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The original cardboard chair - Frank Gehry’s Wiggle for Vitra from 1972 Spanish designer Mario Pedret Design duo Seth Grizzle and Jonathan Junker of Gray Pants, a Seattle-based studio Designer Phillipe Nigro, who designs cardboard furniture for children Designers Jason Dembski and Ryan Julia de Klerk, member of design collective oistudio Tom de Vrieze, of Belgian firm tovdesign Designer János Terbe Mexican designer Francisco Cantu
11 May 2009

Recession times are here again and our always innovative designers are dripping in new found austerity chic. onoffice profiles the most innovative resued and recycled furniture 

These are tough times and, rightly or wrongly, green issues are taking a back seat to the leanness of our pockets. But, to be fair, both of these dilemmas have contributed to the ‘reuse and recycle’ spirit taking hold of the industry.

Cardboard, rolls of newspaper, salvaged timber scraps - even chopsticks and dumpling steamers - have popped up in furniture design as of late.

Some designers have paved the way for products made out of these humble materials while others have hopped on the bandwagon, as can be seen by the proliferation of the cardboard trend (inescapable). The mania is handy in terms of office design, or is perhaps helped along by it, because more and more businesses need temporary solutions while maintaining their environmental credibility.

We know using cardboard in furniture design is not an entirely new idea – Frank Gehry did it back in 1972 with the Wiggle chair for Vitra. Ikea has used industrial cardboard inside furniture for years. But never have we seen these low-tech materials on display, or used as a selling point, in quite the same way as we are now.

Here, onoffice has collected a few recent examples of the trend. Some are experimental while others are geared toward the market. All are unapologetic about what they are made of.

Tuejar armchair by Verdemalaquita

TuejarHQ1 rt

Tuejar armchair is constructed by hand from salvaged wood pallets. The form was inspired by the pallet itself, says Spanish designer Mario Pedret. “At first I tried to find inspiration from wooden chairs at the beginning of the 20th century, but for a twenty-first century chair, I instead tried to preserve the aesthetic of the pallet, in a more discreet way.”
Tuejar is meant to lessen environmental impact by reusing finite resources of wood and by employing a semi-industrial process. “I believe that cost efficiency and sustainability can go hand in hand perfectly. In fact, thisdesign tries to show that this philosophy is very possible.”

Build up by Philippe Nigro

DiDisegno002 001599 copy rtDon’t forget the little people. Launched by new Italian company Skitsch at I Salone, Build up by Phillipe Nigro is a set of perforated pop out cardboard table and chairs for children. “I hope it will excite the creativity of the young users with the help of their parents,” says Nigro. “The idea of the project is to give the child the possibility to ‘build up’ their own furniture and to personalise it by gluing newspaper sheets and colouring on them.” Nigro says he would like to do an adult version of Build Up.

Chopstick/Steamer Stool by Jason Dembski and Ryan

20080824 999 41 rtInitially made in Beijing for just under $50, the materials for Chopstick/Steamer stool were all bought new. But, says designer Jason Dembski, the point is that the stool can be put together by accumulating and down cycling materials that otherwise might have been thrown away. “Our goal was to bring high design ideas to those who typically cannot afford it – at the same time incorporating the culture and a touch of playfulness,” he adds. The stool was made through BASEline, which conducts research, prototyping and production of ‘useful objects materialised in collaboration with the multitude of trades at work in China.’

Scrap chairs by Gray

graypants scrap chair bio rtThese four chairs were designed by Gray Pants, a Seattle based studio, for an art installation meant to enlighten people about the possibilities of reusing materials found around the house. The first three (cardboard, newspaper, and pallet sheets) were sold as art pieces, and the fourth (plywood scraps) still sits in the studio as they couldn’t part with it. All materials were collected from overflowing skips, or received as ‘scraps begging for a home.’ Other recycled treats from this bunch are SketchLamp Pendant, which reuse their old process drawings, and Scrap Table, which uses old shipping materials. “We had some leftovers after making the Scrap Chairs, and didn’t want to waste any of it,” says designer Jonathan Junker. 

Paper chair by oistudio

jdk4311 1 rtThis project was part of an event focusing on climate change for the recent film premiere of The Age of Stupid in Leicester Square. In one day, Julia de Klerk and other members of oistudio collected around 5000 of London’s free newspapers and bound them together, rolled up, with parcel tape. “I’ve noticed that alot of designers using recycled materials tend to look at processes that can be expensive or more appropriate for large scale projects,” she says. “As a designer working on my own, I still have financial and timing restrictions when producing objects. I am drawn to think more creatively to come up with cheaper ways to manufacture projects, using recycled materials already available to me. There may be simpler outcomes in using waste objects as a material - it would be interesting if these ideas were brought to a larger scale.”

Kraftwerk by Tom de Vrieze

kraftwerk2 RT‘A bit like Ikea, but without the materials.’ This is Kraftwerk summed up, because the design of Tom de Vrieze’s chair is a DIY affair. The plans are sold from his website for a nominal fee (7 euros) – punters just need cardboard, two brackets, tape and polyurethane expansion foam and voila – a Kraftwerk is yours. “I was amazed at how strong it was, and how cheap, if you want to build it yourself,” says de Vrieze, of Belgian firm tovdesign. Very strong in fact – the chair weighs four pounds but can support up to fifty times that load. There is a lot of interest in the concept of buying a design, shopping for local materials, then DIY, adds de Vrieze. The expansion foam has been criticised as unfriendly to the environment, but he insists that it makes the design stronger than other cardboard chairs. 

Karton Design

Studio 04 rt‘Trust the power of design and cardboard!’ - so says established cardboard maestro, János Terbe, on his website devoted to a range of chairs, tables vases, shelving systems, foldable frames and sofas made from the material, some of which have been specified in offices. The Hungarian designer is a cardboard enthusiast to the core. “The lightness and natural human-friendly appearance of cardboard offers unlimited opportunities of application,” he tells us. “Hand-made cardboard furniture conveys a new lifestyle and inspires users to environmentally aware thinking.”

Love Seat by Francisco Cantu

2 rtIt’s a sofa made of corrugated cardboard and MDF, so the cushions (filled with crumpled paper) seem pretty essential for comfort. Francisco Cantu, from Monterey, Mexico, says the design is a response to the reality we now find ourselves in. “It is also about acknowledging the fact that our value systems and beliefs were mistaken, thus not sustainable anymore,” he explains. “This love seat is inspired by the idea of recycling, but at the same time creating something functional and resistant. These materials may be trash to some but a sofa to others.”   

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