American furniture maker skram shows how modern, sustainable luxury works
skram has been creating future heirlooms for 20 years now, setting an example for today’s fast-paced, disposable consumer culture.
skram designs timeless furniture designed to last for generations using high quality natural materials
when we think of sustainability, the word “luxury” doesn’t easily come to mind. luxury is often associated with glamor or decadence, but it can also refer to things of precious or value enriched by the quality of the materials and the passion and details of their construction. these objects are not disposable products in the service of a culture of mass consumption; they are unlikely to end up in landfills. the most beautiful of these objects can become family heirlooms, imbued with soul and memory.
when self-taught designer and manufacturer Jacob Marks founded his furniture brand skram in 2001, he set out to create heirloom quality products that could be preserved and enjoyed for generations. A history graduate who pioneered the skram (which comes out backwards) at the age of 25, his work explores the intersection between fine craftsmanship and modern design. marks seeks to combine creativity and innovation with precision and attention to detail, for a timeless design.
the altai console, dining table and benches feature distinctive carved wooden legs, while the l01 armchair showcases skram’s handcrafted quality
twenty years after its creation, skram now operates from a main 2,500 m² factory in burlington, north carolina, and employs around 30 people. the brand has a retail presence in canada, mexico and europe, as well as the united states, and works with architects and designers to deliver bespoke products and projects. Throughout its production there is a dedication to craftsmanship and design that celebrates the beauty of natural materials such as metal, hardwood veneer, leather and stone.
“The joke here is that if we do our job well, we will not have loyal customers because there is no planned obsolescence in the products we sell”
‘the business is very different today from when we started, but the focus is still on creating individual products that feature unusual levels of manufacturing,‘explains Marks from his office in the Burlington plant. ‘We are now operating on a scale that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago, but we have managed to increase our production without compromising quality or deviating from the values on which the company was founded.‘
altai shelves can be used as independent storage or as a room divider. the new v4 chair evokes scandinavian craft traditions and features a curved seat that can be upholstered in leather or fabric
skram manufactures a line of furniture for residential and commercial spaces that embodies Marks’ belief that good design is inextricably linked with exceptional finish and durability. he still oversees the design of every product, including organically shaped chairs such as the V4 armchair and the L01 armchair, as well as refined but characterful tables and storage units such as pieces from the altai collection.
in addition to designing and manufacturing objects of sustainable quality, skram’s operations emphasize the use of sustainable materials and manufacturing methods. the wood used in production is responsibly sourced from the nearby Appalachian Mountains and the company uses non-toxic adhesives and high performance low VOC finishes. plated products are made from 100% pre-consumer recycled substrates, and a solar panel on the roof powers the plant’s machinery.
skram creates products for residential and commercial projects, such as the leather upholstered stools used in the offices of fashion designer, norma kamali
one of the biggest challenges skram has faced over the past two decades is the need to increase production while maintaining the characteristic level of manufacturing which is at the heart of the company’s mission. machines now do many of the repetitive tasks inherent in making high-end furniture, but all products still involve craftsmanship and a human touch that cannot be achieved through automation. according to the brands, maintaining the right balance between man and machine leads to increased quality, happier employees and increased production.
The emphasis on genuine quality ensures a higher level of durability through the use of premium materials, sturdy construction and durable design. Marks believes that a growing number of customers and customers are embracing an approach that rejects the throwaway. As the environmental consequences of a disposable-based consumer culture have become clear, there is a growing demand for high-end items that age gracefully. this is good news for skram and other brands pursuing the idea of sustainable luxury, and it will ultimately be good news for the planet.
products such as the piedmont pedestal table are fully customizable so that customers can specify the size they require as well as the addition of features such as cable management
‘the joke here is that if we do our job well we will not have loyal customers because there is no planned obsolescence in the products we sell,“says the marks. ‘in the simplest and most straightforward way, sustainability for us means building things that add enduring beauty to the world. if we do it right, our products will not end up in landfills and that is great for us and for the world. I think at some level our customers understand this idea and that’s the reason for our success.‘
guest article by alyn griffiths / architonic
simon keane-cowell i architectonic
Sep 29, 2021