Best Sustainable designers Showcased at Milan Design Week 2013


Milan Design Week showcases some of the world’s most innovative designers and this year, there have been some exciting new trends in furniture developing. To most people, furniture may epitomise the everyday and the ordinary. But to contemporary furniture designers, it is a chance to re-imagine the way we see our homes.

Sustainable design has played a big part at this year’s fair, with many designs exploring the nature of eco-friendly materials or experimenting with the idea of recycling and reusing.

The show ranges from the beautiful to the bizarre and the comical to the minimal. Through an exploration of material, colour, form and function, the designers take everyday objects and add their own twist, whilst still designing a functional piece of furniture. Here are some of the best sustainable designers from Milan Design Week 2013…

Gu Chair by Yuhang

Image by Inhabitat

Yuhang is a design collective based in China who apply traditional paper making techniques to furniture design. Their work is a fusion of craft and contemporary design, characterised by the blend of the minimalist wood with an organic paper shape.

At this year’s Milan Design Week, they unveiled their Gu Chair (pictured) which is constructed from bamboo paper pulp. As the design is from a fast growing, renewable source, the Gu Chair raises questions about the environmental impact of mass produced furniture.

In an age of mass-production there is a growing trend in ‘craft’ and the desire to reconnect with traditional production methods – I think the Gu chair does just that!

Rag Chair by Droog

Image by Inhabitat

 Continuing the environmental trend is this year’s offering from another Chinese design collective, Droog. The design embraces the three ‘R’s in sustainable design: Recycle, Reduce and Reuse.

The bound layers of rag are an interpretation on this idea. The design is notable in the way it transforms something as flimsy as a piece of rag into a sturdy, functional chair – and undoubtedly a comfortable one too, and practical design is always a plus in my book!

 Box-o-rama by Event Architecture

Image by Inhabitat

This funky Box-o-rama takes furniture design in a more modernist direction and represents a growing trend in geometry.

Event Architecture designs everything from large scale outdoor projects to furniture for the home. Their design style places emphasis on re-usability through the use of connecting panels, which can be taken apart and constructed into something else, like giant tetris.

As a result, the designs are flexible and sustainable, through their ability to adapt.

Geometric design can be quite cold or dry but Event Architecture’s offering contains lots of little design details that give this piece of furniture real character. The dynamic layout of the rectangles gives the impression that they are pushing up against each other and I love the contrasting detail that turns the spaces into frames, proudly displaying whatever you choose to store there.


Image by Inhabitat

Wireflow by Arik Levy

The beautiful lighting designs by Arik Levy are like 2D line drawings suspended in the air. Their design is simple and yet it’s startlingly effective. Composed of thin rods and wires, the 3D forms hold eco-friendly LED lights.

The structure is rigid and yet because the wires are so thin, it looks like it could almost unravel in the air, creating a very fluid, yet geometric, design. It’s like a sketchbook doodle that has jumped off the page and strung itself up to your ceiling!

This is an example of another geometric style, which has been given a personality through twisting the modernist style.


Image by Inhabitat

Table by Piet Hein Eek

Piet Hein Eek is Dutch furniture designer with an interest in materials above all else. His table design at Milan Design Week was a study into the material of wood; constructed from layers of scrap wood, the piece draws attention to the textures and colours that make up the timber.

The Dutch designer’s show displayed every chair he had ever made with the somewhat daring headline, “Most of the chairs on display didn’t become successful”. This statement works as a lesson in creativity, as well as insight into the importance Piet Hein Eek places on process.



Image by Inhabitat

Fish Restaurant by Droog

This is another offering from Droog, but a slightly more unusual design this time. Their eye-catching Fish Restaurant is a comical touch to the design show. However, it is intricate and very beautifully designed: the perfect addition to any fish bowl!

Droog have explored environmental issues in a number of their designs, but this approach is more light-hearted. The design cleverly contrasts our modern lifestyle with nature.   

Milan Design Week goes green…

This has been just a few of the highlights in sustainable design from this year’s show, but there is so much more to see. The 2013 Milan Design Week has been an exciting combination of craft, modernist, traditional and comical design; showcasing the creativity and imagination of the worlds’ most innovative designers.

Which sustainable designers caught your eye this year?


Estelle Page is an interior designer working with Oak furniture Superstore, who’s currently renovating the home she shares with her husband and two kids. She’s passionate about eco-friendly, sustainable design and loves that many new designers seem to be too!

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