Quality pieces made from natural materials are good for your décor and the environment.
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.
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 But while your iPod may soon be out of date, a well-made table or lounge suite can be passed on to the next generation.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.
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; karakter.co.nz 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; karakter.co.nz Kurt Ostervig linear oak sideboard 1960s, $3995; MADE TO LAST mrbigglesworthy.co.nz