How Sustainable is Handmade Furniture?

February 24, 2020 - Kerikeri, Northland, New Zealand

Is handmade furniture sustainable? Trying to navigate the sustainability of Australian, New Zealand and international timbers is like trying to choose a suitable political party. Heavily weighted opinions are thrown about from all sides, and few are without some sort of agenda floating around in the background.

Where does that leave the customer, looking for beautiful, handmade bespoke furniture in NZ?

How Sustainable is Handmade Furniture? 1
Custom sideboard built from FSC accredited American walnut.

Where does that leave the independent maker, not looking to sway public opinion in favour of profit, but instead, trying to make an informed decision?

Reclaimed timber might seem like the best option, and of course, is most immediately sustainable but the timber is of lower quality, with hidden weaknesses and voids. All of which jeopardise our wish as makers to offer a lifetime guarantee.

So we turn to sustainably sourced timbers, grown from plantation sources. The big names in the Australian timber industry all preach sustainability and have the accreditation to support it.

International timbers are approved by the Forestry Stewardship Council:

"FSC is an international, non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world's forests. FSC has developed a system of forest certification and product labelling that enables people to identify responsibly sourced wood, paper and other forest products."


The Australian hardwoods are approved by PEFC:

"PEFC, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, is a leading global alliance of national forest certification systems. As an international non-profit, non-governmental organization, we are dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management through independent third-party certification."


I believe as makers, we can go a step further by getting to know smaller, independent suppliers which have a personal link with the forest they manage.

One of my favourite suppliers is Corsair Timbers. Denis Brown, the owner, harvests trees from his own property, replanting the trees that are felled and prefers to personally select trees that are at the end of their life.

Denis' Otways Blackwood is absolutely stunning.

I have a hunch that for big company manufacturers, Australian hardwoods will become more and more difficult to source, leading to more and more laminate construction.

I also have a hunch that this will lead to an increase in people desiring beautiful, solid timber furniture. These pieces will be made by independent makers, utilising quality and sustainable timbers from local suppliers.

Handmade Furniture - kitchen table
Vaeda dining in Otways Blackwood
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