(By Kim Cook, AP)

With an eye toward sustainability, makers of home furnishings are experimenting more and more with plant-based materials…

You can find things like bark, leaves and seeds transformed into vegan leather, fabric and organic plastic.

At Frankfurt's Heimtextil 2020 trade fair earlier this year, for example, there were lots of examples. Swiss company Qwstion showed its Bananatex, a sturdy, waterproof yet biodegradable cloth woven from Philippine abaca banana-plant fibre. It's being used to make totes and bags.

Seaweed rugs

Dutch designer Nienke Hoogvliet weaves seaweed into rugs, chairs and tables in her Sea Me Collection. She also dyes organic linen using herbs like rosemary, sage and chamomile.

WOW! Seaweed rugs & pineapple leaf

This undated photo shows one of the rugs which Dutch designer Nienke Hoogvliet weaves abundantly-available seaweed into rugs, chairs and tables in her Sea Me Collection. Many manufacturers of home decor are working on producing sustainable products. Plant-based materials now include things like bark, leaves and seeds transformed into vegan leather, fabric and organic plastic. (Nienke Hoogvliet via AP)

 

Various design studios are developing bio-laminates, laminated materials composed of plant starch and fibres that can be made into tabletops and other furniture.

East African mutuba fig bark, a fleecy material used by Ugandan craftspeople for generations, is sustainably harvested and processed by Barktex into a pliable, leather-like material that can be used to dress walls and furniture.

Nettles turned into linen-like fabric

Another African company, Green-Nettle Textile in Kenya, harvests the nettles that grow on the country's steep hillsides. Besides being transformable into a linen-like fabric, the drought-tolerant nettle crops help curb soil erosion in areas not suitable for agriculture.

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Latvian-born designer Sarmite Polakova turned her studies in material research at Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands into the development of a leather-like material harvested from fresh tree bark. She doesn't use live trees, but gets the bark from harvested timber. Called PineSkins, the textured strips are woven into objects like baskets and mats.

"This project gives the bark new purpose," she says. "It becomes a living extension of the tree long after the wood has been cut in pieces."

Pineapple leaves into a wool-like fabric

In London, designer Nathalie Spencer gathers pineapple leaves discarded by juice bars and produce markets and spins the silky fibres into a fine, wool-like fabric.


 

In Mexico, designer Fernando Laposse has partnered with CIMMYT, a non-profit agricultural research and training organization focused on corn and wheat crops. He has worked with a village of Mixtec farmers and herders to transform waste from these plants into furniture. The corn's kernels and husks come in hues of cream, deep red, pink, black and purple.

"What my project tries to do is visualize the diversity of corn that we have in my home country," says Laposse.

He has contracted with local women to prepare and trim the husks into a veneer-like marquetry material for his pieces, which include tables, wall panels and accessories. The husks are flattened and backed with paper pulp before being cut into shapes.

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Super happy to present a new table of naturally colourful Tototmoxtle! The pattern is all hand cut heirloom Mexican corn husk marquetry laminated on recycled aluminium. This piece is a commission for a very special exhibition : Design Transfigured, Waste Reimagined @delacruzartgu curated by @curatorsquared and set design by @dutch_invertuals photo by yours truly. Show is open to the public until 2020 so make sure to check it out if you are in Washington. Big thanks to marquetry specialist @adeline.cab for all her hard work helping me make this. . . . . . . . . . . #handmade #naturalmaterials #nowaste #marquetry #totomoxtle #cornhuskmarquetry #naturalfibers #organicfarming #collectibledesign #mexicandesign #designermaker #ecofriendly #plantbased #naturalcolor

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Corn kernels repurposed into vegan plastic

Corn kernels are being processed in the United States by San Francisco-based Gantri into a biodegradable thermoplastic fibre called PLA that can be formed into a sturdy vegan plastic. Gantri's founder Ian Yang says the material can be treated in different ways to be translucent or opaque, and is being used to make contemporary wall, floor and table fixtures.

WOW! Seaweed rugs & pineapple leaf

This undated photo provided by Gantri shows one of their lamps made from PLA, a product the San Francisco-based Gantri makes which processes corn kernels into a biodegradable thermoplastic fiber that can then be formed into a sturdy vegan plastic. The material can be treated in different ways, so it's translucent or opaque; Gantri is currently making contemporary wall, floor and table fixtures, like the light shown here. Many manufacturers of home decor are working on producing sustainable products. Plant-based materials now include things like bark, leaves and seeds transformed into vegan leather, fabric and organic plastic. (Gantri via AP)

 

During Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven last fall, set designer Pascal Leboucq collaborated with Krown Design studio on a temporary pavilion made of timber, mycelium fibre and cattails.

In southeast London, Sebastian Cox has worked with design researcher Ninela Ivanova on light fixtures made of mycelium, or mushroom fibre. The material is blended with wood fibres to create textural pieces. Also in London, studio Nir Meiri is making rustically elegant lampshades out of both mycelium and red cabbage leaves.

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On Friday at 5pm I’ll be talking at @brompton_design_district as part of their #BROMPTONTALKS programme. Of course it’ll be themed around sustainability, ⁠the topic is NATURE/NURTURE: IS VEGAN DESIGN THE FUTURE?⁠⠀⁣ ⁣ It should be a good discussion! Come down, it’s free. Brompton has loads of other interesting things happening too. It’s also in a pub so there will be beer. Oh and the picture above is of our mycelium lights which are accidentally vegan - grown from fungus and wood chip. ⁣ ⁣ Here’s what Brompton say: @sebastiancoxltd, @maxfraserdesign Dr. Carmen Hijosa, inventor of @pinatex, discuss whether going vegan should be design’s sustainability priority, chaired by @ria.hawthorn⁠ of @janewithers.london⁠⠀⁣ ⁠⁣ 🎟️*FREE* to attend, but booking is recommended; link in @brompton_design_district’s biog. ⁠⠀⁣ ⁣ 📆 Fri 20 Sept, 17.00 - 18:00⁠⠀⁣ 📍279 - 283 Brompton Road, SW3 2DY⁠⠀⁣ ⁣ #bdd19 #bdd2019 #ldf19 #ldf2019 #bromptondesigndistrict #bromptontalks #natureknowsbest #naturenurture #naturewatch #circulardesign #sustainability #climatechangeisreal #reusereducerecycle #tacklingpollution #veganism #isthefuturevegan #veganliving #vegandesign⁠

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Got Tencel bedding at home?

You're actually sleeping on a material made of eucalyptus fibres. The material is being used in bedding because it is soft, wrinkle-resistant and has temperature-moderating properties. (See PB Teen's Amelia pintucked duvet cover set.)

WOW! Seaweed rugs & pineapple leaf

This undated photo shows Pottery Barn Teen's Amelia bedding collection, made of Tencel, a soft, wrinkle-resistant material made of eucalyptus fibers. Many manufacturers of home decor are working on producing sustainable products. Plant-based materials now include things like bark, leaves and seeds transformed into vegan leather, fabric and organic plastic. (Pottery Barn Teen via AP)

 

Hemp is another popular fibre in the textile market. Although not as soft as cotton, hemp is durable, and its production involves about half the amount of water as cotton's. Like linen, continued washing will soften the material over time. West Elm recently launched a hemp bedding collection that's gently tinged with natural plant dyes.

Take a look at some other images from the exhibition below:

WOW! Seaweed rugs & pineapple leaf

Heimtextil 2020/\r\n/Presserundgang/\r\n/Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Jochen Günther
WOW! Seaweed rugs & pineapple leaf

Heimtextil 2020/\r\n/Presserundgang/\r\n/Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Jochen Günther
WOW! Seaweed rugs & pineapple leaf

Heimtextil 2020
WOW! Seaweed rugs & pineapple leaf

Heimtextil 2020/\r\n/Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Jochen Günther