At the annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City, one of the things I look for is creative re-use. The Urbanite Home, a Belfast-based interior furnishings studio, is a particularly attention-grabbing example at this year's show. The collection’s brightly colored chairs and tables are made from repurposed oil barrels.
Designer Phil Davidson said he began working with barrels after learning that they weren’t being recycled in his area from his brother, who works in an auto garage. So, Davidson began collecting the barrels from small businesses like the one where his brother works. The design studio drains and cleans out any residues, which are then made into red diesel for agricultural use. Once clean, the barrels are cut into new forms to make furniture, and any smaller leftover pieces can then be recycled.
The frames and additional fittings are made from recycled mild steel. The pieces are powder-coated, and all the materials could be recycled again in the future. However, these metal materials are quite durable, and are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Although the barrels create a limitation of circular forms, the collection offers quite a range of side tables, coffee tables and different chairs.
At the same time, cut-down barrels lend chairs some flexibility. “They have a bit of sway,” said Davidson. “They’re much more comfortable than you would imagine an oil drum to be.” I took a seat, and had to agree.
In addition to welding together upcycled furniture, Davidson also hand-stitches intricate cushions and wall-art with a punk aesthetic. Together, The Urbanite Home home offers a fun and irreverent take on home furnishing.