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Paper Furniture: The New, Environmentally-Friendly, Design Trend

Over the last couple of years, while we’ve all been spending more time at home, many of us have taken the opportunity to give our living spaces a makeover in an effort to make them more comfortable as well as more practical for homeworking. But what about the furniture we buy – and throw out?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 80% of furniture waste ends up in landfills.[1] The figure is very similar in the UK [2] and, in addition to creating a landfill issue, it’s making a significant contribution to our Carbon footprint.

One of the biggest problems with recycling modern furniture, in particular, is that much of it is made of chipboard and laminated with plastics, which make it almost impossible to recycle. While we’re all becoming savvier and more selective in our purchases of products, from food and beverage containers to cars, perhaps it’s time for us to also begin to rethink our furniture choices and avoid the “fast furniture” that presents such recycling challenges. Fortunately, there is a solution gaining traction in the interior design world: paper furniture.

We know what you’re thinking, but it isn’t anywhere near as whacky – or flimsy – as it might sound. Contrary to the (understandable) misconception about the durability element, properly made paper and cardboard furniture, treated with additives to make it both flame retardant and water resistant, isn’t any more fragile, and presents no more of a fire hazard, than wooden furniture.

One of the great beauties of this furniture is that it’s made from sustainable and easy-to-recycle materials – it’s also surprisingly chic. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the most innovative and interesting examples of paper furniture:

These unique foldable paper stools, tables, walls, and other interior solutions from Molo don’t compromise on style in the slightest. They’re sold in a range of attractive colours and the ends are magnetised, making it easy to connect modular pieces together. The company’s paper softwall is a great way to divide rooms; for example, partitioning part of the living room to create a home office. The acoustic properties of its internal honeycomb structure and pleated surface can also help to soften sounds.

Molo Paper Stool
Strange Design - Shelving Unit
Strange Design

German brand Stange Design has been creating cardboard furniture since 1985 and now sells a variety of home products, ranging from bedframes to wardrobes, on its online store. We think these modular shelving units – also available in white – are particularly stylish and effective. Stange claims its products are just as strong and stable as any traditional shelf or sideboard.[2]

For the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japanese bedding company Airweave created beds for every athlete made from recycled cardboard.

Swedish flatpack furniture giant, IKEA, has also been exploring the possibilities and opportunities of paper furniture and is particularly interested in the results of their experiments with paper pulp, which can be moulded into any shape. The company says it intends to introduce a line of paper furniture in the near future. [3]

Dezeen - Paper Bed
Paper Lounge - Seats
Paper Lounge

UK-based company Paper Lounge produces a beautiful array of eco-friendly, concertinaed Kraft paper furniture. Once again, they’re foldable, which means they’re easy to store when not being used, making it a practical solution when you need extra seating for guests.

Freestanding furniture isn’t the only paper-based structural interior product on the market. Richlite is a sustainable and durable surface material made from approximately 65% recycled paper mixed with 35% resin. It’s suitable for commercial, residential, and retail use for a wide variety of both interior and exterior applications, including worktops, cladding, cabinetry, tables and more. Not only is it a superb substitute for non-recyclable alternatives, but it’s also naturally antimicrobial, heat resistant, easy to clean and, importantly, looks great, too.

Richlite - Counter Top

As more of us become conscious of climate change and the environmental impact of our own decision-making, we could see paper furniture moving from niche to mainstream. It’s just another great example of the versatility and sustainability of paper!

For more paper-based interior design ideas for your home, you might find these articles interesting:

Paper Powering Business Papershades

The Art Of Decoupage

The Paper Fact File

Paper is one of the most sustainable and recycled materials in the world!

Visit the Paper Fact File to discover the facts about paper’s sustainable attributes. Some might surprise you!