Eco-chic furniture branches out
Sustainable or recycled furniture is no longer the preserve of tree huggers. Growing awareness about the environment means these pieces now take pride of place in trendy showrooms.
TREE (www.tree.com.hk) recycles materials salvaged from old furniture, railroad sleepers, boats and bridges. Most of the company's furniture is made in Indonesia, from reclaimed teak that bears Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. This ensures the materials used are sustainable.
Its managing director Kate Babington says many customers talk about sustainability without realising what the term means. So, affiliation with the FSC goes a long way in helping to educate potential buyers.
The company is also involved in projects in which it gives back to communities with donations and sponsorship. It also sources from local suppliers who focus on using organic and natural materials. The extra income benefits them and enables these communities to keep their rich craft traditions alive.
In six years, the TREE concept has developed to incorporate clean, relaxed and energising living space with strong, contemporary lines, unique style and flawless craftsmanship.
Babington says no two pieces are the same. 'We say that there's beauty in imperfection - each piece has its own characteristics, grain and pips,' she explains. It is significantly more expensive to buy sustainable materials, she says. 'This is because the sourcing involves more work and it is also more difficult to reform pieces into workable furniture. Compared to a veneer, which chips after a while and is what most furniture is today, ours is solid wood, so you get what you pay for and it will last a lifetime.'
Most customers request a natural finish because it shows off the wood to its best effect. A grey-white or black-brown finish is also possible.
Babington says the company has altered the colour for customers who made their purchase a long time ago, but decided they wanted an update. It has even exchanged old TREE tables for larger ones when customers move into bigger homes.
TREE offers a custom-made service for those who want a unique design.
The company's customer base has expanded from mainly expats to many Hongkongers and mainlanders. Babington says it is constantly shipping pieces to the mainland because the TREE look has become fashionable for its clean, contemporary style.
Its most popular pieces are dining tables, especially the Husky and Kotak styles. Since opening in 2005, the company has also expanded to include extendable tables and outdoor furniture.