Xylo – Furniture With A Story

24th February 2014

Today’s post is so much more than just good-looking decor (sounds like something Derek Zoolander would say…) It’s a post full of heart, giving you a sense that home is not just where you hang your hat at the end of the day, it can also be where you work. It’s about second chances, being given a chance to shine by someone who is willing to let you try – not just the furniture, but those that transform them.

Furniture designer-maker Preme Dhillon got in touch on Twitter recently to introduce me to an amazing organisation she runs, Xylo Furniture, based in Brentford, West London, which nurtures and trains those struggling to find employment to breathe new life into old and pre-loved furniture…


“The idea of Xylo was birthed out of a social enterprise in West London that sells second hand furniture as a means to providing work experience to long-term unemployed adults. When the idea was being developed in early 2013 I was working as a furniture maker in Brooklyn, New York but moved back to London last summer to put the vision of Xylo into action. At Xylo we work with a group of trainees who are often marginalized adults, teaching woodwork and restoration through each piece of furniture we create.


What do you love about what you do?

My favourite part of managing Xylo is working alongside the Xylo Trainees and seeing them take such delight in their work as they see the piece transform. We make sure that each trainee works on the same piece from beginning to end so that they feel a sense of accomplishment when they look upon what they have created. I think that the process of working at something with your hands is so encouraging, whether you are a naturally creative person or not, seeing a tangible change that you have created builds confidence. This is why the Xylo scheme is so beneficial to those who join the team. Also, each Xylo trainee has one of their own creations named after them so that they have something with their name on to be proud of!

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What does a piece of furniture need to have to be ‘Xylo’d’?

Our criteria for selecting furniture is that the pieces have been finely crafted, using techniques and processes that are now close to becoming a lost art. We work on pieces that have stood the test of time and have been loved for generations, we believe that these pieces should continue to be enjoyed. Xylo products often show signs of traditional woodwork such as hand-cut dovetails, these details are rarely found in contemporary furniture and we want to celebrate these skills and to draw attention to the craftsmanship. Traditional craftsmanship is the thread that runs throughout the Xylo product range.


We also like to know how each piece was made and where it’s lived. We love learning about each items unique heritage and building it into the products story. When we sell an item we write the customer a letter describing their pieces story including where it can from, how it was made and which trainee has worked on it. Our tagline is ‘furniture with a story’ and we want our customers to engage with the unique story of their Xylo piece.


Talk us through the process from sourcing to getting ready to sell a piece of furniture…

Once we have chosen a piece we begin generating ideas for how we can enhance that item and build on its best qualities. We look at its unique features; for example ‘Is there a detailed carving to highlight and emphasize’. When designing a Xylo piece we also consider the history of the item and the era its from. If it’s a 1950s item we’ll play on the retro theme and to make it a statement piece iconic of that particular era. Once we have chosen a design that brings out the best in the original piece, we begin adapting it for the modern home and a member of the Xylo team will set to work. The Xylo trainee will sand, prime, paint and varnish each item and polish all of the original hardware such as handles and drawer pulls. We use Farrow & Ball paints because of their range of colours and finishes. What we love about Farrow & Ball is that they share our values; they are passionate about using age-old methods to produce products that will stand the test of time. All of our products reflect this ethos!


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Throughout the restoration process we share updates of the progress through twitter and instagram so that our followers can see the items take shape. Once its complete we give the piece a name, write its story and publish it on the Xylo online shop.

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I must admit, I’ve cut corners and been a little spray happy with Plastikote in the past, so what advice could you give me if I wanted to restore a piece of furniture properly?

Before you set to work on an old item of furniture inspect it thoroughly. At first glance it may look in good condition but sometimes the wood may have split over time and it will take a lot of work to repair. My other piece of advice would be to enjoy the process of restoring a piece of furniture. It may be time consuming but if you relish each stage; sanding, priming, painting etc. you’ll be delighted with seeing the fruits of your labour sat in your home.”

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Reading about the Xylo trainees before they found the scheme and the positive affect it’s had on their lives since brings home how important it is for all of us to feel included and valued. You can clearly see that in their work too. It’s hard to pick a favourite, don’t you think? We have a few large pieces in our home that worked so well in our old house (it was Edwardian) but in the mid-century home we’re in now…well, they don’t entirely fit but I can’t part from them either. I think it’s time to give them an update!

Xylo is offering a 10% discount on your Xylo order with the code XyloCurate&Display. Take a look in the shop and pick out something you love. 

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Think this is a fabulous idea to help people back into work, but also to regain a purpose and fulfilment in their lives. They are creating something beautiful and should be justly proud if their talents and achievements.