Don’t fake it if you can’t afford it

This article from the “Heckler” column, was first published during 2013 in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. It’s remained in my clippings and I still think it’s fun! Thank you Stephen Lacey – wherever you are.

Why is it that normally respectable folks, who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a fake Rolex, or carrying a fake Louis Vuitton, think it’s fine to fill their houses with fake designer furniture?

Apart from the dubious ethics involved in stealing some impoverished Danish designer’s hard work, and supporting a Chinese sweatshop industry where toddlers are whipped until they make enough chair legs, isn’t there something terribly desperate about wanting a house full of cheap rip-offs?

Most of these fakes are so built down to a price they they don’t even begin to approximate the quality and attention to detail of the real thing. There’s a reason why a real Eames lounge chair will set you back the best part of six grand, while a papier-mache and sticky-tape version can be had for less than $1000.

Then there’s the question of proportions. The copycat manufacturers can’t ever seem to get it quite right; it’s as if they failed geometry at high school. Sit in a faux Pierre Paulin orange slice chair and you might never climb out again without the help of a chiropractor. And if you think the real Barcelona chair is damn uncomfortable, wait until you try the one from Zhejiang; it’s enough to give you sciatica just looking at it.

But one of the main reasons I can’t stand homes full of fakery, is they all seem to be right out of the same furniture-fakes-for-people-with-no-imagination catalogue. Panton chair? Tick. Noguchi coffee table? Tick. You can be sure, the only ”real” designer object in the home will be the useless Alessi Juicy Salif citrus squeezer somebody once bought for a wedding gift.

Look, I understand not everybody can stump up $1000 for a genuine Nelson platform bench. And I get it that only a small proportion of people can fork out $10,000 for an Arne Jacobsen egg chair. But seriously, if you can’t afford the real thing, you can’t afford the real thing. I can’t afford to live in Kellyville, but I haven’t resorted to removing the eaves from my house so it looks like I do.
Here’s an idea. Start a savings plan(call it your Eames account), borrow the money from your wealthy aunt in Bowral, or at least invest in some original Australian designs that won’t break the bank.

Because really, where does it all end? It starts out with just a couple of replica chairs, and pretty soon your whole damn life is just a fake.

Stephen Lacey

Made in Sydney…now in Adelaide

Should you be in the centre of Adelaide’s central business district, close to Victoria Square and lucky enough to be refreshing yourself at the Public CBD caffe and bar, then you may be surprised to know that the feature wall of wood, right in front of you, is made from fence palings from Sydney!

So amusing to think that suburban garden fencing material, in this case miscellaneous Australian hardwood timber, would be here, making such a stylish effect. So far from the backyard ball games, unruly climbing plants and countless hot summers in Sydney’s southern suburbs.

It was 2 years ago when I first spoke to Danielle who was looking for something interesting for her project in South Australia’s capital city. I had just started to promote recycled fence palings at the place I was with and supplies were a bit patchy. After estimating the amount required, each piece was wire brushed and trimmed before being packed to be road transported.

Danielle said everyone went “crazy about the wall” when they opened. Since then I’ve used the pictures she sent me to inspire people setting up bars here in Sydney. Also, I’ve had furniture made using the fence palings. See my website for further information and make a comment or contact me to discuss ideas.

Address for Public CBD is 12, Franklin Street, Adelaide, South Australia 5000
http://www.publiccbd.com.au Say Mark sent you.

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Seeing trees for the wood

I have had some feedback following my last blog: worried that I sounded negative regarding a recent lost opportunity. I regret that interpretation. After 20 years, not only as a sales consultant, but as a promoter of solid timber furniture, I have learnt that professionalism at all times is essential and accepting the decisions of the client paramount.

My previous post was meant to illustrate what I believe is a current general problem: the appreciation of value in the items we clothe, house and furnish ourselves with. That $5 t-shirt or $250 sofa may seem to us like a bargain, but is it only a short cut to disposability? And how do we explain the likely costs of paying people to make and then send around the world these items.

Now it isn’t only for myself that I cry! Talking to people who make things and provide services, constantly reminds me of the potential for personal satisfaction, if only we would make the effort to evaluate the things we purchase.

By the way, if anyone would like a table or cabinet or bench top made to order from the very impressive timbers supplied by the company in the previous blog post, please contact me.

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Seeing wood for the trees…

…or the one that got away.

Met someone recently who lives on the north coast of New South Wales, with a happy family and a business, kiln drying Australian timbers such as brush box, blackbutt, rose, blue and spotted gums for furniture and other uses. See pictures kindly supplied below

He and is partner were in Sydney to find a bathroom vanity to purchase. They’d seen imported models and had questioned the materials used. Is it veneer or particle board? Was it a certified wood product? The sort of queries you make when you have an impressive occupation dealing with high quality woods.

With my background, advising and promoting sustainable local woods, it seemed naturally my duty to advise him on the alternative: something made to size in a solid timber. And at a similar price to the mass produced, factory made and imported item. Just think of all those carbon miles saved. I felt sure that here were people who would make the ‘right’ decision.

I am, I must admit, a little sad and very disappointed. The family have spoken.
The vanity cabinet will not be made in a little place called Sydney.

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How good is wood?

Guitars are made from it. Boats float using it. Churches and rivers are crossed using it. Tables made from wood can be passed down through the generations. The traditional standard six seater table measuring 6 feet by 3 feet (180cm x 90cm), being the size of most human beings, evolved as a presentation platform for the recently deceased! You would lay out your nearest and dearest in their finery for all to see.

The more I think about wood, the more I realise how subtly it is a part of our lives. Who hasn’t stared at a wood fire, watching the flames consume the pieces as they disappear. It feels deeply primeval. You’re in the moment, as perhaps many an ancestor was.

Maybe this explains the satisfaction we get from wood. It’s use, even in a minor way, helps to soften, accent, comfort us in an interior space wether small or large. We can hold it close as it charms. Like a guitar.

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“We’ve lost touch with the nature of things”

Kevin McLeod, presenter of the Grand Design’s series, says this in one of his recent man made home by the sea episodes. He was considering the types of materials and “things” we choose to surround ourselves with nowadays. It made me think: could we be heading into a world filled with items popped out of 3D printer, fed by packets of carbon from the local supermarket!

Have we lost the touch for natural fibres? The feel of leather, the coolness of steel, the textural properties of wool, paper and wood? It seems to me that machine made materials may have the clean, crisp, ready to apply convenience we see on a screen or a box, but not lasting charm as the years pass by. Like the flat pack modular kitchen that gleams and sparkles from day one: yet looks so tired as it scuffs and peels with use.

If you want furniture that will last and increase with natural charm, something to pass on to the next generation, to have that natural touch, then seek out people with the skills and the knowledge to give you what you deserve. Source locally made now.

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