Spring Cleaning Top Tips with Objects of Use
This time of year finds many of us with the urge to get out the dusters, open all the windows and give rooms, houses and flats a good old Spring clean. With that in mind, I caught up with Hazel, owner of Objects of Use to find out more about the businesses and her Spring cleaning top tips!
Hi Hazel, tell us bit about the Objects of Use Shop?
Hi! Objects of Use is a shop based in the heart of Oxford, right by the Covered Market. We see ourselves as something of a modern-day hardware store – with a carefully curated selection of archetypal household objects from around the globe. Our range incorporates French Glassware, Japanese brass and woodware, flasks and Reindeer hides. Our collection brings together centuries of tradition, passed through the hands and minds of generations, whose processes and techniques have culminated in the production of beautiful tools made with practised skill, using low-impact methods and materials.
We are inspired by the everyday acts we carry out in our homes – the making and consuming of food and drinks, taking care of our spaces, our plants and ourselves. Using a beautiful brush, made using only wood, wire and natural fibre by an artisan who is visually impaired, to clear the dust from the space I’m living in gives me a very different appreciation of this task.
What’s your background and what made you want to start Objects of Use?
I come from a design background — I trained in London at Saint Martins and the RCA, before setting up a design practice which ran for several years. Alexis trained in fine Art, here at the Ruskin, and subsequently at Goldsmiths in London, going on to fabricate art and furniture for the likes of Rachel Whiteread and Zaha Hadid.
Having a child made me want to leave the city and find another way of living — Objects of Use was our solution. We’d been frustrated by how difficult it was to find the kind of household tools we wanted (simple, high quality, beautiful in a form-follows-function kind of way), we would find one good thing in a mountain of unappealing goods. We decided we’d like to gather all of these special objects under one roof.
“Using a beautiful brush, made using only wood, wire and natural fibre by an artisan who is visually impaired, to clear the dust from the space I’m living in gives me a very different appreciation of this task.”
What makes the products you stock different to other homeware stores?
Our backgrounds inform the choices we make – so this is really quite a personal collection. We don’t really do the usual practice of going to trade fairs, tending to rely on our own research and connections to find products. We’ve been going for about 11 years now, so the collection has really evolved over time. We feel that our pieces reflect a philosophy or approach to life, rather than a ‘lifestyle’, or a particular aesthetic. We also work with artisans to create bespoke products, which helps to keep our range unique to us.
A lot of your products are ethically sourced or environmentally friendly. Why does this matter to Objects of Use?
Of course this should matter to everyone! We all need to be much more careful about the things we choose to buy, as we have seen that we can’t rely on ‘the markets’ to make ethical choices for us. I often feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ‘stuff’ out there, in the interests of ‘choice’ – it really feels like time to acknowledge that we don’t need a plastic tool when there is a good alternative in a less harmful material. We hope to be able to offer more and more of these alternatives in time.
It’s definitely Spring Clean time at the moment. What are your favourite products in the shop to use at home?
I love our dust brushes from Sweden and Germany – and I get a lot of use out of our cobweb brush at the moment! I have a Lata Pigan in the kitchen, which comes out at least once a day (three children means lots of floor-based detritus!). Our radiator brush comes in really handy for those occasional dust-busting clear-outs in hard to reach places. I’m also totally loving my bicycle brush, which helps me keep my bike looking good after it’s been across Port Meadow a few times!
“Think about where it will be in 20 years time. Is it a lifetime product, could it end up in landfill? Many of our items will if properly cared for last a lifetime or beyond, most of the rest we hope can either be fairly easily recycled or else, being natural materials, will simply biodegrade.”
What are your top Spring Clean tips?
I got a bit ahead of myself this year and cleared out and re-organised some cupboards in January – an epic job but ultimately so satisfying — it makes the job of getting your cleaning kit out much more pleasant, which means you might feel like doing it more often! Like most people though, I lead a busy life, and I’m not one to be enslaved by the cleaning cupboard, so my first tip would probably be do what you can, and then don’t worry about it. That said, these might be my own favourites:
- A goat hair dusting brush is invaluable for getting rid of the dust on windowsills, shelves, and along high ridges, like the tops of picture frames.
- Use a natural bristle brush (I favour goat hair, which is super-soft) to remove dust from high up surfaces and crevices, working from the top down.
- Soaking plant fibre brushes (our scrubbing brushes and nail brushes, which are made using Tampico and union blend fibre – a mixture of palmyra, tampico and arenga fibres) in brine before first use will extend the life of the brush.
- Everyone should have a bath tub brush – it makes cleaning baths or showers so much less of a chore. We regularly have customers tell us this brush has changed their life!
- In Finland they use Pore soap to clean up their cabins after the winter break, it has minimal card packaging and used with a brush or a cloth replaces both kitchen and bathroom cleaners.
Any top tips for people choosing new homeware products?
I think it’s really possible to love your household cleaning tools, if they’re nice enough, which really helps when it comes to the jobs themselves. Even at this basic level, the things we choose to surround ourselves with add up to the backdrop to our lives, therefore they deserve careful consideration! I’d say think about where it will be in 20 years time. Is it a lifetime product, could it end up in landfill? Many of our items will if properly cared for last a lifetime or beyond, most of the rest we hope can either be fairly easily recycled or else, being natural materials, will simply biodegrade.
And finally, what are your other favourite indies around Oxford?
We love Tap Social, who are a social enterprise making great beer in Botley; The Handlebar Bar on St Michael’s Street, which is a really friendly and cosy spot for an evening get-together; the Missing Bean in Turl Street for coffee and bagels; Turl Street Kitchen for great food and drinks; the Old Fire Station on George Street for interesting things to do of an evening; The Magdalen Arms in Cowley for more great food, and finally Hamblin Bread, who are making wonderful breads using native grains – and they do amazing sourdough pizzas too!
We love the ethos behind Objects of Use and very much enjoy the calming environment of their shop. The fact that the products are functional, sustainable, as well as beautiful, really hammers home the need for us to look at our buying habits and made conscious purchases that are mindful of our environment. Have you popped in to Objects of Use? Have you got any favourite tools you’ve bought from there?