Start with the material
“The first thing is obviously to use sustainable materials. You get certain grades of timber that are sustainable, and you get raw materials like cork,”says Laurie
The designer is renowned for his innovative use of cork, a sustainable material that doesn’t require the cutting down of trees, as it is sourced from regenerative bark of the cork oak tree. It is also the only tree whose bark regenerates, and over its lifetime of approximately 200 years, the bark can be stripped about 17 times. Laurie adds that the cork he uses is also recycled from the wine and harvesting industries.
The studio also takes the offcuts from the manufacturing process and then grinds them down and mixes them with a binder to repurpose them into new material that they can use for other products.
“For example, there was a project at the end of last year where they took all my cork offcuts, recycled them, added a binder, and then cast an outdoor floor for kids, at the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch. So now, basically, the kids can play on a recycled cork surface, which is obviously very soft, eco-friendly and tactile,”says Laurie
“We also make these beautiful art panels from our offcuts. We cut them into boards that we glue to steel or timber. They can be used indoors or outdoors. We’ve sold quite a few to people to use in their houses or for their projects. It’s all recycled material; it’s all sustainable,” he adds.
Make it last
Laurie also emphasizes the importance of quality and durability: “Furniture sustainability is also about providing products that last, that are not pieces you might throw away in the next two years. It’s timeless, original pieces, and not necessarily expensive ones. It’s something that’s designed in a unique and original way, where people will see value. Sustainability is also about your practice – it’s about being consistent, looking after your staff, giving them increases every year, being sustainable within the industry. Being consistent in quality, and consistent with your clients. Doing all of these things will go a long way towards helping create a holistically sustainable business,” Laurie concludes.