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What's old is new again: Home decor rethinks its materials

| Thursday, April 12, 2018, 8:55 p.m.
Sophie Rowley's Bahia Denimuses textile offcuts that are layered, adhered and carved to create one-of-a-kind patterns. The lightweight, durable material has applications in furniture, paneling and interior surfaces.
Sophie Rowley's Bahia Denimuses textile offcuts that are layered, adhered and carved to create one-of-a-kind patterns. The lightweight, durable material has applications in furniture, paneling and interior surfaces.
This undated photo provided by IKEA shows vases from IKEA. For the IKEA PS 2017 collection, Iina Vuorivirta designed a vase made of the glass waste from other production. The vase is handmade from pieces of glass that didn't quite make the cut the first time around, but in a second life give each vase a unique pattern.
This undated photo provided by IKEA shows vases from IKEA. For the IKEA PS 2017 collection, Iina Vuorivirta designed a vase made of the glass waste from other production. The vase is handmade from pieces of glass that didn't quite make the cut the first time around, but in a second life give each vase a unique pattern.
This undated photo provided by IKEA shows the Tomat spray bottle. It is made from plastic film left over from wrapping IKEA products in production facilities.
This undated photo provided by IKEA shows the Tomat spray bottle. It is made from plastic film left over from wrapping IKEA products in production facilities.
This undated photo provided by IKEA shows the TÅNUM carpet. It is made entirely from leftover materials from bed linen production.
This undated photo provided by IKEA shows the TÅNUM carpet. It is made entirely from leftover materials from bed linen production.

The Earth is awash in garbage, and designers of home decor are looking at ways to reuse the waste. Among the many clever ideas emerging are tiles made out of blue jeans, and furniture made out of bottles.

Detritus from timber and agriculture is being reborn as building and design materials. Sea algae is being used to create dyes and fabrics.

These innovations signal a shift in our relationship with materials, says Caroline Till of the London-based design house Franklin Till. Her firm created “The Future is Urban” pavilion at Frankfurt's Heimtextil fair last year, which showcased trends in global materials.

“All over the world, an emerging generation (is) rethinking raw materials, repurposing waste and presenting radical solutions to the challenges of designing and making,” Till says.

“We're potentially on the brink of a materials revolution that could help rebalance our relationship with our planet and reshape society for the better. Consumers are looking for brands and companies to operate in a more responsible and conscious way.”

Emeco, creator of an iconic 1944 aluminum Navy chair, has partnered with Coca-Cola to make the chair out of 111 plastic bottles. Its production keeps 3 million of them out of landfills annually. IKEA has partnered with Stockholm studio Form Us With Love for the Kungsbacka range of kitchen cabinetry, made of recycled plastic bottles and reclaimed industrial wood. The retailer is also repurposing its own waste stream. Colorful Tanum flat-weave rugs are made from scraps from bed linen production. The Tomat spray bottle is made of plastic left over from packing material. A swirly vase designed by Iina Vuorivirta started life as glass waste from other production.

In London, designer Micaella Pedros is experimenting with melted plastic bottles as a replacement for bolts and screws for furniture repair.

Weaver Green, in Devonshire, England, has created yarn from recycled bottles that has the look and feel of wool. It's used to make durable rugs, cushions, footstools and blankets.

Danish startup Really worked with textile giant Kvadrat on reusing an enormous store of worn-out sheets, towels and uniforms from hospitality and hospitals. The results: a sturdy textile slab that can sub for wood or composite, as well as an acoustic felt with excellent sound-absorbing qualities.

Spanish designer Jorge Penades transforms scrap leather into lamps clad in a colorful “structural skin.”

The timber industry generates thousands of tons of waste pine needles annually. In Latvia, Tamara Orjola crushes, soaks, steams, binds and presses the needles into a material she calls Forest Wool, which she forms into stools, benches and carpet.

While working as a consultant to the Philippine leather goods industry, Spanish designer and entrepreneur Carmen Hijosa developed a method of processing pineapple leaves into supple, textural faux leather she calls Pinatex. Farmers now benefit from two revenue streams.

Kim Cook is an Associated Press writer.

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