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New-age materials find their way home

You don’t have to look into outer space to see how technology is changing our world. The proof is finding its way right into our homes. Last month, a UK-based paint manufacturer launched the first graphene paint. Graphene is hailed as the strongest element in the natural world and the paint is supposed to be the most eco-friendly material, according to experts. This is one of the many unthinkable materials that could find its way into your apartment in the immediate future.

Recently, a design exhibition in Milan had a team of designers presenting furniture made entirely out of up-cycled, discarded textiles. In Spain, manufacturers have patented a material made by grinding walnut and almond shells into a paste and then mixing it with resin. The material is used to mould chairs. With consumers moving towards more environmentally-sensitive options — clean or recycled materials seem to be the new urban chic.

Now, the question is how do you make that coffee table a conversation starter?

Don’t restrict yourself

Design experts have always maintained that a mix of materials and textures add flavour to home décor. Take the conversation between soft feathers on a cold, concrete wall or the dialogue between steel on wood, for example. Add to that our constant endeavour to bring outdoor elements into the home with stone-finish tiles or teakwood floorings.

But times are changing. Wood, the mainstay of all furniture choices of the past, is slowly being nudged into a corner by more ecologically viable options like hemp, cardboard, paper, cork and bamboo. It’s easy to see how this works because they all have organic or eco-friendly sources. But we’re still cutting trees to obtain these materials, you may argue. That, however, may not be entirely true. Take the case of particle board, which is the surest sign of how a recycled material can do the same job as plywood. Particle board is made of chips of wood, sawdust, sawmill shavings and held together with resin. In the same vein, it is easy to imagine papier-mâché perform the same task.

Make a statement

While the idea that your table could be made from the same material as the milk carton sitting on top of it may seem bizarre, but think about the statement it can make if you do design it well enough. It’ll ooze personality and charm.

You may argue that no other material can exhibit the tenacity of wood. While there may be truth in that, with continued advancements in technology, material scientists and designers are constantly reinventing materials and finding ways to re-use other materials in a way that can mimic the properties of wood.

Funky but functional

Using new material isn’t just vanity or novelty; they’re also lighter which means they’re more portable and mobile. That’s a big plus-point for the modern-day, global consumer. It also allows you to make changes to your décor far more quickly and give your home a chance to evolve with you.

Reinventing your décor, adding pieces of art from your last trip abroad or starting over afresh after a new member joins the family are a few of the many reasons why you might want to overlook the fact that these new materials may not last a lifetime.

For purists, it’s important to note than the new isn’t dislodging the old, traditional materials in furniture building. Take the example of cane and bamboo which has been a part of Indian homes for decades. There were other benefits that it provided before we began the clean, green conversation as well. Bamboo is one of the strongest yet one of the most flexible material known to furniture makers.

The idea of the old-new furniture revolution is not to turn your world upside down; it’s simply a reinvention of ideas, seeing old materials being used in newer ways.

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