“Each year in Australia, the equivalent of 800,000 three-seater sofas, 1.65 million dining tables or 3.4 million coffee tables, are thrown away.” – Cultivated.

One of the best strategies for sustainable living is to make and buy things that last. Cult Design has been leading in exceptional design in Australia for many years. Their in-house sustainability program, Cultivated, is now nurturing the circular economy for authentic furniture and lighting.

Cultivated is a product stewardship program that buys back, refurbishes and recycles authentic designer furniture. From a single lounge chair that needs re-upholstering to an entire building of tired seating, Cultivated work with local manufacturers and craftspeople to restore, reinvigorate or recycle original design.

We are delighted that Cultivated will be exhibiting at the 2023 Green Design Hub at Decor + Design, 13 – 16 July at Melbourne Exhibition Centre. Curated by Circular Design Thinking, it will be a thought-provoking journey into what true sustainability for the industry actually means, and also feature innovative products available to the industry right now.

In the lead up to the event, we spoke to Josh Ellis from Cultivated to find out more about their mission. Note – All imagery provided by Cultivated.

Can you tell us a little bit about the driving forces behind Cultivated and when it launched?

We actually launched Cultivated way back at Sydney’s Saturday InDesign 2013 event. Cult Design has always been about buying quality authentic design that lasts, and Cultivated is there to support that. Since 2013 we have offered a way to touch up and care for your loved furniture and lighting pieces to make sure they last as long as possible. If things are not wanted anymore, Cultivated is a way to find them a new home with someone else who will love them.

A good example of this was the recent work we did with the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. We worked to restore some of their Fritz Hansen Series 7 chairs, the oldest of which was from 1968. These are now back in the museum’s offices being used every day, hopefully for another 50 years. After all, there is sustainability in producing products with longevity.

We recently rebranded and now offer our services to all authentic designed furniture and lighting products, to help tackle the extensive furniture waste problem.

What kind of take up has it had so far?

The response has been overwhelming. Not only are we seeing members from the public looking to use Cultivated’s services, but we have now engaged with larger corporations who are wanting to incorporate more sustainable practices into their businesses.

Recently we have completed projects with Melbourne Airport and Mirvac’s Broadway shopping centre. Interestingly, we are mostly seeing the public and businesses retain what they have and refurbish products rather than selling these products back to Cultivated. I think people are really investing in and appreciating the items they have now as pieces to keep and hold onto.

Circular design is a major focus of Decor + Design this year. What major changes would you like to see take place in the Australian design & manufacturing industry to progress sustainability?

I think we, as the interior furnishings industry, need more accountability when it comes to producing products which last and for giving these products proper end of life processes.

I’d like to see estimated product lifespans be available so that a consumer can make an informed choice, for example, over a $500 chair that lasts 5 years, or a $1000 chair that lasts 20+ years.

Sometimes the extra cost can be a deterrent at the time, but the payoff long term is so much better for the environment and for your finances. I would also like to see more policing of product stewardship claims. There are a lot of products out there with 3rd party eco-labelling, which requires them have an end-of-life process, but so many of these products are not finding their way into these processes and are just being disposed of in landfill.

You will be participating in the 2023 Green Design Hub at Decor + Design Melbourne this year, 13 – 16 July. How will you be involved and why did you decide to take part?

We really want to get our message out there and set the standard of what a program like ours can look like. The Green Design Hub is the perfect platform for this. Yes, we refurbish, buy back and sell pre-loved furniture, but we also do so much more than that. We have developed our waste streams to ensure that if waste product created during the refurbishment process can be recycled, they are.

We partner with TRAKS in this way to recycle our unwanted textile waste. We are also working with Sydney based Circular Design Thinking on ways to give a second life to waste post-consumer polyurethane foam, of which most currently goes to landfill. We are upskilling and support workshops in Sydney and Melbourne, with the aim to increase the network to Brisbane and Perth next.

We are really excited as one of our small family-owned and Sydney based upholstery workshops is now taking on a new staff member in response to the amount of work we have been able to support them with. We also have a way to go on some things. For instance, we still use some plastic based protective packaging for our products, but we are being transparent about this and can talk about our goals and steps we are taking to be better. Hopefully by being a part of the Green Design Hub, and sharing our sustainability journey, we can inspire others in their own journeys.

Visit the inaugural Green Design Hub at Decor + Design, 13 -16 July at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, for a thought-provoking journey into what true sustainability looks like for the industry.

It will also feature products available to the industry right now, from beautiful brands including Armadillo, Enviro Hide, Cultivated, AMP Circular, E9 Design, Hameland, Cosentino, AH Beard, Zepel Fabrics, ResiLoop and TRAKS Textile Recycling.

Entry to the exhibition is free but limited to design trade visitors. Register now and start planning your trip!