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    Visual Sustainability

    • 4 min read

    How true luxury utilises time to increase its value

    Affordable furniture brands like Matt Blatt and IKEA are so adept at churning out fast furniture, their products are cheap enough to buy and throw away soon after.  It’s the same in fashion. Mega fashion brands like H&M, Uniqlo, Topshop and Zara have changed the way a whole generation shops. Today as consumers, we are all guilty. We buy more, use it for half the time and then throw it away twice as quickly.

    Our grandparents adage of quality not quantity has been all but lost. We follow mere fads at a faster rate that any generation previous to ours. And in doing so, we buy into a cycle of never-ending waste.

    In Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, Elizabeth Cline notes the average American buys roughly 64 items of clothing in a year. Unsurprisingly much of it reaches the rubbish bin within weeks of purchase. 

    In Australia the Australian Bureau of Statistics confirms that the volume of waste deposited to landfill is increasing. In 2001, 19 million tonnes of waste were disposed to landfill, and by 2007 this had grown to more than 21.3 million tonnes. That’s a large increase of 12%. While some of the can be accounted for by population growth, it’s true we have more stuff these days and more stuff of less quality means more waste.

    Whichever way you look at consumption, increasingly our lifestyle is placing more and more pressure on natural systems. Scientists continue to investigate how human interactions with natural systems can be improved and sustained. And brands are also starting to take their share of responsibility. 

    When we talk about visual sustainability, we are really talking about more than just the materiality of the product and the how long it lasts, we are talking about the overall design, the way it looks.

    Brands like Marimekko have used the same Unikko print since the 50’s - it's currency as a print has lasted for five decades. Cartier also make only very slightly tweaks to its classic watch faces each season. This is because great brands build longevity in. Take for example Hermès.


    Established in 1837, this French leatherwoods manufacturer still today specialise in leather, lifestyle accessories, luxury, and ready-to-wear. If it should break, a leather bag, bought at any Hermès store will be repaired throughout its entire life, by the company, free of charge.  Similarly with Porsche, the German automobile manufacturer, it’s a stunning fact that sixty percent of all Porches ever made, are still on the road today.

    Through these examples, we see how true luxury and sustainability share common values. A primary one being quality design and craftmanship. Whilst the ticket price might look high at first glance, both these products represent excellent value on a cost-per-wear or years-of-use basis.

    TOTEM ROAD YORK BED Inspired by the contemporary aesthetic of a New York loft, York's platform design combines timeless simplicity with luxurious and functional proportions.

    Luxury and sustainability share many common values and benefits. They share craft, materiality and visual beauty. They also share a connection to nature through their fine materials. We find throughout history, that some of the most wonderful things on earth are designed to improve with age. Art, leather, wood, diamonds are all prized in old age. In fact as an asset class; wine and art also become more valuable with age. In nature and the great outdoors also, ancient sculptures cast in bronze and marble gain a beautiful patina in old age that cannot be easily replicated in a factory. 

    In our own small way, any object that remains, gains a new respect in our minds. Be it a silver frame from your birth, a great leather briefcase or a beautiful gold ring passed on from a family member.

    Handcrafted from ethically-sourced sustainable solid oak, each piece is naturally unique and provides unencumbered freedom to evolve your personal style.

    The return to artisan values can also be seen in global support for artisan markets and their community of makers at Authenticity, handmade, hand crafted are once again highly prized qualities attracting consumer interest.

    Millennials particularly are shunning mega brands in favour of small, independent labels where fans can have direct communications with the originators online.

    In France, the home of luxury - a recent trade fair celebrated this renaissance of culture, by only inviting ethically made luxury brands to exhibit (including Totem Road.)

    1.618 PARIS (Top)behind the scenes at 1.618 in Paris. This agency is devoted to sustainable luxury. It's remit covers everything from Champagne and cosmetics, right through to fashion and furniture.
    Noyer (pictured bottom) is a Danish carpenter focused brand, which prioritises high quality materials. Their products are mostly made out of American walnut. They will show at the North Modern which is also arranged by 1.618 from 18-20 August 2016 in Copenhagen.

    At Totem Road we sat back and noticed a consciousness returning to consumers in this respect. We have also noted how after two decades of exposure to mass luxury or mass-tige - there was becoming a real thirst for quality.

    This is because instead of tacking on green ethics as an after thought, Totem Road spent a lot of time and energy up front, thinking about exactly how each product in the range is crafted and how long it would last. This attitude has paid dividends.  Totem Road now offers a set of furniture you will never won’t want or need to throw out. Crafted from marble and white oak, the solid and reliable furniture range is designed to stand seven generations of wear and care.  To view more of the range click here.