Designer, Upcycler and TV Presenter
Shoes featured in this profile
In a largely throwaway society, there are some people who are prepared to raise their heads above the parapet and extol a different version of events. Max McMurdo is one of these. His website would have you believe he is simply a designer who uses recycled materials and has gained a career in TV and writing books as a happy by-product. Well, his website needs updating, there is much more to this man than that as Herring discovered. Read on to find out more….
Raised by parents who remembered the effect of the Second World War, Max was used to mending and making do. A degree in product design and visualisation led him to Germany, where he was impressed by their use of recycled materials.
This inspired Max to start up reestore, with the purpose of designing and manufacturing a range of high-end desirable furniture items created from waste destined for landfill.
Although a worthy notion, Max was struggling to make a profit, so in 2007 he turned to BBC’s Dragon's Den to see if he could win himself some backers with Ben the bin as his showcase product. His plucky determination, attention to detail and natural presenter skills managed to land Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis (another Look Who’s Wearing ambassador).
Eco designer Max has not looked back ever since. The spotlight and the investment injection have seen him rise from a hobbyist to one of the UK’s most respected and renowned designers and manufacturers of upcycled products.
Inspired by metal items from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, he takes care to make junk into beautifully crafted furniture, often using glass to finish them off. His aeroplane desk is a wonderful feature at Herring's HQ, while The Body Shop has bought 200 of his bathtub chairs for stores across the world.
A natural presenter, care of good genetics (his dad was a mayor and his brother is a councillor), Max returned to our television screens and has been seen on Channel 4's Shed of the Year, George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, and Fill Your House For Free alongside property expert Kirstie Allsopp and Gok Wan, plus ITV1's £10k Holiday Home with Julia Bradbury. Max is a living embodiment of all these TV shows care of his home; upcycled from a shipping container!
But away from the razzmatazz of media appearances, Max is still doing what he loves. Pottering about his shed, one of his latest projects sees him make a hot tub out of a Land Rover. All reestore’s pieces are still made by Max. After 17 years, his joy is compounded by having ready access to all the tools and parts he needs to make life a little easier.
He shows his appreciation for bring financially comfortable by actively trying to help others who have less. Having noticed the increasingly number of homeless people on Bedford's streets, he upcycled an old family holiday caravan to create 'the souper van'. He drove this around Bedford on Monday nights to hand out soup, hats, coats, scarves, etc. along with feminine hygiene products. This van has since been donated to a homelessness charity.
Max also headed to his university city, Bournemouth, with rapper Professor Green, to actively protest against the metal bars that had been put on benches to prevent homeless people from sleeping on them. His active protest involved an angle-grinder to remove the bars…plus, spanners, nuts and bolts to affix new bars that support tarpaulin sheets to give homeless people a shelter on the same benches.
Max said: "I'm a bit of an anarchist. I'm a doer! My brother would put a suit on and talk to the right authorities. I just brought my angle-grinder!"
Latterly, a divorce made him revaluate his, well, values, and he headed to Kenya where he has designed BOTL BLOX – a cupboard box filled with plastic bottles – to use as insulated building blocks for new schools.
"When I got to Kenya, I realised there were so many opportunities to help people. I wonder what I could do, and I came up with BOTL BLOX. There is lots of our plastic waste brought over to Africa. To make classrooms out of our plastic waste is so special."
He added: "When you experience that love and appreciation from people who have no products or stuff, you feel a bit despondent when you come back here, and people are just worried about possessions and shiny stuff."
While Max is not running his business and appearing on TV, he is a sought-after key-note speaker and he visits schools to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and eco warriors.
"The best thing about being on TV is the letters I get from kids who are inspired by what they have seen. Kids get it. The first thing I do when I speak to kids is to apologise for what our generation has done."
Read more about Max’s views on sustainability in his blog for Herring, Spread the cost with slow fashion.
Follow Max: @maxreestore, @BOTLBLOX