The Living Furniture Project – The Social Impact of Design

The Living Furniture Project is a design studio and workshop with a social purpose – creating jobs for the homeless. Located in East London, an area with a visible housing problem, the project aims to encourage training and creativity to address this growing problem. It not only highlights the issue of homelessness but also takes a positive and practical approach in attempting to solve it.

LFP's workshop and showroom in Clerkenwell

LFP’s workshop and showroom in Clerkenwell

The People Behind the Project
The Living Furniture Project involves a number of design creatives and experts in reclaimed materials, these include:

– contemporary upcycling luminaries Donna Walker and Nic Parnell,
– Geoff Walker who has twenty six years experience in bespoke carpentry and has designed the stylish interiors of bars like Barrio East and Dalston Superstore,
– Sarah Baulch, who has been regularly featured in Elle Decoration, The Sunday Times and on TV for her upcycled fabric designs,
– Yinka Ilori, a prodigy designer regularly asked to exhibit his furniture in Berlin, Milan and London,
– Kat Wight, an acclaimed pattern designer who previously worked for Laura Ashley,
– Kat Hamer who is an Australian eco-fashion designer and social entrepreneur, and
– James McBennett, founder of innovative furniture start-up Fabsie.com

Emerald Chair Collection

Emerald Chair Collection

Tackling Homelessness
The company works in partnership with two homelessness charities – Crisis and Providence Row, who refer their clients to the workshop for a range of paid and unpaid training and work programmes. Each Apprentice is given technical training, structured mentoring and pastoral support – a personal development programme which has been designed in conjunction with the partner charities.

The project has taken on two homeless Apprentices since launching in January 2013, and is taking on two more in May. The aim is to employ ten Apprentices by the end of the year. Apprentices will stay with the company for up to six months and are then helped with finding a job elsewhere in the furniture industry.

“The first time an Apprentice finishes a piece can get quite emotional – holding something unique in their hands and thinking – I did that.”

Donna Walker, designer on the project, explains her motivation for joining “I like the idea of skill-sharing, I use it a lot in my own work – I learn making skills from my colleagues and I teach them mine in return. So skill-sharing with the homeless is my way of giving back to the local community.”

Designer Nic Parnell adds “I like the idea that a high level piece of furniture can be made by anyone, of any skill level, if they’re given the proper tuition. I’m very excited to be part of the project.”

Emerald side cabinet by Nic Parnell

Emerald side cabinet by Nic Parnell

Sustainability
The Living Furniture Project source all their materials sustainably – using reclaimed plywood or shipping pallets, or restoring old pieces they find in salvage yards, skips or on the street. The company already has a network of spotters and collectors who identify opportunities to reclaim waste in the construction, textile and manufacturing industries. Below is a short video explaining how the Living Furniture project works and how you can buy bespoke made furniture from them.

The Living Furniture Project – How to buy furniture from us from Alastair Sloan on Vimeo.

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Repurpose & Sustainability at Berlin Design Week

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As Berlin’s first Design Week gets underway, we’re taking a sneak peak at the top sustainable and recycled designers exhibiting this year. The Design Week is organised by DMY Berlin, an internationally renowned platform for contemporary product design. The organization has been promoting the creative industry nationally and internationally since 2003.

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Reditum Moveo bookcase

Reditum designs furniture with sustainability, society and economics in mind. They focus not only on the furniture’s past but also on its future, taking into account environmental and social factors. Reditum is the Latin for ‘return’ taking used and discarded materials and bringing them back to life.

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El Reinventor Atelier

Another exhibit to look out for is that by El Reinventor, who uses discarded or reclaimed materials for his designs. Incorporating everyday goods like old silverware, broken instruments and oil barrels into his work, transforming it into something entirely new. His atelier for sustainable objects from “the other side” range from rotating bicycle tables (rotables) to jewellery, and his work is both eccentric and fascinating.

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Showcase by Die Fabrik

Do not be alarmed by the clowns! Die Fabrik have a range of sustainable and recyclable pieces that have been designed in an extremely practical and unconventional way. They use practical concepts such as flatpack furniture and combine this with the ethos of recycling. Their innovative and unconventional designs, provide a perfect balance in the world of IKEA shoppers and environmental degradation.

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Showcase by Die Fabrik

DMY launches Berlin’s Brand New Design Week

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On Wednesday, DMY will launch Berlin’s Design Week for the first time ever.DMY International Design Festival will present over 500 designers from 30 nations in the spacious aircraft hangers at the former Tempelhof Airport. A selection of high quality design, materials and research from some of the leading universities and studios from all over the world will meet with the prosperous Berlin scene. The festival coincides with the Nachtshift – Long Night of the Design Studios (presented by Create Berlin) on June 6, where more than 40 designers /design studios will be opening their doors to the public. DMY will also be hosting the Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany and will present all the works submitted during the 11th DMY Festival.

This years country focus will be on Poland and in cooperation with the Polish Institute Berlin: presentations, installations and shapely design of more than 40 design studios, companies and design schools will provide a comprehensive overview of the current design production of one of Germany’s largest neighbours. There will be strong presence from both universities and professional designers, showcasing areas such as interior and product design as well as research and thematic exhibitions.

So if you can hop over to Berlin for a few days, or if you’re already there – be sure to enjoy all the exciting events and exhibitions it has to offer.

Number 19 Greek Street – Storytelling, Recycling & Contemporary Design

© Jamie McGregor Smith | Courtesy of 19 Greek Street

During the London Design Festival one  of my favourite venues was 19 Greek Street. This brand new gallery established by Marc Péridis, Designer and Creative Director of the design studio Montage, aims to be London’s hub for craft, excellence and socially responsible design.

19 Greek Street

The impressive six-floor Victorian townhouse aims to become a centre for distinctive design storytelling, bringing together handpicked pieces from international design studios, as well as housing the UK outpost of ESPASSO, the much acclaimed US specialists in modernist and contemporary Brazilian design.

JZ Tea Trolley | Jorge Zalszupin | © Espasso
Courtesy of 19 Greek Street

Cantante Lamp | Etel Carmona | © Espasso
Courtesy of 19 Greek Street

19 Greek Street seeks to merge elements of social responsibility, recycling and contemporary design. The top floor design studio / workshop allows users to engage with the design processes of highly crafted pieces from the Australian design collective supercyclers.

Supercyclers | Courtesy of 19 Greek Street

It features both commercial and non-commercial pieces in exhibition and showroom environments, while also featuring a screening/lecture room and a workshop space where guests can engage with the process: the work behind the work.

Solar Sinter | © Markus Kayser | Courtesy of 19 Greek Street

Solar Sinter | © Markus Kayser | Courtesy of 19 Greek Street

Fuelled by an innate sense of curiosity and exploration, Péridis’ extensive travels through the world’s design hubs of New York, Miami, São Paulo, Berlin, Milan, have set the tone for the space.

© Kate Elliott | Courtesy of 19 Greek Street

This inaugural collection showcases works by an international stable of established design talents alongside emerging newcomers. The pristine white interior allows each exhibited piece of furniture to be presented individually and stand out to show every detail.

Elements | © Juan Pablo Naranjo Courtesy of 19 Greek Street

Péridis says of his decision to set up 19 Greek Street: “I am one of those people who plays with design like a child plays with his toys – with amazement and bewilderment, seeing an infinite potential in everything I find. This is design. So, for me, the idea was simple. I found a building that was looking for stories to tell, and I found stories that were dying to be told.”

Around the World in 80 Chairs: Living Chair – Chair Farm, London

Chair Farm © Studio Aisslinger at 19 Greek Street

I visited 19 Greek Street a new gallery space in Soho at the weekend as part of the London Design Festival. This exhibit of a ‘living’ chair structure was fascinating. The chair is positioned in a greenhouse complete with soil.

Studio Aisslinger describes the exhibit as the beginning of new life:

“This laboratory-like stage setup promises to be as spectacular as watching a dinosaur hatch from its egg: A chair is born from a steel corset! The only difference to the egg-comparison is the fact that the shell of the “chair farm” prototype is inside the chair’s structure instead of being outside.”

After the removal of the metal structure – described as the “corset”, the unique chair is revealed. The greenery has grown into the mould to form a structure akin to a chair.

“The chair is no longer produced in the classical sense of the word. Instead, it grows of its own volition in a greenhouse or on a field. When it has reached maturity, the steel corset is opened and removed, revealing a naturally grown chair. The title of the project by this Berlin-based designer, who imagines huge “product plantations” in the future, reflects this utopian means of production: the “chair farm””.

Chair Farm | © Studio Aisslinger | Courtesy of 19 Greek Street

Around the World in 80 Chairs: Stool at its final destination, Berlin

Stool in front of a skip in Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin, Germany. Photo courtesy of hypercatalecta.