“The country which gives the most nutrition to my curiosity is Japan. Ever since visiting in 2018, I have been mindful to adopt Japanese principles such as having a connection with nature, and creating balance, harmony, and a respect for simple pleasures.” Joshua McGrath, designer-maker and founder of Ōragi.
Newly launched, wellness-focused furniture company Ōragi was born out of founder Joshua McGrath’s desire to create a change in the industry and move away from the use of toxic materials.
Modern furniture is created from a multitude of materials that can negatively impact health and pollute the planet, and this is a problem that Joshua has sought to address by creating environmentally considered furniture with natural materials. He is inspired by Japanese design principles and uses sustainably sourced bamboo to craft furniture which brings tranquility and balance to interior spaces.
According to Ōragi’s sustainability report, over 83% of sofas in the UK are not reused, which importantly highlights the ever-growing need for a circular design approach. We took the opportunity to talk to Joshua about significance of this statistic and we take a peek at the new Kumo collection…
How does your business prioritise nature and the environment?
Materials that come from nature and that can return to nature are at the forefront of Ōragi. We have taken a circular approach from inception to allow perspective and constraint when designing pieces. The selection of materials and manufacturing decisions are informed by the wellbeing of humans and our planet. Our bamboo sofa frames and accompanying furniture pieces celebrate the natural linear grain of bamboo, a material which is becoming more established as an alternative to traditional hardwoods in European furniture design. Fast growing, sustainable, and naturally strong, our bamboo boards are produced without the use of pesticides or fertilisers, they are FSC-certified, and production is carbon neutral.
Why did you decide to pursue the path of sustainable practice when commercially there are so many reasons not to?
Collectively our responsibility is to provide environmentally considered options that can be cherished. Ōragi is a company doing that.
I have suffered from allergies, in particular asthma, throughout my life and from my own experience I am aware of the impact a home environment can have on my health. When I was looking into furnishing my house, I consciously sought out low VOC (volatile organic components) and recycled furniture. I was shocked to find the limited options available and saw a need in the market.
22 million pieces of furniture are discarded in the UK every year. This is the challenge for Ōragi to overcome, through offering natural alternatives which improve people’s wellbeing and impact the world as little as possible. This ignited a pursuit to research and source natural materials to create furniture with a holistic approach to sustainability that is low impact and better for our overall health.
Which other brands and businesses do you admire most?
There are so many heroes in the sustainable and natural space. Naturalmat’s commitment to sustainable sourcing, craftsmanship and education are a constant inspiration. Also, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation were a huge help and resource for us when designing the Kumo Sofa for the circular economy. Lastly, I am so honoured to work with partners who value the quality of the air we breathe in our interior spaces. For example, Camira have been an amazing supplier whose fabrics hold the Indoor Advantage Gold and Euro Ecolabel. I am so proud to have both of these associated with our Kumo range.
Where is your happy place in nature and what does it mean to you?
I feel most present in nature when I am sitting in the sunshine in my mother’s back garden in West Sussex, and overlooking the South Downs. I feel still and reflective when I am there, with the sounds of nature around me. This is the place I long for if I’ve been in the city for too long. The country which gives the most nutrition to my curiosity is Japan. Ever since visiting in 2018, I have been mindful to adopt Japanese principles such as having a connection with nature, and creating balance, harmony, and a respect for simple pleasures. Both of these places are woven into the designs and principles of Ōragi.
What role does design and architecture play in delivering sustainable cities and spaces?
Designers have a vital role and responsibility to create novel, innovative, and transparent sustainable design. This creates a culture where sustainable practices are adopted more widely and become more accessible. In tandem, architecture is surrounding us constantly, and hugely impacting on our health and wellbeing, both directly and indirectly. It is therefore important for sustainable principles to be integrated within our homes and spaces, especially in cities where we are further away from the benefits of nature, to allow ourselves to feel more connected and to reap the benefits of natural living.
Traditionally trade shows have been associated with epic levels of waste, so why did you choose to exhibit or align with Planted?
Planted perfectly aligns with the core principles of Ōragi – this is crucial for us as a brand when choosing who to exhibit with. Planted are pioneering a unique way of hosting events and should be commended and congratulated for that at every opportunity. I couldn’t be happier that our first event is with them. I hope that more events like this become popularised and instead of creating waste we can move to creating a positive impact on the planet.
What annoys you most when it comes to conversations around the environment?
I don’t ever really get annoyed when talking about the environment or sustainability as a topic; every conversation is an opportunity for education and perspective widening for both sides. We need these conversations to create a positive change in people and their understanding of these issues. The greater the understanding, the more demand for change.
Do you believe the UK Government is serious about delivering a Green Revolution?
I think a democratic government should reflect the people it serves and, since starting Ōragi, I can see the appetite and interest from people to live a more sustainable life, closer to nature. The conversation is getting louder and broader and this can only point to positive change.
A big thank you to Joshua McGrath for taking part in enki’s Meet the Maker series.
Discover more about the wellness-focused furniture by Ōragi.
enki is supporting Planted Country.