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Circular Design Highlights From London Design Festival 2019

Topic: Sustainable Design
Circular design highlights from London Design Festival 2019

There’s no doubt that the concept of sustainability is entering more and more in the (interior) design industry. And all major industry fairs are also covering the topic. Today we’re looking at the recently concluded London Design Festival 2019, where sustainability and circular design have taken up numerous speeches and installations.

The core of circular design: reinterpreting waste

One of the key points of a circular economy consists in realizing that materials have a very long life. Often much longer than the one of the products they’re used for.

With this in mind, Matter of Stuff has challenged 4 designers to create something new out of used wooden dowels. The same wooden dowels that had made the scenography of their LDF exhibition last year.

View of last year's scenography, with wooden dowels hanging from the ceiling.
Credit: Matter of Stuff's scenography for London Design Festival 2018 - Photo by Jutta Goessl


“Through four different iterations of reuse, we seek to redefine waste as a legitimate raw material with enormous potential for creative renewal.”
Simona Auteri, Matter of Stuff cofounder.

A second Life is the evocative name of this installation. In particular, the 4 designers have turned the same dowels into room dividers, a bench and a floor light, proving the potential and versatility of waste. Equally important, the proceeds from the sale of these objects will go to charities that protect the Amazon rainforest. Architects have assembled the dowels beside each other, obtaining tall room dividers that have been used as partitions in the exhibition's venue.

Tall room dividers made assembling wooden dowels beside each other.
Room dividers. Credit: Design by Architects - Photo by Mark Cocksedge

Brodie Neill has meticulously interlocked 422 dowels, transforming them into a bench! Brodie Neill is actually known for upcycling waste in design objects and also participated to the Guiltless Plastic Initiative organized by Rossana Orlandi at Milan Design Week 2019.

A bench made of interlocked wooden dowels.
Latitude bench. Credit: Design by Brodie Neill

Matteo Fogale and Emma Archer have used the wooden dowels as a frame, and covered it with leftover fabrics donated by Kvadrat.

Flower-shaped screen with a wooden dowel as stem and leftover fabric as petals.
Papillon screen. Credit: Design by Matteo Fogale & Emma Archer - Photo by Mark Cocksedge

And last but not least, Studio Furthermore has upcycled both the dowels and the sawdust waste created from shaping them, which has become a textured coating!

Floor lamp with wooden dowels as base.
Noise light. Credit: Design by Studio Furthermore - Photo by Emma Archer
Close-up of the sawdust covering.
Noise light close-up. Credit: Studio Furthermore

The art of making out of off-cuts

The Off-Cut Challenge has been another circular design initiative to break down the common idea of waste.

The fabrication company Aldworth James&Bond has split its team into groups and asked them to come up with design pieces starting with residual material from completed projects. Not surprisingly, they have come up with all sorts of objects including toys, furniture and even a DJ booth! And all of these handcrafted pieces have then been donated to a local community organization after the show.

Let's start with a space saving solution to fit a vertical garden anywhere. The panel is made of plywood off-cuts and the pots are old paints and oils containers savaged from Aldworth James&Bond's laboratory.

Wood panel housing vases for a vertical garden.
Modular green wall. Credit: Aldworth James&Bond

Plywood leftovers are also the ingredients of a chair and a gorgeous side table, that both show how scrap pieces (sometimes oddly shaped) can still be valuable.

Recycled plywood chair.
Exploded chair. Credit: Aldworth James&Bond
Side table made of recycled plywood.
Water table. Credit: Aldworth James&Bond

MDF leftovers have become nothing less than a bench with integrated storage, a DJ booth on castors and a cute tool tray that was gifted to visitors!

MDF bench.
MDF bench. Credit: Aldworth James&Bond
MDF DJ booth.
MDF DJ booth. Credit: Aldworth James&Bond
MDF tool tray.
MDF tool tray. Credit: Aldworth James&Bond

The winner project have been the Three Little Piggies, a lovely jigsaw toy meant to encourage parents to move towards wooden toys rather than plastic ones. Is it just me or you also woudn't have any problem in showcasing it at home?

Jigsaw toy with wooden pigs.
Three Little Piggies jigsaw toy. Credit: Aldworth James&Bond

Celebrating considerate design

Mint (a renowned design gallery) has hosted Raw, an exhibition celebrating designs that strive to minimize human impact on the environment...considerate designs indeed.
The showcase counted more than 60 designs, both from famous and new designers. And they all started with sustainable materials, ranging from leftover marble, to solid wood and clay.

One of my favourites is surely the Ven.To table. The table top is a slab of solid cedar wood coming from a 300-years old tree that fell during a thunderstorm (and we can clearly see the sign of where it was hit by the lighting!)
The hand-blown glass legs contrast with the solidity of wood and almost seem to disappear, making this table a beautiful candidate to experience the benefits of risky interiors.

Solid wood table with seethrough glass legs. table. Credit: Studio Constellation & Kanz Architetti

Another favourite of mine is Snappy Tree Friend. This floor lamp is made out of a real branch whose top can be lifted displaying a LED light nestled into the trunk. Another inspiring option to enrich a biophilic design by literally bringing the outdoors in!

Floor lamp made out of a savaged tree trunk.
Snappy Tree Friend. Credit: Marco Iannicelli

And a last favourite (but totally not least) is Claything, a collection that stands in between textiles and ceramics. Little clay beads are woven together, resulting in flexible ceramics screens that can be used as room dividers, art pieces and whatever else a creative mind can come up with!

A folded sheet of Claything.
Credit: Claything
A sheet of Claything used as floor to ceiling room divider.
Credit: Beyond Material

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