Furnishing a greener future

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Traditional Myanmar furniture is very clunky and favors pieces like standing cabinets and immovable bureaus that aren’t as functional with our modern lifestyles. (Supplied)
Yangon-native Christina Win, the head designer and owner of Yangon Green Furniture. (Supplied)

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. This was the case for Yangon-native Christina Win, head designer and owner of Yangon Green Furniture, when she opened her Mayangone district workshop and studio in 2015.  After studying, living, and working abroad in Australia, Singapore, and Israel, Win returned to her hometown in 2013 to resettle. However, her attempts to furnish her home left her feeling frustrated.

“The modern, plastic and metal furniture was very flimsy and required assembly,” she said. “Traditional Myanmar furniture is very clunky and favors pieces like standing cabinets and immovable bureaus that aren’t as functional with our modern lifestyles. People are on the move.  They like flexible, detachable, and functional.”

Win found a few local craftsmen, bought a few pieces of reclaimed wood and began designing to her own tastes. She was pleased with the results and thought, “I made it, I really enjoy it, but it’s only me that’s seeing it and using it.” From that innovative spark, Yangon Green Furniture was born.

Win sees potential in the wood that others leave behind. (Supplied)

The choice to use reclaimed wood was intentional. Win scouts demolition sites, estate auctions, and lumber yards for reclaimed wood. By her definition, reclaimed wood is any piece that would be destined for the chopping block to be burned for firewood or chipped into sawdust. This also included discarded wooden items and used furniture.

Nevertheless, Win sees potential in the wood that others leave behind.  She enjoys repurposing wood pieces that she calls “the ultimate rejects.” The crafting process for her is a kind of alchemy.  In an old, weather-beaten entrance door, Win sees a mirror. From a bark-side slab that would normally be incinerated, she sees a long coffee table.  She is pleased to collaborate with clients who bring in vintage or discarded wood furniture. “Just recently,” said Win, “a customer came to me with an old baby crib and asked if I could make it into a bookshelf.”

The modern, plastic and metal furniture was very flimsy and required assembly. (Supplied)

Far from a marketing ploy, the “green” in Yangon Green Furniture is carved into the ethos of the work and production. “Globally-speaking, we just don’t have as many trees and forests anymore,” says Win. Using reclaimed wood is just as much an environmental choice as an aesthetic choice. Said Win, “I like giving wood, a living substance that would otherwise be destined for destruction, a new chance to be useful and have a new purpose.”  In a 2010 report by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, Myanmar cleared almost 20 percent of its natural forests between 1990 -2010. With these staggering statistics in mind, enterprises like Win’s are essential to sustainable economic growth within the country.

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