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Material Change: Sustainable Designs for the Home

We look at shifting attitudes to materials for home furnishings with these three key pieces.

Humankind has reached a new critical mass in terms of climate change. Going plastic-free is at the top of the conscious consumer's agenda, with ethical sourcing a key consideration.
As with all noble efforts, the fight for sustainability must begin at home: the things we wear and eat, but also what we choose to furnish our spaces with.
Whereas many efforts to go green revolve around innovation, a different approach proves useful for the home. Rather than looking forward, instead it pays to glance back at time-honoured techniques and materials.

Here, we explore three natural, plentiful materials being used in contemporary ways by the top designers of our times.


In itself, cork is not an usual material. It’s abundant in wine cellars, commonly used for office noticeboards, but traditionally has been absent from furniture design. Only in the past decade have designers begun to truly explore the potential of this commodity – which, being as it is stripped from the bark of evergreen trees – has great sustainable credentials.
Cork is also an inherently strong material, making it ideal for stools such as this, from Vitra. Created by Jasper Morrison, its angular shape makes it ideal for minimalist spaces.

Wood and Steam

Steam bending is an ancient technique, but one that is quickly regaining popularity as an environmentally friendly way to manufacture. Instead of  whittling down pieces of wood, thin strips are bent using hot steam, cutting down on waste and using comparatively less energy. Mark Newson has used this technique to create a flowing, organic chair which will command attention in any room.


Rattan is similar to cork in that it is easily renewable and surprisingly hardy. Long the preserve of the garden, the key to making rattan look indoors-appropriate is to combine it with a more substantial texture: solid teak, for example. Cox and Cox's chair does just that, with simple clean lines balancing the rustic feel of the woven back.