The past couple of decadeshave been marked by the dominance of large multinationals selling furniture designed to be disposable. This has been an attractive option for many,since the comparatively low cost of the products has meant it is easy toreplace when moving house or when fashions change. However, with attentionturning increasingly to the effect that our throwaway lifestyles are having onthe environment, some companies are offering an ethical alternative.
Wharfside, a family companybased in Shoreditch, London, since 1962, has chosen to develop a relationship with Team 7, aforward-thinking and innovative furniture-manufacturing business based inAustria. Between them, these two ecologically minded firms are helping to leadconsumers back to the concept of heritage furniture, longevity and the centralphilosophy that wood is good.
Both Wharfside and Team 7have had half a century’s experience of meeting the needs of clients and haveformed an extremely successful collaboration that delivers bespoke furniturefeaturing the best of European design, crafted from the finest wood available.In the 1980s, Team 7’s founder, Erwin Berghammer, realised that the futurewould be in the production of ecological goods and dedicated his business tomanufacturing furniture that measured up to the highest standards ofsustainability and longevity. Every item Team 7 produces is made fromnaturally finished solid wood.
In 1991, Berghammer and histeam of craftsmen opened their first factory in Pram, Austria, and today, undernew owner Georg Emprechtinger, Team 7’s central tenets still apply. The teamhas also amassed a number of international certifications in environmental andquality management, proof of the company’s dedication to working withinecological parameters.
Around the same time that Berghammer was turning his attention to ethical and environmental designand production, Jonathan Stewart of Wharfside inLondon was also looking for a way tooffer his customers top-quality tables, chairs, beds, sofas, storage anddisplay units in solid wood. Team 7’s ethos and working practices, whichinclude growing all its own wood on 74 hectares of forest and woodland, means it is, at all times, aware of the value of its materials. The factthat the two businesses have been able to collaborate so closely and for so long has meant Wharfside’s discerning customers could have their furniture made to order,so that each piece is unique. Since Team 7 has extensive experience in craftingfurniture for all living areas, this means that every room, from the kitchen tothe bedroom, can be completely fitted out with bespoke, solid-wood pieces.
Both companies are dedicated to the crafting of inheritancefurniture and therehas been a natural agreement that all items should marry classic methods withthe latest technology to ensure they are as stable and durable aspossible. Using European hardwoods and employing traditional methods such astongue and groove, tooth and scarf joints, Team 7 has always intended itsproducts to be passed down from one generation to the next.
“It is becoming anincreasingly popular concept,” says Wharfside’s owner, Stewart, “and Iam all in favour of hand-me-downs. I think the tide has turned and maybe the days of disposable furniture are now numbered. Ourclientele has always demanded quality and we are in the business of making sure we provide the very best furniture. We work closely with Team 7because we know our criteria are so similar. They manage their woodsupplies and are the antithesis of a mass-produced, factory concept.”
Team 7 has a reputation asone of Europe’s leading ecological businesses, having twice been awarded theAustrian Ecology Production Mark. It also uses only pesticide-free wood fromEuropean forests and ensures that only natural oils and waxes are employed forthe finishes. Even the factories have been designed to have as minor an impacton the environment as possible, by using wind and water power and wood chips for heat, as well as incinerating biomass to produce energy.
While upcycling does offersome household items a chance of a new life, Wharfside and Team 7 specialise intimeless, classic European design that will never be out of fashion. “It’s farmore than the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’” says Stewart. “The things you choose to fill your home should reflect the quality of the life you want to live. Of course, there is also the ecological aspect that persuadesour customers it is better to pay more for a truly beautiful table, chair,sofa or bed than buy something much cheaper and abandon it to landfill in afew years.”
With an increasing numberof consumers admitting that the impact on the environment is one of their maincriteria when buying large-scale items, it is likely that the concept oflongevity will dictate future trends in home decor and furniture production.