Materials, Makers, and Maison & Objet: 10 Eco-Centric Objects and Interiors


I'm constantly delving deeper into the world of materials and makers in search of those who balance great design with purposeful practices, supporting our own commitment to ever-more sustainable product specification.

So, last week, I nipped over to Paris to visit the internationally-acclaimed design trade show, Maison et Objet, to seek out the clever brands championing a better future for us all through materials, processes or business models, or simply through enhancing our everyday experiences by putting nature at the heart.

Here are ten of my favourites:

1. Molo


I've always been a BIG fan of Molo Studio's inventive paper partition and furniture concept, Softwall. A modular system, it ticks every forward-thinking box: functionally it forms versatile room dividers, tables and stools for ongoing space reconfiguration. Sensorially, it has acoustic and sculptural qualities that enhance the experience and aesthetic of the space. The paper is totally natural, finished with non-toxic treatments and natural dyes - it is fully recyclable and environmentally sound, all the way down to the magnet connectors. And it folds down to a fraction of its size for transport, minimising excess logistical impact. It has so many possibilities, designed with sustainability at the absolute core, and is so clever, in fact, that it is on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Art.

2. Ay illuminate


Holland-based design company, Ay illuminate, celebrates localised craft and culture by working closely with artisan makers across Asia and Africa. Their love for teaming traditional craft skills with natural and waste materials has resulted in a stunning lighting collection - using paper, rattan, bamboo, sisal, cotton and handspun silks - that often have a weightless and ethereal appearance, each with an organic individuality that perfectly evokes the myriad of individual artisans and stories behind them.

3. Veritable


This smart planting system is designed for growing herbs, flowers and vegetables in the kitchen, and combines lighting with irrigation and nutrients to create the ideal conditions for each plant - one of the range can even adapt its lighting intensity to its surroundings. A selection of pre-sown plant refills - choosing from Aromatic Herbs, such as lemon balm and cinnamon basil; Mini Vegetables, such as mini bell peppers and cherry tomatoes; and Edible Flowers, such as pansies and courgette flowers - can be ordered periodically and popped into the unit. An innovative and stylish design for biophilic cooking and living from Lyon-based start-upVeritable.

4. Urban Nature Culture


Amsterdam's Urban Nature Culture is a passionately forward-thinking brand, forging ahead in homewares with a vast range of products in ever-more eco-friendly materials from across the world. Reaching out to makers from diverse cultures exploring traditional and new techniques, the growing roster of natural materials includes corn leaves, coconut, lemon tree wood, bamboo and banana leaves, all taking shape to create tableware and textiles with a hint of Dutch design style.

5. Fuga


This beautiful, all-natural woodcraft comes from Russia and demonstrates wonderfully tactile design details and a wholly environmental ethos. Handcrafting using age-old Northern techniques, Fuga embraces oak as its main material, celebrating its naturally healing and antibacterial properties and its widespread association with strength and solidity. And, on top of all of that good stuff, I really love the little feet.

6. Rina Menardi


Striking in its simplicity, Italian ceramicist Rina Menardi emulates the tactile and serene qualities of shapes found in nature. All her objects are hand-made from baked clay, and her simple stoneware forms allow time for creative expression and individual characteristics in experimental and often bold colour combinations. The undulating lines and curves are peaceful and slightly hypnotic, evoking changing landscapes.

7. Po! Paris


This lighting range from Po! Paris is a collaboration of Parisian design and Albanian craftspeople, as part of the brand's sustainable development values in supporting and cultivating micro-enterprises, championing the handicraft and upcycling ingenuity of lands with limited resources. These gorgeous, quirky felt lamps are part of a striking collection of lighting, furniture and textiles - full of fun, inspired by the traditional felt hats worn in rural Albania. Crafted from their native supply of sheep's wool, the local makers undertake a long felting process using traditional methods and moulds, before the final stage of wiring takes place in Paris.

8. Bacsac


Bacsac's philosophy is 'nature in the city', and its vibrant selection of portable planters has breathed life into cityscapes everywhere, from rooftops and terraces to lobbys and schoolyards. Available in assorted sizes, the planters are 100% recyclable; fold flat for ease of transport and storage; and are designed to create a protective space for the plants to thrive both indoors and outdoors as they reshape and refresh urban spaces across the globe.

9. Best Before


The materials in play from Paris studio Best Before are truly intriguing, from salt rock bowls and plant frond lights to recycled paper macrame baskets - all sourced sustainably and renewably from local craftspeople across the world. The designers behind Best Before take time to discover and develop the people, skills and stories behind the techniques - whether in Brazil, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, or closer to home in France - and in doing so have gathered an on-point and storyful collection that supports communities and their environments.

10. Q de Bouteilles


Sustainable thinking in its simplest form, these pleasingly straightforward wine bottles create vases, tumblers and aromatic candles which recall the joys of the shared stories and experiences they invoke: 'What is a wine bottle, if not a precious memory of a moment of sharing, friendship, party, debate, love?', ponder the entrepreneurs behind Q de Bouteilles, who partner with restaurants and glass craftspeople across France to collect and rework the discarded bottles, giving them a new purpose, and inviting new experiences. Beauty in simplicity.

Carra Santos