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

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!

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net