As we become more environmentally conscious and more creative at putting a wide range of materials to reuse, the trend of upcycling in interior design has also seen a rise over the past decade. Indeed, the United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly 75% of all waste that we produce can be recycled in one way or another. Rather than throwing materials out after a single-use, repurposing them for interiors not only gives items a second life but potentially lengthens their serviceable life so they do not end up in landfills as quickly as they might have otherwise. Here, we’ll take a look at how some materials are being innovatively reused, from restaurants to offices.

1. PIZZIKOTTO RESTAURANT- ANDREA LANGHI DESIGN

Perhaps it is not a revolutionary idea for glass bottles to be reused for lighting and light fixtures in today’s interiors. However, what about plastic bottles, and especially the large bottles used in water dispensers? The Pizzikotto restaurant designed by Andrea Langhi in Italy proves it is not afraid to take the leap and turn these large plastic bottles into clever and trendy light fixtures. Light bulbs placed in these transparent bottles illuminate the space in a soft, unobtrusive way, at the same time making a statement about the restaurant’s creativity and commitment to the environment. Langhialso displayed them in rows on racks suspended from the ceiling such that they become the main focus of the overall interior design scheme.

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Recycled bottles at Pizzikotto restaurant in Italy ©www.aeccafe.com

Known for its creative reuse of recycled materials, this restaurant also features a shipping container bathroom. To keep the look, original labels, numbers, and stickers on the containers are all retained on the outside while the inside gets renovated into a modern-looking bathroom. Innovative materials come together in the space to create a fun atmosphere and also add a signature style to the restaurant, making the dining experience for customers unique and memorable.

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Shipping Containers at Pizzikotto restaurant in Italy ©www.aeccafe.com

2. BON RESTAURANT – CORVIN CRISTIAN

Recycled wooden doors and windows especially of a vintage look are also being used innovatively to decorate interiors and walls. Here, in the Bon Restaurant in Bucharest, Romania, old, colorful doors and windows have been collected and displayed on the walls, and used as partitions between booths in some cases.

BON RESTAURANT – CORVIN CRISTIAN
Bon Restaurant in Bucharest ©www.we-heart.com

Most of the pieces are visibly worn and the paint has started to peel off in some of them, exposing the natural wood underneath. However, preserving this worn look is part of the design concept because each window and door has a history, and story that is written into it. Far from creating a disunited look, the many colors of the recycled pieces have been strategically designed to go with other elements in the restaurants, such as the floor tiles and booth seating. They also go well with the eclectic chairs, almost creating a three-dimensional collage effect with the various styles of furniture in the space.

3. PAPER TUBES IN ZOUK ARCHITECTS

Items as ubiquitous and simple as paper tubes can also be reused in unexpected and creative ways. When this Australian architecture firm, Zouk Architects, was moving to its new location, it did not simply toss the many paper tubes that have accumulated in the office over the years. Instead, they have been repurposed into tables, chairs, wall decorations, and storage at their new office, helping to minimize waste and environmental impact as well as saving cost.

PAPER TUBES IN ZOUK ARCHITECTS
Paper tubes in Zouk Architects ©www.zoukarchitects.com.au

4. BRANDBASE

Another innovative firm, BrandBase in Amsterdam, has put to use wooden shipping pallets to build work surfaces, desks, seating areas, and even stairs in its office. The advantages of using this material are immediately evident from the way the firm has stacked them in its open-plan workspace; they can create multilevel structures suitable for sitting, working, lying as well as walking on. For a creative advertising firm, the innovative use of such a material definitely helps to create a distinct image and brand identity that speaks of fun, willingness to test out new ideas, and a sense of adventure.

BRANDBASE
Wooden shipping pallets at Brandbase©divisare.com

5. ALTROCK BY ROBIN GRASBY

Apart from these lightweight materials, building and construction materials such as stone might also be reused innovatively. A British designer named Robin Grasby has dedicated himself to just this creative but difficult task of collecting and repurposing marble pieces and slabs that would have otherwise gone to waste. He sets these large marble chips into resin to create a product called Altrock, which looks like terrazzo only much trendier. So far, he has used this material in a series of furniture pieces, which received great reception among designers at the London Design Fair in 2019.

ALTROCK BY ROBIN GRASBY
Table made of Altrock by Robin Grasby©altrocksurfaces.com

Projects such as these prove that many materials do not have to be thrown away after merely a single-use, even if they were designed for that. Instead, there is much potential in these materials waiting to be uncovered through innovative thinking and repurposing. Hopefully, the many instances of creative reuse that we are already seeing within the interior design industry are only the beginning and will continue to grow and expand as both designers and clients become more eco-conscious and open to new ideas of innovative reuse.

Lisa He
Author

Lisa graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in interior design and a few internship experiences. She is currently completing her Master’s degree in art history and studying architectural renderings for her thesis. Her passion is thinking critically about everything architecture: from architectural movements to contemporary professional practices.

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