Cheshire, England. The house needed a lot of work; every room had to be stripped and re-decorated. Mum and Dad worked really hard researching and putting back the home’s original character that had been stripped out in the 80s – this meant many trips to reclamation yards, (now one of my favourite places!) I was a teenager, and I don’t really remember being totally blown away at the time, but now looking back, it was an amazing feeling and I think it has definitely inspired the way I look at houses and furniture now – everything has the potential to be beautiful with the right vision, in the right hands.
I actually remember my mum being given my great grandmother’s pair of wing chairs, they were soft and comfortable and covered in a dark green velvet. I can still remember how they looked, where they were worn on the arms, and how it felt to have something of hers in our home. She was a beautiful woman and it felt very special to be the chair’s new custodians. My dad took the chairs to a modern upholsterer so that they would tie in with our new lounge room, but when they came back they didn’t look like the same chairs. They had lost all essence of what they were. The horsehair had been replaced with foam and the springs were too tight. The foam seats were hard and uncomfortable and all elements of their original softness had gone. Whilst they looked beautiful, I felt like no consideration had been given to their story or the memories they held.
To some this emotional connection might seem odd, but this is why I love old furniture and houses; they have an essence, a story, and while I believe they absolutely need to be restored or restyled. I believe we should really try and retain the essence and understand or at least hear their stories to gain an insight into why these pieces might hold so much value or sentiment.
What about the house? People told you to knock it down and start over – What made you defy that and take on such a huge task?
It’s that old chestnut of having someone tell you that you can’t do something, which only makes you more determined… but in all honestly, my feelings towards our home and the emotional response I had when we first saw it gave me the confidence to follow my instincts and defy other people’s judgement. Funnily enough, I’m not sure that I would have had that same confidence before I became a mother, there is something about having your own child that really hones in your personal style and preferences of how you want your own family to live and what you want them to treasure, which ultimately pushed me in to the most true direction of myself.
I also knew that if we weren’t going to save it, it was highly probable that no one else would and that made me incredibly sad. The property ‘Meraway North’ is one of the oldest properties in the area, it was born out of ‘Thalgarah Station’ and created by an English free settler Henry Biggs around 1850. The thought of losing that history devastated me and so we became dedicated to rescuing her. The original homestead burnt down and the cottage that we took on was actually moved here after the gold rush in the early 1900’s from Hillgrove, a gold mining town just outside of Armidale. It was at that time that mining had started to slow down and as people left the town, their houses were moved into other areas for re-purposing the homes and other materials. Unfortunately it’s not a practice we seem to value much anymore.
The house – although small – was a manageable renovation project, and it meant we could grow with it as a family, adding bedrooms when and if we needed to in the future. And the land – although only 60 acres – meant we could start our other dream of running our own small farm with cattle, chickens and a veggie patch. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I wanted to carve out our own aesthetic and I wanted to know every corner of our home and feel that sense of achievement that comes from getting your hands dirty.
What’s next for you and Cinderella Projects?
As we speak, plans are being drawn up and signed off for my new studio – I can’t wait. For the first time I will have my own creative space to work in. It will be wonderful to welcome clients into my own space that has been specifically crafted for my upholstery business. Construction is only a couple of months away now. I’m also working on some soft furnishings that can be sold on my website which is also in progress.
As a family we are getting ready to welcome baby number 2 any day now and our back veranda is finally being given a new lease of life; it’s the last section of the house to get done and it feels so good to have finally started it. It will give us a dining room and a much needed 3rd bedroom.
Later, once Cinderella Projects has been bubbling away for a while, I hope to run upholstery and soft furnishing workshops and take on a few more house renovation projects in town. Watch this space.