The ocean, house of so much life and source of so much inspiration for all crafts...design included.
Sustainable design in particular is researching innovative ways of re-using materials coming from the ocean.
In the spirit of a circular economy – where every material can be a resource – ocean by-products become design pieces.
This is a fascinating field of research, that challenges our common view of what’s waste and creates more options for the design industry to be more sustainable.
So let’s look at 6 sustainable design projects that use ocean by-products as a starting point!
Ocean sediment furnishings
Water is slow and resilient; it might take years, but it can carve stone.
During their tireless movement, waves create sediments, that have never had any particular use...
Until when French designer Aurore Piette (opened in a new window/tab) decided to give them a new life.
Partnering with craftsmen and engineers, she’s found a way to create design work out of ocean sediments from the French Atlantic coast.
This is how Marecreo was born: a collection of furniture, vases, candle holders and tiles with a very distinctive aesthetics.
Their organic shape seems on the point of melting down and all their irregularities recall the erosion patterns of water on stone.
And in fact, these pieces are shaped by the ocean itself! Handmade moulds are placed in the water during low tide and the natural movement of waves fills them with sediments.
Then, the pieces are put in a kiln to harden, making this natural-crafting work permanent.
Who knew that the ocean could provide a material for sustainable building insulation?
Turns out that such material has been in use for a long time in the past, but people have stopped using it in more recent years.
So let’s meet it again.
Its name is Eelgrass, it’s a seagrass and its properties fit perfectly with building insulation: naturally fireproof, rot resistant, insulating and waterproof after around one year. Plus, it’s non-toxic and carbon negative.
Danish designer Kathryn Larsen (opened in a new window/tab) has decided to study this traditional roof-making technique and she’s conceived a modern version of it.
A wood structure is filled with braids of eelgrass & water. And that’s basically all there is to it. The natural properties of this precious seaweed do the rest, making these panels an alternative finish for roofs or façades.
Paired with a farming & harvesting strategy that preserves the marine ecosystem, this could truly be the start of a new page for the building industry, a sustainable new page!
(This same seaweed can also be used for other interior design applications. Remember the stool with pressed eelgrass seat?)
Staying in the realm of seaweeds, let’s explore another application for sustainable interior design.
Take an algae sheet, mould it into a cylinder (or another shape of your choice), mount it on a lighting structure…and voilà. A charming pendant light that brings home the feel of the ocean, quite literally.
Striking in its simplicity, this idea was developed by Nea Studio (opened in a new window/tab).
The sculptural shape of these lamps adds character through natural textures and – if used on a coastal location – it would be the perfect addition to strengthen the interior’s local identity!
3D printed algae objects
Algae are extremely versatile and can be transformed into different raw materials for a number of applications. This includes a seaweed textile yarn or the input for a 3D printer.
Algae Platform is a collaborative project created by Atelier LUMA (opened in a new window/tab) to research the potential of algae.
Dutch studio Klarenbeek & Dros (opened in a new window/tab) has come up with a process to make seaweeds suitable for 3D printing. Which means one could make all sorts of containers, from food packaging to vases and tableware!
Seaweed & paper furniture
And what if seaweeds were left to dry?
Danish designers Jonas Edvard (opened in a new window/tab) & Nikolaj Steenfatt (opened in a new window/tab) have gone down this path, turning grounded dried algae into a natural glue.
When mixed with recycled paper, it acts as a binder, creating a paste that is then moulded in the shape of seats and lampshades.
Seashells are one example of waste created by the food industry.
But – as circular design teaches – waste is a resource.
That's why designers Hyein Choi & Jihee Moon (opened in a new window/tab) have decided to collect shells from restaurants in London and Seul.
Once grounded and mixed with natural binders, Sea Stone was born. A sort of cement with an interesting terrazzo finish that can be used for all cement applications!
When they come together, creativity and a circular design mindset can truly make wonders.
There are so many inspiring projects around and yet we’re just at the beginning of what sustainable design could become: a new standard where design development and a thriving environment go together.
And this is the future I want to see!
For more sustainable interior design inspiration, you're welcome to visit SforSustainable (opened in a new window/tab) - the online directory I curate - which now counts 170+ sustainable home products!