Old as new

Sometimes you only see the value of old things when they are reflected in a new design. Studio Kalff and Carpet of Life refresh old to brand new, with amazing results.

Designer Roos Kalff from Studio Kalff combines the aesthetics of yesteryear with modern, functional design through the reuse of glass.

“I just love old glassware. I’ve always been fascinated with the colours, for example, and facets of a glass bowl, so I wanted to do something with this interest. After graduating from the Rietveld Academy, it didn’t take long for me to discover how to reuse old glass with a modern sensibility. I incorporate it into objects, vases and lamps – thereby eliminating the original function of the glass and giving it a new function. To get my hands on vintage glass, I drive to all kinds of thrift shops and flea markets in both the Netherlands and Belgium. And always return with a packed car. The importance of recycling was not my biggest consideration, but I thought it was a really fun idea to breathe new life into old, used glassware pieces and make something beautiful that brings a smile to people’s faces. And the fact that an old bowl ends up in the homes of international clients as a lamp or object is a wonderful thought.”

Since Roos uses old glassware and the range varies widely, no two pieces are the same and every object is unique. Yet together they form a whole. In the new Pendant Lights Juliet, for instance, Roos combines vintage glass with hand-blown glass in a variety of colours, finished with a lovely and fashionable LED light. Every Juliet is different, but they all clearly boast the distinct Studio Kalff signature. The use of hand-blown glass enables Roos to create highly sophisticated custom pieces. “Hand-blown glass comes in every colour of the rainbow, so the result does not depend exclusively on the vintage glass that is available. This lets you coordinate an idea with the customer that fits in perfectly with that customer’s colour palette and specific desires – 100% custom-made. Our newest project is a series of lamps for a renovated castle in Denmark with a staircase ten metres high. It’s an enormous undertaking. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the perfect setting for my lamps, as it gives them a fairytale-like quality. The glass lamps and LED light together function as an extended chandelier. They really come into their own in this kind of setting, where the lamps are given all the space they need and where history and modernity converge.”

Upcycling old glass and creating made-to-order pieces means that waste is kept to a minimum. And that’s a good thing, as is creating value out of something old, which has actually already become commonplace. Yet the year 2020 brought with it new insights: “It would probably be a good idea to have a slightly larger inventory, so that people can also buy items off the rack. That would provide a bit more stability and I think it would be appreciated.” Without a doubt since, after all, you’re getting a unique item to freshen up your interior.

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Hester Ezra is co-founder of Carpet of Life, a company that has cherished garments woven into rugs in Morocco as a memento of a memorable time

“I assist companies in creating a positive impact on the world and have helped establish a number of ethical brands. This is also how Carpet of Life came into being. A few years back, I was in Morocco in a remote area of the Sahara near the border with Algeria. There are few jobs in that area, so lots of men travel elsewhere to look for work, leaving behind their families. I got to know a group of women in M’hamid el Ghizlane and wanted to look at possibilities together with them and a few other organisations to improve their economic situation.”

Hester first determined the expertise of the women, ranging from crocheting and knitting to processing herbs. That search ultimately led to a feasible idea. “I knew that the nomadic women there have always woven rugs, called boucherouites, to use as sleeping mats and which are considered part of the inventory of their tent – incidentally, that tent and all its contents are always the property of the woman. Those rugs were traditionally made from camel hair, goat and sheep’s wool, but those materials were increasingly more difficult to afford and to obtain, so the rugs have been made from textile scraps since the 60s. I thought about the large numbers of fabric scraps we have in the West, from old children’s clothes to that favourite dress that no longer fits or the wardrobe of a deceased loved one. How fantastic would it be to use all of those personal garments to weave or knot a boucherouite as a memory of a wonderful trip, an individual or a certain time in your life?”

Absolutely fantastic, apparently, considering the examples made by Carpet of Life, not only because of the beauty of a hand-knotted rug, but also the story behind it. The process is simple: you select one of the designs from the website or create your own design, collect your textiles and Carpet of Life sends them to the rug makers. They’re given your textiles and the story behind them. Together they transform them into a rug that adds a unique boost to your interior three to five months later. The result is a boucherouite that is a memento, a rite of passage.

“Another great aspect of this idea is that, thanks to Carpet of Life, these women still had an income this past year in spite of the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. Morocco’s economy is largely dependent on tourism, which has come to a complete standstill. The boucherouites make life a little easier to bear. In 2021, we’ll also be working together with fashion labels and interior designers to produce rugs from textile industry leftovers. We want to scale up the company and provide a long-term economic boost for the women of southern Morocco.”

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