We met up with designer Aakriti Kumar, who founded Differniture at the age of 24 in 2014, at the recently held Design ID in New Delhi. She later asnwered our questions on her sculptural pieces of furniture and lighting, which combine aesthetics and functionality with a sustainable ethos. The Delhi-based designer and alumna of Parsons the New School for Design of tells us how she enjoys saving trees from being cut down and salvaging wood from shipping containers to create her furniture. Differniture also plants a sapling for every product made and sold, to give back to the environment.
What is Differniture? What does it stand for?
Differ(ent)+(fur)niture = Differniture
Differniture is a furniture design company that takes an alternative approach in its design process. The main premise behind Differniture is to merge the aesthetic and sculptural values of art with the functional value of design into a sustainably produced product.
I enjoy creating products from reclaimed and salvaged woods. The hunt to find the perfect material for the project is quite exciting. I look for wood that has had a past life and is deemed useless once its purpose it fulfilled. I look for trees that have fallen in storms or have to be cut down if they interfere in power lines or threaten to fall on houses. I believe that using reclaiming wood with all its “perfections” and battle wounds, transforming it into a product, adds another dimension to the piece.
What attracted you to adopt sustainable practices?
As a designer, specifically a product designer, what you will design will impact the environment you live in. I believe it is our duty to create/produce a product with a sustainable design process and minimal damage to our surroundings. I source materials from a sustainable standpoint, use non-toxic modes of finishing and polishing a piece and adopt a zero or minimal waste design module in my ideation phase.
A majority of this collection is inspired by nature and the material is naturally exposed. So a lot of the layering techniques have translated well into a number of furniture pieces, such as the topographic coffee-tables or the waterfall side-tables. An interesting product I recently finished was a chaise draped with wooden upholstery. Using small pieces of teak and after loads of experiments and prototypes, we were able to create the comfort of upholstery but with wood.
Does the material you use affect the final pricing in any way?
I use a variety of different materials. Some are available in sheet form, while others I have to hunt for. But the material is only a part of the production phase. The meticulous techniques and handmade skill that is required for each product is what makes something truly unique. So the pricing in not based on whether I got material that is commonly available but rather the transformation of that material as a sculptural piece with a function.
How do Indians respond to sustainable furniture? What is the trend internationally?
India is slowly accepting the fact that there is something positive about a sustainable design process but we have a long way to go before we can change the ingrained mindsets of people.
People tend to use highly toxic glossy plastic coat on all their furniture rather than leave it natural and beautiful with the help of non-toxic finishes.
I also use my waste material from past projects as a way of creating something new and unique but there will also be some who just won’t understand why something is priced the way it is if you are using your waste. I believe we do have to capability to change as a society and be conscious about sustainability, but that can only come into the picture once we start being conscious about our environment at the home/school level. Adopting principles from the West such as not burning toxic waste and plastics, cleaning up the surroundings and not littering, saving energy and water are the foundation to living an all-round sustainable lifestyle.
I hope to continue working on interesting projects and customizing for specific spaces. Dabbling in new materials and experimenting is something I enjoy doing and hope to use my sculptural aesthetic in different mediums as well. This is just the beginning. I hope that I can encourage others to think a little outside the box and challenge themselves as well. I want people to encourage change and the avant garde style that we are trying to apply in each product.
For more, visit www.facebook.com/differniture.