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Exploring the Boundaries between Art and Design
A Series of Benches with A Story
We believe furniture has the innate ability to transform perspective and bring forth social change.
With this collection of benches, we’ve pushed ourselves to the limits of creativity and materiality, discovering what is possible when craftsmanship, technology and inspiration collide.
A merging of art and design, these pieces aim to catalyse and continue a legacy of inclusivity, collaboration and sustainability.
Proudly displayed in museums, galleries and private homes around the world, and with an array of awards to its name, the Houtlander Collectable Design Collection is a north star of possibility and innovation.
If you’re interested in purchasing one of these pieces, please reach out to us directly via the contact page.
THE STORY OF A BENCH
COLLECTABLE DESIGN PIECE
THE hLABISA BENCH
A poignant and moving collaboration between the Zulu basket weavers of Hlabisa, Mash-T-Design studios and Houtlander, the Hlabisa bench stands as a proud example of the possibilities that emerge when ancient techniques and modern design meet.
Too often African art and crafts are commodified and tokenised, when in fact they represent skill and artistry comparable with works in the world’s greatest galleries. This project and piece were born out of a desire to revive, celebrate and elevate the weaving techniques of Hlabisa’s women, who have cultivated a sense of independence and pride in an otherwise oppressive patriarchal landscape.
The original bench took a team of six women 1,350 hours to create, and the result is perhaps the most moving object that we’ve ever had the pleasure of working on at Houtlander. Since the original piece was created for the Révélations International Biennial of Crafts and Creation in Paris, we’ve deepened our relationship with Hlabisa’s weavers and created a series of woven benches. We hope to nurture and support these important and beautiful weaving techniques, and the women who sustain them.
Now displayed in galleries, museums and homes around the world, Hlabisa benches have become sought-after collectable design pieces, a heartfelt achievement and an incredible kickstart on the journey of preserving weaving techniques which were at risk of being lost.
Designed to illustrate the journey of a new sapling reaching upwards from the forest floor, the preservation bench is a representation of our approach to timber at Houtlander.
Wood is an inherently renewable resource, but the way in which we globally harvest wood today is not sustainable. Monocropping, clear-cutting and other damaging methods have devastated many great forests, leaving the remaining swathes of wilderness at risk.
As a stand against these harmful practices, Houtlander partnered with the American Hardwood Export Council (our collaborator on this bench) from the very beginning to ensure the white American Oak used to craft our furniture is truly sustainable and ethical.
Felled along the east coast of the US, all our timber is harvested from indigenous forests, where nature’s elements are allowed to intertwine as intended. Trees grow to full maturity over 70 years and are harvested only when their journey of carbon sequestration has come to an end. They are then drawn from the forest in minimally invasive ways, allowing the saplings they seeded over a lifetime to meet the light and continue their legacy.
The Preservation Bench is an invocation of this natural process and a message of hope for the world.
One of the iterations discovered through our ‘journey of a chair’ process – which eventually lead to the creation of the preservation bench – Chaste is a play on the classic chaise longue.
An exploration of the barriers to intimacy, Chaste allows one partner to lounge comfortably and the other to sit, cradling their head.
A collision between form and function, Chaste now sits proudly in the entrance hall of the esteemed Babylonstoren farm, and in galleries around the world.
ENQUIRE ABOUT THIS PIECE
COLLECTABLE DESIGN PIECE
The iconic Coronation Bench that won the Best Furniture Design Award at 100% DesignSA 2017. Ideal for a larger space that lends itself to a piece of furniture looking to make a statement.
The circular shape is designed to represent a crown, placed upon ones head during a coronation. The circular form encourages a feeling of togetherness, and ease of conversation -- wherein everyone sits as equals around the table.