Joanne Kelly and Anthony Buggy are co-owners of Think Contemporary, an Irish-based interior design company that recently added a line of upcycled furniture to their offerings. They added the collection because of the obvious shift in consumer thinking when it came to old furniture. In Ireland, as elsewhere, people aren’t throwing anything away anymore. Instead, they donate it to second hand stores or give it away online. “We saw a gap in the market to reuse these old pieces and to give them a new lease on life using eco-friendly products,” she says.
Joe Norman’s reclaimed pallet table. Photo: Blue Boat Home Design
Joe Norman of Blue Boat Home Design makes furniture of recycled boat parts, but he didn’t intend to become a niche designer or intentionally follow any trends when he started. Instead, he explains, he found that he created some of his most meaningful work using materials with a storied past, or “emotional residue,” as he calls it.
Artist and designer Boris Bally, who makes chairs and tables from old street signs, started working with trash because it presented a challenge; he had to figure out how to make “something people valued from something they discarded.” It can be a tough sell, he says. “You are essentially repackaging the material and selling it back to them,” he says.
Still, he was drawn to the nostalgic feel of reclaimed materials. A former jeweler who worked with precious and semi-precious metals and gemstones, Bally is often reminded of his Swiss roots, a time when his parents took him to scrap yards for fun on the weekends. The family’s motto was “use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without.”
The trend is beginning to catch on. “Zero waste design will just become ‘design,’ at which point it won’t be a trend because it will be ubiquitous,” says Norman.