By: Shenuka Dias

Lecturer – Furniture Design,Department of Architecture.

We currently live in a day and age where the ecological footprint consumers leave in fulfillment of their needs has become a very important issue in everyday life. Environmental pollution and material limitation is an increasing concern which questions the way we use and re-use our resources in contribution to help preserve our planet.

Scientists estimate that we are losing more than 137 species of plants and animals everyday due to rainforest deforestation. This deforestation is happening partly to support the furniture market, which is mainly dependent on wood as its raw material. Tropical hardwoods like teak, mahogany, and many other timbers, used for furniture and other wooden products are in high demand as their supply dwindles. In this context environmentally-friendly furniture, or ‘green’ furniture, is growing in popularity in recent times among homeowners and interior designers alike.

The goal of green furniture is to provide consumers with options to better built furniture, resulting in a more ecologically friendly final product. To achieve this, green concepts, sustainable design concepts and waste management concepts, have been established globally where such practices will help promote green culture.

The increasing concern and demand to take appropriate action in preserving the environment has driven both, designers and manufactures to create new “trends” in furniture design as well as new techniques in production that create positive environmental implications.

Globally furniture design and construction is moving towards the effective use of material at a high speed. However, a problem arises in the Sri Lankan furniture industry whether their approach towards effective material use is adequate in the competitive modern world with limited timber resources. It is interesting and important to explore and analyze the effective utilization of material in the existing processes of the furniture industry.

Reclaimed wood is the wood that usually is retrieved from old furniture, houses and other wooden articles, as also from left over scraps in a factory. Either way, furniture made from reclaimed wood is a great example of resource efficiency. Sadly, this is an unexplored area in our country, where most factory waste and old wooden articles are burnt or refused as garbage.

Responding to this current ecological need furniture design student Chathurika Nugawela breaks the limits of conventional furniture design by experimenting the innovative utilisation of reclaimed wood from factory left over scrap to create elegant lifestyle furniture. Her design solution titled, “Grey to Green Collection” provides answers to this issue by giving ordinary wood off cuts a new lease of life. These pieces of contemporary styled designer furniture uses cost free raw material, which create an opportunity for small scale local wooden craft based clusters to reach new market segments.

To develop this innovative and aesthetically appealing product range, the wood factory “left overs” have been carefully categorised into three major types by shape and size.

The “remaining of curves”, is a regular production left over in generating circular shapes such as circular table tops. A design solution needs to be dealt with the curvy form of the waste without much modification effort. The “Riggle Wiggle Chair and Coffee Table” uses these curvy forms of timber to create vibrant coloured and dramatic forms of furniture that command attention.

“The Bead Magic Chair” uses left over “small cubes” of wood, which are lathed into beads to create the innovative form in the piece of furniture. Small cubic pieces of wood “left over” are already used in the industry for lathe work and making wooden nails. However the demand for the lathe worked pieces and wooden nails is not as high as the generation of cubic wood waste.

“It’s – so – jigsaw Chair and Coffee Table” uses plank forms developed with the use of “small square pieces” of wood. These small pieces of plank are of no use in its singular form, thus making these collective pieces of plank ideal for furniture construction.

These are only a fraction of the possibilities of using re-claimed material in furniture design. While these designs are formed in a major portion of re-claimed wood, a combination of other material such as steel, leather, glass, plastics, and fabrics, have been utilised as supplementary inputs.

The student designer has been quite successful in being sensitive to the environment without compromising class, elegance and the aesthetic value of furniture. The pieces seen here are designed and developed in direct response to environmental concerns and the inspiration evolves from the unknown value of wood “left overs” in the furniture industry.


Special thanks to Archt. Ranjith Alahakoone, the Bachelor of Design Course Director, Archt. Sagara Jayasinghe, Furniture Design Coordinator at the Department of Architecture, University of Moratuwa and Furniture Designer, Ms. Chathurika Nugawela (B,Des 2010).