Material Guide

Repurposing natural materials

Reviving a new purpose and creating state-of-the-art beauty out of natural materials that are rare and unconventional.

Bringing back to traditional techniques of marquetry and inlaying

From buffalo horn, bones, to sea shells and sustainable wood, Etienne de Souza  continues to innovate techniques to upcycle and recycle materials that were once considered as useless in the food industry.

Using techniques that have take years to learn and develop, every single surface in Etienne’s portfolio is bold, unexpected and unique.

A designer and a craftsman who is truly eclectic, Etienne continues his adventure in seeking new materials and also mixing different materials that complement each other in colour and texture. 

Every piece of furniture or interior object composed with any of his surfaces, not only adds a spectacular opulences, but also creates a sense of respect to any given space. 



Cows are widely raised for the consumption of beef and on average only 60% of the cow is used for its meat. The rest gets discarded as non-consumable food waste, which has been a significant growing environmental challenge. Focused on repurposing discarded materials for a more sustainable economic source , Etienne de Souza sources for cattle bones which are thoroughly cleaned and processed.

Natural cow bone is normally ivory white in colour and it can be dyed to produce the colour of your preference. Then the bones are meticulously cut in tiles and inlaid piece by piece.

Buffalo Horn

Sourced directly from the abbatoirs,  everything but the meat of a buffalo gets discarded.  Advocating for zero-waste, the horn caps of the buffalo is another material where Etienne has found a new application to recycle them.

A fascinating material where when it is raw, it is entirely black and ridged mainly along the inner curve. And while it gets processed, the colour transforms into a gradating shades of charcoal black, caramel brown to ivory white. 

The curved-conical horn is then flattened and gets cut into square tiles or thin strips.

White Mother of Pearl Shells

Cultured to produce South sea pearls or also known as White Mother of Pearls, the shell of these mollusks also have the same lustrous material called “Nacre”. The pearlescent qualities are not easy to miss under visible light, making both the pearls and the shells a highly sought after material. White mother of pearl comes in 2 different species. From the silver-lipped oyster and the gold-lipped oyster. And both produce very similar coloured pearls and shells, in which the colours range from white, silver, champagne, gold.

TAHITIAN Mother of Pearl Shells

Commonly known as the “Black-lipped pearl oyster”, these mollusks are farmed for the production of Tahitian black pearls. During the process, these oysters also forms a layer of nacre on the inner shell, producing a similar lustrous, iridescence to the cultured pearls.

From white iridescence to a glowing rainbow at the core, the Tahitian mother of pearl shells normally ends with a matt black on the outer rims. Under visible light the color hues of the shell includes gray, platinum, charcoal, aubergine, peacock.

White Shells | Lutraria

While the meat of this clams have been considered as delicacy, Lutraria is commonly known as the Snout Otter Clams, in which the shells, however, gets thrown back into the ocean or landfills as nuisance waste.  Advocating zero waste, Etienne had sourced out to seafood wholesalers and high volume restaurants to collect this particular sea shells and have them recycled. 

While there are many species under the Lutraria genus, most of them generally have very similar shell properties. The shells are elongated oval in shape where the anterior end is sharply curved, while the posterior end is more rounded. 

The colour of the inner shell is white while the outer shell is brown. 

Pen Shells | Pinnidae

The Pen Shells of Atrina species are easily identified through its long, triangular shaped shells. Commonly known as “Fan Clams” and “Giant Mussels”, this bivalve mollusk is also another highly sought after seafood, that also has the ability to produce (pen) pearls. This mussels can grow up to 1 foot long and have several levels of lucency. 

The outer colour of this shell is normally black or brown while the inner part has a thin layer of nacre and its iridescence is more visible on the pointed end of the shell. 

Coconut Shell

Coconut tree is a permanent crop that is available throughout the year and it is known for the versatile use of its fruit.

However the coconut shell and its husk on many occasion ends up being discarded as a by-product waste and it is known to cause soil pollution due to the release of leachate.

Hence, this is another material where Etienne has a strong inclination to recycle the shell and repurpose them into beautiful decorative objects and furniture. 

After cleaning away the edible parts and the husk, the shell gets processed and bleached which gives the material a range of woody light brown to dark brown in colour.

By Etienne de Souza

Black Palm | PAlmyra Palm

Palm trees are considered to be one of the most beneficial yet low maintenance plants in the tropical and sub-tropical countries. Other than a choice for landscaping/garden designing, palm trees are also known to yield many useful food products. 

While there are many different types of Palm trees, Palmyra-palm, with a binomial name borassus flabellifer, is another palm tree species that is commonly known for the production of jaggery/palm sugar and its sustainable wood/timber.

The outer wall of the trunk is mostly favoured for constructional purpose as the density is the greatest while the core of the wood is normally left out. Unlike in many furniture making processes, Etienne has adopted a different approach in using this wood.

When the wood is cut at a perpendicular angle to the length of the trunk, it exposes a beautiful cross-grain pattern (end grain) as seen on the image, which not only ensures that there is not other waste being produced but also emphasises the beauty of palm wood marquetry that is yet to be seen.

Sungkai Wood | Cherek

In response to protecting the world remaining forest from the timber industry, seeking unexploited wood sources as an alternative can help reduce pressure on the existing natural forest. Moving away from using heavily exploited timber species like teak, cedar and mahogany, sungkai wood has been one of the upcoming wood source that is considered sustainable.

Sungkai Tree, also known as Cherek, and has similar wood properties to European Ash wood. Also referred as “White teak”, the wood can be identified by its cream colour to light yellow or light brown gradient.