In a Copenhagen café, each of the 30-odd mismatched seats are made from Douglas fir offcuts supplied by Danish flooring company Dinesen. In the hands of 25 different designers, the leftover wood was transformed into an eclectic array of aesthetics, hinting at the wealth of possibilities in the use of reclaimed materials — as well as the scale of waste that would otherwise be produced. And while the pieces are one-offs, designers and manufacturers are gradually beginning to embrace remnant materials on a larger scale.
Below, we look at four products — from lighting and seating to kitchens — that bring new life to industrial off-cuts.
Launched in 1989, Belgian company Delta Light has emerged as an international leader in architectural lighting. Along the way, the sustainably-minded firm has reckoned with the realities of waste. In 2022, however, they partnered with Dutch designers MVRDV to re-imagine their remnant aluminum profiles as the focal point of a new collection. Dubbed High Profile, the sculptural lampshades transform leftover materials into surprising showpieces.
“The project started with the question of whether we could develop new possibilities with Delta Light’s waste material, instead of inventing a completely new product”, says MVRDV founding partner Jacob van Rijs. Aided by MVRDV’s “Profile Remixer” technology, the evolving collection harnesses a wealth of design possibilities, with vibrant colours to boot. What’s more, the luminaires can also be easily disassembled — and re-used again.
One of the challenges of using wood off-cuts is that the pieces tend to be small. For Montreal-based Kastella, however, this merely presented an opportunity to design smaller furniture. The aptly named Offcuts Collection of stools and step stools — both of which can double as seats — offers a versatile addition to the home, made with the same traditional woodworking techniques and standards that define the Kastella portfolio.
While The Offcuts are made with leftover wood, their quality is undiminished. “Our Offcuts are born from the same beautiful boards we use in our furniture production,” says designer and Kastella founder Jason Burhop. “Just as robust, resistant, and unique. We generate a significant quantity, and it has long been our mission to use these pieces in a meaningful way.”
Stacklab founder Jeff Forrest describes it as “designing in reverse.” Powered by a digital tool that assesses available inventory of excess warehoused materials — largely inexpensive offcuts — the Stackabl collection of seating and pendants allows buyers to customize their pieces, becoming co-designers in the process. Each piece is then assembled from approximately 100 layers of felt, with a few sheets of PET mixed in for rigidity. The results are playful, unique and unexpectedly elegant.
Launched as a seating collection in 2021, Stackabl expanded to offer pendants in 2022. Along the way, the ingenious collection also won an AZ Award in 2022. “The waste-to-wonders concept has resulted in an interesting product with endless combinations and possibilities,” said juror Róisín Lafferty.
Sydney-based design firm Second Edition are thinking bigger. Upcycled offcuts, reclaimed appliances and salvaged marble are combined to create an aesthetic marvel — the Offcut Kitchen. To create the striking prototype, segments of fibre-reinforced plastic grating were salvaged from a local staircase project that had specified a translucent green balustrade. Sourced within a 50-kilometre radius through a combination of local supplier waste, nearby demolition jobs and Facebook Marketplace, additional salvaged components guided the prototype’s eventual dimensions.
And while the concept has yet to be translated into a commercial context, the designers have posted an online manual complete with illustrated (and highly adaptable) assembly instructions. It’s inspiration for all of us to see what’s available nearby — and what we can do with it.
From lighting and seating to a striking kitchen prototype, these ingenious products leave nothing to waste.