In 1972 (yes, it’s going to be one of those stories), there was a little revolution in furniture when the architect Frank O. Gehry created a side chair made from sixty layers of corrugated cardboard held together by hidden screws with fibreboard edging.
I’m sure there were examples of cardboard furniture before 1972, but this chair reached the public domain like no other and continues to sell today.
The sculptural form of the Wiggle Side Chair makes it stand out. Although surprisingly simple in appearance, it is constructed with the consummate skill of an architect, making it not only very comfortable but also durable and robust. It’s said that it can hold thousands of pounds, which is testament to the strength of corrugated cardboard.
NewspaperWood was the unique collaboration between Dutch supercyclers Mieke Meijer and ViJ5, who put together the first NewspaperWood collection. The collection was presented in the AutoOfficina courtyard in Ventura Lambrate during Milan Design Week 2011.
I saw these pieces again at 19 Greek Street in London, where they were part of a sustainable collection of furniture and artistic pieces. The NewspaperWood is created when newspaper is pressed with glue to form a solid object. After slicing through the paper, the newspaper created a grain reminiscent of the wood they originally came from.
But wait a minute, this post is about affordable furniture and both of these are terrible examples of affordability within cardboard design. Of course, which leads me on to some great examples of where the same cardboard and paper construction have been considered for an affordable market, which so rarely sees the results of innovation.
Karton, who designed the cardboard bed above created an affordable and very practical design for bedroom furniture. The Paperpedic Bed is a system of cleverly folded paper panels which connect to form an incredibly strong and beautiful cardboard bed base.
A favourite desk of mine happens to cost just £149, and yes that is one of the main reasons why I like it, because this sturdy desk is no poor substitute for a metal or wood desk, but a genuinely strong and well designed product, with the attention to detail I expect from a more expensive product.
A cardboard desk that is contemporary, attractive, easy to lift and move about, and will do a good five years of hard labour, after which you can take it to the recycling centre. That’s the thinking behind Flute Office’s FlutePRO desk, which has won a FIRA Innovation Award.
If you are furnishing an office and dash to Ikea to see what you can pick up, it would be worth considering how desks such as Flute can fit into your environment, making it easier to move offices around, customisable to brand colours and recyclable when they have lived a good life.
It might have struck you that this blog is about ‘made to last’ products and cardboard furniture is hardly made for this purpose. You would be correct, many of the products have a lifespan less than their usual competitors, however there are times when this furniture may be used for temporary periods of time, or indeed that you foresee an end to their life so choose inexpensive, poor-quality furniture that you “don’t mind throwing away” because it costs little.
Which brings me back round to ‘made to last’, where by recyclable furniture can continue it’s life later after it has served its purpose to you, without harm to the earth’s resources and without the intense production methods. I would advocate considering the lifespan of the product you will buy, and whether you can reduce your impact on the planet by choosing to buy a great-quality cardboard product over a poor-quality metal or wood product.