The E9 Design Story: Sustainable Australian Furniture Using Technology

The E9 Design Story: Sustainable Australian Furniture Using Technology


E9 Design founder, Steven Higgs, explains his motivation for creating the company and how E9 Design takes a fresh, tech-driven approach to creating responsible, premium, customisable furniture. 

Steve, after having managed some of Australia's largest furniture manufacturers, why did you start E9 Design?

I wanted to create a furniture company and manufacturing process where environmental responsibility was built in from the start –  that was 'born green'  - rather than trying to re-engineer existing or traditional methods.

Being a father of three, I want to make sure that the industry I love is making a difference to my kids' future.

And I want to create furniture that makes you feel good....beautiful, comfortable furniture that simply ‘works’ as you really need it to, and brings people together.

How did you develop a greener approach to sofa manufacturing? 

Our aim is to employ technology to make quality furniture efficiently locally, and to use sustainable materials to make the product circular.

So, I chose steel as the best base material because of its durability, strength and 100% recyclability.

It took us more than 18 months of trial and error to perfect our digital design and manufacturing process.

In that time, we developed a way to design our sofa frames so that they can be precision laser-cut from a single length of Australian steel that we can then form into complex organic shapes. 

The system works for almost any shape and it saves time and materials.

As far as we know, we are the only company in the world using this approach to manufacture furniture.  

What other sustainable features have you included in your sofa designs?

We also created a unique seating system we’ve named “Bounce”, using steel springs and a single conforming platform. This means that the foam is uniformly supported making it longer-lasting and more comfortable.

Foam is a standard material of almost all sofas. We source the greenest and highest quality foam available (and it’s made in Australia and is also recyclable). But how we incorporate it into the sofa is vastly different.

We spent many months experimenting with how we could combine foam and other constituents without permanently joining different materials. This is the main reason why sofas are not recycled. It’s just too time consuming and costly to dismantle and properly separate the components.

We don’t permanently bind together anything made from different materials. This means recycling can actually occur.

For example, our tailored covers are not stapled or glued to the base. Instead, they unzip in one piece.

Do all your sofas have removeable covers?

Yes. Another major reason we do this is to prolong the life of the sofa. In 5- or 10-years’ time, you might want to change your colour scheme, or the dog’s slept on the sofa one too many times. We can provide replacement covers and make it easy to renew your look at a reasonable price. 

Apart from circular design, what are the other benefits of your system?

It allows us to prototype and build almost any shape and size lounge efficiently. For example, creating organic shapes out of wood can be extremely difficult and time-consuming.

And for customers who want to create a unique look and a perfect fit for their spaces, it also means that we can customise relatively quickly and efficiently.

We can even create totally bespoke pieces.

And because we make our sofas here in Sydney, they don't have to travel the world and take 6 months to a year to get to you. We can deliver in 6 weeks or less.

What's the best part of having started E9 Design?

I really enjoy the design process and seeing an idea become a tangible piece that someone uses and loves.

But I’m particularly happy that my two sons, Jordan and Damon, have joined me in the business. I’m proud that they feel our eco-friendly approach is something they can commit to.


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