A Scavenger’s Tale – Lima, Peru, Cuatro en un Baúl

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Lima Skyline

Lima's vastness presents limitless opportunity for scavenging glory. Photo by espinacdocs

Krrb recently made a pilgrimage to Lima, Peru, where it is estimated that there are some 100,000 professional scavengers. Over the next few days we’ll be reporting back on some of our finds. Today we visit with Cuatro en un Baúl, a trio who, with the help of young Peruvian artists and designers, specialize in refurbishing vintage furniture, often giving it a new twist.

Lima is the fifth largest city in South America with a population approaching nine million. With that many souls crammed into 27 square miles, the refuse generated on a daily basis is palpable. But it’s not simply the detritus of daily life (wrappers, papers, food containers of all shapes, sizes and materials, etc) that dot the landscape, it’s the accumulation of thousands of years of human inhabitance that the city wears heavily. Paint peels gently from nearly every structure as the near constant fog that engulfs the city has applied a level of decay to every surface. And as in most developing cities, there is a certain amount of chaos that pulses through the streets while a general lack of planning outside the core adds to the anarchic flow of life.

The weight of so much, well, everything can overwhelm but in the eyes and hands of the right people it presents untold opportunities for constant renewal. To Michela Casassa, Claudia Freundt and Cristyane Marusiak, the founders of Cuatro en un Baúl (Four in a Trunk), a furniture refurbisher and design house, Lima is nothing short of a scavenger’s paradise.

Michela Casassa, Claudia Freundt and Cristyane Marusiak

The three founders of Cuatro en un Baúl, Michela Casassa, Claudia Freundt and Cristyane Marusiak, have carved out a scavenger's life for themselves in LIma.

“The types of things that are tossed aside, left for dead and generally just forgotten here is remarkable,” Cristyane says. Most of what the group finds on its rescue missions is collected from junk shops. “These are not ‘second hand stores,'” Cristyane explains, “these are junk shops.” Think, Sanford and Son as opposed to Buffalo Exchange. But as any good scavenger knows, amongst the trash there is plenty of treasure—albeit treasure that needs a lot of love and care to reverse the years of neglect and tarnish.

tables done with cable wood containers, some painted by local artists

Cuatro en un Baúl's temporary stores gives a sense of the depth of the trio's scavenging activities.

The Cuatro en un Baúl proprietors spend about two days a week hunting for salvageable products. Bringing them back to their former glory replete with tweaks and twists for modernization and aesthetic purposes can take anywhere from two to four weeks.

Marusiak living room

Cristyane Marusiak's living room has become a default showroom for Cuatro en un Baúl.

They have developed a network of craftsman, upholsterers and artists to help execute their vision. Completed pieces are snapped up in a matter of minutes by a clientele that has only recently freed itself from the conception that “used” equals “junk.” “It’s only in the last 10 to 15 years that people have started to appreciate mid-century furniture,” Marusiak says, “which probably explains why you can still find so many amazing pieces. I’m blown away by what we find in shops and on the street on a daily basis.”

Big Phil

Cristyane's French Mastiff, Felipao, or Big Phil, enjoys the fruits of Cuatro en un Baúl's labor.

Cristyane has become such an expert scavenger that space in her home she shares with her husband, two young boys, and their dog Felipao (Big Phil), has become an issue.

Marusiak's son Lucas with skateboard and upcycled table made from a cable spool

Cristyane's son, Lucas, with his favorite toy, his skateboard, and an upcycled table by Cuatro en un Baúl made from an old cable spool.

“I made my husband build me a great storage container in our garage but we quickly outgrew that and now we are on to another storage space.” Such is life in a scavenger’s paradise.

Stay tuned for more Scavengers’ Tales from Peru.

 

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