Salvaged wood is a material much beloved by some designers. Aside from its obvious green credentials, its appeal lies in its strange, wayward beauty, its twisted shapes moulded by weather and time and its ability to inspire the imagination. And then, of course, since some fledgling designers are not usually awash with funds, it’s free.
Piet Hein Eek is the name I most associate with salvaged wood. He started recovering wood from old buildings in the Netherlands back in 1989, using it for his graduation collection at Eindhoven design academy long before upcycling became fashionable. He is still purveying much the same design aesthetic, though his two-door cabinet (£2,435) and bucket seat (£275) seem more refined.
This autumn there is a host of new designs incorporating driftwood. Bleu Nature, a French brand founded by designer Frank Lefebvre in 1995, is based entirely around the notion that driftwood is a wonderful, natural material, which can be harnessed to create sculptural pieces and furniture with immense and unusual appeal. Lefebvre and his team comb beaches for wood, much of which has been shaped and smoothed by the sea and the elements and needs no further treatment. They might combine it with petrified wood, pebbles, lacquered wood, metal, leather and other skins. Among the designs are the vast and striking Louis Crusoe wingback chair (£948) and sofa (£1,567), with suede seats, which are made to order in 12 to 16 weeks. Smaller pieces include beautiful stools and tables (example in second picture, £2,337) in which the driftwood is set in acrylic glass, and which Lefebvre describes as resembling “a slice of river frozen in time, like running water stopped in its tracks”. Also stunning are the floor lamps (£679), with their long wooden stems, mirror-finish stainless-steel bases and chrome-plated blown-glass shades.
British lighting company Heathfield & Co also has a series of arresting table lamps and wall lights with dramatic shafts cast from driftwood and finished in nickel (£238, first picture). And finally there’s Lombok, which has always specialised in handcrafted, mostly wooden, eastern-inspired furniture. It has recently brought out a charming collection of coffee and side tables (from £165) made from a combination of glass and Indonesian teak driftwood, which has the pale and interesting look that comes from being bleached by the sun.