In the wake of a global reckoning with climate change, the issue of sustainability has become more important than ever. Given that change begins at home, it’s no surprise to see that the conversation has taken on a life of its own in the world of furniture design. One area in particular that designers are targeting in their bid for green is the very materials they’re using. From recycled plastic bottles to marine debris, recent years have seen creativity and technical skill come together to prove that when it comes to sustainable materials, anything goes – even food!
Ahead, see how five designers are changing the sustainable furniture game using design made from edible materials. This is what happens when food becomes furniture.
Sustainable Materials of the Future
Material: Mushroom Mycelium
More specifically, Meiri has combined mycelium — the vegetative part of the fungus — with metal to create a collection of beautiful table lamps. What’s great about mycelium is the way it consumes organic and synthetic waste to create its form. Here, for instance, mycelium spores have absorbed paper waste to create a textured substance which Meiri has used for the lamp shade.
Design-wise, the lamps take their cue from the fungi itself, imitating the shapes of mushrooms growing in the wild. The overall look is strikingly minimal, in keeping with Meiri’s love of a contemporary aesthetic.
Material: Mushroom Mycelium
From lamps to stools and hanging pendant lamps, Sebastian Cox has likewise dabbled in mushroom mycelium. The resulting collection boasts a rustic kinfolk quality which makes use of mycelium’s organic earthy tones and natural texture.
Together with researcher Ninela Ivanova, Cox combines his signature woodwork with fungus to create the Mycelium + Timber series. Using scrap willow wood to shape the mycelium, the duo sought to design a collection of functional furniture pieces suitable for any and all interior styles.
Timber and fungus have a native relationship in the woodland, so the two materials naturally look good together. We especially love how mycelium’s suede-like composition adds a softer touch to the typically harsh lines of solid wood furniture.
Material: Potato Peelings
Looking for a green alternative to single-use materials like chipboard and MDF? Introducing Chip[s]B Board — a new sustainable wood substitute.
Developed by Rowan Minkley and Robert Nicoll, their aim was to find a joint solution to the issues of material and food waste. The basic process of manufacturing Chip[s] Board begins with making a binding agent out of raw potato peel that is then applied to a mix of potato skins, bamboo, recycled wood and beer hops. The final mixture is heat-pressed into a sheet of board to create a robust wood substitute that can be used in an array of furniture and building products.
Upon reaching the end of its life span, the Chip[s] Board material can be fully composted back into fertilizer, bringing the process full circle.
Jonas Edvard and Nikolaj Steenfatt
Dried seaweed is grounded down to powder and cooked into glue in a process which exploits the viscous and adhesive effect of alginate. When combined with the recycled paper waste, the result is a mouldable component with a warm and tactile surface.
The color of the material is determined by the particular species of seaweed used, and can range from dark brown to light green. In the Terroir project, Edvard and Steenfatt have used this seaweed and paper concoction to form a collection of industrial-looking chairs and pendant lamps.
As a nutritional super-food, flaxseed has long been a popular option for the health-conscious. And now thanks to Christien Meindertsma, flax can work double duty as a sustainable furniture piece too.
Meindertsma’s Flax Chair brings together flax fibres and a biodegradable polylactic acid (PLA) made from sugarcane or corn starch. Existing woven flax textile is layered with a newly-developed dry-needle felted flax to provide strength, bulk and texture. To create the chair, this pile of fabric is heat pressed with the PLA to form a rigid structure.
In addition to being fully biodegradable, Meindertsma’s design is further optimized so that none of the composite sheet is wasted. Meindetsma’s multiple wins in the 2016 Dutch Design Awards for the Flax Chair is clearly well-deserved.