A few years ago my friend Rachel went on a Malm purge. She’d spent her twenties stocking up on the unexciting (but inoffensive) Ikea furniture range, and – like so many of us – truly believed that nailing adulthood meant having at least one room in the house where everything matched.
It started as a bed and one bedside table. But such is the pull of Malm – so cost efficient, so convenient, so uniform – that another bedside table soon followed.
Then a chest of drawers.
And then, after moving in with a partner and needing more storage, and because, as she put it, “nothing else goes with Malm apart from Malm”, Rachel bought more Malm.
One day she woke up and realised she was 34 with a serious Malm surplus. It was time to cleanse. She took to Facebook.
“FREE MALM,” read the post. “Genuine reconstituted bits of wood. Ghastly black veneer finish. The subtlety of Chad Kroger’s opening lines to Rockstar. Malm. It’s been a journey, but it’s high time we part.
“If anyone wants some Malm, I’ll literally pay you to take it away. If you’re under 30, Malm is a legitimately practical purchase and I can’t judge you too much. If you’re over 30, for God’s sake get some self-respect. If no one wants it, I can’t blame you. I’ll just throw it away by the end of this week.”
And while credit is due to Eva Lilja Löwenhielm, the Swedish designer who created Malm, for making something that fits into (and has probably spent time in) most Australian homes, if you’re looking for a piece with quirk and personality, perhaps Malm is not for you.
Instagram account CCSS is the anti-Malm. Since it launching in 2017, it’s gained a cult following for its pre-loved furniture and objects, including popular mid-century and Danish designs as well as off-centre retro and one-off finds.
“It started as a project to decorate our warehouse apartment in Collingwood,” says Clare Lewis, who owns the Melbourne-based company with her fiancee Sonam Sherpa (CCSS is a play on their initials). “But it soon grew.”
Back then, you’d buy items via the comments section – first in, first to kick that Malm tallboy to the curb – but last year, wanting to give their fans a more instantaneous shopping experience, Lewis and Sherpa opened a proper online store.
And it’s full of gems. There are slouchy restored Togo sofas by luxury French brand Ligne Roset – choose from a velvet three-seater or an olive-leather armchair – and a set of four rattan and steel chairs from 1970s Italy that are reminiscent of Bauhaus designer Marcel Breuer’s classic Cesca design. (Lewis and Sherpa have designed a made-to-order bedhead to match, made from Tasmanian Oak.)
There’s also a dreamy red-velvet 1960s modular sofa, a sea-green marmoreal (engineered marble) dining table, 1940s crystal lamps, an eclectic vintage table with a hand-cracked eggshell finish, timeless Danish tallboys and Grant Featherston Numero IV high-back chairs, reimagined for 2020 in fine wool fabric.
Most pieces are second-hand finds that are restored, then kept at the couple’s appointment-only Collingwood warehouse. There are no stockpiles of identical items here, but pieces that sell out are soon replaced with other eccentric finds. Lewis and Sherpa also source items to brief, by request.
“We’ve built relationships with international wholesalers and exporters, so we can supply clients with sought-after and one-of-a-kind pieces,” says Lewis.
And – we checked – there’s no Malm in sight.