Sus­tain­able fur­nish­ings

Qual­ity pieces made from nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als are good for your dé­cor and the en­vi­ron­ment.

Good - - HOME - Words Melinda Williams

Choose re­cy­cled

In our grand­par­ents’ day, fur­ni­ture was built to last – and much of it has. There are many won­der­ful, char­ac­ter­ful pieces of an­tique and mid-cen­tury de­signer fur­ni­ture in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion avail­able from sec­ond-hand fur­ni­ture re­tail­ers and op­por­tu­nity shops for rea­son­able prices. Well-loved fur­ni­ture can be given a facelift with a new coat of paint (make sure you use zero-VOC or low-VOC paints) or fresh up­hol­stery. Some fab­ric man­u­fac­tur­ers are now pro­duc­ing up­hol­stery fab­rics made from 100 per cent re­cy­cled post-con­sumer waste, such as soft-drink and wa­ter bot­tles.

Choose qual­ity

High-qual­ity fur­ni­ture is ex­pen­sive – as it al­ways has been. This can be hard to get our heads around, given that over the last 40 years, the price of items like tele­vi­sions and ap­pli­ances has dropped while the qual­ity has im­proved. This is be­cause the com­po­nent prices and man­u­fac­tur­ing costs of tech­nol­ogy have plum­meted, but the costs of ma­te­ri­als like wood, leather, me­tals – and the cost of the labour to as­sem­ble them – have re­mained rel­a­tively con­stant. But while your iPod may soon be out of date, a well-made ta­ble or lounge suite can be passed on to the next gen­er­a­tion.

Choose multi-func­tional or built-in

If a piece of fur­ni­ture can do more than one job, that’s an­other piece of fur­ni­ture that doesn’t need to be pro­duced, bought and dis­posed of. Wall beds, fold-down ta­bles and chairs, so­fas that con­vert to a guest bed, built-in seat­ing with a book­case at the back and built-in shelv­ing all save space and ma­te­rial costs.

Choose nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als

Where pos­si­ble, choose solid nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als that have been sealed or treated with nat­u­ral stains and fin­ishes. The Eco De­sign Ad­vi­sor ser­vice rec­om­mends lin­seed oil, tung oil and beeswax as al­ter­na­tive fin­ishes to polyurethane. Although they don’t meet the ap­proval of an­i­mal wel­fare or­gan­i­sa­tions like PETA, wool and leather are durable, hy­poal­ler­genic and nat­u­rally stain­re­sis­tant, mak­ing them good choices for seat­ing fab­rics. Look for cer­ti­fi­ca­tions that prod­ucts have been sus­tain­ably pro­duced, such as FSC-cer­ti­fied tim­ber and the En­vi­roChoice stamp.

Choose re­cy­clable

If bud­get con­straints mean you are lim­ited to mass-mar­ket fur­ni­ture brands, make sure to ask about their re­cy­cling pro­grammes. Over­seas, IKEA has started a pi­lot pro­gramme for re­turn­ing used fur­ni­ture at the end-of-life. Con­sumers, too, have started a re­pur­pos­ing move­ment known as ‘IKEA hack­ing’, where stan­dard pieces are cus­tomised or trans­formed to have new func­tions. Good-qual­ity used fur­ni­ture can be do­nated to char­ity shops, or put out in the in­or­ganic rub­bish col­lec­tions, where it will also be re­cy­cled if pos­si­ble.

Teak Planter by Arne Wahl Iversen. Made in Den­mark in 1961, $1,850; karak­ In­vest­ing in quailty pieces means your fur­ni­ture will truly go the dis­tance – not to men­tion, please the eye. Karl Erik Ek­selius lounge chair. Newly up­hol­stered in Seneca fab­ric, $1500; karak­ Kurt Oster­vig lin­ear oak side­board 1960s, $3995; MADE TO LAST mr­big­gleswor­

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