Six Questions For Max McMurdo
So let me start by saying that I am super excited about this blog post today. Unless you've been living in Siberia with no television and no interest in design whatsoever, you will know immediately that Max McMurdo is the coolest thing to hit our screens in a while. As a designer, upcycler, entrepreneur and TV presenter, Max totally sums up the whole recycling ethos and presents it in a way that makes you feel super inspired. He takes junk and cast offs and gives them a new lease of life by transforming them into new and useful items. As someone who is passionate about the upcycling process and the idea of giving it back, he's definitely the man for me.
Max started his career designing cars in Cologne, but soon noticed that Germany was far better at reuse and recycling than we were here in Britain. He returned to the UK intent on creating a business which utilised waste destined for landfill and transformed it into high end furniture. Max first appeared on our screens in 2007 when he entered the Dragons Den with his company, Reestore, and his products, most notably a carrier bag recycling bin. He left the den with £50k in backing and before long, he was appearing on our screens with George Clarke on Amazing Spaces. He was renowned for building his own houseboat out of a shipping container, complete with bi fold doors, solar panels and a moss roof. Too cool.
Kirstie Allsopp soon spotted Max and whipped him away to work alongside her in Fill Your House For Free, dubbing him 'The Furniture Hacker' due to his amazing ability to make something out of nothing. Max has continued on the show, now headed up by Gok Wan, and has also written a book, Upcycling, which is full of ideas and projects and gives an insight into Max's ethos.
His company, Reestore, produces fabulous pieces by hand in their Bedfordshire studio. Max has previously been commissioned to produce pieces for companies such as Marks & Spencer, for whom he created branded trolley chairs and The Body Shop who commissioned a bath chair called Anita after their inspirational founder.
Max now divides his time between managing Reestore, designing loads of fantastic products, television presenting and sipping lattes in his shipping container office.
How did you start your career in design?
As a child, I loved the way beautiful objects made me feel and was always taking things apart to work out how they were made. I naturally then studied product design at University and became a car designer which was my dream job! After a couple of years, I became frustrated at the lack of environmental consideration in the automotive world so purchased a VW camper van, quit my job and apartment in Cologne then travelled home to my parents house in Bedfordshire to set up my own company designing and making things from junk!
How would you describe your own personal style?
I like to think of my designs as thought provoking yet functional. I understand that not everyone wants a trolley chair in their lounge or to live in a metal container home, but hopefully people are inspired by my designs and rethink what they do with their waste.
How does your design process work? What makes you choose a certain object to work with?
I don't really have a definitive design process. Sometimes the material presents itself first and the design works around it. Other times we are asked to design a certain product and we choose the materials to suit. Recently, however, we are designing projects based around inspiring others so the tools, skill level and duration of build come first!
What is your top design tip?
I see a lot of new designers creating beautiful concepts but without any understanding of how materials can be joined. A knowledge of manufacturing is a must for me. Also, utilise the latest products and materials. Glues have improved massively over the years and we now have amazing products like Sugru that stick materials in a way that wasn't possible before. Chalk paint is also a revolutionary product that allows you to paint on to almost any surface without too much preparation - we love Frenchic as it's also eco friendly :)
What would you say was your greatest achievement?
Last year I set about building my own house from junk. I upcycled an entire 40ft shipping container and turned it into a floating home containing scaffold board floors, pipework shelving, sweet jar lamps and a pallet wood wall! It was an incredibly scary and stressful project but I now don't have a mortgage and own my own home outright :)
Describe your ideal day.
I'm not really into fancy expensive holidays. My favourite place is actually my workshop, a nice summers evening, music on, coffee brewing and playing with new concepts (although I am a very happy bunny when I’m in my kilt watching Scotland play rugby!).