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Cultivated reconditions older designer furniture, saving it from landfill


Australian designer furniture retailer Cult officially launched Cultivated, a sustainability branch of the business focused on reconditioning older designer furniture, on Friday at Melbourne Design Week.

Based on the notion of ‘buy once, buy well’, managing director of Cult, Richard Munao said Cultivated had been quietly operating at their Alexandria site since 2013 to save quality furniture from landfill. In recent years, the business has been reconditioning original design classics such as the Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chair and Poulsen’s Artichoke pendant light.

Man restoring a louis poulsen artichoke pendant light
Man restoring a Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chair

Richard said the decision to take back older furniture initially came from conversations with commercial clients looking to update or add to their stock. “The Art Gallery of NSW wanted another 120 Series 7 chairs to go with the 180 chairs they already had, but you would be able to tell the old ones from the new ones,” Richard said. “We offered to buy the old ones back for store credit and we reconditioned those old chairs.”

The refinished chairs have been sold on to be used at other commercial sites, including Customs House and Grosvenor Place.

Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chairs ready for restoration
Man removing paint from an Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chair
Restored Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chair

Cult also recently took back a 600mm diameter Louis Poulsen Artichoke pendant light from a residential client in Sydney looking to replace it with a larger version. “The pendant light was 14 or 15 years old,” said Richard. “It was copper and had developed a patina.” The light was returned to the workshop and painstakingly cleaned, ready for a new location. “The client was just going to get rid of it but to replace it with a new one would cost $20,000,” Richard said.

Given the company has always focused on supplying beautifully designed furniture built to last a lifetime, taking a custodial approach to the furniture they supply was the next natural step. “It’s part of the DNA of the company and it was how we chose our brand partners,” Richard said. “Because of my cabinet making background, I am always looking for things that will last.”

Restoring a Louis Poulsen Artichoke pendant
Man cleaning copper leaves on a Louis Poulsen Artichoke pendant
Restoration of a Louis Poulsen Artichoke pendant

According to the Authentic Design Alliance each year in Australia, the equivalent of 800,000 three-seater sofas, 1.65 million dining tables or 3.4 million coffee tables, are thrown away. Cultivated believe that one of the best strategies for sustainable living is to make and buy things that last. It’s terrible that as consumers we have a history of throwing away items which no longer look factory-new, rather than appreciating the history of each piece or restoring it back to it’s former glory. Producing sustainable furniture is a must but we should first look at recycling before we rush out to buy something new.

From a single lounge chair in need of new upholstery, to an entire office space of worn-out seating, Cultivated work with local manufacturers and craftspeople to restore, reinvigorate or recycle original design, creating a sustainable circular economy for authentic furniture and lighting.

Original Erik Jorgensen Corona chair being restored
Woman sewing new leather onto Erik Jorgensen Corona chair
Erik Jorgensen Corona chair being reassembled after restoration
Original Erik Jorgensen Corona chair restoration

The launch will include a short film featuring leading Australian industrial designer Adam Goodrum and Anna Maree Sargeant from the Authentic Design Alliance, among others.

Melbourne Design Week runs from Friday, March 26 until April 5. More details at www.designweek.melbourne

Images courtesy of Cult.

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