A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a jewelry vendor at an outdoor market and learned that all of her jewelry was made from recycled materials. In fact, she told me, the bracelet I was holding in my hand had been made entirely from salvaged wood from a shipwreck. A shipwreck! It got me thinking. My love of repurposed materials is nothing new, but I never considered the fact that unconventional materials have a way of telling a story. They are environmentaly friendly, and yet they’re also spectacular conversation pieces! Don’t you think?
I’m always keeping up with sustainable furniture trends, and more than ever, I’m seeing furniture designers opting to use unexpected “green” materials. Here are the top five unconventional materials that I’ve seen lately, and why I think they’re absolutely fabulous for furniture!
This unconventional material isn’t just a snack for the pandas! It’s great as an alternative to wood not only because it saves depleting forests from further destruction, but because it’s way more durable than traditional hardwoods! It’s also highly resistant to temperature change, which makes it ideal for outdoor furniture.
Think about how much cardboard we throw out on a weekly basis. Snack boxes, shoe boxes, shipping boxes; it’s all cardboard that must get broken down and recycled. So why not put it to a better use? (regular people can't do that though) As a furniture material, it is highly flexible, making it a perfect option for designers who want to let their imaginations run wild!
Did you know that cork trees are the only ones that can be stripped and still remain healthy - even healthier than they were before? It’s one of the many reasons why I think cork is a great material for furniture. Not to mention that it’s infinitely recyclable, inexpensive, and resistant to water, mold, and fire!
You know what they say…one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Many designers are taking this quite literally, intercepting wood scraps destined for landfills and turning them into works of art! While they save the forests, they’re achieving truly unique finishes, unconventional looks, and one-of-a-kind pieces.
Paper might not be the most practical of furniture materials, but it certainly puts on a show! This Piao paper chair was showcased in last year’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair, and it’s not hard to see why. I love the delicate, aerie look it of it, don’t you? Innovations in furniture design are a-buzz in eco circles, and that all the while, these designers are saving forests, helping the environment, and in many cases, providing homes with more durable, beautiful furniture. I can’t think of anything more marvelous!
Robin Baron is an interior designer and lifestyle expert based in New York City. Visit her website, www.robinbarondesign.com, and follow her on twitter @RobinBaron and Facebook.com/robinbarondesign.