Strong Material: Paper and Cardboard Furniture

The inflatable cushions of the inflatable

Almost everyone has already seen the traditional Japanese shoji sliding doors if only in a movie. The filigree paper walls which allow light to shine through are probably the most famous example of paper furniture. What many people do not realise, however, is that paper can be used for so much more: in addition to lighting, it also makes remarkably stable chairs, beds and sofas. Even better: paper furniture is totally on-trend especially when it comes to eco-friendly production out of recycled materials.

Contrary to what you might think, paper is an extremely robust and stable material. It can bear considerable weight when folded or stacked in layers. Beyond the ease of manufacturing, it also inexpensive and easy to carry. In fact, designers were experimenting with cardboard or paper in furniture production as early as the 1960s. It was none other than esteemed contemporary architect Frank O. Gehry whose „Wiggle“ chair design made of corrugated cardboard made waves at the time of its debut in 1972.

What even fewer people know is that ubiquitous woven furniture is made mostly of paper. The American Marshall Burns Lloyd designed wicker furniture in the early 20th century as an alternative to rattan furniture by combining paper and fine metal filaments into a solid strand. It gave birth to wicker furniture as we know it.

Nevertheless, paper furniture has and continues to serve a niche market albeit one which has gained more exposure and popularity in recent years. Cellulose furniture is on the rise. This may well have something to do with the material’s sustainability beyond reasons already mentioned. Nine times out of ten, paper furniture is easily recyclable.

Paper is a particularly perfect material for lighting because its filigree nature permeates light ever so nicely. Anyone thinking of the 08/15 paper balls available for purchase at a hardware store has yet to see the latest light sculptures made of paper. From romantic and playful to geometric and functional, there is a style for everyone.

As we mentioned, proper furniture is also made of paper and cardboard. The beds, tables and sofas achieve durability and stability most often by repeatedly folding the material. If completely painted or sealed, they can even be used in damp locations or outdoor areas. Because cardboard is so light, it lends itself to furniture which is easily transported. The Berlin-based start-up company ROOM IN A BOX has taken advantage of cardboard since 2013 for that very reason. Its business concept? The company sells a room with furniture made out of cardboard that all folds together and can be stored in a single box. The furniture is made of eighty percent post-consumer recycled paper and is itself one hundred percent recyclable.

Paper inspires do-it-yourself activities: surely you remember cardboard arts and crafts projects from kindergarten! The Internet is full of instructions and suggestions. Just one example: offers free patterns and folding instructions to make high chairs and stools. You can even make your own rocking chair! Here’s how: print the pattern, trace it on cardboard, cut it out and fold!


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