Most people are familiar with the kind of low grade, splintery, unfinished, knotty plywood, but at the other end of the scale it can be manufactured into a warm, sophisticated material that is worthy of becoming a design feature. Plywood is a re-formed wood often made using fast-growing, renewable softwood. To make plywood, three or more layers of wooden sheets are bonded together, which are placed with the grain running against each other in order to strengthen the finished sheet. The result is a strong, warm and tactile material that is a sustainable alternative to other hardwood choices, which is why it has recently become the material of choice of many architects and designers.
Elise Heslop is no stranger to the myriad of benefits that ply offers. After living abroad in Northern Italy she began exploring the material’s application to flexible furniture and small footprint living, which resulted in the launch of Plyroom in 2013. “In Italy we met so many people who were living in much smaller spaces than we were used to in Australia. I was impressed by how well these spaces worked and it was such an interesting comparison,” recalls Elise. “I could see the benefits of this small footprint lifestyle and I wanted to find a way to combine these values with my love of design and bring this to Australia.”
Plyroom’s values are centred on sustainability, which drives the design and functionality behind their collection. Many of the products in Plyroom’s collection work beyond their initial purpose so the product’s lifespan is extended beyond usual expectations. This type of sustainable thinking and versatility is at the core of the brand’s ethos. “We use environmentally responsible materials, finishes and methods where possible, and our philosophy is built on a desire to simplify life by challenging fast consumption, getting back to what’s important and slowing down,” says Elise.
Plyroom’s collection spans furniture and accessories made entirely of plywood. The current range includes a set of drawers (which can come with a change table atop), a children’s cot, a loft-style kid’s bed, a bunk bed and an adult’s queen size bed. Magazine racks, bookcases, desks, side tables, coffee tables, chairs and bench seats are also part of the collection.
Every item in the range is a showcase in simplicity and flexibility. For example, when kids outgrow the Ava Cot it can be broken down and turned upside down to transform into a desk for creative play. “We’re always working to make things less complicated, to pare things back,” explains Elise. From an attitude standpoint, we embrace the idea of a more thoughtful way of living, whether it’s by living in smaller spaces, choosing furniture that functions beyond its initial purpose, or just slowing down.”
Many of the pieces in Plyroom’s collection originated as a solution to a problem that Elise believed needed tackling. To better understand a product’s virtues and limitations, Elise says it is ultimately an exercise in taking away. “What can we live without? What must we live with? How does what we surround ourselves with make us feel? How can we use what we have in new ways? These questions influence the design of new ranges and products.”
Through Plyroom Elise hopes to enable more conversations about living smaller. “In my opinion, having flexible furniture allows us to think creatively about how we can use what we have in new ways. It allows for new interpretations and more conscious decision making, rather than simply buying more or replacing items when our needs or tastes change. This is where my passion lies. Plyroom was built on this idea.”