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Smart couple transforms abandoned mill into stylish modern home using old furniture

A handy couple has transformed a derelict 19th-century mill without electricity into a stylish house using old furniture they found in fields and skips.

Elvis and Kresse Wesling, both 43, are pioneers of the zero waste movement and have applied that ethos to decorating Tonge Mill in Sittingbourne, Kent.

After spending £ 40,000 to make it habitable in 2013, the smart couple had no money left to buy decorations or furniture.

Elvis and Kresse Wesling, both 43, have transformed the Tonge Mill in Sittingbourne, Kent with old furniture found in fields and skips. They maximize light and space while using as many recovered items as possible

Elvis and Kresse Wesling, both 43, have transformed the Tonge Mill in Sittingbourne, Kent with old furniture found in fields and skips. They maximize light and space while using as many recovered items as possible

A light and airy bedroom shows off the character of the building with wooden beams, floorboards and original bricks that get a brush of white paint. The couple spent 30 hours a week in addition to the usual work on the mill

A light and airy bedroom shows off the character of the building with wooden beams, floorboards and original bricks that get a brush of white paint. The couple spent 30 hours a week in addition to the usual work on the mill

A light and airy bedroom shows off the character of the building with wooden beams, floorboards and original bricks that get a brush of white paint. The couple spent 30 hours a week in addition to the usual work on the mill

The 19th-century mill has been renovated into a mezzanine-style room with a living room downstairs and a dining room upstairs. It exudes a utilitarian interior with a monochrome color scheme and original features such as buckets hanging upside down for lights

The 19th-century mill has been renovated into a mezzanine-style room with a living room downstairs and a dining room upstairs. It exudes a utilitarian interior with a monochrome color scheme and original features such as buckets hanging upside down for lights

The 19th-century mill has been renovated into a mezzanine-style room with a living room downstairs and a dining room upstairs. It exudes a utilitarian interior with a monochrome color scheme and original features such as buckets hanging upside down for lights

They spent 30 hours a week in addition to the usual work on the mill and drove around for hours every day looking for finds in garbage cans and along the road.

Top treasures included washbasins and faucets that were hunted on Freecycle and they renovated the bathrooms of the five mills for just £ 12 with the help of other people’s shipwrecks.

Their back wall in the bathroom is traditionally Welsh slate and comes from a roof, while the steel bath was pulled out of a basin.

A local installer gave the pair free cuts, used for their kitchen, because they cost a huge amount of landfill.

A minimalist theme runs through the monumental building, pictured on the left, the bathroom and on the right, the dining area. Elvis and Kresse show the great height of the building by adding modern drop lights (pictured right)

The couple, who live with Springer Spaniel Poodle, crosses Monty at the Mill (photo), admits that they were called “crazy” and heard “every joke under the sun” when they started their big do-it-yourself project

Elvis and Kresse (pictured at their breakfast bar) met in early 2000 when they were both working in Hong Kong and continued to set up their own sustainable business in 2005

Elvis and Kresse (pictured at their breakfast bar) met in early 2000 when they were both working in Hong Kong and continued to set up their own sustainable business in 2005

Elvis and Kresse (pictured at their breakfast bar) met in early 2000 when they were both working in Hong Kong and continued to set up their own sustainable business in 2005

Bar stools with their name in relief form part of their sustainable business operations. They now employ 25 people at their factory and sell ethical luxury bags and accessories made with the discarded hose reels

Bar stools with their name in relief form part of their sustainable business operations. They now employ 25 people at their factory and sell ethical luxury bags and accessories made with the discarded hose reels

Bar stools with their name in relief form part of their sustainable business operations. They now employ 25 people at their factory and sell ethical luxury bags and accessories made with the discarded hose reels

The worktop is a mismatch of marble pieces assembled with an angle grinder, and the Italian deli boards are scaffolding boards inside.

Metal lights hanging above the breakfast table are old buckets that have been turned upside down.

And even their proud chandelier is made from agricultural material left in a field to rust.

Elvis and Kresse met in the early 2000s when they were both working in Hong Kong, Kresse for a Vice Chancellor and Elvis for a British design agency.

There is a revolution in the bathroom as the couple starts their home makeover

There is a revolution in the bathroom as the couple starts their home makeover

They were given free cuts because the materials had cost a fortune to deposit

They were given free cuts because the materials had cost a fortune to deposit

The couple, who have been together for almost two decades, no longer had cash to buy decor or furniture after it was made habitable in 2013 (photo)

Groundbreaking: the bedroom has a slim headboard, purchased at a sale of a car boot for a meager £ 5, with retro side lights

Groundbreaking: the bedroom has a slim headboard, purchased at a sale of a car boot for a meager £ 5, with retro side lights

Groundbreaking: the bedroom has a slim headboard, purchased at a sale of a car boot for a meager £ 5, with retro side lights

The couple founded Elvis & Kresse in sustainable business, where they made bags from unwanted materials when they returned to the UK in 2005.

Kresse said: ‘I received all the statistics on waste and in 2004 100 million tonnes of material went to the landfill in Great Britain and I could not imagine it.

“It didn’t make sense to me. I thought this is a small island, where is it all going? ”

Elvis and Kresse now employ 25 people at their factory and sell ethical luxury bags and accessories made with the discarded hose reels.

Kresse (depicted with Elvis) hopes to encourage other people to love waste by displaying the products as 'beautiful for everyone', which means 'amazing craftsmanship and design'. They are committed to producing ethical products at home

Kresse (depicted with Elvis) hopes to encourage other people to love waste by displaying the products as 'beautiful for everyone', which means 'amazing craftsmanship and design'. They are committed to producing ethical products at home

Kresse (depicted with Elvis) hopes to encourage other people to love waste by displaying the products as ‘beautiful for everyone’, which means ‘amazing craftsmanship and design’. They are committed to producing ethical products at home

Another side activity is making carpets and upholstering furniture from pieces of leather that they have received from British designer Burberry. Pictured: natural light seeps through the tartan curtains of this cozy bedroom, equipped with industrial lighting fixtures and a simple coat rack on the walls

Another side activity is making carpets and upholstering furniture from pieces of leather that they have received from British designer Burberry. Pictured: natural light seeps through the tartan curtains of this cozy bedroom, equipped with industrial lighting fixtures and a simple coat rack on the walls

Another side activity is making carpets and upholstering furniture from pieces of leather that they have received from British designer Burberry. Pictured: natural light seeps through the tartan curtains of this cozy bedroom, equipped with industrial lighting fixtures and a simple coat rack on the walls

The rear wall of the bathroom is traditional Welsh slate and comes from a roof. They create a striking aesthetic against the curved rear walls

The rear wall of the bathroom is traditional Welsh slate and comes from a roof. They create a striking aesthetic against the curved rear walls

The washrooms of Tonge Mill have been updated with only 12 each

The washrooms of Tonge Mill have been updated with only 12 each

Among the treasures were sinks donated by friends and family (photo left) and a bath lifted from a skip (photo right)

They give 50 percent of their profits to charities, including the London Fire Brigade.

Another side activity is making carpets and refurbishing leather furniture from pieces donated by British designer Burberry.

“If there is a skip, we always look inside and if there is something in it, we’ll talk to the owner and ask if we can have it.”

She admitted that she felt “more interested in walking through an alley” and looked into a skip rather than a shopping street.

An armchair, made from old, refined whiskey barrels and a coffee bean bag, nestles in the corner of one of the rooms of the building

An armchair, made from old, refined whiskey barrels and a coffee bean bag, nestles in the corner of one of the rooms of the building

An armchair, made from old, refined whiskey barrels and a coffee bean bag, nestles in the corner of one of the rooms of the building

A steel bath is covered with wooden panels for a sleek finish in the guest bathroom. The handy female designer suggested 'people must find new ways to use their talent and that is the reality'

A steel bath is covered with wooden panels for a sleek finish in the guest bathroom. The handy female designer suggested 'people must find new ways to use their talent and that is the reality'

A steel bath is covered with wooden panels for a sleek finish in the guest bathroom. The handy female designer suggested ‘people must find new ways to use their talent and that is the reality’

Renovation work on the mill, however, was heavy – it had 22 rotten windows, no heating or power and was not configured to live in.

They took ‘perfectly good’ toilets, sinks and faucets from friends and family, and hand-me-downs such as headboards from a trunk sale.

Even the base of their bed is made from an unwanted climbing frame and chairs are made from old whiskey barrels, while NATO parachutes carry those failed safety tests along their windows.

One thing they spent a few hundred on was their Danish leather corner sofa – but even that was a bargain because it was moldy.

They just washed it away and let it dry in the sun.

Kresse and Elvis, who live together with Springer Spaniel Poodle cross Monty, now hope that others will share their vision of home decoration.

The female designer said: ‘We like waste. The only way to convince people that this is a valid way to buy products and communicate with the world is to make it beautiful for everyone, and that means amazing craftsmanship and design.

“I mean, when we started, we were weird. Absolute outliers. And many people thought it was crazy and we heard every joke under the sun.

‘The tide is turning, but unfortunately it is not running fast enough, because the most important thing you have to give up if you want to commit to this journey is to consume in a completely different way.

‘There are many companies that simply have to stop. And it can work. We could have a renewable energy revolution instead!

“People need to find new ways to deploy their talent and that is the reality.”

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