At the 2018 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, 57st. design, a contemporary furniture brand based in Chicago, highlighted its new furniture recycling initiative: Design Circulation. The initiative operates on a closed-loop model: The company guarantees to buy back its furniture at any point, regardless of wear, for significant store credit.
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With Design Circulation, 57st. design will also pick up the piece for free, restore it to its original condition in its workshop in Chicago and circulate it to the next generation of owners.
“The idea is we can have furniture circulating from home to home or office to office forever and in perpetuity,” says Sam Devenport, co-founder and CEO of 57st. design.
The program was originally designed for residential consumers, but in the next year or two the company plans to launch a variation of Design Circulation for the commercial and contract furniture industry as well (i.e. hotels, offices, etc.).
The goal is to encourage “thoughtful consumption” and to make heirloom-quality furniture more accessible. It also provides a sustainable alternative to buying furniture.
57st. design is able to restore its furniture because it’s made of solid hardwood and is hand-finished.
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“The nice thing about furniture that’s solid hardwood and is hand-finished is that it’s really easy to re-finish to its original condition,” Devenport explains. “You can sand it, spot finish it. A lot of furniture, in addition, is made in a modular way. A lot of component parts – say a leg on a table – are replaceable.”
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At Greenbuild, 57st. design had a walnut sofa table on display as an example of a piece it’s restored. The table was brought with steam damage and scratches. To re-finish it, the piece was steamed to bring out wood grain, then was sanded and restored with an oil and wax finish.
When mentioned that the table looked as good as new, design director Claire Feinberg said, “That’s what we’re going for.”
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