Ergos by Bram Woodcrafting Studio

Five Indian furniture designers remake three of their existing pieces in American hardwoods

REMAKE was conceived as a response to the need for hands-on experience with American hardwoods in India’s furniture manufacturing sector

Five leading Indian furniture designers have unveiled the finished pieces made using American hardwoods as part of REMAKE - the first design collaboration in India led by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), the leading international trade association for the American hardwood industry. The project challenged the leading designer-makers to each select three pieces from their existing furniture range and to remake them using American hardwoods. REMAKE was conceived as a response to the need for hands-on experience with American hardwoods in India’s evolving furniture manufacturing sector.

The designers involved with the project, which was launched late in 2020, were Bram Woodcrafting Studio, Esvee Atelier, Kam Ce Kam, Studio SFDW and Studio Wood. In response to the brief, the designers were asked to choose three of their own existing pieces and remake them using American red oak, white oak, cherry, hard maple, tulipwood or hickory. AHEC supplied all the lumber for the project from a stock of American hardwood species held in India, which was donated to AHEC by Allegheny Wood Products. REMAKE explores how these designers champion a beautiful and sustainable material - American hardwood - in a market that holds tremendous potential.

“It was an enriching experience for me to work with American hardwoods. As exciting as it was to work with these woods, it's been quite a learning experience to see them adapt to our designs. I particularly enjoyed working with American oak, because of its exceptional grain patterns and quality. It was an interesting collaboration to explore the potential of American hardwoods and express them through my designs,” said Srikanth Varma, Founder and Principal Designer, Esvee Atelier.

“Furniture, here in India, is designed and built to last generations. Wood is one of the most shape- shifting & malleable materials to experiment with, giving us the opportunity to play with forms, yet durable & sturdy to sustain our evolving lifestyles. AHEC provided us with an array of woods, each unique in its properties and scope of exploration, many of which were a first for us,” added Navya Aggarwal, Co-founder & Partner, Studio Wood.

Commenting on her experience, Jehanara Knowles, Founder of Kam Ce Kam, said: “Working with these incredible timbers has been an amazing experience. India has a limited variety of timbers available and so it has been a great opportunity to use these materials in our pieces. They strongly support our aesthetic, with the natural depth of the material enhancing our designs. Furthermore, the quality of the timber from both a tooling angle and the end product has been admirable.”

Despite the challenges posed by the global pandemic and the inability to travel to India, AHEC was able to remotely launch REMAKE with the five designer-makers. The onset of COVID-19 and the enforced lockdown actually enabled AHEC to spend a lot of time conducting in-depth research into India’s furniture manufacturing sector and to identify a significant number of companies previously unknown. Many of these companies are already using imported temperate hardwoods for their production, which is primarily targeted at India’s domestic market.

“American hardwoods offer us a variety of choices in terms of the grain and finish and are suitable for a wide range of applications. American hardwoods are also sustainable and given that the timber, despite the transportation from America, is carbon negative upon arrival in India, makes it an attractive option for India, which is currently a net importer of timber. I personally believe that American red oak and cherry have the potential to be big in India. As a company, we place great importance on the environmental credentials of the materials we work with and find in American hardwoods a way to continue fulfilling our timber requirements while consuming responsibly,” said Bram Rouws, Director, Bram Woodcrafting Studio.

“Working with cherry was a new experience for me; it was quite fascinating as the wood is quite dense and the grains gorgeous. This inspired me to explore CNC milling with it for objects with finer details and smaller in scale. American white oak in contrast is very strong and its resilience to take any shape and structure. This made it possible for me to achieve a piece that is flatpack with neat joinery and details. The Nightstand in white oak is my favourite as it brings the beauty of natural wood and technology together in a harmonious way. I can’t wait to get my hands on some other species like maple and hickory in the future,” said Saif Faisal, Founder, Studio SFDW.

American hardwoods have a way to go before becoming very well-known and understood in India and only a handful of manufacturers have hands-on experience with working with them. The wealth of legally-harvested and sustainably-managed hardwoods that the United States has to offer is of increasing interest to India’s furniture manufacturers, as they seek to explore new materials, look for long-term alternatives to traditional furniture hardwoods and also widen their appeal to their intended markets, be they in India itself or overseas. AHEC hopes that this collaboration will inspire the next generation of furniture designers and help the Indian market discover the untapped potential of U.S. hardwoods.