The notion of the Circular Economy has been bubbling up through the sustainable design community recent years. Simply put, the term refers to an economic and production system aimed at the elimination of waste and the continual use and re-use of resources. The goal is to “close the loop” between the creation of new items and the “harvesting” of the items that are being replaced.
It’s a challenging design problem and one that – for sofas at least – the London Design Festival 2019 had two significant contenders.
The first came from the launch of the range from Henning Stummel whose studio in Hammersmith we visited earlier this year. His high-end, glue-and-screw free designs remain as fascinating as ever. It was great to see his range fleshed out and on the floor. Henning’s emphasis on zero waste production and high quality materials ensuring longevity made for a strong case. The ease of assembly is a handy bonus and without an Allen Key in sight!
But the real news in the quest to close the loop in the circular economy came from new brand Sofa for Life.
Like all great ideas, this team of Scots started with a surprisingly simple realisation:
All sofas end as waste.
Regardless of whether they’ve lasted five, ten or twenty years, every sofa will go from fresh to tired, then it will no longer be the right size or shape. If you’re lucky, you may be able to put it through a couple of re-uses yourself, but sooner or later it will be out on the curb. They’re typically made from unsustainable materials like fire-retardant foam and glue. They’re fixed and uncustomizable, so if needs change your sofa…can’t. And they’re often large, bulky, assembled and undisassemble-able, making them difficult to transport, wash or repair.
So Sofa Forlife have designed a chair system that is not only flat-packed for efficient shipping, and easy to assemble; but also one that is able to grow with you, from armchair all the way up to three-seater and L-shaped. And if you need to shrink it down again you can, and if it does reach the end of its life in the decades to come, the whole unit is 100% recyclable.
That’s pretty cool!
We believe furniture should be designed to last, and never end up in landfill.Saskia | Founder – Sofa for Life
The attention to detail and opportunity for enhanced sustainability throughout the design process is truly impressive. For the wood, Sofa Forlife have opted to use precision cut CDC birch plywood, which is sturdy and long-lasting, but also harvested from fast growth forests. The washable, replaceable covers are made from a composite of wool and flax, to be comfortable, colour-fast and naturally fire retardant. And the filling for the cushions use a coconut fibre base to maintain their shape while using Comforel for softness.
It’s a synthetic material made entirely from recycled plastic bottles.
This is no mere sop to pander to a sustainable trend; these are genuinely soft, supportive and comfortable cushions. Having seen and sat upon these cushions it’s safe to say that any furniture designer not using Comforel (or other recovered materials) as the filling for their cushions is irresponsible.
Our young start-up dreams of a world where waste is a concept of the past.Saskia | Founder – Sofa for Life
Meeting Saskia and the Sofa Forlife team was incredibly inspiring. For all the thought and ingenuity that is already on display in this range of products it’s surprising (and a little disappointing) that the range is not yet available! In fact, the Kickstarter for Sofa for Life is due to launch any day now. Sign-up to join their email list now and you can still be among the very first people to own the last sofa you may ever need.
All images in this post are courtesy of the Sofa Forlife team.