The footprint of a piece of furniture or a decorative object depends largely on the materials chosen. From the origin of the material to the way it is treated at the end of its life, each step necessary to obtain, use and recycle a material implies a very specific footprint. Some materials are simply incompatible with sustainable interior design. We propose here a description of the main materials retained at this stage.
Wood is an incredible material. It is the natural and renewable material par excellence. A piece of furniture made of solid wood has a rich color and appearance that evolves over time.
We use the most local wood species possible or reused wood. In practice, the beech, oak or ash come from Belgium or neighboring countries, always from managed forests (FSC or PEFC certification).
We manufacture and use natural finishes to protect and enhance the wood. These finishes are based on assemblies of linseed oil, beeswax and rosin. In all cases, we exclude the use of heavy metals to accelerate the drying of our finishes (0% lead or cobalt).
Solid beech laminated panel (wood from the Soignes forest, Brussels)
Beech is a hard, tightly grained, orange-brown wood.
Historically, it is the preferred wood species in furniture, for its durability and ease of working. It can be a bit complex to work with because it is sensitive to changes in humidity. Thin planks can warp during the shaping process in the workshop.
We particularly like this local species for its patterns, which are particularly rich on faux-quarter and natural finish. Beech is a species that is particularly sensitive to climate change.
Oak is a yellow-brown wood, generally lighter than beech after finishing. It is a tannic, coarse-grained wood. Like beech, oak has a rich history. It is an ancient and modern species that can be found in both classic and contemporary furniture.
There are in fact different types of oaks in Europe(sessile oak, pedunculate oak). Its distribution varies according to the climate and crops. Like the beech, the oak is also strongly impacted by climate change.
Depending on the period and the project, we can obtain other local species in small quantities. These species include hazelnut, chestnut, maple, walnut or ash. These materials are rather reserved for unique and custom-made creations.
Re-used fir or pine can also be considered.
Paper and cardboard
Paper and cardboard constitute a significant volume of waste(750,000 tons in Belgium, in 2020, source statbel.gouv). This material is therefore very interesting in a perspective of re-use, that is to say a direct use of the waste without going through a large-scale recycling. Focusing on this waste is very relevant when we know that the carbon footprint of new paper is similar to that of recycled paper - its recycling requires indeed a lot of energy.
Waste paper can be easily reworked by passing through pulp which is then molded and pressed. This pulp can be added with different natural additives (starches, salts, clays, pigments) to change its strength and final properties.
The use of waste paper and cardboard is the object of a permanent research within our studio. We question in particular its use as construction material, for example to form panels.
Plastics (or polymers)
There are a large number of plastics. Each has different properties and applications. For example, PET is rather heat resistant, while PC (polycarbonate) is very wear resistant.
All the plastics we use are recycled (and recyclable) or of renewable origin.
All the plastics we use come from Europe, mainly the Benelux countries.
Polylactic acid (PLA)
A polymer (or "plastic") derived from corn starch, sugar cane or sugar beet. It is therefore a plastic from a renewable source.
This plastic is biodegradable under certain conditions. Specifically, PLA can completely degrade under industrial composting conditions. We integrate it in some of our creations, in particular to study its use in furniture to replace plastics with a larger footprint.
The question of competition with human culture is important. For more information, read more on the European Bioplastics website.
The PLA we use is processed by manufacturers based in France and the Benelux countries. The raw material (pellets) comes from the United States of America.
Although the PLA used in our workshop is compatible with food contact, it is still not recommended to place it in contact with food, especially liquid food, which could stain and degrade the material.
It is a hard and resistant material - note that a direct impact could however damage this plastic. PLA is not dishwasher safe.
Polyethylene terephtalate (PETG, recycled)
It is the polymer typically used in the manufacture of water bottles. It is a plastic just like PLA.
The PETG used in our projects is recycled and comes from a partner who only recycles raw material of controlled origin.
Using this recycled material in our manufacturing process reduces our environmental impact and is part of a truly sustainable consumption.
It is a less rigid material than PLA, but it is also resistant. It is also more shock resistant and can come into contact with liquids - surfaces can be washed with a sponge for example.
PETG cannot be put in the dishwasher.
Other recycled plastics can be used, especially in the form of molded panels. We obtain these panels from workshops and companies located in Europe, mainly in the Netherlands. Small-scale molding of household (post-consumer) or industrial waste is a low-tech technique promoted by the Precious plastics movement.
Our Forest coffee table, for example, reuses several kilos of polycarbonate in its top. This small-scale recycling opens up new possibilities for a more circular world. This approach also traps plastic in uses that (potentially) extend the life of this useful material by decades.