Peeling Back the Layers of Paper Furniture

Paper furniture? It’s a concept that might be difficult to wrap your head around, but functional pieces could be coming to a showroom near you soon.

IKEA, the Swedish furniture company, says it will introduce a line of paper furniture in the near future. Currently, the retailer has a design team that’s investigating the possibilities of paper furniture. So far, the designers have created a durable composite pulp out of recycled paper.

Of the different paper-based materials the team has tested, IKEA reports that “one of the most interesting was paper pulp – a material used in things like egg cartons and the tray your barista gives you to carry hot coffee.” The team found that paper pulp, which is created from wood or recycled materials, can be molded into almost any shape and hardens to create a hard surface. Additives can make the material water resistant, and it can be “produced in a rainbow of colors.”

The sustainability of paper-based furniture was a crucial influence for the IKEA team. IKEA designer Maja Ganszyniec says, “With many people simply throwing their old furniture on a dump, the idea of creating affordable paper sofas, tables and chairs that could be recycled at the end of their life cycles was a big inspiration.”

ECOR is another company exploring the potential of paper-based furniture. According to Inhabitat.com, ECOR has created a “moldable material made from recycled cardboard, old newsprint and a variety of fibers” that can “be transformed into furniture, signage, displays and more.”

According to the ECOR website, the company’s product line of sustainable materials is designed to be “made from 100% recycled content, certified, 100% bio-based, recyclable, compostable and to provide sustainable and healthy material solutions for the architectural, furniture, print and packaging industries.”

Other furniture designers are also experimenting with paper-based design materials.

Designers Jonas Edvard and Nikolaj Steenfatt, both graduates of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, worked together on Terrior, a project that developed a new material made from seaweed and recycled paper that can be used for products and furniture. According to Edvard, the material is “a tough and durable material. It is best described as a warm and tactile surface with the softness of cork and the lightness of paper.”

Although these innovations in furniture design are not widely available for purchase yet, there are smaller retailers that offer functional paper-based solutions for the home that are perhaps a preview of more inventions to come.