Where’s Milo? Q&A

25th September 2012 by

Here at Otesha, we’re always trying to take small actions in our lives to contribute to a cleaner and greener world.  Some days, our paths cross other inspiring people and Tristan Titeux is certainly one of them.  He so kindly offered to tell us his story and explain the Where’s Milo? project.  Read on…

My name is Tristan Titeux and I was born in London in 1976 but very shortly moved to the Belgian countryside for 13 years. I lived in the oldest house on the street made from local flint stone – the walls were the thickness of your lower arm; We had one cold tap in the whole house, 2 wood fires, no fridge, no tv, an outside detached loo and bathroom, a garden full of food, and animals that gave us eggs, honey, cheese and meat.  The wild around us gave us flowers and leaves for our salads, the best mushrooms, fruit and medicine when I was ill. My dad never went or took me to the doctor.  The rest of our food was brought from the health food shop in Maastricht in Holland just across the border from where I lived.

My dad used to talk on the radio for years, every Sunday about wild plants.  He had a great following and published three books on plants, their history, folklore, medicinal and value as a food. From these beginnings, close to nature, I learned where resources came from, where the wood came from and not to waste it.  My dad would also tell us not to waste water – turn the tap off when cleaning our teeth, bathing in just enough water, not a sea.

Ever since leaving Belgium I have carried on the values my parents gave me, I have always eaten organic food, my house and business has run on 100% renewable electricity from Good Energy for the past 13 years now. I was a photographer for 12 years before I decided to live in France.  In preparation for this, I did all sorts of courses such as basket and cider making, Permaculture, straw bale building and many others including carpentry. I never went to France and instead started riding around Notting Hill with my tools in two bags hanging on each side of my bicycle, a screw box on top and a ruck sack.  And so began my career as a handyman.

People asked me to do bigger and bigger projects in their homes and now for the last 5 years my business specialises in bespoke fitted furniture.

In January 2011 I decided to start an eco friendly option for my customers. I went to a day seminar a couple of months back with many people talking, mostly ethical business people.

One in particular made me think about what I really wanted to do. I was happy making money in my business, but deep down it didn’t entirely fit my true passion, which is the environment. From then on I decided that I would become a pioneer in my field and so I started researching eco materials, and designing and building some fitted furniture that, with no compromise, demonstrated the ultimate eco friendly fitted furniture you could currently make if you had the desire to.

What is eco furniture?
Simply put, eco furniture is furniture that is made from materials that are less harmful to the environment by using raw ingredients that can decompose back into nature without polluting it and its inhabitants in the process.

This definition is broad and can branch out into several other discussions:

  • using sustainable materials that can be regrown or reused again and again with as minimal impact on nature as possible
  • making furniture that will last as long as possible and not easily break, and if it does break, it will be easy to repair and maintain
  • thinking about the way it is initially put together for example, if it’s screwed together with no glue, then it makes it possible to take it apart with minimal damage to either be rebuilt, modified or even deconstructed with the pieces reused and recut to make other furniture
  • extending the piece of furniture’s life by thinking carefully about the design; it must be as multi-purpose as possible, with adjustable shelves inside a cupboard for example, or a unit that can be changed from a TV media unit to a wardrobe or a storage cupboard just like I demonstrated in my project “Flexi Straw
  • have an eye for beauty and design which is quite different from being fashionable. Fashion is an enemy of sustainability because it encourages constant change. Good design is timeless and does not rely on fashion. If something is simple and beautiful, people will love it for longer.
  • Finally, when all the mentioned options have run out, the materials must be easy to recycle and lastly harmless if burned to heat our homes. Waste in the future will not exist, everything will be reused, just like nature has always told us to do.

The Milo Project
Milo came about soon after I decided to look into eco materials. I never liked waste and would keep spare waste materials until they were degraded and no good to use any more. So I decided to tackle this problem and designed Milo, a small coffee table made from all these small pieces. The materials dictated the design, and I made it in a way that would use up the smallest of pieces, making use of much more wood. Milo was born in April 2011 and his name was inspired by the birth of my third son a month before.

#WheresMilo is a photo project which combines my love of photography and the eco coffee table.  I’m always looking for interesting people, celebrities and locations to shoot pictures with Milo and feature it in the photo project.  Search Google or social media for #wheresMilo and see what he’s up to.

What’s the best reaction you’ve had so far for the work/talks you’re doing with Milo?
Milo has had nothing but positive reaction and reviews, people are not only interested in the design of it and say it is beautiful, but also the materials it is made of.  Because of the way it is designed, in layers where you see all the different materials, it encourages people to get right up and close.  I love this because my aim is to educate people about what these materials are made from, where they come from, how they affect our world and what the solution is. People are surprised and not pleased to hear that many plywoods are made using non replaceable trees from the Rainforest.

What’s your stance about design and the designer’s roles in shaping consumption patterns and behaviour?
Like I mentioned above, it is important for designers to be aware of and separate design and fashion clearly in their minds and not design something that will be obsolete in one year – that defeats the point of sustainable design. Designers are in a very strong position to make change because they design something not just for themselves but for many others. I hope that other designers can learn these rules of sustainability so that they can pass these onto the consumer.

For those of us who wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford eco furniture, what else could we do to support it or get involved?
Eco fitted furniture is very labour intensive and the materials can be costly, but so is traditional fitted furniture, so the difference isn’t much on the whole. But for those who can’t afford it, you can support it by helping to spread the word about why it is important to use eco friendly options, not just with fitted furniture, but in all the shopping choices you make. It is better to do without for longer and buy quality than buy cheap; we are all sucked into the notion that we have the right to have what we want when we want it.

Some people can’t afford fitted furniture, or eco paint to paint their houses, but they save up and then invest in a way that makes them healthier, and happier for making a positive choice. Buying any eco friendly goods makes you feel very good mentally, you get a feeling that you are not just buying something for yourself but you get that satisfaction that you are, bit by bit, making a difference in the world. You have to spend your money, you might as well use it to make a difference.

Another alternative is the idea that you don’t even have to spend any money at all!  If you are a bit practical, look in the streets and you will see so much stuff thrown away.  You can easily revive it with a new coat of paint or take the many pallets and use your creative mind to make any amount of furniture. If you are into sewing, cut up some old clothes and make some patchwork throws or cushions for your new furniture. Don’t believe that you can’t do it because you can.

And finally, buy second hand furniture instead of new.  There’s nothing more eco friendly than buying second hand.

What’s next for you and Milo?
I am looking to help young people in schools build Milo tables.  I’d like to educate them about sustainability in furniture and give them something creative to do and hopefully pass on the passion that drives me to do what I do.

What’s your future vision look like?

I hope that one day all bespoke fitted furniture will be totally natural and recyclable and that I was part of that process.  I am trying to spread the word through practical examples, exhibitions, networking, blogging and through a book I’m currently writing. I am developing a new eco website called http://www.ecodesignerhome.com that will bring together local crafts people who use sustainable materials, organic carpets, fair trade curtains, clay plasters and natural paints, eco fitted furniture, upcycled furniture etc. for customers to be able to create their ultimate eco home.

 

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