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Camira chats with sustainable upholsterer, Vanessa Butt

Back to Inspiration
How do you approach upholstery from an environmental/sustainable perspective?

Upholstery began in the early 17th century as an incredibly sustainable practice, using only natural materials and hand tools, and, with its focus on restoring and keeping furniture going, an eco-friendly ethos really does lay at its core. However, the advent of industrialisation and the development of plastic as a source material meant that our craft had to adapt to ultise manmade materials - for example, modern furniture (anything made from 1960 onwards) was designed to be upholstered with foam. This, combined with society embracing a more throwaway nature of consumerism, meant that the main challenge faced by upholsterers was highlighting the importance of longevity and restoring rather than replacing.

What I find interesting is that we are now coming back full circle to using more natural materials, or recycling the excess that our society has created - which is brilliant. In our workshop, we do the research so it's as easy as possible for our customers to opt for sustainable options. For example, we offer alternatives to foam in the form of rubberised coconut fibre. We have also created a directory of sustainable fabrics, all made with either environmentally friendly or recycled materials, from suppliers that share our commitment to creating in harmony with the environment. We particularly love Rivet and Oceanic, woven from recycled plastic, and many customers are also very drawn to the all-natural fabrics, Nettle and Hemp. As upholsterers, I feel it’s our responsibility to be knowledgeable and educate ourselves so these options are no longer ‘the alternative’.