Why do I love working on zero-waste furniture? Because it involves use of a whole variety of common materials in inventive and often surprising way. It appears that if you just unlock your creativity — literally everything you usually throw away can be transformed into easthetic and functional fitting.
What goes around, comes around
Cardboard became my material of choice instantly while I started my recycling adventure back in 2011. When we entered the competition for faculty’s chill-out room furniture along with my friend, the first problem we had to solve was:
“We have little time and strong competition ahead of us. If we want to win this contest, we should come up with some material that will be flexible and easy to process, so we can quickly correct the mistakes and have full control over the furniture’s shape and functionality.”
With that precise description of our ideal material, the wish-granting Universe instantly brought us exactly what we needed. The faculty was just getting rid of some serious amount of grey 2mm thick cardboard. During architectural studies we often used this material to make dioramas, cheap miniatures of wooden constructional elements or as a backlayer for displaying our semestral projects.
Grey cardboard seemed like a natural choice for basis of our furniture — we figured out that ideally it should be related with our studies and faculty. Recycled material widely used by our fellow students earlier, transformed into their chill-out space?
That was such a great idea!
With having enough of basic material, we lacked only something colourful and soft to use as top layer of our chair/bench. Accordingly with zero-waste philosophy, we’ve decided to re-use anything we could find around. And we noticed an old foam mattress and red bedsheet that were severely damaged during one of our student parties — another great material related with our academic life.
That’s how we invented DEADLINE, won a competition, but most importantly: we discovered easy and effective technique for using the cardboard in making of easthetic, lightweight and surprisingly durable structures.
Surface into grid
The technique itself is very simple and can be used by anyone with even basic manual skills. Grids are made actually solely of properly cut stripes of cardboard. Stripes are later joined to create vertical framed truss structure. Joining is performed without use of glue or any other kind of binding material — all you need is a cardboard, a pencil, a ruler and a sharp knife.
This wonderful method utilizes rows of indents — simply cut out of cardboard’s surface, usually at length of half of planned structure’s height. Desired number of elements can be then conjoined by simple crossing the stripes at points of indents’ placement.
The effect is a quite durable structure (the more dense is layout of indents, the more durable it becomes), that can be used as a truss supporting surface of seats, chairs, sofas, and even small stairs or platforms.
Soon after I got a lot of cardboard boxes from recycling, I decided to make some new prototypes of fittings similar to DEADLINE seats. With bending the grids, reinforcing them with spans (also made of cardboard stripes), varying the length of elements, learning how the cardboard takes the load on — I made a prototype of unfolding movable cardboard seat, which I called Morphing Crystal.
I haven’t yet started mass production, as my prototype undertook some demanding ‘crash tests’. Testing showed that density of indents and specific methods of joining them were not able to fully support common usage of the furniture as seat or table — so it has to be re-done in a different manner.
Parallely, some other solutions appeared to work just right and allowed me to discover some new principles for making cardboard structures. Next prototype seat / table I’m about to make will be surely based on those principles. I’ll make my best to start its series production and share the method with the world.
Until then, let’s take a look at how Cardboard Grids performs as prototypes:
Soon, more about cardboard structures experiments and woodwork in entries about Creators’ Village.
If you like the method presented above, I encourage you to try it yourself. It’s really easy and effective way of recycling, available to just everyone. If you need any detailed instructions for making simple fitting out of cardboard — I’m about to prepare some hadbooks and share them quite soon.
So, stay tuned and remember to never stop discovering new things!