I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but suddenly everywhere, everybody wants to save everything. It started with the whales, then the environment, then oh! We had to re-use and re-cycle everything. We had to compost and conserve. People wanted us to refurbish our furniture instead of throwing it away. Mike Rowe got dirty in a mattress recycling plant. Pssssh! Who cares about all that crap?
Well, um, lots of people. Including artists and furniture designers, many of whom have been touting sustainability in their work for years. Sustainability, re-use, re-purposing – there is an entire movement going on behind the scenes, and not always to make some sweeping, artsy-fartsy statement. Sometimes, the artist just really believes in re-use and maybe, just maybe, has a special affinity for those materials, like Amelie’s affinity for skipping stones.
It so happens that drawers are one of those materials. Yup. Drawers.
Kitchen drawers, PO box drawers, unloved-lost-and-damaged drawers. Drawers.
The most well known pieces come from a German design studio called SchubLaden (which means, predictably, “drawers”). What makes their furniture noteworthy is their use of salvaged drawers in the construction of each piece. In this case, salvaged could be drawers from an old library card catalog, wine crates or even drawers from other pieces of furniture that have been damaged in some way. SchubLaden have created entire chests of drawers as well as modular pieces that seem to float on the wall.
Hot on their heels comes another designer (also German – do Germans just have a thing with drawers??), Per Schumann. He heads up a design studio in Germany and has been creating pieces out of vintage mismatched drawers – after collecting drawers for years. His pieces are not always as elaborate as SchubLaden, often consisting of just the salvaged drawer in a new casing, ready to float on the wall. I like the simplicity of that concept just as much as I do the idea of an entire cabinet of cool drawers, just waiting to be filled.
Two other design houses are also making furniture from drawers. I’m thinking SchubLaden should have patented this years ago!
Wis Design, out of Sweden, makes gorgeous, and I mean gorgeous pieces using drawers rescued from flea markets and even some that were just found (I have a sudden itch to prowl the neighborhood on trash day now….) Their pieces are true works of art, even appearing in Sweden’s National Museum of Art and National Design Museum. Let’s agree not to think about how much it must cost to commission a piece from these ladies.
Finally, there is Rupert Blanchard, a Brit who has been working in the world of salvaged and reclaimed materials for years. He will take an entire armoire, gut it, remove the doors, everything – and then re-fit it with dozens of drawers and cupboards, creating a really lovely and unique piece. At other times, he will build a frame for his pieces, much the way the other designers do. Again, I don’t think I’ll be… capable… of purchasing any of these pieces any time soon – which makes me just stomp my feet in frustration! I am in love with this look.
So I started thinking about how I might achieve it, without dropping thousands of pounds or euros or whatevers. My answer lay in finding or creating pieces inspired by SchubLaden, rather than re-creating them.
SchubLaden-inspired storageI first found Craftynest, which is a fantastic craft blog. She painted salvaged drawers and lined them with pretty paper – then stood them on end, to create a really unusual and quirky modular shelving unit. The only thing missing is getting to see the interesting drawer fronts, which are one of the things that make SchubLaden and the others so interesting. I think I’m going to try this trick, but I’m going to pull the drawer faces off, and reattach them to the drawers so that I have a lip. Add another piece of wood and I’ll have a shelf inside the drawer.
Antique post office box
Antique post office boxNext I thought, why not single drawers attached to the wall. They would have to be rather shallow or else trimmed a bit, or capaple of being mounted sideways. And I’d love to see old wooden PO boxes attached to the walls. Something like that would be great because it also has a drawer, so you immediately get the SchubLaden look without having to build a frame. Attach them using small brackets from the hardware store, or even get a little fancy and mix it up with some pretty decorative brackets from a place like Anthropologie.
Last, I started breaking down what it was that really appealed to me about these pieces. And it’s not the piece as a whole, so much as it is the interest of the individual drawers. The old wood, the textures, the burl, the printing in some cases.
So while it’s not exactly the same, I think you can achieve a similar feel just by using a bookshelf and some interesting boxes and crates, like this old Heinz box. Mix and match – you could stack cigar boxes, have one large wine crate, some medium sized cheese boxes (not Laughing Cow, I mean the old school ones). Scope out Ebay, Freecycle and Craigslist – and don’t neglect the curb. There are treasures to be had – for almost nothing!