Sustainable office chair uses paper-like material made from wood by-products

Sustainable furniture and designs are thankfully becoming more common, but the “sustainable” label can actually be applied to different things. They can be made from recycled materials like metal or PCR plastics, or they can be made from new but biodegradable materials like wood, cork, and paper. While both kinds are good, they don’t always address the accumulating material waste that comes from the production of these objects, even the bits and pieces of wood that get left on the cutting room floor and then thrown out. Giving a new purpose to these by-products is another sustainable practice, one that is being applied to a beautifully minimalist office chair that’s made from dozens of sheets of paper.

Designer: Arper

Of course, it’s not literally made from paper, which would be too soft for a chair no matter how many sheets you stack, especially for a sleek and slender seat based on Arper’s iconic Catifa 53. Instead, it uses PaperShell from a Swedish startup of the same name, a material that almost poetically transforms paper, which comes from wood, back to a wood-like material that offers rigidity, stability, and, more importantly, beauty. In a nutshell, it uses both wood by-products like sawdust and chips as well as waste wood like fallen branches in forests to create a new paper-like material that can be used in place of wood, plastic, or fiber composites.

That’s the case with the Catifa Carta, which compresses dozens of these sheets into a composite that’s then bent and formed into an elegant chair with a gentle slope sitting on top of thin yet sturdy metal legs. Unlike its older sibling, this more sustainable version of the chair leaves the seat in its original, unpainted glory. That means you can see the natural imperfections of the PaperShell material, giving each chair a unique character. It’s pretty much the same as the highly prized grains in wood that give designs their natural charm.

What’s even more special about the chair is that even the end of its life has a story to tell. PaperShell can be recycled to produce new and different products, but it can also be turned into biochar to nourish the Earth. The material itself sequesters carbon dioxide which can be used to enrich soil. It’s a truly circular life cycle that starts and ends with the Earth. Appropriately, Arper has made the Catifa Carta easy to disassemble to make this process even easier.

Of course, the chair isn’t just a thing of beauty inside and out, it’s also a functional piece of furniture. Though some might have concerns about the ergonomics of using such a chair for long periods at work, it’s still a well-designed seat that makes you feel good not only about sitting on it but also about the exciting journey that this wood-like material has made since its birth from a seed.