Never Settle

Never Settle

Sabai means comfortable, and so much more

Words by Michelle Ferrand
Photos by Sabai

On the hunt for an Instagramable living room setup that’s also sustainable—but doesn’t require spending your entire savings? Sounds like a millennial pipe dream, but women- and minority-owned furniture company Sabai has made it into a reality. After struggling to find furniture for their respective post-grad homes that aligned with their values, co-founders Phantila Phataraprasit and Caitlin Ellen decided to create their own.

“We care a lot about sustainability and environment, and at the time, we found it difficult to furnish our own spaces according to our values,” said Phataraprasit. “So, we felt like there was an opportunity to not only do something that would have potential and meet a lot of demand, but that also would have an impact.”

After teasing the brand on Instagram to a cohort of like-minded followers, Sabai launched in 2019. Sabai, which is Thai for comfortable or cozy, currently offers four core pieces—the Essential Sofa, the Essential Loveseat, the Essential Sectional, and the Essential Ottoman.“Essential” indicates that they’re necessary pieces that don't generate wasteful excess. “Everyone needs a couch or a chair,” she adds. Also, they’re crucial components in what makes a house a home.

Sustainable doesn’t have to mean boring. For those into the trendy colors du jour, they can choose fabric colors such as Seafoam (green), Dusty Rose, or Mustard. If a neutral, classic tone is more your style, go for colors Oat or Moon, a cream and gray respectively. Buyers can choose from two types of materials: a recycled velvet that’s 100 percent made from plastic bottles or an upcycled poly made from 100 percent olefin fibers.The customization doesn’t stop there. Furniture legs can be a light natural or dark brown wood. Regardless of what you choose, Sabai’s furniture is both stain and scratch resistant—perfect if you have little or furry ones. As part of Sabai’s mission to reduce waste, all products are made to order and made to withstand at least 10 years of use.

With an overwhelming number of Millenials and adult Gen Zs invested in environmentally conscious beliefs and practices, it’s easy for sustainability to become a marketing ploy. Yet, you won’t find any greenwashing at Sabai. Aside from creating furniture from ethical materials, Sabai has implemented two comprehensive sustainability practices called the Sabai Standard. The first initiative is Sabai Revive, a buyback program where existing customers can trade in their furniture for up to 20 percent of the resale price. If approved, the piece is then sold at a discounted rate for new customers who prefer not to, or can’t, pay full price. The second initiative is the Repair, Don’t Replace program. Life happens; so, instead of replacing the full piece because of a chewed up leg or a red wine level stain, customers can buy individual components. 

“We want to make sure our products don’t end up in a landfill, so we make the process really easy for our customers,” explained Phataraprasit. “People definitely want to limit their consumption. So, if we give them the tools to do so, they’re happy to do it.”

Maintaining a closed loop model and sourcing ethically made materials aren’t the only important things to Sabai’s co-founders; partnering with a manufacturer that shared the same environmentally-conscious values was a must. Sabai’s furniture is produced in a minority- and family-owned factory in High Point, North Carolina. While the family-owned factory didn’t always incorporate sustainable practices, their top-tier craftsmanship and willingness to adapt to Sabai’s mission made it a perfect match. One of the ways it was willing to adapt was by switching from fulfilling full furniture pieces to flat packed. Flat pack pieces are self-assembled and generally good for the environment. According to Sabai’s website, the factory sources 90 percent of its materials within 100 miles. Any leftover scrap is reused in another product or beneath the upholstery. The factory also prides itself on offering a livable wage for all its employees. 

“We’re growing together. We’re always talking about different ways to improve,” said Phataraprasit. “Just recently, the factory shared that they moved into a larger facility to keep up with demand. They really saw how much we’ve outgrown the last place and see the potential in growing [sustainably].” 

Growing they are. Being women-led wasn’t always easy in a male-led industry, but now, Phataraprasit mentions that most of their consumers are women. Sales are consistently increasing—a glimmering win, especially during a tough year. Later this year, they plan on releasing a lounge chair. In the long run, they plan on offering more living room products.

Whether you’re looking to invest in sustainable home furniture, are in the market for a beautifully crafted piece, or simply need a sofa that can withstand everyday life, Sabai is the perfect place for you.