This year the New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF) made a special attempt to recognize sustainable design. A special exhibit titled SustainAbility: design for a better world, highlighted products from companies whose creations or production processes are eco-friendly and those whose business practices are socially-responsible, philanthropic or fair trade oriented. Inhabitat maneuvered between the 2,800+ companies to identify sustainable products worth note. Here, we bring you our favorite designs made from wood or other natural, sustainable materials.
One company of note at the New York International Gift Fair, Colors Tokyo operated by MSY Inc., blends traditional craftsmanship with natural materials to create unique designs. A series of bamboo, redwood, and zebra wood iPhone cases are sure to be a sustainable product in high demand when they hit the U.S. market at the end of March. They are hand carved by a Japanese sculptor from Takayama, Gifu and offer a modern twist on traditional craft. The company also featured a collection of Earth Blocks that combine biomass resources. Customers can choose from interlocking blocks made from 60% green tea chaff, wood scraps, or coffee bean chaff, with each set featuring a unique natural scent that reflects the block’s composition. They come in a variety of sizes, the smallest of which provides a natural alternative to the Lego and the largest which could serve as table legs.
Just as we finished at the MSY booth, a snap caught our attention. Snappy Tables by Dean Robinson are a great option for urbanites who suffer from a lack of storage space. The small tables can serve as extra surface space when hosting guests or as side tables. They are strong enough to stand on (as Robinson demonstrated on site), yet easily fold in half and can be hung on the wall when not in use. Made from bamboo and other woods, Robinson makes them by hand in his Rhode Island studio. They retail at about $200-280 depending on the wood, graphic design option and table size.
On a smaller scale, a set of fun, quirky trees and animals made from sustainable birch plywood offer a fun twist on the traditional greeting card (pictured in the lead image). Designed by Anne Paso of Lovi, the Finish company partners with Finn Church Aid to plant trees in developing countries that go beyond replenishing the wood used in each design. For instance, for every small tree model sold, one tree is planted and a purchase of the biggest tree design plants five trees in return. The smallest lightweight design comes flat and easily fits in an envelope. No tools required, recipients can assemble the final pre-cut wood design into a 3D object and enjoy the fruit of their labor knowing trees were planted in return.
Another project that gives back, Bow Bins by Cordula Kehrer for Brooklyn-based Areaware, combines traditional Philippine basket making with modern, conventional objects. Designer Cordula Kehrer is fascinated by practical yet unfashionable objects such as laundry racks and waste bins, and for this collection, worked with Preda, a fair trade NGO, to make a difference. Made in collaboration with the Aeta people, indigenous inhabitants of the Philippines, typical household products are re-invented through basket weaving that uses sustainably harvested rattan. The final design offers a humorous take on otherwise overlooked objects.
Finally, we decided to check in on our much loved friends at Wood Thumb. Co-founders and brothers, David and Chris, were on hand to fill us in on their newest developments. After a rush of Christmas orders, the two have finally had a chance to catch their breath and unveil their latest designs: a snazzy bow tie and a striped tie made from redwood and pine. The two continue laboring in their San Francisco studio as they expand on their collection that makes use of reclaimed lumber from barns and houses that would otherwise go to waste.
Stay tuned for more NYIGF coverage with forthcoming articles about designs using recycled or repurposed materials and a special focus on a few local New York based designers that we found at the show!
All images © Amanda Silvana Coen for Inhabitat