Sustainable decorating materials of the future that you can use now

Innovation in design never stops and these cutting-edge materials may be the decorating solutions we need to make upgrading our homes more eco-friendly

sustainable materials sebastian cox mycelium and timber lights
Petr Krejci Photography

The aim is simple: you want your home to be as good for the planet’s wellbeing as it is for your own. Key to achieving this is selecting materials that have the minimum impact on the environment. But what if you could do even better than that?

Regenerative design, which promotes working in harmony with nature to have a restorative effect on the planet, is at the pinnacle of sustainable thinking. These sustainable materials, some brand-new some discovered anew, are likely to be the building blocks of a better future. And you can begin using them now!

Mycelium

Everyone from global brands such as Hermès and Adidas to furniture designer Sebastian Cox has experimented with this material made from renewable mushroom fungi – a few years ago, the latter teamed up with design strategist Ninela Ivanova to make a series of stools and lights made with the fungus (pictured above). Most often used as a substitute for plastic and leather, it’s a potential game-changer, as it also boasts qualities that make it excellent for insulating and fire-proofing homes.

tecla clay house by mario cucinello architects sustainable
TECLA, the first 3D printed nearly carbon neutral house made from raw clay by Italian firm Mario Cucinello Architects
Iago Corazza
Clay

One of the world’s oldest building materials may also be the saviour of the modern housing industry. Forget traditional mud structures, though; the innovators in this field use cutting-edge technology. Take Bologna-based Mario Cucinella Architects, which has created a low-carbon, 3D-printed housing prototype in collaboration with 3D-printing specialists WASP. The completed property’s 350 layers of clay not only make its structure stable, but also provide a thermal barrier.

luma arles lifts with camargue salt tiles
Salt panels by Atelier Luma at the Luma Foundation in Arles
Mr. Megapixel/Alamy Stock Photo
Salt

Until now, this abundant resource has been mostly overlooked by designers, but it has huge potential. Look at the lifts clad in salt panels, made by Atelier Luma, for Frank Gehry’s tower at the Luma Foundation in Arles. They were produced by submerging metal-mesh panels into the nearby Camargue salt flats, allowing sun and wind to fuel natural crystallisation processes. Elsewhere, Studio Nir Meiri has produced ‘SeaSalts’, a range of lampshades made from mixing bioresin with salt, which crystallises in the manufacturing process.

mumbai based carbon craft design, tiles made from upcycled carbon emissions by mixing captured carbon with cement and marble waste
Carbon Craft Design
mumbai based carbon craft design, tiles made from upcycled carbon emissions by mixing captured carbon with cement and marble waste
Carbon Craft Design
Carbon-capturing concrete

Concrete may seem an unusual choice to include in this list – the industry is one of the world’s biggest emitters of carbon dioxide – but a few brands are looking to reduce its negative impact on the planet. Montreal-based Carbicrete has developed a method for capturing carbon in concrete blocks. The process involves replacing the cement content in concrete with steel slag, which can be injected with CO2 to form limestone. Meanwhile, in India, Carbon Craft Design (a finalist for the 2021 EDIDA Sustainable Achievement Award) mixes carbon emissions collected from factories with cement or marble to create a series of innovative, patterned tiles.

seaweed curtains from frama’s collaboration with natural material studio
Seaweed curtains from Frama’s collaboration with Natural Material Studio
Frama
Algae

Many uses have been found for this natural, biodegradable aquatic resource. Bioplastics have been made with it, while Danish designers Jonas Edvard and Nikolaj Steenfatt have combined it with paper pulp to make furniture. Perhaps the most exciting recent use, however, is Frama’s revolutionary seaweed curtains, produced in collaboration with Natural Material Studio. Able to biodegrade in just three months if put into contact with soil and bacteria, they are currently just a prototype, but have promising potential.

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