There’s only one option if you don’t want to throw out end-of-life products: You need to make them higher quality. In this spirit, many designers around the world work on upcycling big city scrap. The latest star of this trend, feted by interior designers, is Berlin’s Kimidori: a company that transforms europallets into designer furniture.

Conserving resources, avoiding waste, kickstarting sustainability cycles: All of these are vital urban challenges that tax administrations and institutions to the max. At the same time, these issues are solvable, e. g. by returning to something that has become almost forgotten in an age of prefab goods, digital contacts, and cyber gadgets: good old down-to-earth handicraft.

While DIY inspirations and instructions abound, the pinnacle of it all is upcycling: Bypass those DIY store finds and breathe new life into discards instead. The general process and principle transforms used truck tarps into bags or decommissioned cars into bicycles. And one of the latest examples of turning DIY into sought-after goods is Berlin based furniture specialist Kimidori.

Kimidori: stylish furniture meets clear conscience

The small Berlin upcycling workshop turns used europallets into covetable designer goods: tables, chairs, stools, dressers, lamps, and even a doggie bed. The man and mind behind it all, who promises a beautiful home and karma, is Sebastian Nowakowski.

Right now, he is frequently asked to tell his story: Back in the summer of 2012, his job as a freelance consultant for a palette factory sparked the idea to expand the unassuming shipping aid’s lifecycle and transform it into something useful. Not for dusty 18-wheelers, but for urban loft interiors.

Creative manuals call such phenomena a “total restart.” In this case, it was a restart not only for the europallet, but also Nowakowski himself: “Something came together that belonged together.”

Naturally, the interest in ecologically sound living is on the rise. Yet the juxtaposition of trend and pallet – this normed square meter of untreated wood, held together by 78 special nails – constitutes a true innovation.

Although the net offers plenty of repurposing instructions, Nowakowski was the first to systematically buy and clean end-of-use pallets expressly for this purpose. Initially working from his own garage, Kimidori has been collaborating with designer Daniel Becker since 2013.

Kimidori Berlin smart magazine
Kimidori Berlin smart magazine
Kimidori Berlin smart magazine
Kimidori Berlin smart magazine

Do-it-yourself vs. disillusioned consumption

At the same time, the upcycling trend is also a reaction to the increasingly nontransparent characteristics of food and products – and their superabundance: Just how healthy or sustainable is a particular good? Do I really need it? Does it make my life any better or easier?

“I have always cared about protecting the environment and ecological themes,” states Nowakowski. “Over time, I more and more often found myself deciding against purchases of conventional products. After all, my main driving force was to make things better.”

The frustrated consumer: An obvious candidate for DIY enthusiasm since the metamorphosis of worthless or used up materials into something that is as good as new comes with its own seductive magic.

Upcycling as a business model

And this is becoming increasingly lucrative: Encouraged by the general shift in perception, more and more manufacturers have started to breathe new life into old things. “I am especially happy that we were able to prove that small producers can indeed build interesting and directional seating,” adds Nowakowski.

Kimidori Berlin smart magazine
Sebastian Nowakowski and the kimidori 45° side table.

Fewer and fewer of these upcycled products look like they were cobbled together in a basement workshop. In Madrid, Bicycled crafts sleek bicycles from old vehicles while Clip It from Montpellier turns plastic bottle caps into creative child’s play. In Tel Aviv, Medu Light takes the entire bottle as a basis for jellyfish-like designer lamps. All of the involved materials have one key thing in common: Just like the pallet, they are in plentiful supply in major metropolises. And otherwise destined for the landfill.

Together with two friends, Nowakowski runs Kimidori as a cooperative. An approach that clearly demonstrates that this is not just about sustainable business, but also a matter of shared values. This makes Kimidori part of a zeitgeist that rethinks business and does not require products to be “factory fresh.”

For Nowakowski, there is no end in sight – at least when it comes to his supply of raw materials. Right now, the global shipping industry runs on 400 million europallets, leaving plenty of scope for new Kimidori products: At the time of writing, they are testing surfaces and upholstery options for their very first palette-based armchair.

All pictures, incl. the header image: Dirk Herzog