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biomaterials in design: london design fair 2019 preview

in sustainable design

Biomaterials will have a key role at London Design Fair 2019, being the theme of the Material of the Year show.

Now at its 3rd edition, Material of the Year aims at shining a light onto a challenging material that is particularly actual in the design industry. Material of the Year 2018 was about upcycling plastic waste. And this year, the focus will be on biomaterials.

biomaterials & sustainable design

Sustainable design is a very wide label that includes circular design projects, efficient exploitation of natural resources, ethical practices and more.

Among the most innovative options in sustainable design are certainly biomaterials: natural-based materials derived from agricultural by-products, waste from the food industry etc…

The Material of the Year exhibition coming in London Design Fair 2019 has been given the evocative name of Second Yield and will showcase 4 circular design projects based on biomaterials.

Let’s explore a preview…

potato waste bioplastics

Designer: Chip[s] Board

Industrial production of potato products generates a lot of waste. But the guys at Chip[s] Board have decided to turn it into a resource. They source potato waste from McCain (the famous manufacturer of frozen potatoes) and turn it into Parblex™ Plastics. These inspiring bioplastics come in different patterns and colours. And with countless applications from interior design to fashion, they clearly show the potential of a circular economy model.

Samples of Chips Board potato-waste biomaterial.
Credit: Chip[s] Board
Circular economy cycle followed at Chips Board.
Circular economy cycle followed at Chip[s] Board. Credit: Chip[s] Board
Chips Board button made of bioplastic.
Credit: Chip[s] Board (via Instagram)

corn husks veneer

Designer: Fernando Laposse

Totomoxtle is a sustainable veneer material made of corn husks, which undergo an extremely meticulous transformation process. Firstly, husk pieces are ironed flat and glued onto a backing. The resulting foil is then cut into tiny pieces that are finally reassembled like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, creating the final pattern.

Corn husks hanging on a wall before being transformed.
Vases made of Totomoxtle, a corn husk-based biomaterial.
Credits: Fernando Laposse

Besides being a gorgeous sustainable material, Totomoxtle also represents a powerful tool to help native Mexican corn survive. In fact, Mexico is home to a wide variety of corn species. But since these are not as profitable as genetically modified crops, they are at risk of extinction. This project creates value around native crops by transforming them into design pieces. So practically, it makes it profitable to plant them.

Sample of herringbone flooring pattern made of Totomoxtle.
Credit: Fernando Laposse

But the sustainability value of Totomoxtle goes even further. Fernando Laposse – creator of Totomoxtle – has worked on this project in partnership with the Mexican community of Tonahuixtla. And now, the production of this new material is creating jobs for local people, supporting their economy as a result.

For the contribution it gives to the preservation of natural biodiversity, Totomoxtle has also been showcased at Broken Nature (the XXII exhibition of Triennale di Milano), as an example of restorative design.

Coffee table with Totomoxtle top.
Credit: Fernando Laposse

palm leather

Designer: Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven

The nut growing on the Areca palm tree is a common ingredient in Indian cuisine. This justifies the diffusion of this plant (80 million trees in South India!), but also means that a lot of leaves will grow and fall.

Previously considered just waste, fallen leaves of areca palms have become a precious raw material for Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven. After a few days of softening, dry leaves become Palm Leather: a leather-like material that can substitute animal leather, rubber and plastic in a number of applications. Another gorgeous example of circular design that doesn’t compromise on aesthetics at all.

Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven has also created small factories in India, the Dominican Republic and Sri Lanka, transforming the production of Palm Leather products into a precious driver for local economies.

Sample of Palm leather.
Palm leather chair.
Palm leather chair upholstery. Credits: Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven
Palm leather mat.
Palm leather mat. Credit: Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven (via Instagram)

agricultural waste lamps

Designer: High Society

Every cultivation creates some kind of by-product. But that becomes waste only as long as we look at it that way.

High Society has certainly looked beyond and – applying the principles of circular design – it has turned the by-products of wine, tobacco and hemp cultivations into pendant lampshades that respectively take a natural purple, brown and green colour.

Lamps made with biomaterials coming from the cultivation of hemp, tobacco and wine.
Credit: High Society

Sustainable design is our invaluable opportunity to keep surrounding ourselves with beautiful objects while respecting and preserving the environment. And it is great to witness the popularity it’s gaining in the interior design industry!

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