As a new mum, my primary main job (and one of the most important ones I have right now) is keeping my little one nurtured and safe. That begins with giving him love and guidance but also includes surrounding him with things that will keep him from harm. When it comes to wanting the safest home environment for my child and trying to live in a way that is less damaging to the planet, I am not special. I genuinely believe that most parents want to do the same and have become more and more concerned about the items they put in the bodies, on their bodies and around themselves, inside their home. In my efforts to raise a healthy and conscious little human, I have become passionate about being sure to surround him with the best natural materials I can find. That is why I am most honoured to be a champion of conscious home brands like The Futon Shop and Honest Sleep.
The Futon Shop is the brainchild of Suzanne Diamond, a trailblazer in the world of sustainable design. Throughout the four-decade run of her business, Diamond has made it her job to be involved in every stage of production, for a true farm to home experience. She deals directly with farmers and their plantations and also handles manufacturers herself, and by doing so has almost entirely cut the middleman in favour of a hands-on approach to her business, turning herself into something of an encyclopaedia of her industry. Diamond prides herself on ensuring that only the highest quality inputs are used, and then oversees production at the San Francisco workshop, ensuring a streamlined and meticulous process.
I had the pleasure of meeting the woman herself recently (and interviewed Diamond here) and was quite frankly mesmerised, she is a gorgeous positive force of nature. Through her companies, and born out of her tireless work within the furniture industry she has built quite a legacy, creating a department store of organic and sustainable furniture, with complete knowledge of each available item. Diamond knows how to make them, but importantly she also knows how to help you look after them (here’s a piece of advice that will remain in my memory; always treat wood with hand-rubbed Linseed Oil to avoid cracks and to help keep your piece forever!).
The Futon Shop has been around since 1976, long before sustainable living became the growing trend in America that we see today. Since day one, the brand made a commitment to designing healthy and non-toxic futon mattresses, completely rid of the harmful chemicals which typically form part of the industrialised process. Whilst expanding its comprehensive product range, The Futon Shop has remained loyal to this founding principle for over 40 years, with an emphasis on keeping its operation free of harmful chemicals whilst providing beautiful handcrafted design in high-quality materials.
I fell madly in love with five products from The Futon Shop’s catalogue: the Eco-Sofa Upholstered Space Saving Latex Sofa Non-Toxic Shell, the Sweetpea Crib Mattress, the Lindy Natural 4 Poster Bed Frame Oak, the Royal Cloud – Organic Mattress Set and the Skyline2 Cherry 6 Drawer Hardwood Dresser with Walnut Trim.
The Eco-Sofa, a beautiful and comfortable sofa bed, has a core of natural latex, a sustainable material stemming from the rubber tree, plus coconut coir instead of harmful polyurethane foams. These materials make the piece very resistant to everyday use, from little kids’ sticky fingers to wine stains. It feels like a dream to sit on and doubles as the most comfortable bed – over delivering aesthetically and functionally.
The Oak Bed Frame is a lovely piece, Nordic in its simplicity. A fully local product, it is made from hardwood stemming from responsibly managed American forests. Whilst a number of sustainable brands rely on imported woods for their furnishings (which comes with its own associated increased carbon footprint), The Futon Shop goes the domestic route.
The Organic Mattress Set is the most luxurious of its kind available on The Futon Shop, designed with a combination of elements, beginning by GOTS-certified cotton. Other materials include wool, horsetail, cashmere, camel hair, hemp, and pure latex. Unlike conventional mattresses, which are quick-living and really only made to last up to a decade at most, this product has a life expectancy of 20 to 30 years. Durability is also an essential part of conscious purchasing: buying one single mattress instead of four or five over the same period of time is a good step away from fast consumption and mirrors the slow fashion principle (Buy Less, Choose Well, Make It Last).
The Sweetpea Crib Mattress is a lovely option for babies from the time they’re born until they are toddlers, with two different sides for different growth stages. Designed to support little ones as they go through the first stages of their lives, the firmer side in Dunlop latex is perfect for very small babies, with a softer side with coco-latex, wool, and organic cotton able to accommodate toddlers. All items on The Futon Shop are focused on responsibility, yes, but as a mum, I feel most at ease knowing that a product specifically created for children to sleep on, is free of harmful chemicals. This little mattress is also hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant, key features for small children in a time when allergies are just beginning to make an appearance and can seriously disrupt their sleep.
As with all their wood-based products, the Hardwood Dresser is fully made from responsibly cut and All-American trees. That straight, satiny grain, often with a ripple figure that cherrywood is known for makes up the main element, with an extra walnut trim elevating the design; two noble kinds of wood that are made to last a lifetime and deliver in the style stakes. For further durability and to provide a smoother design, no screws are involved in the production. Instead pieces are glued by hand and then clamped for 24 hours, leading to a stronger bond.
For Diamond, the journey into organic beddings began when she was a young mother herself. She was looking for natural mattresses for her kids and found that every option had fire retardants and other harmful chemicals. It was the ‘70s, and she was, in her own words, “kind of a hippie,” studying the Japanese way of life. She started to see the humble futon as a viable alternative. At the time, Diamond saw futons of the west as ugly, cheap and deeply uncomfortable, the go-to inexpensive solution for students who couldn’t afford a good mattress. Suzanne saw an opportunity to utilise the actual Japanese futon concept, namely a smaller yet very comfortable mattress, and bring it to life on this side of the world. From the get-go, the goal was creating a pleasant experience for families to sit and rest, without having to withstand nasty and standardised chemicals with the potential to negatively impact members of the household.
Incredibly, The Futon Shop is now one of the largest futon retailers in the world. It’s also a California staple: based in San Francisco, the brand also has 11 showrooms throughout the state. The enterprise is fully vertical with everything in-house, from accounting to transport. They sell directly to their customers whenever possible, working to keep prices as low and accessible as they can, particularly within California.
Even with this large scale operation, The Futon Shop has retained its air of family. Some of the people working at the company have been part of their chain of production for 20 or 30 years! This interesting combination of a family business with a large-scale operation is relatable and accessible to customers over the years. For Diamond, sustainable living should no longer exclusive. This is the real idea behind their newest brand, Honest Sleep.
As a society, we’ve come a long way since the first days of sustainable living. Trailblazers like Suzanne were already making strides towards organic furniture decades ago, but it’s only within the last decade that things have moved forward vertiginously. The Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC) is a coalition of manufacturers, retailers, and designers in the industry. Created 15 years ago, SFC has been tracking how consumers have viewed organic furniture in recent times, and seeing the growing trends is a fascinating process. Their research target is homeowners between 30 and 60 years of age, with an annual income of at least $50,000 a year. While historically, sustainability wasn’t a major concern when shopping for their homes, 90% of consumers expressed interest in purchasing environmentally-friendly furnishings if they were as stylish as other options and within the same price range.
In the past few years, The Futon Shop expanded to a more affordable version of what they’ve been doing for decades: Honest Sleep. Fully committed to expanding on the idea of sustainable living, every item in their shop is completely organic. It’s directed specifically at growing families who want to keep their family protected from harmful chemicals in beddings without being priced out – unlike when Diamond started, the market now has options, but they’re not always affordable. That’s the breach Honest Sleep is looking to minimise and its an important one – sustainability is not sustainable if it remains inaccessible to the masses. It should not be the folly of solely the rich.
That’s the final frontier when it comes to organic-driven homes: accessibility. As more people make the leap towards an increasingly conscious life, eco brands have appeared in every industry, including home furnishings. Yet, the idea of organic furniture being too expensive for the everyday person permeates. Suzanne, with her efforts with The Futon Shop and Honest Sleep, is one of the authentic people looking to take out the exclusivity factor from organic living, without missing a beat in terms of style and design. Supporting these trailblazers and their new ways to do business is our best shot at building an increasingly sustainable future. Find out more about Honest Sleep and The Futon Shop here.