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Give Your Designer Furniture a Second Life at Bob W

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Bob’s giving Artek chairs a second life in his Helsinki apartments to raise awareness for the circular economy and to prove that the hospitality industry doesn’t have to source everything new. 

As Bob and the team started drawing up design inspo for our two new Helsinki City Centre short-stay apartments, the first of which are opening this April, we wondered – why does everything have to be new?

We’re fans of the circular economy, and we buy pre-loved stuff in our personal lives. A quirky lamp here, a cool denim jacket there. But when it comes to sourcing quality secondhand pieces for dozens of apartments, it’s another thing. There’s a reason most hotels buy all new furniture and decor (and end up switching it out every few years to stay ‘fresh’): it’s readily available and oftentimes cheaper than investing in long-lasting pieces. 

But Bob doesn’t like to do things just because it’s what everyone else is doing. Bob’s short-stay apartments are all about honouring the neighbourhood, embracing sustainability, and looking super cool while doing it. So, it just knew we had to have these stunning, locally made Artek chairs – and we wanted to see if we could get them secondhand to boot. 

Artek chairs in our new Helsinki City Centre designs

Challenging the hospitality industry (and ourselves)

Once we decided we wanted local, secondhand furniture in each of our new Helsinki apartments, the challenge was finding a way to source the specific pieces we needed for our designs, which were created by internationally acclaimed Helsinki-based Studio Joanna Laajisto. 

This is when we contacted our friends at Franckly, the Nordics’ premier secondhand design shop, to partner up. Through their buying and selling platform, we aim to crowdsource around 120 chairs from people across Finland. We’re doing this for two reasons: 

1) To encourage us all to embrace the circular economy. 

2) To prove to the hospitality industry (and ourselves) that it’s possible to source secondhand decor at scale. 

The chairs

We are sourcing three models of wooden dining chairs for our apartments, all of which were designed by Alvar Aalto for Artek in 1935. Aalto, one of the co-founders of Artek, was a prolific and multi-talented artist who designed buildings, furniture and decor objects, many of which are still highly sought after by design fans today. 

We’re looking for Artek chairs, specifically Aalto’s Chair 65, Chair 66, and Chair 69. The Chair 65 was originally designed for the Viipuri Municipal Library in Eastern Finland (now Russia). In a holistic stroke of genius, Aalto not only designed the building himself, but also the interior, lamps and Chair 65, among other furniture. The Chair 66, made of Finnish birch, is another Artek hit and is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. All three chair models feature Aalto’s bent wooden legs, a patented technique he pioneered in the 1930s. 

Artek's Chair 66 at the Viipuri Municipal Library (source: Ninaras)

The majority of Artek’s products have been made from Finnish birch and pine at their Turku, Finland factory since the 1920s. Artek was founded with the aim to improve everyday living through the marriage of art and clever technology – a philosophy that compliments Bob’s tech-driven, local and sustainable accommodation concept. 

The cost of never-ending hotel renovations

According to the industry standard, hotels are expected to renovate their rooms about every seven years. However thanks to rapidly changing design trends and the technology expected from modern travellers, this cycle is becoming as short as every few years. After all, who doesn’t look forward to staying in a stylish, aspirational space when travelling?

Unfortunately, these frequent, large-scale renovations generate a lot of waste. Even in the best case scenarios when old furnishings are auctioned off, donated or recycled and not sent to landfills, creating and transporting new decor uses up raw materials and energy. 

Design made to last a lifetime

It is often cheaper to buy poorly-made furniture that looks good for a few years, but which won’t hold up in the long run, than to invest in long-lasting, classic pieces. However, when looking at higher-end furniture from brands like Artek, some of which has been in use since the 1930s, the cost per use can be significantly lower due to its near-infinite lifespan. In an industry where modernity and aesthetics drive bookings, many accommodation providers are lured into only focusing on the short-term bottom line. 

Artek furniture display in 1936 (Source: Museoviraston Kuvakokoelmat)

In a culture of fast-paced trends and disposable goods, can responsible consumerism and timeless design triumph? Bob thinks so, and our guests seem to agree. We’re trying to make secondhand sourcing work, and we hope to inspire some other hospitality providers along the way. 

Our sustainable furniture sourcing standards

Besides incorporating secondhand pieces into our latest apartments, we’re doing our best to source our furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E) locally and responsibly. For example, our Helsinki City Centre concept features local designs from Hakola, Joanna Laajisto, Pasi Kärkkäinen-Tunkelo, Yrjö Kukkapuro for Lepo, and other Finnish brands and artists. Sourcing locally is a win-win for everyone. Not only are we able to support local craftsmanship and create spaces that are seriously authentic, but we also cut down on transport emissions and waste from excess packaging. 

Currently, around 50% of the furniture in our apartments is locally sourced within a few hundred kilometres, and nearly all of it comes from within the European Economic Area, though we’re always working to increase these proportions. We also favour responsible vendors whenever possible based on their environmental credentials.

Sell your chair to Bob with Franckly

Franckly is an easy-to-use platform for buying and selling Nordic design. It’s super simple and free to list your Artek chairs on Franckly (or anything else you’d like to sell for that matter). Bob will then purchase chairs that meet our criteria via Franckly.

If Bob buys your chair, in addition to getting paid, you’ll enter to win a 2-night, €1,000 staycation for two in our Helsinki City Centre Penthouse Sauna Tower with a Michelin-star dinner experience. This is your chance to visit your chair in its new home.

All the design fans out there can book a stay at Bob’s new Helsinki City Centre location (opening April 2021) to see our local and sustainability-focused interior concept in real life. If you look carefully, you might even find the name of the previous owner on the underside of the dining chairs in your penthouse.

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