Most of the high end and high end furniture stores in UAE have a strong presence in malls and online, so buying parts is just a few steps or clicks away.
However, a slew of new businesses – focused on everything old – is urging residents to rethink how they keep their homes.
La Brocante: pop-ups for used furniture
The kitsch community space La Brocante was launched in Dubai at the end of 2020, giving residents access to a vast collection of high-end, vintage and upcycled second-hand furniture.
The space, which translates to French flea market, hosts bi-weekly pop-ups at Al Quoz, where people can sip coffee from Loose Unicorns, check out the work of local artists, and get their hands on a range. eclectic of pre-loved products.
A visit reveals a deliciously curious collection, including a coffee table made from an elephant saddle and a lacquered and hand-painted Chinese table. Elsewhere, antique-looking beds, lawn chairs, original 1950s movie posters, and Rajasthani chests of drawers are strewn about.
For an overview of some of the products and their prices, scroll through the gallery above.
What the products have in common is that they are all unique.
âWe obviously have a lot of different styles and designs, but it has to be something vintage, different and something that can last,â says founder Natasha Fownes.
âWe have a few brands, but a lot of the products here are unique pieces made decades ago that people imported from their home countries when they moved to the United Arab Emirates, but didn’t could resume. ”
People come for two or three years, so what happens to the furniture they buy? We need to be more aware of it
Natasha Fownes, The Flea Market
Starting La Brocante during the pandemic was no accident. The idea hit Fownes when several friends left the United Arab Emirates in 2020 and needed to sell or store their furniture. As someone who has worked in films and live events and owns a warehouse in Al Quoz, Fownes decided to step in.
âWe have now built our brand to the point where the public knows they can sell unique products with us. People usually send us a photo and we make them an offer. It’s a great way to create a circular economy.
A part sells for between 50 and 80% of its original selling price, depending on its condition. La Brocante also rents items by the day for a percentage of their price.
âArt directors usually need unique pieces or props for shoots. Renting furniture helps them cut costs, and it’s more durable than buying something new for a few days of use.
Sustainability and community are key factors for Fownes, who grew up on Portobello Road, home to one of London’s most famous antique markets.
âFor me, this way of buying – or conscious consumerism – is normal. And I haven’t really seen that in the furniture market here. I wanted to create this space.
âDubai is a big city, a business center. But it is also transitory. People come for two or three years, so what happens to the furniture they buy? We need to be more aware of this – it is up to us and we are all responsible, âshe adds.
The reaction to pop-ups is proof that there is a demand. âIf you come here on the weekends, it’s like a small community. There is a DJ, upcycled songs, a mix of people, of energy. It’s booming. You don’t understand this when you walk into a [regular furniture] shop.”
Decosouq: sale of used furniture online
The beloved Decosouq furniture concept also saw the light of day at the end of 2020. According to its founder, Emir Tumen, the online market has grown month by month.
Decosouq operates as an end-to-end platform, which means that it oversees the entire process. Sellers upload images of their used products to the website, which then allows them to connect – and negotiate – with buyers. Once the agreement is concluded, the buyer pays via Decosouq. Buyer and seller agree on a pickup date, with the website logistics team handling assembly and delivery.
The buyer has 48 hours to confirm that the product is genuine, after which the money is sent to the seller’s account. If there is additional damage, the buyer has the option of returning the product or requesting a larger discount.
Thousands of people have sold furniture during the pandemic, Tumen says, adding that Decosouq’s bestsellers include seating, dining and storage solutions. But this is not the only source of activity for the company.
âWe had hundreds of small businesses and antique dealers who couldn’t open their showrooms during the pandemic and had excess inventory, so they started using Decosouq,â he says.
He believes the pandemic has led to a thriving second-hand market for a number of reasons.
âThe more people were at home, the more they spent on home renovations and improvements. As many people have started working from home or home schooling their children, the demand for home offices and school facilities has increased.
âAt the same time, not everyone could afford premium brands. Given the current situation, people were cautious about how they spent and would look for economic options. There are also a lot of people who still aren’t comfortable going to physical stores and are looking for digital solutions, âhe says.
For those considering selling furniture online, Tumen recommends taking photos, preferably in daylight, that do the pieces justice, including details of the damage to be respectful of buyers and reasonable prices. The main idea, he says, is to relocate the furniture, “not to make money with it.”
Kave: repair and recycle furniture
While there are new players advocating second-hand goods, the local Kave concept goes even further – advocating not to buy anything if it can be repaired or recycled.
âThe first question my mother asks herself when she gets rid of a piece of furniture is: has it really come to the end of its life? If the answer is no, why are you throwing it out? The precursor to upcycling is repair. Try to fix what you have, âsays Rania Kanaan, who founded Kave with her sister, Zaina.
Kave is an extension of their Charicycles brand of bikes, through which they design, customize and revalue bike frames. To date, Charicycles has saved over 1,500 kilograms of steel from the landfill and donated over 100 bicycles to children in refugee camps.
However, with bicycles being a seasonal business in Dubai, the sisters launched Kave in 2019 to ensure the continued existence of the business. Today, it functions as a space where people can buy fair trade products, learn to recycle through workshops and eat healthy and hearty food.
âKave aims to tell the stories of the things we buy so that we are more aware of our consumption habits and the impact they have on the environment, manufacturers and communities beyond the reach of anybody. nobody, âKanaan explains.
The space puts what it preaches into practice, with the Alserkal Avenue cafe with furniture made from discarded wood and lighting made from glass bottles.
âUpcycling is a new concept all over the worldâ¦ the idea is to change people’s perception. So we presented something beautiful and once people liked it we told them the story. This has removed any negative stereotypes about used, durable and âoldâ items, âsays Kanaan.
When asked about the advantages of repairing used products, she raised a multitude of points.
âThe furniture industry is one of the most polluting and least sustainable on the planet. By avoiding buying new items, you can dramatically reduce your environmental footprint, âshe says.
Buying or reusing used furniture is cheaper, helps prevent deforestation, limits plastic production and reduces carbon emissions, she adds.
âThe furniture you have already loved is economical and more environmentally friendly. It is not because something is no longer in front of you that it has disappeared. It’s probably in a landfill somewhere, which is harming the environment.
âWe often think that once something is in the trash it doesn’t affect us anymore, but in reality we all share this planet and the trash will end up polluting what you ingest. So be more aware and caring.â