Tracy and Alan Bourne swapped their humdrum lives for those of high-end furniture restorers – and completely changed the balance of family life.
The couple, from Southsea, taught themselves how to upcycle unloved pieces to create stunning and much sought-after statement furniture that sells all over the world.
Their business, Boogaloo Boutique, is booming and they love working side by side.
For Tracy, 44, it was an epiphany in a garden centre which set her on the path to success.
Since having her children, Jessica and Luke, with her first husband, she had only ever worked part-time and dreamed of a more exciting career.
And it began by chance, three years ago.
She says: ‘I saw some shabby chic furniture for sale and thought “I can do that”.
‘I investigated some more and looked into decoupage – pasting paper on to furniture and covering it in layers of varnish.
‘It can be quite messy and my lovely husband said ‘‘set up in the conservatory’’.
‘Three years on we have our own workshop but the conservatory is still paint-splattered!
She adds: ‘I spent a year in there learning my craft – and making lots of mistakes.
‘I taught myself by looking on the internet.
‘It’s a very, very old, traditional art. You need layers and layers of varnish, so it takes patience. And you need to really like doing it.
‘I love getting an old piece of unloved furniture and transforming it.’
Alan, 49, spent 22 years as a prison officer before taking redundancy and joining his wife at Boogaloo Boutique.
He specialises in working with steel and metal, particularly old filing cabinets which he tranforms into gleaming pieces of industrial chic furniture.
He says: ‘People who haven’t seen me for a while are quite surprised when I tell them what I do now.
‘I’ve spent the past two decades not producing anything.
‘And I really wanted to make something beautiful and bespoke after being in such a difficult, ugly, violent environment for so long.
‘I wanted a complete change of direction and make something with my hands.’
Alan, who has children Vicky and Dan from his first marriage, says a lot of the furniture they turn round would otherwise have ended up in landfill.
He explains: ’We take beautiful pieces of 1940s, 50s and 60s furniture, more often than not bleached by the sun, and give it a new lease of life.’
The couple, of Burgoyne Road, Southsea, say their change of careers has had a dramatic impact on family life – for the better.
The children even have a go at sanding down the furniture and creating designs.
‘I was working in a very stressful environment,’ says Alan.
‘Some of the time Tracy and I have been together I was working in Wormwood Scrubs.
‘It took me a while to calm down after each week and by Sunday morning I was thinking about going back to work the next day.
‘Now it’s different stresses. Before, we always knew there would be money coming in the next month.
‘But now we have to make something so desirable that people want to part with their hard-earned money.
‘When someone in Manchester or London buys something we’ve made down here in our workshop, it’s such a buzz.’
Tracy says: ‘I had my children and I was a housewife and I worked part-time in Monsoon and Laura Ashley.
‘The kids grew up and I wanted to do more than that. I have a French degree and thought to myself ‘‘what do I like doing?’’
‘When I was younger you went to university and just expected to get an amazing job.
‘Now I tell my own children it’s better to find something you’re good at when you’re young that you really love.
‘I was arty but I didn’t pursue it. ‘I love transforming my daughter’s bedrooms.’
Her high-end pieces sell for around the £700 mark. And the wallpaper Tracy uses to cover some sideboards, coffee tables and chests of drawers can cost up to £1,000 a roll, so you can understand the price tag.
The wallpaper is rare and expensive, featuring unusual designs by the likes of Vivienne Westwood and the Italian artist Fornasetti.
She picks up the furniture at antique markets and auctions and updates them.
Tracy says: ‘The first thing I made to sell was a bedside table.
‘I thought it was really beautiful and I spent a long time on it – and it sold for just £10 at auction on eBay!
‘But to get a good price it needs to be so good that people are fighting over it.’
And working side-by-side in their workshop, that is exactly what they are making. Alan adds: ‘It’s been two years now and, without any undue modesty, we’re brilliant.’
Boogaloo Boutique is open Monday to Friday. The workshop and showroom is at Unit 1, Rodney Road, St. Georges Industrial Estate, Fratton.
Go to boogalooboutique.com.
Fans around the world
Boogaloo Boutique began life as an eBay-only company.
Tracy would create pieces and sell them through the online auction website – sometimes for as little as £10.
But they now have fans and customers around the world thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
And their furniture can be bought on the handmade and vintage website Etsy.
It means a part of every day is taken up with updating their social media sites with comments and photos about the latest pieces they are working on.
Tracy says: ‘Being on the internet has been amazing for us.
‘We have 7,000 likes on Facebook! People from around the world comment on our photographs.
‘We ship pieces across Europe and we had an order from America recently from someone who said they simply can’t find anything else like our furniture over there.
‘I keep thinking it’s going to slow down, but it hasn’t.
‘It suddenly went crazy in January. I think it was because I was able to understand what people liked and wanted and also my name was getting out there.
‘I use wallpapers that are expensive and extremely difficult to get hold of.
‘The designs are amazing – with beautiful colours and kooky stuff that people won’t find in Debenhams.’
All the pieces are one-off and the high-end sideboards and bureaux range in price from £350 to around £700. Smaller pieces are from just under £100.