Irene Moutsogianni and Chris Ververis are two young friends from Lesvos who make furniture using an original raw material: olive pits.
The pair are from Megalochori, a mountainous village on the southern part of the Aegean island that is surrounded by luscious green pine tree forests and well known worldwide for its wild and natural beauty.
When Irini and Christos decided to start their own project they named it "Koukos de Lab", inspired by the mountain Koukos, upon which their village was located.
“We have been inspired by and named our lab after this precise mountain area, known for its dense flora and fauna as well as its excellent microclimate, that forms a unique ecosystem,” they explain.
In fact, the entire concept behind the business was born out of the pair’s home island of Lesvos.
“Olive oil production is one of the main industries of the island. So, we decided to add value and a new life cycle to this waste.
"The general idea was based on a broader philosophy that has existed in recent years with the creation of new sustainable materials using non-recyclable waste,” explain Irini and Christos.
“Lesvos has a total of 11 million olive trees, so we decided to experiment with a material in abundance, with what is left after the final crushing of the olive kernel.”
Chris is an interior designer with a Masters in Design Furniture in England. Irini has studied Economics with a specialisation in Marketing and Young Entrepreneurship.
“Together we combined our aesthetics and ideas and made Koukos de Lab,” they say.
For Irini and Christos, the purpose of their project is to identify their village with a new ecological and sustainable material for the creation of many and various useful objects, such as furniture, tiles, wall solutions and home interior products.
“Our novel idea for a new material deriving for the final waste of the olive – a product massively found in the Mediterranean where we are also located- is actually our vision of an evolving world that seeks rethinking for the living environments and the material we use in them,” say Irini and Christos.
“It is not only crucial to reduce environmental impact but to develop a whole new vision for what we call natural mirroring, a concept that brings elements of natural eco waste in our homes through a whole innovative design approach, holistic and experiential.”
By transforming olive pits into a new multi-purpose, durable eco material that can be used to make furniture, Irini and Chrstos is are tackling the issue of using eco waste - extending the life cycle of the olive's pip to make something valuable out of it.
“Our goal is to identify Lesvos with our new ecological material and to give inspiration and encourage to others to implement their ideas as we decided to do,” say the young entrepreneurs.
“Our idea was formed in the summer of 2020 and by November of the same year we had already started experimenting and testing various techniques so that we could build our new material.”
The starting point in the application of the duo's new eco-material will be a traditional bench that used to be seen everywhere on the island but is no longer so commonly found.
"We shall revive this traditional piece with contemporary design elements and eventually make it with the new eco-material, the olive pit,” they explain.
“In the future we would like to produce some new objects that we have been studying lately and as soon as this is implemented we will move on to ideas for new materials.
“We would like to convince the market that our material could be adopted in many more applications.”
The koukoutsi (olive pit) eco-material gives value to what could be called the ‘bio-waste of the oil production process’, extending the life cycle of the olive's pip and incorporating the motto of sustainability which is nothing more than ‘zero waste’.
“Our material has a story to tell, it reflects our thoughts, our origin, our roots, and our aspiration for a better future.”
“We are friends and we are very happy that despite the different professional careers we have managed to find a common point of reference for our work.
“Our love for our island, Lesvos, gives us the strength to continue our bold plan.”
And so it comes to pass that, in an era full of doubt and re-evaluation, a message of powerful certainty that combines the story of Lesvos with the need of the global community for a holistic design approach is transmitted from a remote dot on the Greek map to the entire world.
All photos courtesy of Koukos de Lab: https://www.koukosdelab.com