Friday, March 23, 2012

Icons of Rough Luxe Design:
Environment Furniture.

The Wheel Dining Table and Sputnik Stools


Soulful CEO

Environment, a furniture company established in 2001, designs with a respect for the planet in mind. Led by Davide Berruto, a venture capitalist and visionary entrepreneur, and an established team of French and Italian designers, Environment assumes environmental responsibility by working with recycled materials and vigilantly keeping their carbon footprint in check.

This lifestyle brand began as what the co-founder Davide calls "an organic process of constant improvement." The company initially started with large-scale traditional pieces and over time developed into an environmental and people-friendly lifestyle brand that is becoming the poster child for modern Rough Luxe today.

What is your approach to having a company founded on a sustainable lifestyle?

Just a decade ago, living a sustainable lifestyle meant that you would have to make a compromise for design. But today it's all about giving the people what they want, making a product that people like aesthetically, in forms the way they want them in a way that is respectful of the planet. The approach of sustainability is, "Let's have fun, let's enjoy, let's get what we want in the best possible way we can and pollute less." That is why we have 'Enjoy' as one of the company principles.

How is your design philosophy at Environment part of the Rough Luxe phenomenon?

The Environment design philosophy is about lifestyle. It's about California and family. It's about getting together with friends. The overall principle of Rough Luxe is like what I call "sophisticated casual." It is a concept where you can actually live with the furniture. This kind of living with furniture - like jumping up and down on it, getting it scratched up, letting your pets lie on it - is totally opposed to the modern luxury. It is a life opposed to coasters on tables or closing off a section of your house every time there is a birthday party for one of the kids.

How did you incorporate this eco-friendly concept into the brand?

It started as an experiment with specific specs of wood called Brazilian Peroba wood in a specific design. That experimentation evolved to become the approach of sustainability that has today become the DNA of the company. When we think about new concepts, respect for the planet is one the underlying principles.

Do you feel that the concept of sustainability has changed since you started your company?

The whole concept of sustainability is about constant improving, it takes time. In the beginning it seemed like a little bit of a constraint. Maybe we could not use certain materials or processes or limited ourselves. But in reality it was liberating rather than limiting. It allowed us to think outside of the box and made us so much more interesting. Sometimes we drive that change, up and down our supply chain, but sometimes we are adapters. We have to adapt as more materials and products become available. Aside from using reclaimed or certified wood to begin with, we use all water-based glues and water-based finishes and stains.

I found that your products age really well with use, which is also the opposite of modern luxury.

I wanted to create products that enhance people's lives. I want them to interact with our products in the experience that they want. Some people equate luxury with exclusive, but that is not our philosophy. We challenge ourselves to make our products accessible so we can bring this lifestyle and experience to as many people as possible. And we feel that Environment enhances your life as you use its products. Our products are created to gain even more patina and more character over time, becoming more beautiful as you use it. That is part of the whole experience.

How do you get your materials?

In the beginning we were always searching for new materials, but today we are constantly getting people from all over the world reaching out to us. Years ago when we wanted to start using upholstery, we were looking for something that fit our philosophy and our aesthetic. I start thinking about a fabric that already had some history with a natural distressed look. I didn't want to do it artificially because it is not part of our philosophy to distress anything artificially or spend a lot of energy, products and chemicals to distress something to give it that aged look. I realized the only place to find fabrics that have been naturally weathered and worn is in the military. We started to look at army tents that have been used. We started using the Shelter Half because it also has a beautiful story. Since the Civil War, American infantry always gets one half of their tent which was essentially a piece of cotton that would become a shelter when they got together with one of their comrades. It required the two pieces coming together to create shelter. That is why it is called a Shelter Half. We also discovered that until the 70s, it was made with 100% cotton canvas. They are aged up to 50 years old and naturally distressed. It has a beautiful story behind it, but most importantly a kind of history.

Pacifica Table with Carioca End Table and Santomer Block Coffee Table


Why do you think more and more people want the Rough Luxe look in their homes?

It is so boring when someone buys something in one place and wants everything to be perfect, or those who want everything to be shiny. It requires a lot of attention and good taste to be able to fill and empty room with a soul. It is much more difficult. It is a lot of layers and attention to detail that is not obvious. Designing in the Rough Luxe way takes much more soul and feeling, rather than simply designing. Rough Luxe Design is simply more interesting and has more character. You can feel is has a history, that it has more layers. Take the example of digital music and the vinyl record, or the difference between a gas fireplace and the wood-burning fireplace. It's truly so much warmer and it has so much more to say. The kind of flawless modern design might be attractive at first, because it is precise and functions so well and never makes a mistake, but I think when you start to make something too perfect you take the soul out of it. We are not perfect and as one evolves, one realizes that we all have imperfections. The Rough Luxe lifestyle is more soulful and human.

What is the Environment overall philosophy to lifestyle?

One only good way to illustrate our overall lifestyle philosophy of "enjoy, live and respect the planet" is by showing you how this company works. It works basically on three principles. The first is to simply enjoy life. The second is to share. This is important because we realized that today it's about collaboration and sharing knowledge. We want to use Environment as a platform to bring like-minded people, designers, artists, and non-profits together in order to discuss and further new ideas about art, furniture, new concepts and so on. It is avery powerful from a business standpoint. It is a positive spiral because people reach out to us to collaborate with us. It has gained a lot of momentum in the past two years.

How are you collaborating with other on Environment projects?

One collaboration with Peter Tunney is one perfect example. A few years ago I walked into his gallery and was blown away by the Roberto Dutesco photographs of the Wild Horses of Sable Island, many of the prints you will see with our furniture in our showroom in Los Angeles today. Peter loved our furniture and wanted to have some pieces for his home in Long Island. Next thing that happened is that he showed me his own incredible art. We collaborated to make some of the his own artwork on a huge banner of reclaimed truck tarp with the word BELIEVE for our L.A. store. Right now he is creating an American and California flag on huge banners made from recycled canvases. The second principle, 'Preserve,' is the core of our sustainability philosophy. We always try to do things that are better because we are conscious that we have only one planet. Conspicuous consumption and disposable goods are not the way to go any longer. When we make something it should be first and foremost well made, it should be timeless, and it should last so that our pieces get passed on to other generations.

Peter Tunney Collaboration with Environment


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