Nine Lives by Tonia Bell


Eco-friendly, sustainable, reusable and recyclable are the keywords of the moment. Today riding an electric bike or wearing a handbag made of worn-out tyres gives a trendy and very radical chic edge, even if we then generate tons of non-disposable trash. After Naples major waste management crisis, as well as Roberto Saviano’s words on the illegal dumping of toxic waste just under our feet, we have begun to understand that we cannot produce garbage ad libitum, because sooner or later it is going to swallow us up.

As regards the environmental and recycling issues, Tonia Bell is never trite or banal, she is never conventional, and her projects are guided not only by marketing aims.

Nine is the number of lives of her pieces of furniture, and they are a lot considering that ordinary mortals are granted just one. Nine lives is the label launched by the 23-year-old Australian designer. In short, she collects really old pieces of furniture, not modern antiques, and if we can say it, a bit hideous too, that we usually imagine in the house of some poor old man living in the outskirts, or discarded and forgotten in some lumber room. She, then, recycles these old pieces to dismatle and deconstruct them; after that, she reassembles them and gives them a brand new life, a real reincarnation. She tears off any layer of upholstery and wood to reassemble them rough, raw, absolutely imperfect, though so beautiful and natural.

It seems a life metaphor or a warning, just like when Antoine De Saint-Exupéry in The Little Prince wrote that what is essential is invisible to the eye. Tonia Bell strips off the useless and fake “cover” to expose the true, genuine qualities that lie within. A fine exhortation to look beyond appearances, even in the world of the design, where behind a supposed functionality, shallowness and superficiality often conceal.

Valeria Corti

Tonia Bell, The Outsider Chair, Style: The Urban Drifter

Tonia Bell, The Matcham Couch, Style: The Nostalgic Utilitarian