Whether you are discarding old furniture or refurbishing your house, woodwork like floorboards, beams and structures, if not re-used are wasted.
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Aakriti Kumar, a 29-year-old entrepreneur, doesn't like the idea of wood going to waste. So Aakriti, a graduate from the Parsons School of Design, New York, decided to handmake furniture from discarded wood. Her venture is called Differniture which means different furniture.
"Lot of wood was getting used once and then discarded. Either it was getting thrown away or getting sold as firewood and it was really good species and perfectly good material that could be used again. So, I took this opportunity to pick up that material and convert it into sculptural furniture," says Aakriti.
We have all seen uprooted trees on the streets. These trees usually get auctioned and are mostly used as firewood. This is where Aakriti saw an opportunity. She purchases tree logs from auctions in Delhi and surrounding NCR and converts them into pieces of furniture.
"The first piece of reclaim material that I came across was shipping containers that came from South-East Asia for automotive parts. There were these huge crates made out of plywood and pinewood. Once the component was removed, the material would be discarded," she says.
The woods are carved into items of furniture depending on the species of the wood acquired. In a bid to reduce waste and to build an eco-friendly brand, Differniture doesn't use synthetic polishes or any toxic material. Only natural oils and finishes are used for its products.
"The woods have their own sizes, their own structure, they have nail marks, screw indentations, imperfections as you may call them, but enhancing those in the furniture is something that I like to do. I don't like to hide the past lives of these products," says Aakriti.
Aakriti began her journey in 2014 with one carpenter. Her first product was a coffee table made from discarded plywood. She has come a long way since then. Today, Differniture makes chairs, tables, consoles, dining tables, wooden sofas, wooden chandeliers, table lamps etc. Though Aakriti wants to minimise waste while creating the furniture, leftovers are inevitable.
Differniture has come up with a way to make use of this waste. "A year ago, I started focussing on this new collection, which I call tessellate, which basically means you take one geometric shape and you replicate it a bunch of times to create a more complex pattern, for a wide variety of table tops and chairs," she says.
The advent of new online furniture companies doesn't seem to deter Aakriti. She says the online furniture space is more about having furniture for short duration and moving on to the next. This entails curtailing production costs and keeping final prices low. However, Differniture is about creating furniture as an heirloom. "something that one passes on from generation to generation," says Aakriti.
Differniture has a studio in Sainik Farms in New Delhi and has tied up with few stores in Mumbai and Delhi. The company also showcases its products in various exhibitions across the country. Aakriti has now gone one step further in her love of wood and has launched a new project. "I am focussing on creating cabins in the mountains, up in the Himalayas. I have already done a sample house and it's all using the same ideology, the same eco-friendly approach," she adds.
While working on the new project, an idea struck Aakriti. Even though she was picking up waste wood to create cabins, villagers in the area still needed firewood for cooking and keeping themselves warm during cold nights. So Aakriti came up a solution - fire starter bricks made from sawdust. "We are already in the prototyping stage and we are going to give these bricks to the villagers that are around," Aakriti says.
Recently, Aakriti has gone as far as picking up hardwood maple from a squash court which was getting refurbished. "This is a material that's not used in India so I am excited to get my hands on it and see the possibility," according to Aakriti.
Her idea is to push the limits and boundaries and create something special to give the material she loves (wood) its due.