Love teak furniture but loathe the fact that precious hardwood trees have to be cut down for it? Then consider a piece by Osisu. This small Thai company takes reclaimed teak (as well as discarded plywood, bottle caps and juice cartons) and fashions it into sleek furnishings that sell from its Bangkok head office and outlets in Paris and Los Angeles.
Osisu’s founder, Singh Intrachooto, 39, never intended to be a furniture designer, but his environmentalist scruples made him one. About a year and half ago, the M.I.T.-trained architect was dismayed to see a fleet of trucks turn up at one of his project sites every evening to haul away tons of rubbish. “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I’m building an energy-efficient building but I’m still producing a lot of waste,'” says Singh. He discovered that the garbage–including perfectly good plywood–was being incinerated, dumped in landfills or left by the roadside. Spurred into action, he started making furniture from the unwanted wood and sneaking it into office buildings he’d designed. Clients approved, and as more people began inquiring about the pieces, Singh and business partner Veeranuch Tanchookiat set up Osisu (the word is from the Finnish sisu, meaning “to have guts”).
While still relying primarily on construction sites, Singh also sources his materials from lumberyards, factories, junkyards and even juice bars (for the aforementioned bottle caps). Coming up with new ideas for furniture is tough, Singh admits, because he starts with scraps. Given the constantly changing nature of the raw materials, no more than 20 pieces can be made for each design. But this limitation is also an advantage–customers are willing to shell out top dollar for handmade designs they can be sure very few people have. “I want to celebrate life and the imperfections inherent in my raw materials,” Singh says. “My designs therefore come out very edgy.” He is currently preoccupied with figuring out how to turn other kinds of leftovers–such as fiberglass resin that’s sprayed on plastic bathtubs–into furniture. “I keep believing that if I do this, this world would be nicer,” he says. There might be a few more teak trees left standing, too.