The world's trusted guide to sustainable and ethical fashion

The world's trusted guide to sustainable and ethical fashion

Ditch the IKEA and Upgrade to Lifetime Furniture from Materia Designs

Sure, IKEA is great for your starter apartment, when you and your roommate make $35,000, you’re not sure if you even like your roommate, and your crappy little apartment doesn’t even deserve nice furniture. Plus, you’re still in that phase where your tastes are rapidly shifting from Everything in Pastels to something a little more nuanced.

But now I’m starting to feel more like a grownup. I’m stocking my closet with long-term fashion items, like crisp blazers, selvedge jeans, silk blouses, and leather loafers. Shouldn’t I be doing the same with my furniture?

That’s where Materia Designs comes in. Developed by Megan Sommerville and Matt Ensner, this collection of mid-range furniture, evocative of the more enduring mid-century modern design, is based on beauty and utility. So you can move it from apartment to apartment to upstate house to retirement community–it will fit your life no matter where you go.

Take the Stratus bed, for example. You can easily convert it from a canopy bed to an elegant four poster topped with either steel or hand sewn leather caps. But the customization goes further, because every piece of Materia furniture comes in a variety of wood, leather and metal options. Here’s where your skills as a conscious consumer comes in, because Sommerville and Ensner like to collaborate.

Stackable coffee tables come in a variety of metals and woods.
Stackable coffee tables come in a variety of metals and woods.

Manu handstoolPerhaps you would like to go with the most affordable option, which is ash. “Where does the ash come from?” you might ask. It’s likely that it comes from a tree felled in a storm. The design duo is often alerted to felled trees upstate by friends, and rush over to pick them up and take them to the mill so they can use them. In any case, no matter what, the wood is sustainable. Ensner has a background in environmental conservation. Or maybe you would like to go even more sustainable, with reclaimed wood. Ask them what it was reclaimed from. Barn doors? Other furniture? They even offer the zen option of shou sugi-ban, a Japanese method of charring the wood black, so that it lasts longer. Ask them about the leather, which is vegetable-dyed calfskin. (Sorry, vegans! But at least it’s not tanned the normal, toxic, chromium way.) And ask them about the manufacturing, which is done upstate near Beacon. By the end of your adventure, you’ll have a bespoke bed that will age gracefully, just like you.

If you would like a more affordable entry point, you can pick up some smaller pieces. I love the Manu handstool, a wee chair/stool that can serve a variety of purposes. The tall back with a handle allows you to easily pick it up and move it about your kitchen, if you’re short like me and need help reaching the higher cabinets. Or you can artfully place it in your living room. I sat down in it while I was in the showroom, and was surprised and how comfortable it was. “Our friends love to hang out in that chair,” Sommerville told me. Indeed, it might look like a kids chair, but it actually places your guests at the same level as people sitting on the couch, encouraging a comfortable, laid back, casual vibe. I could imagine it in almost any design setting, from a Brooklyn loft to my great aunt’s country home. That starts in the $300 range, depending on the size and wood options you get.

Materia Designs couch from sustainable wood has two storage units on either end

Other versatile pieces include a bench with shelving underneath, a couch whose arms double as storage drawers, nesting coffee tables, and even an apple orchard ladder that you could actually use around your back yard, or put it inside to hang towels or art on. It’s clear that Sommerville and Ensner consult with interior designers when coming up with new pieces.

So if you’re ready to replace your fast-food furniture with something more enduring and classic, Materea designs is the perfect choice.

Image credits: Emma Tuccillo


  • Alden Wicker

    Ruth Alden Wicker is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of EcoCult, and author of To Dye For: How Toxic Fashion Is Making Us Sick – and How We Can Fight Back. She also writes for publications including Vogue, The New York Times, Wired, The Cut, Vox, and many more.

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