Making customer furniture with sustainable materials.
Louis Interiors is building its environmental credentials by carefully managing its carbon and waste output.
Nestled in an industrial park in northern Toronto is a small manufacturer of fine custom furniture. On any given day, interior designers from around the world call on it to produce unique designs that will please wealthy patrons at destinations such as the Trump International Hotel in Toronto and the St. Regis in Mexico City.
It’s quite a feat for a company of 40 employees. Yet there’s more to the story at Louis Interiors Inc. Over the years, the family run business has diversified its offerings and customer base while building solid environmental programs.
Susie Muller, granddaughter of company president and founder Louis Muller, says the company has always tried to be environmentally friendly, initially by ensuring they generate as little waste as possible.
“We’re always searching out organizations that could reuse our waste.”
If any leftover fabric and off-cut wood can’t be used in the manufacturing process, it’s sent to a local manufacturer of puppets and crafts – along with the sawdust generated at the shop.
But it has really been the past four to five years that the company has made a move towards sustainable materials – a decision made by conscience not customer demand.
“Our thought is, if it’s environmentally-friendly, economically feasible and doesn’t impact the quality of the furniture, why wouldn’t we do it?”
Furniture is hand-made using traditional European methods Louis learned during his childhood in Hungary (she defines traditional European as “good looking and long lasting”).
As a boy, he was taught the family trade – tying rope – and as a young man, he took an interest in designing and building his own furniture.
Louis and his wife emigrated to Canada in 1956. He put the skills he learned as a child in Hungary to use, at first taking up employment with an upholsterer. At the same time, he started working out of his garage, building and selling his own custom furniture.
Five years later, he opened his first store in Toronto’s Rosedale neighbourhood, and shortly after, moved to Yonge Street where he primarily sold breakfast nooks, a hot commodity at the time.
When their popularity waned, Louis already had a solid reputation and a cadre of dedicated fans. His customers weren’t necessarily wealthy, but “he priced his products very reasonably and his clients had an eye for quality,” she adds.
Thirty years ago, Louis’s son Bill took over day-to-day management of the business. As vice-president, he has branched the company out into the interior design industry.
“He wanted to do for hospitality what his father did for residential designers, which was to provide style and attention to detail, something he felt was lacking in the industry,” she explains.
With this new business model, Louis Interiors no longer partakes in furniture design – that’s left up to the interior designers. For the small amount of design work they do, the company uses two software suites: Rhinoceros 3D and AutoCad 2009.
According to figures posted by Industry Canada, the company achieves sales between $1 million and $4.9 million per year.