Eco-Trends from Salone del Mobile

Across the board, designers and manufacturers are focusing on sustainability more than ever. The design community is embracing green ideals, innovating new processes to reduce or reuse waste and exploring how their products and methods can embrace sustainable tenets. The industry thought leaders from Salone del Mobile.Milano have rounded up some of the most eco-compatible trends they’re seeing in a new report.

1. Zero Waste Design

Originally found in the food world, the zero waste concept has slowly infiltrated the design community. In the design world, Zero Waste primarily means minimizing manufacturing waste and planning for not just the durability of products, but also their ability to be recycled or reused. Manufacturers are also experimenting with innovative materials and applying strategic use recycling to the full manufacturing chain.

R16 by Waarmakers – This light is made from its own packaging, removing unnecessary paper waste for users and simultaneously saving money and the environment.

Kuskoa Bi Chair by Alki – Basque design collective Alki created the first biodegradable chair made of a polymer Bioplastic that is 100% plant-based

2. Upcycled Materials

Design companies are transforming objects originally destined for the trash into something completely new and different. This process increases efficiency of available resources and encourages the development of new technologies. In the end, this spur for innovation protects the ecosystem.

LaFlor Lamp by Lucirmás – Barcelona-based Lucirmás, founded by Italian designer Lucia Bruni,  has embraced the practice of upcycling, using traditional hand production techniques to turn glass bottles into durable and functional objects.

Paperbricks by WooJai Lee – Newspaper gets a new lease on life in the hands of Eindhoven-based Korean/New Zealander WooJai Lee. The paper is turned to pulp and mixed with glue to be used like a brick or wooden plank in a range of furnishings.

3. Low Impact Living

Living sustainably means cutting energy consumption. This is increasingly crucial at every stage of design, from construction to interiors. Leaving a light footprint on the planet means opting for renewable energies that maintain Earth’s natural balance.

Smart Radiator Valve by Starck for Netatmo – These smart valves cut up to 37% of domestic heating energy consumption. The valves allow the temperature to be controlled remotely and on a room by room basis.

Sea Me by Nienke Hoogvliet – Dutch designer Nienke Hoogvliet’s Sea Me collection is made from a seaweed textile and also uses seaweed to dye the fabric natural colors.

Text of full report below:

Salone del Mobile.Milano Trend Lab
Eco-Conscious Home
Sustainable living  

I think that as a designer nowadays we should not think we are all making the antiques of the future […]. We should create products that can be part of a circular system, and are designed considering what material goes into the product and what it leaves behind after use. (Christien Meindertsma, Designer)

Norwegian Wood is the name of a non-fiction book by Lars Mytting – a Norwegian journalist and storyteller – which discusses the traditional Norwegian art of chopping wood and stacking it for the winter. Translated into ten languages, it has become a bestseller well beyond Scandinavia. The book is full of practical advice, ranging from looking after and getting to know forests to picking the right time to cut down a tree, the right tools to use (hatchet, chain saw etc.) to methods for making perfect piles of wood, tips for buying the right stove – preferably clean burning – and how to dispose of ash.

The fascination that the volume has generated, even among city-dwellers living in air-conditioned houses and apartments, goes far deeper than simply attempting to learn a skill and is largely owed to the fact that the activities described by Mytting – whether or not they are put into practice – resonate with universal and existential issues such as the primeval relationship between man and nature and the respect for the timescales and lifecycles of what is considered the ultimate natural material.

Not so much a methodology, more a life lesson, the book takes a whole new look at things, tapping into a sensitivity affecting many aspects of consumption – from food to fashion – and which translates into the adoption of eco-conscious behaviours and the search for sustainable, eco-compatible and environmentally friendly products. This approach is also beginning to be manifest within the domestic walls, both in the choice of furniture, furnishings and materials that have a positive impact on the planet and in the increasingly efficient and waste-free management of energy resources.

It is part of a wider trend towards cutting adverse effects on the eco-system and is slowly filtering through into all fields of design application, generating eco-friendly alternatives for every sort and kind of product. Thus companies and designers are becoming mindful of sustainability in relation to manufacturing processes, embracing the principles of a circular economy and experimenting with raw materials made from recycled waste. The design sector is beginning to take the entire lifecycle of things into consideration, paving the way for innovative practices such as the creative re-use or harnessing of biodegradable materials.

On the subject of wood and forests, for instance, Ventura ( is a Spanish furnishing brand whose byword is sustainability. The pay-off reads “wood comes from trees”, a constant reminder – both to themselves as well as to consumers – of our responsibility towards the environment. To ensure that their products leave a minimal footprint on our habitat, they use wood only from sustainably managed, certified forests.

Their respect for this material is also evidenced in their craftsmanship, which revives the ancient manual skills, and in the look of the finished articles. Their pieces are characterised by simple, contemporary shapes, soft colours, retro details and references to a modern, geometric taste, which bring out the character of the wood in its own right, resulting in a pleasing and balanced combination of the elements.

This is one of the many examples of the fact that this approach entails no sacrifice in terms of looks but generates new expressive trends and different tastes. The sense of gratification or aspiration no longer derives simply from the immediate benefit to our domestic or work environments but also – looking forward especially – from just how much the entire planet is set to benefit.

This mindset has spawned myriad original creative solutions for using up waste materials, giving them a second life and a chance to be used for different purposes. As we have already seen, the takeback of discarded shipping containers has provided town planners and retailers with a low-cost means of temporarily rehabilitating entire city areas. Canadian firm Modpools ( is now trialling their application in gardens and outdoor areas as a quick and way to install swimming pools with spa functions.

The container/pools are small, easily installed and equally easily relocated. They have integrated water-heating systems and all the functions can be controlled via a smartphone app. This enables even a tiny garden to be transformed – without too much expense – into a solarium, while helping to recycle large quantities of material with no environmental repercussions.

This macro-trend breaks down into three micro-trends that describe its different applications and facets: Zero Waste Design, Upcycled Materials and Low Impact Living.

  1. Zero Waste Design

The Zero Waste philosophy originated in the Food world, where new “surplus” yet still perfectly good food consumption sales models and practices are being generated. The concept is slowly but steadily being embraced by all manufacturing sectors in response to the pressing ethical need to conserve resources that are far from infinite. It also employs a panel of Opinion Leaders, both national and international, selected ad hoc for their knowledge of the research subjects (design, architecture, interior design, interior architecture) and for their ability to take a crosscutting look at the themes of design and creativity.

The scope of observation includes all the leading international markets (Europe, Russia, USA and Asia) with a focus on “developing” countries such as China.

In the design world, this means taking on board the concept of circularity, minimising manufacturing waste, and planning not just the durability of objects but also their disassemblability and their capacity to be recycled or disposed of.

Zero Waste means experimenting with the use of innovative materials and researching biomaterials that help lower the environmental impact of furniture and furnishings, enabling them to become biodegradable, like organic waste. The conceptualisation and creative process thus becomes strategic, channelled by design thinking and applied to the entire manufacturing chain.

Country: Holland
Section: Lighting

R16 is a light, or rather, a light made from its own packaging. Design studio Waarmakers has come up with a response to the extremely critical sector-wide problem vexing manufacturers: packaging that, in most cases, once it has served its original purpose, becomes waste that needs to be disposed of, implying high financial and environmental costs.

As cardboard tubes are not just extremely hardwearing but are also neutral in tone and looks, making them suitable for all kinds of interiors, designers Simon and Maarten decided to pay homage to such a versatile material by making it an inherent part of the product itself.

The cardboard packaging contains the LED light and the various components needed for mounting and suspending it. A perforated section of the tube/packaging is then removed, leaving room for the light to shine through; then a simple pencil is all that’s needed to hold the LED rod in place. A personal touch ensures that no R16s are alike.

Keywords: simplicity, poor materials, DIY, design thinking.


Zero Per Stool
Country: South Korea
Section: Furnishing

The designers at South Korea’s Hattern studio set out specifically to make a product without generating any waste at all. The upshot was the Zero Per Stool seat and informed its characteristic appearance.

The stool consists of two parts – legs and seat – one made from the offcuts of the other. The legs are made from rectangular sheets of white oak, shaped to slot together, obviating the need for any other material. The offcuts are broken into bits and put into a mould that is then filled with resin, ensuring that no two finished articles look exactly alike.

The arrangement of the bits of wood is different every time and the resin can take on different colourways – its translucid consistency lending an artistic touch to their variability.

Keywords: the beauty of offcuts, one-off, ethics and style, zero waste

Kuskoa Bi
Country: France
Section: Furnishings

Many independent producers and designers are now electing to make biodegradable domestic furnishings. One such is Alki, a Basque design collective which – in keeping with the eco-friendly approach that marks out all their projects – has come up with Kuskoa Bi, the first fully biodegradable bioplastic chair.

The collective, based in a valley overlooked by the Pyrenees, specialises in integrated production methods for creating eco-conscious, comfortable and elegant design pieces, using natural and environmentally friendly materials and resources. Specifically, this chair boasts a particularly enveloping shell, designed to provide optimum back and arm support. This is a shape that can only be achieved by using plastic materials.

This is where the idea of experimenting with bioplastic comes in. It is already used in several different fields, such as car manufacturing. Bioplastic is a polymer with similar characteristics and properties to plastic; it can also be injected, extruded and thermoformed but, unlike plastic, is made 100% from plant-based products (beet, corn starch, sugar cane etc.).

This means that the material is completely recyclable and biodegradable, using an industrial process. Added value is brought by the fact that its production leaves a low ecological footprint, given that it uses fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The seat rests on a solid base of solid wood from sustainable forests.

Keywords: eco-design, respect for the environment, green furnishings, small footprint

Flax Chair
Country: Holland
Section: Furnishings

Dutch designer Christien Meindertsma has come up with an alternative use for linen fibre for manufacturing furnishings, which has earned him not one but two Dutch Design Awards. His Flax Chair is made entirely of this textile fibre combined with PLA, polylactic acid. Two naturally derived materials, serving to ensure that the finished product is totally biodegradable.

Produced by Label Breed, the chair is made from a single panel of this composite, from which first the seat is cut and then the legs are made from the offcuts. This ensures that there is virtually no waste.

The designer spotted the tremendous potential of linen fibre, both because of its valuable qualities and because the plant flourishes at those particular latitudes and requires little investment in the way of resources. Following the success of this first experiment, Meindertsma is now considering creating an entire range, which will include both different chair colours and other furnishing pieces such as tables.

Keywords: non-modular furnishings, new materials, zero impact, textile furniture

  1. Upcycled Materials

The coming together of recycling and design is informed by the increasing awareness that materials and objects destined for the waste bin can be upcycled to produce something completely different.

The concept of waste as a resource forms the basis for all creative recycling processes. Poor materials, reclaimed materials and waste generated by manufacturing or consumption mark a new frontier for design and for designers who seek to upgrade them creatively while effectively helping to protect the ecosystem.

Turning things that would otherwise be discarded into items of value – financial, formal and functional – helps increase the utilisation efficiency of available resources and provide a further spur to developing new technologies and creating new aesthetics through design research.

Country: Spain/Italy
Section: Lighting/Tableware

Lucirmás is a design studio in Barcelona founded by Italian designer Lucia Bruni, who has embraced the practice of upcycling, using traditional hand production techniques to turn glass bottles into hardwearing and functional domestic objects.

Environmental awareness is the implicit premise underpinning the concept of every product put through each of the manufacturing stages and is evidenced by the use of recycled materials, the optimisation of production waste, the adoption of sustainable packaging systems and the fall in energy wastage.

Thus glass bottles that would usually end up in the rubbish bin become a valuable resource for making lamps and original table accessories. LaFlor Lamp, for example, is a pendant lamp that features a bottle with a made-to-measure copper shade, while Dama Lamp is a table lamp made by reusing an ordinary 5-litre carafe set on a base of wood from sustainable forests, also handmade by local craftsmen.

Keywords: tradition and innovation, handmade, sustainability, reuse

Country: South Korea/New Zealand/Holland
Section: Furnishings

Newspaper takes on a whole new lease of life in the hands of Eindhoven-based Korean/New Zealander WooJai Lee. Turned into pulp and mixed with glue, it becomes a much stronger material than paper that has been recycled several times, and can be used – like a brick or a wooden plank – both in furnishing and in building structures.

The designer has used these modular components to create two series of stools, benches and coffee tables, which exploit the different qualities of paper. The Pallet series highlights its solidity and geometry, while Sculpt contrasts the regularity and smoothness of the seat with the raw, organic look of the legs. The twofold texture of the bricks has the appearance of marble, while being soft and smooth to the touch, rather like a fabric.

The different surface treatments call for different processing techniques. The “hard” pieces are moulded, while the plastic or irregular ones are hand-modelled. The designer is already working on another collection, which might well include bookcases, shelves and partitions.

Keywords: innovation, second life, modularity, contrast

Penta Collection
Country: Thailand
Section: Lighting

Cassava is one of the most common crops in Thailand, so much so that at some times of the year, farmers are faced with overproduction, generating huge amounts of waste and pollution. Designer Anon Pariot saw a way out of the problem by conferring an aesthetic and symbolic value on the raw material, preventing it from being discarded. This informed the Penta lamp collection, built on a pentagonal module that is not only reminiscent of the cassava leaf, but also imparts the correct strength to the structure. The material is vacuum pressed, making the plant fibres solid and hard, as well as translucid. This ensures that the components are not just extremely lightweight but are also ideal for generating a pleasing, warm light. The pendant light takes on a spherical or hemispherical shape according to how the pentagons are arranged, making it suitable for many different domestic applications. Another eco-friendly consideration is that the material itself is 100% recyclable and gives off no toxic substances, while any defective pieces can be reused and incorporated into another lamp.

Keywords: sustainable lifestyle, natural inspiration, second nature, modularity


Forest Wool
Country: UK
Section: Furnishings

600 million pine trees are felled for timber in Europe every single year. What caught young Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Tamara Orjola’s attention was the fact that, aside from the wood used in manufacturing, the needles – which account for around 20-30% of the tree’s mass – are discarded and treated as waste.

Her Forest Wool collection, which includes two stools and a carpet, is made from recycled pine needles – finely chopped, soaked and pressed – and turned into textiles, composites and paper, extracting essential oils and dye, which in turn have their own uses, in the process. Their sophisticated looks and distinctive imprinted surface, reminiscent of the shape of the needles, is proof of the potential inherent in ecological material of this kind and the possibilities thrown up by upcycling leftover waste from mass production.

Keywords: recycling, reclamation, new looks, upcycling waste

  1. Low Impact Living

Adopting a sustainable lifestyle within the home translates, first of all, into efforts to cut energy consumption. This is becomingly increasingly crucial at every stage of design, from construction to interiors.

This is where next generation smart technologies come in, enabling the energy efficiency of both domestic and office spaces to be monitored around the clock, and becoming an integral part of the domestic landscape.

Leaving a light footprint on the planet on which we live also means that, of the available resources, we should opt for renewable energies that do not affect the delicate natural balance. As has been the case for some time in the food world, designers have also been experimenting with the use of natural “non conventional” raw materials, appropriating the concept of foraging, or harvesting products spontaneously yielded up by land and sea.

Netatmo by Starck  

Country: France
Section: Tech/Energy

Netatmo, a French company specialising in smart systems for the home, has worked with designer Philippe Starck to produce intelligent radiator valves that cut up to 37% of domestic heating energy consumption. The valves allow the temperature to be controlled and the radiators turned on and off as desired, to suit the habits, the usage and the composition of the family nucleus, room by room, as well as remotely.

This means that the central heating in the various parts of the house can be set to come on only at peak times – the bathroom in the morning, say – avoiding needless waste. The valves are also fitted with sensors that can gauge precisely and in real time all contributory factors such as the weather, the home insulation, the number of people in a room and whether any appliances are being used – and regulate their use, by turning off the heating when an open window is detected, for instance. The extreme functional efficiency of the valves, combined with Starck’s intuitive and minimalist design makes them suitable for every sort and kind of interior. In the hands of the French designer, the valves become translucent Plexiglass cylinders complete with digital display, and can be customised with interchangeable basic colours, as desired. Just like their appearance, the way in which the valves are used can also be customised to the max. They can be programmed to suit people’s lifestyles and the level of comfort desired, creating ad hoc setups in combination with the other smart devices within the home. The valves can be voice-controlled through Siri or the Apple HomeKit as well as via a special smartphone app.

Keywords: smart home, optimisation, energy efficiency, customisation

Sea Me Collection
Country: Holland
Section: Furnishings

According to Dutch designer Nienke Hoogvliet, algae will increasingly become a feature of the interior design and architectural world. Aside from their beneficial effects on our bodies, seaweed is finding original application in the textile and construction fields and as an energy resource for buildings. Debate on their use in these fields is wide open.

After years of dedicated study, the designer has produced her first collection, which includes a seat, a side table and some bowls, which also serve as a demonstration of all the materials that can be derived from this particular raw material.

First and foremost is a textile fibre, from which the seat is made, created by extracting cellulose from kelp and working it by hand. The result is a viscose-like fabric, but softer to the touch. Nienke also used the seaweed to dye the fabric naturally, with different varieties creating different colours (from green and brown to grey, pink and purple).

The waste from this process is used to obtain the finish of the wooden top of the side table, another piece in the collection, using paint made from bladderwrack, a common seaweed in Holland. Bringing the optimisation process full circle, the residue from this latter procedure was used to make the bio-plastic bowls, proof of the enormous potential residing in this natural and renewable resource.

Keywords: foraging, experimentation, research, natural materials

LivingScapes are studies carried out by the Salone del Mobile.Milano Trend Lab – the new research laboratory and intelligence centre of the Salone del Mobile. Milano – to pick up on the leading trends evidenced at international level in the world of design, furnishing and home living.


The Salone del Mobile Trend Lab employs an ethnographic research methodology based on observations in the field, using a combination of field sources (a network of international researchers/anthropologists), desk and web sources to monitor socio- cultural changes and trends and the way in which these translate and take shape, and are evidenced in the domestic space.

It also employs a panel of Opinion Leaders, both national and international, selected ad hoc for their knowledge of the research subjects (design, architecture, interior design, interior architecture) and for their ability to take a crosscutting look at the themes of design and creativity.

The scope of observation includes all the leading international markets (Europe, Russia, USA and Asia) with a focus on “developing” countries such as China.