The sea of pavement in front of Westbourne Park underground station is a dull grey; the sky, peppered with mist and threatening rain, a grey haze. Down the road, the Regents Canal is mottled flecks of silver. There are grey faces, grey hoodies. Tiny specks of colour—laundry hung on balconies to dry—punctuate a looming grey hulk of concrete. This is Trellick Tower.
As I turn the corner, a warm glow escapes from the ground floor. Goldfinger Factory’s shop front is filled with distressed wooden furniture in brightly painted colours; the smell of coffee and the sound of conversation waft out from its café. True to its name, it glitters.
Named after architect Ernö Goldfinger, who built Trellick Tower in the 1970s to fulfil a utopian vision, Goldfinger Factory takes plenty of inspiration from its brutalist home. A creative community hub, it combines retail, furniture making and a training programme to help local artisans make a living, and give a second life to reclaimed materials.
Down a flight of stairs is a workshop filled with power tools, plywood and paint. Here, the factory offers designers and craftspeople the space to build bespoke furniture and interiors for trendsetting Londoners. Rather than pay rent, the makers donate their time—one day a week—to training a new generation of artisans and providing free building services to the local community, one of London’s most deprived.
In the room next door, Jake, a paid trainee, tells me about the table he’s building from offcuts. The ‘upcycling academy’ trains local unemployed youth in carpentry, metalworking, cabinet-making, furniture restoration, lighting, tiling and decorating, giving them valuable employment skills and, more importantly, confidence.
Back up on the ground floor, I wander through the showroom. It’s a bohemian-chic treasure trove of coffee tables, chairs, benches and sideboards created one story below. Most items are reclaimed, restored and upcycled, saving useful materials otherwise destined for landfill—among them, elements of the American Embassy, Science Museum, Tower Bridge and Notting Hill Carnival. When new materials are used, the offcuts are transformed into chopping boards, picture frames and jewellery.
It’s a practice that, even more than its name, binds Goldfinger Factory to the place it calls home. Not long ago, Trellick Tower and Ernö Goldfinger (also the inspiration behind one of Ian Fleming’s Bond villains) were as despised as they were iconic. “They were going to knock it down and then the community got together and got it listed (as a Building of Special Architectural or Historic Interest),” says founder Oliver Waddington-Ball. “It’s the perfect place for us to be. They were going to throw Trellick Tower away, but they didn’t, and now everyone loves it.”
When the team at Goldfinger Factory surveys its neighbourhood, it sees more than a grey, careworn landscape. It sees a chance to bring colour and vibrancy to discarded resources and wasted human potential. Just like “the man with the Midas touch” of James Bond fame, it is turning waste into gold.
This story was made possible thanks to the generosity of Goldfinger Factory, the Sponsoring Partner for the HOME issue. It was written entirely, independently and proudly by the staff at Thoughtful. See our sponsorship policy here.