I’m pretty excited, because this blog post is my 50th and today it’s exactly a year since the blog was created. It’s a small (big) anniversary for me and I’m happy to celebrate it with a new category of posts – INTERVIEWS. I’m thrilled that I will be able to present to you the silhouettes of craftsmen, artisans and manufacturers who have been featured in my previous blog posts.
Dora Botta is a co-founder and marketing specialist at Modoo Home – a company which upcycles armchairs. I featured their works in my post Why I like DIY . I know you liked it, so I’ve decided to find out more about the company and Dora – who’s been ultra helpful to me and kind enough to answer my questions, although she’s just given birth to her first child.
Barbara: Dora, congratulations! How is your lovely son?
Dora: He is doing really well. Only 7 weeks old but he is already a little character. He has the biggest smile on his face when he hears our voices and always looks around and is very interested in the world. As babies do, he has a good lung capacity which he is happy to show us sometimes but I started to recognise different types of cries – when he is hungry, tired or just needs a cuddle. My partner and I can’t be happier to have him in our lives. And I love being a mum. Not just “a mum” but a mum to him. I feel really lucky and blessed. As they say, a baby changes everything and that is certainly true but I feel that in our lives he changed everything for the better.
B: Is it difficult for you to combine motherhood with creative work at Modoo Home?
D: It is hard but you have to think creatively about it. I know he will sleep 16 hours a day so I have to make sure I sleep at least 7, have some time for my partner and the house. The rest can be allocated to emails, research, skype calls with my business partner. I try to stay in at the moment all the time, when I am with my son and switch everything else off and nothing else matters. Then when I am working on Modoo I am in the zone of getting things done as quickly and professionally as possible. I was always a planner and had an agenda of the day but since my son arrived I have to be creative about this agenda and not put time to it. Just to go with the flow. If he only naps for an hour I will be on emails for 45 minutes. If it takes 2 hours for him to fall asleep – I will be singing lullabies for 2.
B: „A new life” has special significance in the context of what you do at Modoo Home. You and your business partners seem to put a lot of personal touch and philosophy in your business. Has it always been like that in your case? Did you like refubrishing, restoring and redecorating when you were a teenager, for example?
D: We wanted to create a business which we can put our personality through a bit and apart from restoring furniture be close to our customers, learn about the chair and the area they came from. We don’t want be just a button the customer click and that way we know to post the next chair. It was always the idea to put face and story behind our business. Just from my personal experience If I buy something unique and handmade I love knowing where it came from, what the idea behind it was , what motivated the seller to create something like that. In terms of restoring and creating the business based on that, Moni has always been a big fan of finding something old and turning it into a part of her interior project. This year she upcycled a chair for her dentist interior project for the waiting room. I always loved hanging out in the shed with my dad when I was growing up and he loved finding old pieces and see their potential for the house project he worked on.
B: How long does it take to restore and reupholster a chair?
D: Usually we make a decision on which chairs to take based on what is available. We are always in a look out for something unique. Ideally, we would love to take all of them to save them being sent to landfill sites but at the moment our storage space is limited so we have to pick and choose. Moni is the creative out of the two of us and she is the one coming up with the colour scheme and design when she sees a new piece. The chairs then go to our upholsterer and depending on the complexity of the chair it can take 1-3 days to finish it. It sounds quick but we also have fabric to arrive, chair to be transported from A to B etc. But we do the best we can to move ahead quickly and restore more and more chairs.
B: Your fabrics and design you choose are wonderful. How do you select them?
D: When we started we decided to work only with quality and durable fabrics which not only look good but last long. Upcycling is recycling and saving the environment. We didn’t want to use a fabric which gets torn, fades quickly or can’t be cleaned. Moni has used Aquaclean fabrics before while working on various interior project so we had the obvious choice to go with them. This brand has a huge variety of colour and style so we can always find something which would fit the current chairs but still trendy and stylish.
B: Can you tell us more about the Aquaclean technology?
D: Aquaclean technology is a revolutionary fabric treatment that allows you to clean stains using water only. This provides our customer with simple fabric maintenance in the minimum amount of time and it lasts longer than any other fabric used. I had a little accident on it and it came out right away and no stain left. So – personally tested.
B: You’ve got great reviews from happy customers. Where do your chairs find new homes?
D: We have our own website but also have an online store on Etsy and Not On The High Street. These two amazing platforms help buyers to find us. Building a brand from scratch is not simple especially if you don’t have a big bag of money for marketing. We are really lucky to be able to sell via them and have people coming to us after finding our products. We are active on social media as we understand that having a presence on them nowadays is essential. Our main hope is that our lovely buyers will spread the word about us to their friends and family and that this way people will find us. Although it won’t change later, at the moment this is why we are putting extra effort into customer care and making sure all our buyers are happy.
B: Why do your armchairs have only female names?
D: A very good question. I have to think about this for a sec but I think it is just like naming my son when I was pregnant and we didn’t know what we would have. I had 30-40 girls names to choose from and about 2 boys names. After finding out that he will be a Mr… I have to say choosing the name was a bit of a struggle and for the first 3 days my son didn’t have a name as we were still thinking about it. I think for me naming girls perhaps comes easier for some reason, so everytime a new chair is done and Moni uploads the new photos a female name comes to my mind. There is something about these chairs. They are all screaming at me: “We are ladies! And look at us! We have a lovely new outfit”.
B: If you were to ascribe three features to your brand, Modoo Home, what would they be?
D: Unique, environmentally friendly, high-quality.
B: Would you like Modoo Home to be your core business (as you’re working also full-time elsewhere)?
D: Although I do love my daytime job, the people I work with, the projects I have been working on – I can see myself going back after maternity leave and make the most of it – but all in all I would love to work solely for Modoo. It would be a dream coming true. Restoring more chairs, doing what you love, knowing that we created something from nothing, having flexible work-life balance is something I would love to do. Especially since I have a son. Spending more time with him while working from home is my ultimate goal. I love working for Modoo and see different chairs and what we can make out of them. Knowing that once they reach their new home they will be again a part of someone’s life – some grandpa might be reading a story to their grandchildren, it will be part of a housewarming party and have some wine spilled on it (of course it will come out), someone will be reading their favourite book while sitting in it. It is fantastic to imagine that, especially after knowing where the chair came from and what its sad destiny was.
B: If you were to name a chair “DORA” – what colours and style would it have and why?
D: It would be a mid-century cosy, comfortable but stylish chair either cream or light turquoise. It would be ideal to have that chair in a busy family home with kids running around or in a hidden but popular cafe so loads of interesting and different people would make use of it.
B: Do you think that (generally speaking) the furniture craft was better in the past than it is today? What are the trends now?
D: I don’t think they were better than today. Nowadays there are some amazing furniture designers out there with unique and fantastic style and home owners have such a huge variety of styles to choose from. They have an easy option to type in a keyword in the search bar and get flooded with options and styles in different price range. Today we are living in the world where individualism is thriving and we all want to be a bit different and unique – also in our home interiors. The furniture industry is catering for that. You can find whatever your heart desires – old trends are being recreated, restored or you can even find companies which allow you to create your own. Whereas before the choices were limited, we couldn’t browse the Internet and the trends were more significant for a specific area. We are a huge fans of Hans Wegner and his vision when it comes to furniture design. You can see his style, curves, frame appearing nowadays in new furniture, so generally speaking modern and old gets mixed these days. Not only within a living room, but in one armchair even. A retro style chair gets a new cover and you already have an old and modern mixture which I think is one of the biggest trends of today.
B: What are your business plans for the nearest future?
D: Rescuing and restoring more chairs that is our main goal. We would really love to have a pop up shop for Christmas this year but if that doesn’t happen, next year is all ours to plan opening a store in London. We know that we need to move with baby steps having second jobs, a family and a small start up budget but we are hopeful and pushing ahead as much as we can. We truly believe in what we do and that, I hope, is our key to success. We have so many plans. Almost every day we find something new we want to get our teeth into while searching all the time, thinking that we should definitely do this but then realising that we should take it easy. We will get there soon and we should focus on one thing at the time. The amazing feedbacks we get from our customers are the ones really helping shooting for the stars. We just have to remind ouselves that if something doesn’t happen today, it will happen tomorrow. Just keep going.
B: Thank you so much, Dora. Good luck with everything!
D: Thank you!