The EcoBalanza story: The journey to building the world's most luxurious ethical sofas

EcoBalanza Founder and CEO, Aimee Robinson

EcoBalanza Founder and CEO, Aimee Robinson

In 2003, Aimee Robinson established Greener Lifestyles, the first green home décor and furnishings store in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. After repeated requests from her customers, Robinson embarked a journey to source non-toxic and sustainably-made upholstered furniture. When this search proved to be futile, Robinson decided to close the store and start manufacturing the pieces customers were asking for herself in 2006.

Decoding manufacturing            

She started by taking a sofa apart, examining its components. The big obvious parts like cushions, frame, springs, fabric—but also small details, like the metal fixings that held the springs in place, or the studs that held the back fabric of the sofa in place. And then, she built one.

It was a prototype: just one layer of wool, natural organic latex cushions, and a hardwood frame. But the goal was to innovate past the business as usual standard everyone was used to: where conventional materials required something toxic or unsustainable, she used the certified non-toxic alternative, always with a focus on comfort and durability. And when it was finished, she made another one.

Curious and driven, she devoured books on upholstery and ancestral techniques, and spent hours taking apart expertly-made antiques. If she hit a wall or wanted to know more, she’d seek out craftspeople to help piece together the details. She hired artisans who had learned the craft before air compressors had automated everything, and she mastered the art of counter-tensioning tied springs by hand.

And then she built another sofa.

Finding ethical suppliers

After a chance meeting with a local sheep farmer who also carded her own wool, Robinson finally had a source for the wool she needed to pad the backs of her sofas, processed the way she wanted, in a less resource intensive way than buying from large manufacturing facilities and made without the use of any toxic chemicals, with no subsequent water contamination.

It was like this with every supplier: carefully built relationships which fostered community among craftsmen, farmers, material processors—all to assure the cleanest processes and resiliency across a network of sustainable suppliers.

Over the years, the sourcing has always been focused on quality and integrity. Third party certifications guaranteed that while others might say they build green, every EcoBalanza piece is made with GOLS-certified latex, FSC-certified hardwoods, ECARF- and IVN- certified leathers, and Greenguard certified adhesives.

And while at first, non-toxic fabric was very hard to find, demand increased, and 3rd party certifications like GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and the Oeko-tex® Standard 100 certification, have made it easy to have confidence in her textile suppliers.

And even so, Robinson is still searching for more knowledge, suppliers to meet, and innovative design ideas. In the last few years, she’s been to Italy to find handmade mechanisms for sleeper sofas, Mexico to look at coconut coir for cushions, and France to visit museums and study heritage crafting.

Today, on a mission

It started out as an experiment, a question. Once she decided she wanted to make clean, sustainable furniture, Robinson found she also wanted to prove that women could succeed in manufacturing, and that when they did, work places were healthier, and more supportive. And she wanted to create a company and a process that brought back dignity to a group of forgotten craftsmen-- it’s always been a goal to preserve these techniques, which risk being lost.

Today, EcoBalanza makes standardized and custom upholstered furniture of all shapes and sizes for residential clients, interior designers, commercial businesses and workplaces. While we've specialized in custom designer pieces for adecade, EcoBalanza recently launched a line of standard-sized sofas, loveseats and armchairs, in hopes of bringing our expertise and materials to a wider market.

But EcoBalanza isn’t just a furniture company—it’s Aimée Robinson’s life work. Doing things with the most integrity, and the most transparency, while being a steward to the planet. Treating suppliers like friends, and coworkers like family. Making sure to use one small business to support others. Having resiliency together as a community. And making the most comfortable environmentally responsible and ethical upholstered furniture in the world along the way.