simon keane-cowell I architonic for designboom.com, | September 29, 2021

american furniture manufacturer skram shows how modern, sustainable luxury works

skram has been creating furniture heirlooms for 20 years now – setting an example against today's fast-moving, throw-away, consumer culture..

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skram has been creating future heirlooms for 20 years now – setting an example against today’s fast-moving, throw-away, consumer culture.

american furniture manufacturer skram shows how modern, sustainable luxury works
skram designs timeless furniture products that are built to last for generations using high-quality, natural materials

when we think about sustainability, the word ‘luxury’ doesn’t spring readily to mind. luxury is often associated with glamour or decadence, but it can also refer to things that are precious or have value enriched by the quality of materials and the passion and detailing of their construction. these objects are not disposable products in service of a culture of mass consumerism; they are unlikely to end up in landfills. the finest of these objects may become heirlooms, imbued with soul and memory.

when self-taught designer and maker jacob marks founded his furniture brand skram in 2001, he set out to create heirloom-quality products that could be kept and enjoyed for generations. a history graduate who launched skram (which spell marks backwards) at the tender age of 25, his work explores the intersection between fine craft and modern design. marks seeks to blend creativity and innovation with precision and attention to detail, resulting in timeless design.

american furniture manufacturer skram shows how modern, sustainable luxury works

american furniture manufacturer skram shows how modern, sustainable luxury works
the altai console, dining table and benches feature distinctive carved-timber legs, while the l01 armchair showcases skram’s signature handcrafted quality

twenty years on from its founding, skram now operates from a 2,500-sqm main factory in burlington, north carolina, and has a staff of around 30. the brand has a retail presence in canada, mexico and europe, as well as the united states, and works with architects and designers to deliver bespoke products and projects. across all of its output, there is a dedication to craftsmanship and design that celebrates the beauty of natural materials such as metal, hardwood veneer, leather and stone.

‘the joke around here is that if we do our job right, we won’t have any repeat customers because there is no planned obsolescence in the products we sell’

the company is very different now to when we started, but there is still a focus on creating individual products that showcase uncommon levels of workmanship,’ explains marks from his office in the burlington factory. ‘we now operate at a scale that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago, but we’ve managed to increase our output without compromising quality or shifting from the values that the company was founded on.

american furniture manufacturer skram shows how modern, sustainable luxury works

american furniture manufacturer skram shows how modern, sustainable luxury works
the altai shelves can be used as freestanding storage or as a room divider. the new v4 chair evokes scandinavian craft traditions and features a curved seat that can be upholstered in leather or fabric

skram manufactures a range of furniture for residential and commercial spaces that embodies marks’ belief that good design is inextricably linked with exceptional workmanship and sustainability. he still oversees the design of every product, including organically shaped chairs such as the V4 armchair and L01 armchair, as well as refined yet characterful tables and storage items like the pieces from the altai collection.

in addition to designing and manufacturing objects of enduring quality, skram’s operations foreground the use of sustainable materials and manufacturing methods. the timber used in production is sourced responsibly from the nearby appalachian mountains and the company uses non-toxic adhesives and low-VOC, high-performance finishes. veneered products are made using 100% pre-consumer, recycled content substrates, and a rooftop solar array powers machinery at the factory.

american furniture manufacturer skram shows how modern, sustainable luxury works

american furniture manufacturer skram shows how modern, sustainable luxury works
skram creates products for residential and commercial projects, such as the leather-upholstered saddlestools used in the offices of fashion designer, norma kamali

one of the biggest challenges skram has faced over the past two decades is the need to scale-up output while maintaining the characteristic level of workmanship that is at the core of the company’s mission. machines now perform many of the repetitive tasks that are inherent in high-end furniture making, but all products still involve artisanal skills and a human touch that cannot be achieved through automation. according to marks, maintaining the right balance between man and machine leads to increased quality, happier employees and increased output.

a focus on genuine quality ensures a deeper level of sustainability through the use of premium materials, robust construction and enduring design. marks believes that increasing numbers of customers and clients are buying into an approach that rejects disposability. as the environmental consequences of a consumer culture based on disposability have become clear, there is a growing demand for premium items that age gracefully. this is good news for skram and other brands pursuing the idea of sustainable luxury, and will ultimately be good news for the planet.

american furniture manufacturer skram shows how modern, sustainable luxury works

american furniture manufacturer skram shows how modern, sustainable luxury works
products such as the piedmont pedestal table are entirely customisable so clients can specify the size they require as well as adding features such as cable management

the joke around here is that if we do our job right, we won’t have any repeat customers because there is no planned obsolescence in the products we sell,’ says marks. ‘in the simplest, most direct way, sustainability to us means building objects that add lasting beauty to the world. if we do that right then our products don’t end up in landfills and that’s great for us and for the world. I think on some level, our customers understand this idea and it’s the explanation for our success.

guest feature by alyn griffiths / architonic

simon keane-cowell I architonic

sep 29, 2021