2009-07-27 Open-plan living on a budget
The furniture's either out of a skip or nailed together bits of wood, the space is unremittingly industrial: welcome to open-plan living at its most extreme
It’s amazing what you find in a nearby skip. Photograph: Luc Roymans
There is stylish decluttered living, and there is photographer Leo Ribbens's Antwerp warehouse. With its prison-issue beds, nailed-together sofa and a bath that resembles an agricultural feeding trough, it is a brutally industrial space – all bare concrete, exposed brick and raw wood. "I like functional materials," Ribbens says. "But my home never feels cold." His house is an example of recycled living at its most extreme: he rummages in skips, begs timber merchants for their leftovers and scours demolition sites. "It's a game for me to spend as little as I can."
The floor-to-ceiling wardrobes are made from industrial pallets nailed on to a plywood frame and decorated with a stencil borrowed from a shipping company. "I love lying here looking at all the destinations – Sri Lanka, Russia, the Commission of Electrical Goods in Iraq," Ribbens says. "It looks more like a wall than a wardrobe." The single guest bed was from a Salvation Army hostel that closed down, and the blanket is vintage 50s from the same sale.
Do it yourself... To find old industrial pallets, ask at local builders' merchants (they may be prepared to part with damaged ones); for reconditioned used pallets, try UK Industrial Pallets (ukindustrialpallets.co.uk, 01707 270440).
The distressed, painted wood of the cabinet doors was once a wall in a neighbour's garage. Ribbens let the size of the wood dictate the cupboards' shape, rather than the other way round. He made a plywood frame for the found wood, and cleaned it with soap and water. Uniform tones and neat lines stop the cabinets looking too messy, and the rest of the room is spare save for a wall display of kitsch religious icons found in flea markets.
Do it yourself... Don't be shy – if a neighbour is having work done, ask the builders if you can have scrap pieces that catch your eye. They'll usually be happy to oblige because it saves them having to dispose of them elsewhere. Lassco (lassco.co.uk) and IBS Reclaim (ibsreclaim.co.uk) sell reclaimed wood and other building materials.
"The sofa cost me around ¤6," Ribbens says. He made it using wooden floorboards found in a skip. "If I decide tomorrow that it's too wide, I'll just take my chainsaw to it." The cushions are made from empty rice sacks from China and India that Ribbens picked up at flea markets and filled with Ikea cushions. The coffee table is reclaimed pallets and the rug a piece of canvas used by the military to drape over vehicles in war zones.
Do it yourself... Make your own sack cushions: pop down to your local independent store or coffee shop and ask if you can relieve them of their empties. Join your local Freecycle network (freecycle.org) to tap into a great source of free furniture and reclaimed materials.
With its austere, cold war colour scheme, the bathroom resembles a submarine, but is actually inspired by a 50s Citroën van, Ribbens says. The units are coated in a green/grey polyester resin.