ED Interview: Roberta from Coo Coo

May 2, 2021
Painted cupboard
Photo provided by Coo Coo
By Eko Diena in 

At Coo Coo, Roberta renovates and gives exciting new life to old or broken furniture. We talked to her about why she believes we should be renovating and upcycling instead of just buying new furniture, and the sustainable methods that she uses.

The DIY movement has seemed to revive a lot in the last decade worldwide, as well as artistic furniture renovation. What led your choice to turn it into a business?

It started with a change of attitude towards things, those around me, and the environment. I started to see how much we consume, how often we buy things, and how much we throw away. I saw myself in such an exaggerated circle of consumption from which simply came a natural desire to break out. So, I began to change my habits primarily at home. Very quickly, I felt that the more things I had, the greater the mess not only at home, but also in my mind. Such thoughts and changes in the household probably cannot be limited to inside the walls of your house, it is already becoming a way of life. Everything moved naturally and for work, I started making furniture trying to use things that no one needs anymore. I am not any kind of amazing businesswoman, but I think it is important to do something that you enjoy and think is important. That is what I am doing now and I am trying to make it work. 

Renovation of old furniture has a positive impact on the environment, compared to the new furniture industry which contributes to high CO2 emissions, uses large amounts of wood and materials. What are the pluses that you see?

Comparing the production of new furniture and the renovation of old ones - without a doubt there are more pros on the renovation and upgrade side! It’s not just about the impact on the environment, but also the impact on ourselves. I believe that the environment in which we live work, and spend time has a big impact on us as a person.

Therefore, I always encourage you to save, restore and reuse. Not to throw things away and buy a new one. This is an attitude that is about ourselves 🙂

And what dangers to nature lie in the renovation process?

In the process of renovating furniture, if done wisely, I see no bad effects on nature 🙂 On the contrary, only benefits. Less garbage, more naturalness, awareness, and authenticity. In no store you won’t buy new furniture that radiates as much warmth and feeling as it does renewed chair of beloved parents or grandparents.

How do you choose materials for the process? Is important to you to use environment friendly tools and materials?

As much as possible, I try to choose environmentally friendly materials, with an eco label, like paints, varnishes, and glues. When it comes to fabrics I work a lot with natural wool. There are such a variety of fabrics available, even including those that are made from plastic collected in the oceans! Of course, it is inevitable that sometimes you have to use some measure that is maybe not quite so environmentally friendly, it might happen that a very specific varnish or clue is needed. I remember I very recently needed to spray the outdoor chair and I did it with aerosol paint. The first time I painted with such paint, and the last 🙂 The workshop still stinks although I didn’t even spray it inside. I decided that after such lessons I should try to abandon toxic measures altogether.

And in terms of your customers, are ecological issues relevant to them, or they just want to update their furniture due to popular design trends and just because it’s a matter of being in fashion right now?

It varies. There are customers for whom it is very important what methods will be used. I am always happy when they ask, are interested in, and appreciate it. However, there are those for whom the most important thing is to maintain or update an item that is valuable to them, no matter how. It’s also very gratifying because it supports the idea of ​​renewal, they do not just discard and buy a new one. Even if the means do not matter to the customer, it does not change my approach to it. In any case I use  environmentally friendly tools and materials, although sometimes the client might not even know or care about it 🙂

What difficulties do you face in this job?

Quite often I hear that for others it seems like a dream job, and for sure it is! But in reality I face some difficulties as well. Sometimes I don't know how to do something, or it just doesn’t work out. Sometimes it’s hard physically. Every one of my projects is different and each brings challenges with it. Once it happened that I took a sofa apart and didn’t know how to put it back together, actually it was just that I had put the mechanism on the wrong side! Some furniture is not so willing to be changed and therefore requires more time and thought. Those are some of the difficulties, but they are worth it for the results that I make. 🙂

What are some things about furniture restoration and refurbishment, that most of us don’t even think about?

These are many moments in the process itself that I myself neither knew nor thought about at all until I started working in this field, like how certain substances react with each other, or what kind of paints and dyes to use on different surfaces. What tools or instruments to choose. How to twist threads and even fix a sewing machine :)) And many smaller and bigger challenges I face every day.

Sometimes from outside it looks like there is not so much science in it, that you just have to take apart an armchair and re-sew it. But actually I am still learning all the time, even if I have already worked on quite a lot of projects. Every area, whether it is painting, sewing, or drawing - has its own little secrets that are only revealed by doing it yourself 🙂

If I decided to renovate a wooden chair at home myself what would be your recommendations to do it in a good way and without waste?

To renovate, while consuming little and leaving as little waste as possible, I would suggest using the materials that you already might have at home. Maybe you have something left over from another project or repair. 

Maybe you can use whatever fabric you have to re-cover a chair.  People tend to accumulate stuff, I believe that storage areas and garages have so much that people have even forgotten about themselves :)) Or maybe parents or friends have things that tools that they can lend or materials that they are never going to use. If not, then you have to buy the necessary things.

If it seems like you are going to end up buying a lot of tools and materials for that one wooden chair, then maybe it is worth considering instead turning to a professional who can do it for you. 

Maybe you have a message you would like to share?

I want to encourage people to notice their environment more often, to see around where they live. To think before disposing of furniture, before buying something new. Also to keep in mind that no things give us happiness. Let's be conscious and let’s create an environment where it’s good to be.

You can find out more about Coo Coo and take a look at Roberta's work at coocoo.lt

This interview also appears in our Platforma EKO magazine Towards Sustainability: Issue 10 - April 2021

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