An environmentally passionate entrepreneur believes his Covid lockdown-inspired invention will “help reduce our carbon footprint and improve the way we work and live”.
Pith & Stem is a startup dedicated to producing sustainable furniture. They use reclaimed wood, steel and plastic to create bespoke and unique centrepieces.
Based in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, the business has flourished since the pandemic with its convenient and compact retractable desks – the DropTop.™ – proving a hit with those working from home.
Founder Stefan Husanu, 28, also owns a successful construction firm that he established three years after moving to the UK in 2011.
On his journey to creating Pith & Stem, Stefan said: “The construction firm is established, it has 50 employees and is involved in some of the biggest projects in and around London.
“I started the firm with £3,000 of savings. Today our turnover is £2 million and it’s my main source of income, but isn’t my passion.”
“I am passionate about our future, sustainability and I want to use business to make a positive contribution to the environment.
“I believe one-off, bespoke furniture can – and should be – made from almost entirely recycled and sustainable materials.
“We have available to us a wealth of reclaimed materials, already extracted and processed. Each piece has its own perfect imperfections but instead of using them, we look for ways to destroy them or dispose of them in the natural environment.
“These materials can’t be used everywhere but can look much better than virgin materials when used correctly.”
Pith and Stem’s name echoes what his business is all about – using the bits that would otherwise end up in the bin. Stefan and his team turn these unwanted materials into something that is loved by people and reduces their environmental impact.
Stefan continued: “I want to avoid waste finding its way into an incinerator or the ocean. I want condemned materials to be turned into something beautiful that will be cherished for generations.”
Pith & Stem takes issue with the current approach to material supply – it is currently easier and cheaper to source new and virgin wood, metal and plastic products than it is to repurpose existing ones.
Every aspect of the operation has been carefully calculated to be as sustainable as possible throughout. The materials are predominantly recycled and sourced from local suppliers in order to minimise transport emissions.
Stefan said: “While it is easier to be carbon negative as a boutique company which produces one-off, bespoke pieces, I believe businesses can also scale sustainably. There are products that need to be produced by the millions to help us reduce our carbon footprint and they cannot always be made from recycled materials, but they can still be good for the environment in other ways.”
Pith & Stem is on a mission to prove this. The furniture manufacturer took a new turn in 2021 when it launched the DropTop. The first-of-its-kind desk comes pre-fitted with cabling and monitors and it transforms into wall art when not in use, making it a perfect working-from-home solution in an age of Zoom.
Stefan describes the thinking behind his flagship product: “I noticed the forced trend of working from home had considerably lowered greenhouse gas emissions and single-use plastic as fewer people were travelling to work. Many people hated it though. Working from home simply wasn’t as effective as being in the office. They wanted to get back to the pre-pandemic normal.
“Many things need to change across many industries but a huge cause of emissions and one that can easily change is people commuting to and from work. We simply cannot afford a future where everyone travels to work every day.”
“The pandemic proved that hundreds of millions of people can work from home, which comes with huge environmental benefits and we are on a mission to make working from home easy, stylish and fun.”
“Although there are many environmental, lifestyle and wellbeing benefits to working remotely, it won’t work in the long term if productivity levels drop, if it’s uncomfortable or if it’s simply a struggle.”
“The problem is that few people have a professional setup at home. Working 10 hours a day on a laptop, often in uncomfortable positions, does not compare well with the ergonomic office set-ups we were used to.”
“The main problem with modern properties is the limited space. People resort to all sorts of solutions. The most common is either a dining table or cramped desk with barely enough space for a keyboard, monitor and coffee cup.’
“Home desks usually take up lots of room but offer very little in terms of workspace. What if a desk could both be big and take up nearly no space?
“Productivity means multitasking and you can’t possibly multitask effectively on a single laptop screen. The 21st century home desk needs to offer plenty of screen real estate…”
“A desk is rarely attractive. It should be made to disappear when not in use. Why can’t it be turned into a decorative centrepiece?”
And that’s how it started.
DropTop.™ tackles all those issues by making it easy for everyone to have a powerful setup, without sacrificing space or style. It’s an ergonomic workstation that has been designed to maximise multitasking and productivity and was built for professional daily use. Its unique design gives the user ample workspace and plenty of screen real estate so that they can perform their work comfortably and use their time very efficiently minimising the need to work long hours. When closed DropTop.™ sits subtly out of sight and out of mind so that work and life can be kept at balance, allowing people to spend more time doing things that make them happy and not be constantly reminded of their work.
It is practical, stylish and good for the planet. We not only use carefully selected sustainable materials to make it but we also offset way more emissions by planting 10 trees for each unit we sell.
If you think of it it’s a no brainer.
Fewer people travelling, means fewer cars on the roads, fewer trains and buses, fewer fossil fuels used, fewer emissions. And it doesn’t stop there, the secondary effects are huge. Less oil extraction, less need for high-rise construction, less single-use plastic from the millions of daily lunches and morning coffees, fewer new public transport vehicles manufactured and so on. The more we limit our activities and the comforts around them, the smaller the environmental burden.
The release, which took place exactly one year after the UK-wide lockdown was first announced, was a massive success with international demand seeing the DropTop.™ sell out in a matter of hours
The concept is Stefan’s own and encapsulates everything great about Pith & Stem. Its design is simple yet sophisticated and marries an industrial sturdiness (a video on their website shows someone performing a backflip off one) with a modern, luxury feel. Fully integrated with in-built high-spec monitors and clever cabling, the desk is available in several configurations, allowing users to personalise their workspace for their own needs.
For each DropTop sold, Pith & Stem plant 10 trees through non-profit organisations committed to reforestation. They also plan to fund plastic clean-up projects with upcoming furniture lines.
Stefan wants to use his business as a force for good and hopes to pave the way for others to follow in Pith & Stem’s footsteps.