Sustainable Materials: Designing Greener With Confidence

American Walnut Media Unit

I don’t often do this as I try to write my own content for this blog but i just came across this article by Ola Moszumanska for Indesignlive and had to share it…

Sustainability is paramount in modern design. In fact, one could argue that if a design isn’t sustainable, it isn’t truly modern. With a clear understanding of the negative implications of climate change and access to sustainable resources, selecting sustainable materials isn’t a choice anymore. It’s an urgent obligation – and a long-term commitment.

The lack of information and certain preconceptions about the available resources and their impact on the environment can widen the gap between the designer’s intention to minimise the negative impact on the environment and the sustainability credentials of the realised design.

District Furniture hand made bespoke media unit from solid walnut

With concerns about the negative impact of deforestation on the environment, hardwood often finds itself at the very heart of this gap – even though there is ample evidence proving that American hardwood is one of the most sustainable building materials.

Criswell Davis, an internationally recognised hardwood expert, echoes that sentiment: “We’ve been taught to believe that cutting down trees is bad for the environment. The hardwood industry has been treated as the destroyer of the environment, whereas we have data that proves that American hardwood is one of the only true green building materials.” But American hardwood is different from many imported timbers – and that difference goes all the way to its dark history around the arrival of the early European settlers.

American Walnut bedside tables

American forests were devastated by the European settlers who – by 1900 – had gone as far as completely clearing the woods in some states. Luckily, by the 1970s, the USA saw the younger and lusher forests regenerate and flourish with an even more diverse range of species. Today, US forests are predominantly subdivided into smallholdings – owned by over 10 million private landowners – who ensure that the growth of the forests not only merely matches but exceeds the harvest.

In contrast to many other forests around the world, American hardwood forests are harvested selectively and take into consideration the tree’s lifecycle – and its role in the biosphere. A tree reaches the peak of its life at around 80 years old – that’s when, after playing their unique and critical role in the biosphere, they stop absorbing carbon. Only after reaching that point, the trees are cut down, creating space for the younger ones to grow. “For every hardwood tree that is felled in the US, 2.4 trees take its place through natural regeneration,” explains Davis.

American Walnut Media Unit

It’s this smart management of leafy resources that has doubled the amount of hardwood grown in the USA compared to half a decade ago.. “I urge people to take a virtual flight across the Eastern United States and see how the private forestland owners in the USA have done a spectacular job of maintaining this ‘legacy crop’ to pass onto their grandchildren, great-grandchildren and beyond,” he says.

But the USA’s commitment to ensuring their green resource is sustainable goes well beyond Google Earth visuals. They have invested in what is probably the most extensive Life Cycle Assessment study ever undertaken in the hardwood sector. John Chan, Director of Southeast Asia and Greater China for the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) explains: “LCA is a scientific method to measure and evaluate the environmental burdens associated with a product or activity, by systematically describing and assessing the energy and materials used and released to the environment over the life cycle.” The assessment includes all relevant details, even the evaluation of the transportation of the resource to Southeast Asia, to ensure that American hardwood is not only entirely renewable but also carbon negative. This assessment is available to every designer as part of an individual American Hardwood Environmental Profile (AHEP) – providing peace of mind on the minimal impact of the selected material on the environment.

Creative Happiness?

I heard something on the weekend that made me stop and think about everything I do not only personally but professionally. The question seems simple..”What is your definition of happiness?” The answer much more complicated.

I set about trying to answer the question for myself and struggled to find the right words. I didn’t want the answer to be just a list of material things but to go a little deeper and find out what exactly is it that make me happy?

And in this fast paced ‘technological’ world we are living in do we take time to recognise these moments no matter how small or fleeting they may be?

I’m still working on my answer but while you contemplate your definition, listen to the words from Mr Alfred Hitchcock. When asked in a live interview “Mr Hitchcock, what is your definition of happiness?” He replied with this masterpiece…

“A clear horizon.
Nothing to worry about (on your plate)
Only things that are creative,
And not destructive.
Within yourself, within me I can’t bear quarrelling
I can’t bear feelings between people.
I think hatred is wasted energy,
And it’s all none productive.
I’m very sensitive, a sharp word said by say a person who has a temper
Or if they are close to me,
hurts me for days.
I know we are only human,
We do go in for these various emotions,
Call them negative emotions
But when all these are removed
And you can look forward
And the road is clear ahead
And now you are going to create something.
I think that is as happy as I will ever want to be.”

Alfred Hitchcock

Design and Create a Custom Table

How do you start to design and create a custom made table. At District Furniture we think we have the perfect recipe for success… Firstly you need to listen! That’s right sit down and listen to what the client wants. Ask questions of your client… Are there any problems you can solve for them with the design? Do they have an unusual space in which to house their custom designed hand-crafted table? What are the dimensions? Are these fixed or will they change from time to time?

Communication is the key, extract as much information as you can. Next up; Materials, what reclaimed solid timber top do they prefer? What grain structure or depth of colour once a finish has been applied? At District Furniture we have a variety of standard timbers that we use but also have a fantastic supplier with an amazing array of timber to choose from.

Another key to creating the perfect custom table is the design. Modern, classic or traditional? We can do them all, we will work with you to create ideas and develop your own designs. Our team can provide sketch drawings, CAD model and detailed renders in order to ensure you will receive exactly what you require.

Then we bring your ideas to life in our canal-side workshop in Bollington. We hand select the timber that suits your requirements, then start to work to shape the material. Using all hands-on techniques we plane and thickness the timber to the correct dimensions. We then laminate boards together in order to produce the right size table top. Depending on the design for the leg frame we will either use timber or metal to produce the table.

District Furniture workshop in Clarence Mill Bollington

A quick ‘lick’ of natural, but durable finish and hey-presto the design you have been thinking about for years and years has finally come to life. We can deliver your table in our District Furniture van, ensuring that your project has gone from start to finish, completely tailored to your needs.

Sustainability Goes Mainstream, as The Ego Catches Up!

We are a furniture business formed through the desire to be ‘sustainable’, this word is pretty ambiguous in today’s vernacular. Our interpretation of this is; to make the best product, without causing any harm. To use locally sourced materials and produce furniture with longevity, which can be repaired and at the end of its life recycled.

We formed in Melbourne Australia, under the brand name ‘Tane’ in 2012, with exactly the same ‘sustainable’ mantra. We exhibited a range of furniture made from cardboard at the Milan exhibition in 2013, to which we received no column inches in any publication.

Cardboard furniture designed by District Furniture custom design hand-made furniture

On reading recent reviews of the 2019 edition of this world renowned and quite frankly ‘MASSIVE’ furniture event, it appears we were o the right track all along but simply ahead of the game!

Even the ‘celebrity’ designers within the industry seem to be endorsing well considered furniture, that goes deeper than the superficial and actually has environmental impacts at the forefront of the design process. It appears the ego has been replaced by concerns bigger than the individual.

British designer Ross Lovegrove appears to be a high profile name with the design industry who has endorsed the sustainable movement within the furniture game. Lovegrove spoke at the recent Milan design week, following the launch of his Ergo range for Natuzzi that is made using renewable and recyclable materials.

Photo from the Dezeen blog May 2019

“I don’t design furniture very often and I’m not interested in just doing another L-shaped sofa,” he explained. “I wanted to come in and try to facilitate a change in mindset. Natuzzi is a big company with young blood and they are open to doing things differently.”

“I’m involved with industry and industry is good and bad,” he admitted. “Unless we start reducing the sheer scale of stuff we’re producing I think we’re going to have some real problems.” said Ross Lovegrove.

We hope this trend becomes mainstream thinking and eventually the main consideration before anyone begins the design process. I personally feel a great responsibility for anything that is created and put out into the world. It must be needed, enhance someones life, be well made, well considered, have a long life and be able to be recycled.

Written By Gary Pennington

District Furniture : Hand-made custom furniture