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  • Writer's pictureCharles Barber

Contemporary Functional Design

Updated: Apr 29

"Award-winning furniture designer and Master Furniture Maker Eva Mechler is a master of contemporary functional design. She specializes in made-to-order wooden furniture, hand-crafted at her workshop in northern Germany {now in Switzerland}. The Lounge Collection is made using solid wood left over from the building of superyachts, including European native species of oak, chestnut, ash, and walnut. The first prototypes were made from a sustainable “modified wood” called Tesumo developed by Lürssen Yachts and Wolz Nautic. Conceived as an alternative to teak and selected by the owner of REV Ocean for use on the yacht’s exterior decking, Tesumo is strong, durable, and more resistant to weathering than other woods. Mechler’s collectible art-furniture earned her a place as a finalist for the Smart Yacht Award at the Monaco Smart Yacht Rendezvous in 2023."

Julia Zaltzman, Robb Report, June 14, 2023



Eva Mechler is a designer and maker based in Germany and Switzerland. She creates exceptional pieces in solid wood for design collaborators and private clients.
Children discovering for their selves that wood and woodland is precious


Report by Charles Barber on sustainable practice at Eva Mechler, June 27, 2022


1.  Round wood purchasing

 

Solid wood is the most immediately practical material for furniture making; while the art of round wood purchasing (also with ethical and sustainable properties in mind), requires a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between wood type, climate, and soil properties.  Eva Mechler specialises in the design and production of solid wood furniture incorporating especially the native species of mainland Europe.  With her closely managed supply chain for materials quality and assurance of ESG standards, every item of solid wood furniture made by Eva Mechler[1] can (on request) be supplied with a Chain-of-Custody statement for the material used. 

 

For her furniture making, Eva Mechler sources superior quality European cut wood with leading expert on sustainable forestry Mr. Jakob Röthlisberger[2] at Girsberger[3].  Being located in Switzerland and Germany, Girsberger manages every step of the wood supply chain starting with the selection of logs to be sawn, carefully air-drying the cut wood for a number of years, and following Eva Mechler’s requirement for handpicked selection, Girsberger makes the delivery of the wood supply direct to Eva Mechler’s workshop[4]which is situated mid-way between Hamburg and Berlin.

 

Girsberger is in the top 3% of companies assessed by EcoVadis[5] in the manufacture of furniture industry for sustainable procurement.  EcoVadis methodology is built on international sustainability standards, including the Global Reporting Initiative, the United Nations Global Compact, and the ISO 26000, covering 190 spend categories and 160+ countries.

 

2.  Eva Mechler examples of preferred species with origin

Oak | Quercus robur

Origin: Switzerland, Germany, France, Croatia

Maple | Acer pseudoplatanus

Origin: Switzerland, Germany, France, Slovenia, Slovakia

Beech | Fagus sylvatica

Origin: Switzerland, Germany, Croatia

Elm | Ulmus minor

Origin: Switzerland, Slovakia, France, Austria, Netherlands

Sycamore | Platanus x acerifolia

Origin: France, Croatia

Ash heartwood | Fraxinus excelsior

Origin: Switzerland, Germany, France, Croatia

Cherry | Prunus avium

Origin: France, Romania, Germany, Slovakia

European walnut | Juglans regia

Origin: France, Slovenia, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary

Black walnut | Juglans nigra

Origin: Hungary, Croatia, Germany

Pear | Pyrus communis

Origin: Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Belgium

Acacia | Robinia pseudoacacia

Origin: Hungary

European chestnut | Castanea sativa

Origin: Romania, France

 

Eva Mechler typical species illustrated: see footnote[6]

 

3.  Sustainability in practice 2000-22

 

Supply chain difficulty - local

For the twenty plus years that Eva Mechler has been in operation it is clear that not every forest is well managed and not every tree has the quality needed for durable furniture making.  This causes a conundrum for sustainability in practice as the wood that one needs for a particular project may be only rarely available from a local forest, and even if it were, there can be a barrier for purchasing with both sawmills and forest owners when they are not willing to meet the cost of securing certification from organisations such as PEFC and FSC.  However, and fortunately, the forests of mainland Europe are highly regulated and the sawmills of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria are especially reliable for high ESG standards.

 

Supply chain difficulty – exotic

Exotic woods are not a priority for Eva Mechler as her policy is to choose and recommend European woods for her designs and her production of interior or exterior furniture.  However, for the superyacht market, whilst there is an increasing drive for alternative materials, it is assumed that many customers will continue to request Teak (also Burma Teak) for furniture making and for decking.  However, as everyone is aware, the supply chain for Burma Teak and other regional sources is fraught with difficulty.  PEFC[7] supported by Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation (FPA2), had been working to establish a reliable supply chain of Teak from Myanmar but as announced on 14. September 2021, PEFC have now suspended the assessment of their Myanmar forest certification system.  Eva Mechler’s preference is to avoid imported timber altogether though (as a stepping stone to better solutions) there is a case for the use of branded teak alternates to provide a more positive environmental and social impact.  With exotic timber there is also an ethical question on how best to support those indigenous communities of say Africa, Asia, and South America, whose livelihoods rely on the harvesting and export of timber to so called ‘western’ economies / see ‘learning and networks’ below ..

Teak alternatives

Eva Mechler is liaising presently with her supply partner who has developed a species of wood as an alternative to Teak for outdoor (deck) furniture.  The proprietary material is being tested in Eva Mechler’s workshop and we expect the processed wood will be suitable for purpose whilst having the characteristics of fine grain teak for looks, texture, and durability.

 

Wood and wood waste management

Eva Mechler uses sawn logs in all of her production.  It is usual for each item and or multiple items of furniture to be sourced from the same tree.  Not all parts of the sawn logs are suitable for furniture making while the off-cuts are set aside for wood turning and making small items such as wooden utensils, scale-models, and children’s toys.  Wood shavings and scraps of wood from the machines are used to fuel the heating system for both the workshop and the adjacent private accommodation.  Emissions from the solid wood heating system are highly regulated with annual checks being instructed by the competent government authority.

 

Finishing materials

For many years Eva Mechler has used natural plant oils and wax finishes for her solid wood objects.  The materials are sourced directly from Complex-Farben[8] in the Austrian Tirol where the owner Josef Schellhorn has traded for over 50 years.  Mr. Schellhorn is a regular advisor the Eva Mechler on the uses and application of his products which are certified for their ecologically sound production and raw material sourcing.

 

 

4.  Learning & Networks

 

In support of Eva Mechler’s commitment to sustainable sourcing and manufacturing, Charles Barber, an Associate Director at Eva Mechler GmbH, completed the Sustainability in Practice Management Programme[9] organised by the Water Revolution Foundation - a sector wide sustainability and ocean conservation initiative founded by the Super Yacht Builders Association[10] (SYBAss) and their network of industry partners.

 

Eva Mechler became a Partner of the Wood Forever Pact in 2014 and a Member of the Sustainable Yachting Network in 2018: both of these programmes are initiated by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation[11], while Charles Barber was engaged directly by the Foundation to assist the connecting and establishment of the yacht builder and yacht design network encompassed by the initiative.  Presently FPA2 with the support of the Danish Council for Sustainable Forestry are aiming to identify the 20 most relevant substation species to traditional choices from tropical forests.  Eva Mechler connects with this and other FPA2 initiatives on a regular basis.

 

 

5. Community engagement

 

As a family-owned enterprise, Eva Mechler GmbH has been responsible for and engaged with numerous community events over years.  The first example being the sponsorship of Charles Barber’s participation as a cyclist on the inaugural London to Monaco Cycle Ride in 2016 as organised by Winch Design to the benefit the work of Blue Marine Foundation.  Inspired by this event, Charles Barber became the Co-Founder and Chairman of the non-profit volunteering organisation Switzerland for the Oceans which has by now led multiple fund-raising events for ocean related organisations including for Blue Marine Foundation, Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, and others. 

 

Another initiative at its earliest stages (and adjacent to Eva Mechler’s north German located workshop) is the conceptual development of a four million Euro not-for-profit socio-economic project in Land Brandenburg Germany to create a replica Mediaeval Village using the traditional hand skills of the time to become a learning centre of the future.  Similar large scale “Experimental Archaeology” projects have been realised in Guédelon France and Campus Galli South Germany.  The concept has been written by Charles Barber and Eva Mechler for the community and now has the interest of the local Authority, the local Major, the regional Economic Development Office, and cultural groups within and out-with the region.

 

 

6. It’s a Family Business

 

Eva Mechler can trace back to 140 years when fathers on her mother’s and father’s side were cabinet makers and carpenters respectively, each with their own businesses.  Now that Eva Mechler is operating her own workshop is in large part down to this history and influence of her family.  Even the workshop that Eva Mechler acquired herself in 2019 was first established in 1882 and after five generations the workshop was on the brink of closure but is now once again a busy corner of the local community and infrastructure.

 

Eva Mechler graduated in Germany as a Master Furniture Maker in 2000 and she is as well as Master of Galvanisation as she did learn this previously.  In the DACH region it is only possible for formally qualified Masters (of craft) to engage and teach apprentices in the workshops.  Eva Mechler has a long record of teaching with the companies she has been employed by in Germany and Switzerland and she now offers apprenticeship training in her own workshop. 

 

The past two years have been focused especially on equipping the workshop for solid wood production.  All the main systems are in now place (bench room, machine room, finishing room, wood storage, workshop filtration and waste extraction).  Eva Mechler is competent in the use SolidWorks for 3D modelling and also in AutoCAD for layout and production planning.  When needed, the CNC work is  contracted out with files exported from SolidWorks, though for many bespoke jobs Eva Mechler will prepare her own physical templates in-house for hand carving or machine assisted carving as required.  To all intents and purposes, Eva Mechler offers a complete solution from sketch to completion and is delighted to be engaged with bespoke projects for design studios and for her direct customers.  Eva is especially happy when developing and presenting her own personal designs and collections for families, galleries, and collectors.

 

 

References:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



© Eva Mechler GmbH   27. June 2022 (revision)

 

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