Innovative Use of Local Materials in Philippine Custom Furniture Design


1/5/20243 min read

image of Filipino living room with furniture made from local materials
image of Filipino living room with furniture made from local materials

In the world of furniture design, the Philippines is like the quirky cousin who shows up to the family reunion with a coconut-shell chair and a chandelier made of spoons. Yes, you heard it right. In the land of 7,107 islands, Filipino designers have been turning heads (and sometimes causing furrowed brows) with their innovative use of local materials in custom furniture design. Let's dive into this whimsical world where creativity knows no bounds, and a bamboo stalk might just be your next dining table leg.

First off, let's talk about bamboo. In other parts of the world, bamboo is that thing pandas eat, or at best, what you use to skewer your barbecue. In the Philippines, however, bamboo is the Swiss Army knife of the furniture world. It's like the local carpenter looked at a bamboo grove and thought, “Why not make a sofa?” And why not, indeed! Bamboo sofas are not just eco-friendly but are also incredibly durable. Plus, sitting on a bamboo sofa makes you feel like a nature-loving deity, which is always a plus.

Then, there's the magic of rattan. If bamboo is the Swiss Army knife, rattan is the duct tape of Filipino furniture design. Rattan, a vine-like palm, is woven into just about anything you can think of. Chairs, tables, beds, and even lampshades. The versatility of rattan is matched only by the patience of the artisans who weave it, often while humming a tune or dodging a curious chicken in their workshop.

And coconut lumber, the unsung hero of the tropical furniture world! When you think of coconuts, the first thing that might pop into your mind is probably a chilled drink on a sunny beach, not a stylish coffee table in your living room. But here's the twist: in the innovative world of Philippine custom furniture design, the sturdy, resilient coconut palm is not just for sipping cocktails under. It's also for sitting on, eating off, and putting your feet up after a long day. Coconut lumber, derived from the trunk of the coconut palm, is like the Cinderella of the furniture material ball. Once overlooked and undervalued, it's now being transformed into elegant, durable, and eco-friendly furniture. It's a sustainable choice too, as these palms are often harvested for their coconuts over many years before being repurposed into furniture, making sure every part of the tree is honored. Plus, furniture made from coconut lumber carries with it a hint of tropical charm, perfect for anyone wanting to add a dash of island vibes to their decor. So, the next time you’re lounging on a coconut lumber chair, remember, it's not just a piece of furniture; it's a slice of tropical paradise right in your home!

But wait, there's more! Have you ever heard of a chair made out of volcanic ash? Yes, that's a thing. After the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, some bright spark figured out that volcanic ash, when mixed with resin, can be turned into furniture. It's like the phoenix of the furniture world - beauty rising from the ashes, quite literally. And if you're worried about sitting on something that once spewed out of a volcano, don't be. It's completely safe and surprisingly comfortable, though it might make for an awkward conversation starter.

Let's not forget the use of carabao horns and shells. In other places, horns and shells might be turned into trinkets or jewelry. In the Philippines, they become part of a dining table. Imagine eating your breakfast on a table inlaid with designs made from carabao horn. It's like having a meal with a piece of Filipino culture, and it's way more interesting than your standard IKEA fare.

Of course, no discussion of Filipino furniture design would be complete without mentioning the infamous jeepney bench. In a stroke of upcycling genius, some designers have started repurposing old jeepney seats into funky, colorful benches for the home. It's a piece of Filipino history in your living room and a great way to make your guests wonder if they've accidentally walked into a public transportation museum.

Filipino custom furniture design is like a delightful potluck - you never know what you're going to get, but it's always interesting and full of local flavor. From bamboo, rattan and cocolumber to volcanic ash and carabao horns, the creativity and resourcefulness of Filipino designers are truly something to be admired. So, the next time you sit on a bamboo chair or a jeepney bench, remember, you're not just sitting on a piece of furniture. You're sitting on a story, a piece of history, and a testament to the Filipino spirit of innovation. And who knows, maybe that coconut-shell chair will start looking pretty good after all.