Sustainable Furniture

Installation shot, Home Grown exhibition, 2011, Disgrace and Pandora by Maaike Pullar

We bring you a double bill today on around sustainable furniture. Lucy Ainsworth profiles Dave Beeman, owner of Vampt Furniture, which features in the ‘lounge room’ of the Try This At Home exhibition space at Object Gallery.

Alex Bellemore profiles Maaike Pullar, an artist who works in furniture design by reclaiming old and unused objects and giving them a new life. Maaike also exhibited her works in the exhibition Home Grown at COFA space, a satellite exhibition to Try This At Home.

Both Beeman and Pullar approach sustainable practice in two completely differing ways. Whilst Beeman seeks to preserve the legacy and history of vintage products, Pullar radically reimagines old structures into contemporary design. These two practitioners are bound to a common belief in the beauty and unique stories of an object and the goal to prolong the life of these objects amongst a ‘new is best’ culture.

Sustainability and Vintage Design by Lucy Ainsworth

Yes, buying second hand furniture is good for the environment, but it is also a great investment. Being responsible and choosing sustainable options is the reality we are faced with, and filling our homes with vintage furniture is an exciting venture.  According to the owner of Vampt Vintage Design, Dave Beeman, “old is the new ‘new’” and mid-century designed furniture is in high demand.

Unlike new furniture which is often mass produced and has a short life span, vintage furniture is unique and of high quality. Although vintage furniture may seem expensive in comparison with brand new ‘flat packed’ items, the investment you are making is for a lifetime. Consider buying vintage furniture as starting a collection.

Some may argue that businesses, such as Vampt, who import vintage furniture from Scandinavia and Europe, rather than restoring local pieces are employing unsustainable practices.  Dave Beeman believes that the long-term benefits of increasing access to this type of furniture in Australia out-weighs the environmental impact of transporting them.

He states “transport is about the only argument that stands against environmental benefits. But it’s pretty much irrelevant because almost all the other furniture we are presented [with] is shipped here too.” Quality mid-century pieces have already lived a life-time and, if cared for, can be passed onto to further generations.

Have a look at some of the beautiful vintage pieces in the Try This At Home ‘lounge room’ at Object Gallery, and you’ll see why vintage design is the way to go.

Maaike Pullar: Furniture Resurrection by Alex Bellemore

The trend du jour of the recycling world is the term upcycling: rather than simply restoring a piece of furniture to its former glory, something is created which is entirely new and of greater worth both artistically and technically. Upcycling is specific to a new function being imposed on an object through assemblage, deconstruction or modifications. “Salvaged goods to art just squeezes in as upcycling”, says Maaike, “but while I’ve always thought of my chairs as a canvas, ultimately I want them to still have that function, as a chair, which is why I choose the term resurrection over anything else.”

Maaike’s work transcends the basic repair and re-use ethos, with Maaike finding an artistic voice and definitive style in her practice: “Each new find determines its own identity, demanding the right fabric, the right imagery and the application of a new skin. I may work on commission but I create art”. Frequently splicing choice words or phrases into her furniture, Pullar evokes a sense of ownership to place and time which acts as a powerful bond between the furniture and the household it finds a place in. Past examples of work have used the names of Sydney suburbs, tea towel snippets of whimsical phrases, and nostalgic vocabulary. Something as simple as the words tea time on a panel of one of Pullar’s chairs or the suburb names Darlinghurst or Marrickville spliced into an arm piece evoke memories and experiences which are unique to its owner and fuse a strong relationship between object and person.

Two of Maaike’s recent works, Pandora and Disgrace were on display at Home Grown from the 1-5 November, 2011. See the Curating Cities website for more information on this exhibition and to view the works visit:

A version of this article originally appeared in Desktop Magazine, May 2011

Is there an argument in saying that travel costs to import vintage items outstrips it’s sustainable branding?

Is the ‘upcycling’ of vintage furniture that may have value if restored to their original aesthetic a questionable practice? Who should make the choices?

Any personal experiences you have with restored or vintage furniture- let us know, contribute to the comments section of!