The famous 80s song proclaimed, we are “living in a material world”, but thankfully sustainability's significant influence on design in recent years has given this statement more meaning. For the modern day maker the use of reclaimed materials has grown increasingly more common, but a small few have taken to a more honest and era-sensitive form of restoration.
A discipline grounded in a material’s origin, time and place, these makers are striving to put the beauty back into faded glory. Turning to heritage as the core part of a design narrative, these craftsmen have brought a sincerity to the sustainability, reclaim and restoration process, whilst raising awareness around the value of ‘raw materials’. Treating the material with respect, they understand each pieces own journey and inherent beauty. But this style of restoration is just a part of the mindset driving this shift, we caught up with Sheffield-based design and interiors agency 93ft. Working with a team of makers 93ft are dedicated to the re-use and re-work of reclaim materials. Their philosophy is that great materials are at the heart of great design and therefore beautiful interiors. We asked founder Tim Hubbard about his journey to source incredible materials, "The story that materials tell, form the basis for design that people can connect with on every level".
With its well-documented meteoric rise in popular culture, the maker movement's economy has flourished, with some choosing to act as spokes-people for the movement. Yet, it seems that real makers prefer to stand behind the material and not in front of it, and as Tim puts it, “Allowing the work and the material to speak for itself, because it can look after itself”.
These makers are driven by passion, skill and the satisfaction of seeing a new use for reclaim or raw materials, which is in itself a fine balance comments Tim, “Some materials should never be restored. When the materials are right, over-working them can numb their inherent beauty, we balance this so we never compromise on authenticity”. With greater prominence impacting the financial value of materials, forcing their prices to change rapidly over the last three decades, timbers are worth more today than when they were first cut from the earth. As Hubbard states, “Unwanted timber 20 years ago would have been binned and burnt, 10 years ago folks would have been glad to have sold it. Today, people are starting to cherish it, because generally there’s more awareness, and there’s also more people in the market and they’re commercialising the product and its value”.
In a time where it has become popular to bang the drum of sustainability, this form of sensitive restoration isn’t a matter that can be reverse engineered into a design ethos. As Tim states, “If you can be sustainable, why wouldn’t you? When it comes to interiors, a beautiful historic building gives us a history, we like to work with what’s already there, we don’t believe in throwaway culture”. Whilst being a statement that gets tougher to argue with the more you ponder it, it also illustrates that to these makers, sustainability is just where it should be, at the heart of design.