Manulution, a new handcrafted modern home furnishings company, made its big North American debut at this year's International Contemporary Furniture Fair. As you can see, it's truly beautiful, heirloom-quality stuff (and admittedly not in everyone's budget). But perhaps just as noteworthy as the pieces themselves, are the company's adversity-filled Balkan roots and remarkable, unwavering focus on sustainability. Let's stop ogling over that credenza and learn a bit more, shall we?
Manulution is the modern offshoot of Rukotvorine
(English translation: “handcrafts”), a family run furniture company founded in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1927 by Adem Niksic. The company’s early pieces, based around traditional woodcarving techniques originating in the Bosnian town of Konjic,
were embraced by the Austro-Hungarian elite and are currently under state protection as part of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s national cultural heritage.
Following WWII and ending not too long ago, Rukotvorine somehow persevered through some truly tumultuous times: the company survived Yugoslavia’s socialist period as one of only a handful of non-state-owned business in the country; it survived the Bosnian War despite being located in Konjic, a town on the front lines of the conflict; and it has emerged triumphant from the poverty and strife that’s overwhelmed the Balkan region since the war ended in 1995. Although not the best analogy, Rukotvorine is the small business equivalent of Cher … resourceful, resilient, and impossible to bring down when the odds (in this case war, political upheaval, poverty) were stacked pretty high against it.
In the past couple of years, Rukotvorine has experienced a renaissance across Europe, snatching up design awards including the coveted Interior Innovation Award
by the German Design Council
and taking on big-deal projects like furnishing the American and British embassies in Sarajevo and working with a number of hotels, bars and restaurants. And now with the launch of Manulution — a name coined to express a shift away from mass-produced, cookie-cutter furnishings and towards a "revolution of skilled manual work" — the company is targeting American admirers of lovingly handcrafted furniture where “tradition is effortlessly blended into modernity."
Although Manulution’s American headquarters are based in Washington, D.C. (Adem Niksic’s grandson, Orhan, is heading up the subsidiary), each distinctive, limited-edition piece is still handcrafted in Konjic using nearly 100 percent locally sourced Bosnian hardwoods including walnut and cherry (click here
to read more about company’s sustainable forestry initiatives). Ecologically friendly glues, finishes, and other materials are used throughout the process. Additionally, energy-efficiency is a top priority at the Rukotvorine/Manulution production plant:
… we generate 100 percent of our heating energy by burning sawdust and tiny wood particles. The same combustion process provides 100 percent of the energy needs for steam wats and dry kilns, wherein we steam and dry our lumber. Finally, air conditioning is not employed to cool our production plant. The same ventilator system that takes the sawdust out creates sufficient air circulation to cool a well-insulated plant, enough to provide a comfortable work environment. Finally, we have started preparations to implement an energy efficiency project, supported by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to further improve our energy efficiency by optimizing the utilization of electrical equipment to minimize the use of peak load energy, as well as to minimize machine empty running time.
Sums up Orhan: “Our overriding sustainability objectivity is simple: longevity by design, materialization and processing.” And this is cool: Manulution invites visitors to the website to grade the company on a sustainability scale of 1 through 5 and are open to suggestions as to how the company can further reduce its negative environmental impact. From what I've read, they're doing a bang-up job so far.
In addition to being words-can't-describe stunning and deeply sustainable, the offerings
from Manulution are comprehensive: sofas, beds, coffee tables, cabinets, lamps, dinning chairs and tables, stools, and more. Highlights include the Salih Teskeredzic-designed Wave Cabinet, the Daisy Table, and the Umbra Coffee Table which is made from scrap wood leftover from the production of other Manulution pieces (all are pictured above). My favorite Manulution creation? The show-stopping Native Sofa with built-in cabinetry. Also available through Manulution are pieces from Artisan,
another award-winning sustainable furniture-maker from Bosnia as well as heritage pieces from Rukotvorine.
After making a splash at ICFF, Manulution (a member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council
, by the way) has started to sell pieces at retailers such as Mondo Collection
in NYC, Haute Living
in Chicago, and starting soon, Urban Outfitters’ grown-up sibling, Anthropologie.
If you can’t make it to any of those retailers in person, I highly suggest taking a look around the Manulution website
to see more gorgeous handcrafted pieces of modern furniture and to learn more about the company’s deep-green initiatives and history. Let me know what you think about both in the comments section.
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