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The Pursuit of Purity

by: Kent Schneider 11/18/09

Cisco Pinedo

California based Cisco Brother's upholstery is one of the premier  producers of fine hand made and custom upholstery in the United States.  Since the company's origins, owner and founder Cisco Pinedo has been innovating ways to make his furnitue not only more stylish but also more sustainable.  In 2006, Cisco developed the Inside Green™ method of construction and became the first designer to create 100% FSC Pure sustainable upholstered furniture. The company moved exclusively to FSC Pure certified woods on upholstered furniture, using reclaimed hardwoods for a collection of stunning case goods and the use of water based glues and environmentally friendly detergents to wash all fabrics.  Below is a discussion with Cisco Brothers founder Cisco Pinedo about his influences and the challenges facing green design going forward.

  • You have been a pioneer and early adopter of sustainability in the furniture industry.  Was this something you have always done and recently began to promote more due to the increased awareness of green issues or was there an event that prompted a change?
    • "Growing up in a very natural, rural town in Mexico, nature and its conservancy had always been very important to me. As my company was evolving and growing, I felt strongly driven to take a responsible approach towards sustainability at a time when the terms "green" or "sustainable" were not in everyone's head. As time has gone by, I've challenged myself and those around me to set a higher standard of production and of course the current environmental situation has triggered this tendency. More than ever I'm convinced that 20 years ago I took the right journey."

  • If you had to single out one element of traditional upholstery piece that has the greatest environmental impact (ie the wood, glues, cushioning, transportation) what would you say it is and why?
    • "I believe all elements of furniture construction play an important role and have a great impact on the environment. However, to me, one of the key components is the wood, because by taking a responsible approach, not only are we increasing awareness of conservation, but in the recent years, we've learned that irresponsible forestry practices have back fired on us all."

  • Do more of your clients for the Inside Green construction seek your product out for health reasons, overall environmental impact reasons, or stylistic reasons (or is it a combo)?
    • "I'd say it's a combo and it's all been a learning process. At first, Inside Green became attractive to only those customers who were already knowledgeable about the health hazards of conventional furniture. But with the internet and the fact that more information is available regarding the impact of chemicals in traditional furniture manufacturing, clients are now more interested for health and environmental issues."

  • Are there any environmental initiatives regarding your product that you would love to undertake that you have not been able to yet?  Either because the technology is not fully developed yet or the cost of implementation is too great.
    • "Unfortunately for all upholstery products, the industry relies greatly on petroleum-based foams partly because they are fire-retardant. Our soy-based latex is an improvement but it’s still a mix of soy and petroleum based. It has to do a lot with policy, but it would be a great step stop using petroleum-based products." - NOTE Cisco also offers the option of 100% natural latex called "inside green" which is found in all upholstery from Cisco at Verde Home

  • It is often stated that "green" options are 10-15% more expensive than non green options.  Would you agree with this statement?  And if so how much of that is due to the higher cost of raw materials and how much would you say is the result of the pieces being made better and requiring more skilled labor?
    • "I believe, like in every industry, it has to do with demand but it’s also the perceived value of items, because although you may pay more for the item, it will be more durable. Traditionally, Americans replaced furniture every 5 to 7 years but with a “green” option, the longevity could be up to 3-4 more times that."
    • "As more people demand sustainable raw materials, prices will have to come down. Just like the hybrid or electric cars. And also, as we get more demand to manufacture green furniture, our infrastructure and production process will have to be modified for a higher volume production. From my operation, the dedication and time we invest in producing is no different from the type of product. It's all handcrafted regardless of the materials."

  • Have you noticed any trends in the costs of green raw materials?
    • "Prices for our certified organic wool and certified organic cotton have come down through the years and more companies now are also using reclaimed materials that could reduce costs for some products."

  • In an industry where more and more producers are looking overseas for cheaper manufacturing you have managed to maintain and thrive with US production.  How challenging is this?  What are the keys to remaining competitive, especially in today's cost driven market?
    • "I'd say this has been one of our greatest challenges but one the most rewarding as well.  I’m not against overseas manufacturing as long as I make sure communities and people are not exploited and when the decision is not made based only in lowering costs. When my company was established in 1990 I knew I had my options to manufacture overseas, but growing up in South Central and knowing the struggles of my community I was determined to make this work. And although the market is cost driven as you mention, I believe there are people who are willing, just like me, to pay the extra price for local production and again, through education and opening up information, more and more people are realizing the importance of keeping jobs in the US."

  • I attended a Green panel discussion the other day where one of the designer panelists said that she still had trouble finding good green fabrics "because the touch and coloration was not up to par with non green options".  As someone who reviews new fabrics regularly would you say there is any truth to this?
    • "When we introduced our Basal Collection, we had very limited options, specifically with colors. Today, the demand is pushing mills to implement vegetable dyes and low-impact dyes to the point where we have many color options. We may not get to the point of achieving dark colors, but our color options have changed dramatically. Perhaps all these options are not freely open to the whole industry, but there are definitely a lot more options."

  • What are a few tell tales signs of quality upholstery that a consumer can easily see from the outside and should look for?
    • "One rule is as follows: when you sit on the edge of a seat cushion or on the arm of a sofa, for example, you should not feel the frame’s hard edges.  That’s the reason we use soft-edge on out furniture."
    • "The other rule could be that if you can easily lift an upholstery piece, you better think twice about it or find out more about it. There’s a chance the piece is not 8-way hand tied and it doesn’t have a high-density cushion."

  • Aside from what we can easily see on the outside, what aspects of quality should a consumer ask for when considering a fine upholstered piece?
    • "Always ask about the construction of the suspension."
    • "Don’t assume that because a frame is made of solid wood it guarantees high quality. It’s all about the engineering and not necessarily about the materials."
    • "Make sure your frame is made with FSC certified hardwood. It’s everyone’s responsibility."

At Verde Home we carry the Cisco Brothers Basal Living line of pure organic handmade upholstery. If you have any questions about our selection or would like to see what we have available please don't hesitate to contact us.

1000 marietta st, suite 244 - atlanta, ga 30318 - phn(678)927-9113 -

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