Wooden Bench

Scouting Sustainability in Furniture


In mid-November we went hiking -- up and down the miles of aisles of Manhattan’s cavernous Javits Convention Center.  We had a lot of fun scouting for innovations in sustainability and circularity at the combined ICFF -- International Contemporary Furniture Fair -- and WantedDesign trade event.  Mask on face and vax card in hand,  we talked shop with dozens of enthusiastic, creative and technically savvy furniture-makers at this ebullient return-to-in-person show. 

What most caught our eye were attractive tables, seating and cabinets that also illustrate core principles of circular design:  closing loops, extending product life, choosing safe materials, going modular, and designing with less. Here are a few examples:



“Putting the beauty and charm of old wood at the service of decoration and construction.”

"Every piece of reclaimed wood served a different purpose at one point in time -- a timber holding up a 19th century Canadian barn, an oak rail-car floorboard carrying cargo in France." @atmospherebois "tells the stories of the past. Impossible to recreate, all reclaimed wood is unique and beautiful in its own way.  Its history shapes an incredible line of materials.”



“Combining a primitive urgency with the infrastructure of our industrial landscape.”

"We exert sheer massive force to crush recycled discarded metal into discrete furniture forms," notes @hannahvaughanstudio. "I see this as designing for the future by reimagining the past." The CRUSHED table is built of junked car fenders, corrugated roofing and discarded shelving.  I take the remains of a vehicle, of industry, progress and speed - and crush it into a place of stillness and retrospection."



“Beautiful, sustainable furniture line that clicks together in seconds with no tools.”

"To understand how we contribute to the circular economy -- understand the materials we use,"  says @hoekhome. This includes "plastic from 100% post-consumer content, such as milk jugs and shampoo bottles;  plywood from sustainably managed forests;  and water-based finishes  and no hazardous glue (only screws for easy disassembly and recycling). " In addition, Hoek will recycle your furniture.



“Serious design for playful people.”

"We don't want it to end up on a sidewalk!" declares @loose_parts. "So we design furniture with flexibility in mind -- as a system rather than a stand-alone object -- ensuring a long lifespan through many iterations. It's time to rethink what furniture could be. Creative agency is in your hands, to change or build again, to assemble, de- and re-assemble. Yes, your Loose Parts can be a table and it can be a shelf."



“Maine-made, handcrafted, ergonomic furniture helping you. Love your back!”

"We introduced a new line of stools with seats made of post-consumer recycled plastic and wood composite," announced @owlstools.  "This allows for greater efficiency and a more affordable price point while also addressing our growing concern for the environment.  For production, we found partners in Maine -- our philosophy has always been to honor ecology, community, and economy.”


A handful of additional sustainability-focused exhibits that caught our eye were Ian Love Design, who reimagines fallen trees; New Energy Works, which specializes in reclaimed wood; and FORMR, which innovates with reclaimed-wood furniture to “sustain a new life for formerly incarcerated individuals and construction debris.” FORMR was exhibiting in the adjacent Boutique Design New York trade show. 


Thank you to all eight companies above for providing much-needed inspiration for industry-wide change.