October 6, 2023

Designing a Sustainable Future: Furniture Designs Leading the Way

Author: Radmila Durasinovic
Tags: Design / Showcase Category: magazine

Designing a Sustainable Future: Furniture Designs Leading the Way

The Design Defender Showcase series features products from leading manufacturers in the design industry, providing a rich source of inspiration for professional designers and design enthusiasts alike, helping them stay up-to-date with the latest trends and discover fresh ideas for ongoing projects.

As we increasingly recognise the profound impact of our choices on the planet, the design industry is responding to pressing environmental issues with an array of innovative approaches. From recycling materials to material innovations, ingenious manufacturing processes that create more from less to reinstating premium quality and craftsmanship in the industry, this article explores six furniture designs by manufacturers that are setting the benchmark in terms of sustainable design, shaping a greener future where aesthetics evolve from ethics.

4pm © Massproductions

4PM / Massproductions

Massproductions launched 4PM at last year’s Stockholm Design Week, with the idea of creating maximum comfort with minimal materials or unnecessary upholstery that may eventually need to be replaced. The cofounder and designer-in-chief of the Swedish design brand named the chaise longue after “the perfect time to sit back and enjoy a cup of tea.” A radical pragmatist, as Martin calls himself, he building on the clean, functional elegance of modernism, combining it with efficient, high-quality and sustainable industrial production to his designs to life. The environmental impact of 4PM in American Cherry, for example, is equivalent to driving 78km by car, 37 hours of streaming or consuming 28 large café lattes.

As part of the 4PM family, a self-build version of the chaise longue was also released, as a homage to Italian designer Enzo Mari, allowing anyone to build their own 4PM with free instructions and drawings available for download on the Massproductions website and “get the luxury of the chaise longue, without the luxurious price tag.” In doing so, users are empowered to create their own furniture, as was Enzo Mari’s dream, possibly even from materials they might otherwise discard, in turn contributing to the creation of a circular economy. With a similar idea, Massproductions also created the 4PM Table, a small side table made of waste from the production of 4PM.

Lapala © Salva López

Lapala / Expormim

Founded 60 years ago in Valencia for the production and export of handcrafted wicker objects, Expormim has since become a global brand characterised by its commitment to tradition, quality  and durability in an era of consumerism. Alongside early designs that have been part of their offering for decades, newer pieces by world-renowned designers like Jaime Hayon, Mario Ruiz and Ludovica + Roberto Palomba have contributed to Expormim’s contemporary image—one of a resilient brand that continues to innovate while also remaining true to its roots. For Expormim, sustainability is reflected in durability—manufacturing timeless designs of premium quality, “so that they remain with us as long as possible”. The company was named “sustainable brand of the year 2022” by the German Brand Award for its environmental strategy, which they continue to adapt to tackle urgent global issues.

This year marks the 25th anniversary for the Lapala chair by Lievore Altherr Molina—a contemporary classic that was on the verge of falling into oblivion until Expormim released an outdoor version with improved ergonomics and more durable in 2015. Now the company revisits the original design of the chair it calls “barely more than a lucky finding in the beginning, [which] today is one of our most precious objects”. Releasing a new version for indoor spaces that appeals to contemporary spaces while bringing back its original character and materialisation in rattan pith, Expormim brings a new chapter to Lapala’s ongoing story.

Rely © &tradition

Rely / &Tradition

Designed by Hee Welling, Rely is a range minimalist ergonomic chairs with a reduced environmental impact that embodies the designer’s distinctive visual language of clean lines and simple silhouettes. Since the collection’s launch in 2021, &Tradition has continued to collaborate with Welling to improve upon the original design, with the sleek shell, initially made from post-industrial recycled plastic, now made from post-consumer plastic from discarded white goods, which are turned into granulate, mixed with colour and prepared for injection moulding. The collection’s sustainable ethos also extends to other aspects, like its construction—simple to dismantle, parts of the chair can be easily replaced, extending the product’s lifespan. Rely is a chair for many uses, for all time. 

Re Air Chair © Magis

Re-air / Magis

Jasper Morrison’s iconic Air-Chair has been revisited, launching in a more sustainable version of the original design earlier this year. The original Air-Chair, designed in 1999, was nothing short of revolutionary as the first one piece, gas-injected polypropylene chair—a technology which uses less material in the moulding of forms, to produce lightweight yet sturdy objects. The success of the design led to further developments using this technology, including an air-moulded stacking armchair which the designer has described as “one of the most troublesome projects ever” to develop. The Air-family now features two new additions—the 100% recyclable RE Air-Chair and RE Air-Armchair—as Magis’ first products made from post-consumer plastic.

Pinto © Miniforms

Pinto & Superpop / Miniforms

In line with their green programme, Miniforms introduces two new side table collections that spotlight a sustainable material aesthetic. Designed by Milan-based studio Skrivo, Pinto draws its inspiration from the timeless concrete flooring of Venetian palaces, resulting in a collection of sculptural tables that "combine the gaiety of Venetian soirées with the mystery of primitive shapes". Available in anice, hazelnut and stracciatella finishes, the neutral colour palette and tactility of the table further enhances its association with the sculptural and monolithic characteristics of concrete. The sustainability of the products is reflected in both its construction and versatility: the tables are made from fully recyclable and reusable cement, a resilient contemporary material, which makes them suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.

Superpop © Miniforms

To a similar end, Paolo Cappello employs the colour possibilities of plastic to produce Superpop, a collection of 100% recycled and recyclable small tables with bold personalities. Available in different heights and colours, the lightweight tables are envisioned for various uses, making them extremely versatile, but above all, fun. Created from differently coloured plastic waste melted at low temperatures to create a speckled effect—an increasing trend in furniture design—Superpop becomes "supersustainable”.

Schultz Chair © OUT

Schulz Chair / Objekte Unserer Tage - OUT

Schulz features a stark, archetypal silhouette, drawing attention to its materiality. Handcrafted from ash sourced from Germany and Austria with an FSC® seal, the chair stands true to the “Made in Germany” brand that OUT is shaping—the Berlin-based company makes a point of manufacturing all its objects sustainably and fairly in Germany, contributing to the evolution of the German design landscape with its responsible, but daring and expressive products. The Schulz chair embodies this ethos, from its sustainable production in durable, locally sourced materials to the boldness of its silhouette and brightly coloured finish, which is further enhanced by the flowery grain of the wood.

October 6, 2023 Author: Radmila Durasinovic
Tags: Design / Showcase Category: magazine

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