American Made Profile | July 29th, 2015
Located in the heart of Austin, Texas, Articulture Designs exists to “bring art to life”, according to founder Monique Capanelli. Austin’s blend of artistic support and entrepreneurship are a perfect setting for a company that makes what it likes to call “living furniture”.
So, what is living furniture? Monique Capanelli describes it as a “living plantscape” where she takes coffee tables, desks, and more and builds nature into the design. She says, “instead of putting a plant on top of your table, have an entire plantscape within the integrity of the table itself!” The different pieces are meant to bring a “wow factor” into the home but also beautify the house while blending naturally into the space.
The official hashtag of the company is that “Art is Alive”, perfectly describing its living and breathing furniture. The start of the company dates back to the ‘70s, when Monique’s parents were restauranteurs in Sonoma Valley, making organic dishes “before it was the trend”. Monique therefore “grew up around sustainable gardening” and her playful relationship with nature “has always been a part of” who she is. She started to work for landscape companies and learned a lot from those businesses, but knew a few years later that she wanted to take on a more entrepreneurial role. She made the decision because her “ultimate vision is much bigger, or different at least, than what can fit in someone else’s company”. She went on to found Articulture Designs in 2009.
The company is “re-shaping what people think is possible with living art” and being in Austin continues to nurture her passion. When asked what she likes about operating her business there, she answers that it is the inspiration and excitement that is around her. “”This town is just humming with energy and innovation.” She says that the locals expectation of eclectic and “unique” products help her vision. “Austin has a style that is very hip [and] modern, and that’s exciting to be a part of”. On top of being surrounded by a positive aura, Austin has been being named the “best city” for multiple lists (Forbes naming it best city for jobs, for example) and Monique cites that as great for business. She does notice that the infrastructure seems to struggle under the influx of how to scale to the new volume, but that her interior botanical creations like walls and roofs are the main segments she gets business for. While other landscapers have struggled with both the growing number of people and drought, sustainable landscape designers like herself may see a boon in the near future from it.
It is no wonder why consumers love her products. As Austin is growing, like many other cities, it is becoming more urbanized and people are around more apartment complexes than parks. Monique thinks that, while we may not realize it, we “create a disconnection with ourselves” when we live in densely packed spaces. She thinks that our “soul, or DNA if you prefer, is connected to nature, and without it there is an underlying imbalance.” Her products really come in to correct that, and consumers enjoy bringing nature into their homes. On top of the design and connection to nature, Monique’s products sustain the same resources it must use to create her products. When it comes to being green, Monique says, “We try very hard to be as environmentally sensitive as possible. We use recycled or reclaimed materials on a regular basis, right down to simple things like packaging materials and stationary.” Her husband is a part of her business, as she jokingly calls him the Chief Green Officer as he takes “recycling and reusing to a whole new level.” Consumers of her products are often buying items where the by-products from them are compostable, meaning they are hurting very little nature in order to bring some of it into their own home. Another huge benefit of her living furniture is the savings and health benefits that they can provide. Monique points out that living walls and roofs have been “scientifically proven to reduce need for air conditioning or heat, depending on the season.” Beyond saving you money, it can save you some stress to as “studies have also demonstrated physical and mental health benefits of having ample plants indoors.” Monique says that some companies have even started to commission large-scale projects for office work areas due to these studies.
The products that Monique makes are unique by nature, but are also unique because they are made in America. She says it was an obvious choice to source materials from the US. “Heck, we’re a small and growing U.S. business... so why wouldn’t we want to use U.S. businesses whenever we can?” She also says that the “buy local” ethos is strong for her and that it supports local economies while also taking the environment into consideration, two things her own business is cognoscente of. A large benefit for her business is that the major materials she uses - such as steel, acrylic, and wood - are easy to source and fabricate in the U.S. One challenge for her business is to find smaller, particular objects that are entirely sourced in America, such as glass orbs or mini-terrariums. She says part of the problem is the high demand from consumers but also with a high expectation of a lower cost, and that it is near impossible to compete with countries like China and Vietnam that are able to meet those price points. Still, she encourages others to look into creating their own businesses and to be American made where possible. She says that “being your own boss [doesn’t] mean things get easier, shake that silly notion from your head”, but that it is rewarding. She says you will learn to put on hats you didn’t even know existed and learn a lot. She also asks that people who do find ways to make their businesses American made share their resources and information, as buying locally is second-nature to some but can be hard to find profitable resources on your own.
Credits // Author: Kelsey Klemme Photos Provided By: Articulture Designs