It all began with a piece of bog oak.

Geraldine Noonan found the perfectly preserved piece of wood as she was clearing out her late father Tom Doody’s Mallow home with her siblings.

“He passed in 2015,” she recalls. “We were cleaning out the house and here it was: this piece of bog oak. I was amazed – bog oak is a rare find. He used to cut turf in the bog and he [must have just] found it and put it away – he knew what it was but he didn’t know what to do with it.”

The original piece of bog oak found in her father's Mallow home.

European bogs have been known to reveal treasures of the past – even mummified corpses – which can be thousands of years old. When Geraldine, who always had a crafty, artistic side, found the bog oak, she knew she had to do something special with it.

Geraldine wanted to make the bog oak functional, and so she created this lamp in memory of her father, Tom Doody.

“It was like a destiny,” she gushes. “It was even shaped like an arm. I said, ‘I’m taking that.’ My father was a man who always lit a candle in thanks. He was grateful for all the good things in life. So I [decided to] turn the piece of bog oak into a lamp. So now he lives among us in the light.

“That’s kind of what drove me on [this journey] – it’s memorabilia, it’s functional, I can pass it on. I thought, ‘I want to do this [for others].’”

The piece

Geraldine is a Wilton, Co Cork-based creative artist and designer.

Geraldine Noonan owns and operates Pieces by Geraldine in Wilton, Co Cork. \ Donal O'Leary

She called her business Pieces because, for her, it’s all about the individual piece – that old wicker chair sitting in the shed, the mahogany dresser which needs a facelift. She specialises in furniture restoration and upcycling, wreath and craft-making and enjoys working with textiles, as well. She enjoys being able to take her time on projects which speak to her.

Geraldine uses her own creativity and high end supplies to upcycle and redesign pieces of older furniture.

“I’m at that side of my life now,” she explains. “I have a bit of spare time and I’ve always had an interest in the arts; I was always creative-minded. With the kids gone and reared, I had time on my hands.”

Largely self-taught, Geraldine started the business in 2018 after a few years spent “dabbling”, in her words. She says being creative and the art of restoring and upcycling old furniture is “cheaper than a therapist”, and she feels she’s able to do something positive and meaningful with her work.

She also likes to work with different textures and patterns.

“If you have the piece, I have the vision,” she smiles. “I like to work with that customer [who has something special but isn’t sure what to do with it]. I keep my services affordable and I try to make everything as functional as I possibly can. My motto is: ‘Don’t throw it out; give me a shout.’”

Meaningful projects

Geraldine came to the attention of local media outlets earlier this summer when she shared a pair of chairs which she had upcycled in honour of Pride. The colourful rainbow chairs are striking and fun with a strong message of love, diversity and acceptance. For Geraldine, they were a meaningful project.

Geraldine upcycled these old chairs in honour of Pride Week this past summer.

“Being a mother myself and understanding there’s still such a stigma attached [to LGBTI+ issues], I just felt [compelled to do something special],” she says. “I come from a big family, and it was always ‘Pull up a chair, have a cuppa and tell me your story’. [In the end], it was that I just had the heart to do it. You can’t do anything right in life if your heart isn’t in it.”

Family is important to Geraldine, and as often happens with creatives, her artistic traits have been passed down to the next generation.

Geraldine likes to take her time with each piece and let its heritage show. \ Donal O'Leary

“My daughter Laura, who works as a street photographer in Canada, is responsible for all of my social media – we try to put up something new each week,” Geraldine explains. “If you take a look at our Facebook or Instagram pages you’ll find some great examples of what I do. Some of these pieces – the quality, you’ll never buy again.”

Lost craft

Geraldine sets her prices according to the piece of furniture and her own hourly rate. She maintains that her services are affordable, especially for the client who might have older furniture in need of a facelift. She says a lot of modern home furnishings lack the craftsmanship and character of older pieces.

“A lot of furniture is reproduced and it’s coming [to Ireland] from across the globe,” she says. “There are very few carpenters, carvers and crafters out there these days. Some of the pieces of furniture you have with detailed carving in it? You just can’t buy that quality anymore.

“I don’t always paint over things. I might bring it back to its natural wood or stain it to have a wood effect and still keep the grain [visible],” she continues. “I take care to emphasise [existing quality] because carving – good carving – is very rare. I crave those pieces and I try to look for those. Many people out there might have pieces like this and they’ve aged and just need a dust-up. I aim to give the client something priceless and, to me, it’s priceless when the customer is happy with the result.”

Taking the challenge

Irish Country Living asks Geraldine if she has any words of advice for would-be upcyclists.

“Getting the right tools for the trade is important,” she says. “You can buy supplies in [discount shops], but you’re not going to get the result [with those].

Geraldine works above her family business' location, where she has created a workshop. \ Donal O'Leary

“A lot of people have started upcycling with COVID and everything and there’s definitely some disasters out there – we’ve all had them. [I find that] my styles grows with each piece I create. I love the challenge and always learn as much as I can. It’s hard to put into words, but an awful lot of my craft just comes from the love of it and from wanting to work with it. I love a challenge.”

Follow @pieces_by_geraldine on Instagram or email

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