I recently sat down with Adam Fullerton of Toronto's Adam Fullerton Creative Design and Upcycling, a designer I profiled on Houseporn.ca last March. Fullerton's design philosophy is simple – harvest wasted materials, and once he’s done with them, they become objects of curiosity, style and functionality. Here’s an inside look at his background and process.
Charmaine Cheng (CC): Hi Adam, let’s jump right into it. What’s your background, and what inspired you to get into the interiors industry?
Adam Fullerton (AF): I’m originally from West Essex, England; I spent some time in South America, and I’ve lived in Australia and New Zealand for two years each. Now I live and work in Toronto.
AF: Everywhere I’ve been plays a part in my design philosophy – from “kiwi ingenuity”, where the mindset is to make use of what’s there, to my own background coming out of school working in classic car restorations, to living and learning how to live a more sustainable life in South America. Traveling through Brazil, to the Amazon, then to Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia; I saw firsthand that the locals truly have to rely on making use of what’s available – where people move out of necessity, as opposed to luxury.
Barn Board Composite Coffee Table
CC: What’s one project you’re working on right now in Canada that excites you?
AF: I’m working on a series of coffee tables that was really borne of its environment. I work in a workshop where most of the space is used for woodworking, and then welding in the back. There’s always so much sawdust in the space, and I’d always been wanting to use it. I use the sawdust and mix it with resin, and this form the table top. You take the mixture and put them in forms, and then they’re left to harden anywhere from overnight to a few days. Once the forms come off, you get a sort of frosted satin finish on the table surface.
Barn Board Composite Coffee Table
CC: How do you know what ratio to mix the sawdust and resin?
AF: (Laughs.) This is the hardest part. In the beginning it was a series of trial and error, but once you’ve got it figured out, you’ve basically got the recipe to poor man’s marble.
Wood Like a Seat? V2
CC: What trends or changes do you see coming in your industry which you like or don’t like?
AF: I’m pretty happy with what I’m seeing – I think mid-century modern has a pretty solid foothold in the market, and I really do love that style. It’s obviously not a fad, as it’s, well, mid-century.
Wood Like a Seat? V2
AF: I get IKEA, and I understand how it’s gotten so large. The issue I face with that sort of thing, though, is that it’s conditioned the pricing of stuff in people’s minds – for example, IKEA could make a shelf and sell it for $59, but if I were to make something similar, people would say to me, “You want $300-$400 for something I could get at IKEA for under $60?” The fact of the matter is that I’m the little guy and IKEA and the like are big box retailers, and I just can’t afford to operate using the same business model. It would be like comparing apples to oranges.
Fire Board Chair
AF: I do have to say though, that bespoke and high-street pieces are on the up, especially in recent years, and big stores are working more and more with local artists. This kind of collaboration is really instrumental in getting locally crafted furniture and art into the homes in our community. My grandmother passed on recently, and taking a look at her furniture was really amazing – everything was handmade, and dates were written in pen on the bottom. We’re moving towards a more collaborative approach to design and furniture, so hopefully instances like these won’t just be relegated to the past.
Buckle-Up Lounge Chair
CC: How do you find your creative inspiration?
AF: I always write things down. Even when I’m cycling through the city, if an idea comes to me, I have to stop and write it down. Sometimes, I find an awesome part, and that becomes the inspiration to, and foundation of, a new piece. Traveling is a big source of inspiration – seeing different techniques and ways of using a material.
Contemporary Inner-Tube Chair
AF: In Brazil, their bus seats have a basic metal frame, and woven cords for seats. This was the inspiration for my bike inner tube seats, a modernist style chair based on the Brazilian bus seats themselves.
Balanced Floor Light (All images above courtesy of Adam Fullerton Designs)
AF: Treasure can be found in the big bins at job sites. Contractors can’t possibly keep all the bits of waste, so I usually trade or swap metal I have for something I can use in my furniture. I’ve been working in heritage masonry for about a year, and some really interesting bits can be salvaged from these jobsites, as well as scrap metal. It’s about keeping your eyes and ears open, and getting creative with what’s available to you.
Uber – San Francisco; Vertical Tube Light by Castor (Image courtesy of Castor)
CC: What is your favourite example of Canadian houseporn?
AF: There’s Castor, which went from pretty basic lights, to becoming a big design firm, doing lights for Uber, Starbucks, and Nike all over North America. They’ve got pieces in Toronto, Montreal, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco – I could keep going.
Recycled Tube Light by Castor (Image courtesy of Castor)
AF: There’s one fixture of theirs in particular that I love, which essentially is a bunch of expired fluorescent bulbs strung together, which then acts as a diffuser for the LED light bulbs that shine out from behind it. They took fluorescent lights – which, heinous, by the way; and made it into a funky fixture. Game-changer.
In recent years, the design community has started to show a greater interest in sustainability and the responsible stewardship of our planet. It's never an easy task to take ownership of the waste we produce, so it's always impressive to discover artists and designers who are proactively taking a step forward and incorporating salvaged, vintage and reclaimed materials into their craft such as PEI's Birdmouse and Ontario artist Craig Forget; as well as those who design with an emphasis on environmentally conscious, locally produced goods, like this Vancouver kitchen. To learn more about upcycling and the beautiful products that can come out of scrap materials, visit my previous showcase of Adam's work, and his website, Adam Fullerton Designs.
Researched and Written by Charmaine Cheng, Architectural Technology, Centennial College