Creative People

The New Small Business Making Mid-Century-Inspired Furniture In Australia

As a furniture maker, upholsterer and now designer, Reioni Douglas knows the ins and outs of what makes an enduring piece of furniture.

So when her searches for a vintage modular lounge that she could up-cycle for her own home came up empty, she decided to create her own spin on the mid-century furniture designs of the past, with the best materials of today.

Enter her Newcastle-based furniture business, Culture Cush, offering a range of modular lounges, upholstered in luxurious velvet – and they’re all hand-crafted right here in Australia!

Christina Karras

Culture Cush founder Reioni Douglas. Photo – Shannon Wappet

The brand launched last year with four modules that can be mixed and matched to create your dream, retro-inspired sofa! Photo – Shannon Wappet

And there’s a range of beautiful velvet fabrics to chose from. Photo – Shannon Wappet

Photo – Shannon Wappet

‘I think most people are under the impression that furniture upholsterers just work with foam and fabric but it’s much more than that. Whether you’re prepared or not, a lot of furniture is like opening a metaphorical ‘can of worms’,’ Reioni says. Photo – Shannon Wappet

‘You find yourself inadvertently repairing frames and internal foundations as well as everything else.’ Photo – Shannon Wappet

Culture Cush is a combination of Reioni’s years of experience pulling furniture apart and putting it back together. Photo – Shannon Wappet

Culture Cush’s foam is green star certified by GECA, made with fabric that is Oekotex-100 certified, ensuring their pieces quality and safety from harmful substances. Photo – Shannon Wappet

‘I’ve been in a unique position to discover what makes upholstered furniture both hard wearing and super comfortable,’ Reioni says. Photo – Shannon Wappet

While she does lots of the work on the modules herself from her Newcastle workshop, she has also enlisted a small team of people who hand-craft the frame and structure! Photo – Shannon Wappet

Christina Karras
1st of February 2023

There’s a reason the hype around vintage furniture hasn’t waned in the 21st century. Designers of the era weren’t afraid of bold contrasting colours, and textures ranged from warm timber to the plush feel of velvet sofas.

It’s this nostalgic love of retro furniture that convinced Reioni Douglas to leave her job as a stewardess (working on super yachts in Europe!) to study furniture upholstery at Holmesglen, before starting a trade apprenticeship. By 2019, she’d started a furniture upholstery and restoration business called Upholstrei – but soon learned that sometimes even the dreamiest vintage pieces weren’t worth saving.

‘I’m all about diverting furniture from landfill and I was on the lookout for a vintage modular lounge to reupholster for my home, but to be honest it became a bit soul destroying,’ Reioni says.

‘I either couldn’t find the right configuration to suit my lounge room, or the internal foundations weren’t strong enough to justify the investment in spending thousands on new foam and fabric. It’s hard to admit, but a lot of vintage modular frames are made from chipboard and very simple stapled joinery that is now falling apart.’

Now she’s launched Culture Cush, a furniture brand paying homage to the mid-century look and feel, with the use of modern materials. Reioni says the business has been one year in planning and prototyping, but really is the product of her experience and observations from pulling furniture apart and putting it back together. The brand currently offers four module designs in a range of custom velvet fabrics, as a nod to the style and silhouettes of Modernist conversation pits!

‘I’ve engaged four skilled makers and small businesses to help across the frame making, feet turning and table finishing,’ Reioni explains. The pieces are all made in Australia, allowing her to oversee production, quality and ethics, ensuring her dreamy lounge sets are made to last from ‘low-tox’ materials.

‘It also means knowing that even with our small brand we are encouraging Australian makers to keep going,’ Reioni adds. ‘Customers who hand over their hard-earned cash are investing in us – trades like upholstery and wood turning that are considered “dying trades” that are often outsourced to overseas manufacture.’

The result is a considered and timeless take on the sunken lounge room vibe, and we love it!

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