Starting as a feel-good project during lockdown, Tilly Barber’s bespoke furniture brand Monde is rewriting the rulebook for modular furniture with a sustainable edge. Made locally in Melbourne with recyclable materials, each sofa is tailored to the needs of each customer.
For Tilly, the lockdowns heralded a new chapter in more ways than one. Not only did it present a wellspring of new ideas, but it also freewheeled her – rather serendipitously – into a new career in product design. Her furniture brand, Monde, began as a laid-back lockdown experiment with some friends, as a way to explore the nuances of design and manufacturing. Yet, the single-chair project took on a life of its own, extending into an entire modular sofa system. The effort was backed by months of scientific research, support from local fabricators and machinery that enabled the shaping and extrusion of the sofa’s corner elements.
Monde’s eco-friendly philosophy is rooted in a resistance to fast fashion and fast furniture; something Tilly hopes to tackle with resource-efficient products not just at Monde but also through other eco-conscious brands such as IN BED. With her former business partner now pursuing a degree in Furniture Design, Tilly now helms the prototyping and development for Monde’s flagship sofa. Alongside Monde, she also manages a boutique vintage reselling business Homebody, where she gives old furniture a new lease of life.
Loosely translating to ‘people and world’, Monde is true to its name, with an ethos of universal, eco-friendly and multifunctional design, seeing the bespoke sofas pay equal ode to the environment and the human form. Made of GreenTag certified foam, they mimic the body’s natural curvature. With a unique modular, interlocking system, they can also oscillate between serving as a single seat and a sweeping sofa.
The hallmark of the Monde design experience is that it draws the customer in, encouraging them to be a part of the process. This reflects Tilly’s belief that the customer experience must be synchronised with the product, if not exceed it. She encourages customers to get involved and ask important questions, including what goes into a product, who makes it, where it is made, how long it will last and, crucially, how it can be responsibly maintained and, eventually, recycled.
Tilly’s take on sustainable furniture continues to develop, as she hopes to explore new mediums, materials and processes. Unencumbered by formal design training, she enjoys free rein over her design process, combining her intuition and imagination to bring innovation to life.