Furniture made from fungus could offer a novel alternative to conventional manufacture and the waste associated with mass production, say its creators. Matthew Stock reports.
Forget DIY flat-pack furniture - this lamp has been grown from fungus. Designers in London have grown several pieces of fungus furniture; all lightweight, strong, and completely compostable. Taking the thread-like, vegetative part of fungus, called mycelium; they then mix it with waste woodchips. SOUNDBITE (English) SEBASTIAN COX, FURNITURE DESIGNER AND MAKER, SAYING: "And then, over time, that spreads throughout the wood and you have what we call 'myceliated' wood. At that point we then take it, tear it apart, put it into a mould and then it re-grows within that mould, into the shape that we want it." After experimenting with different woods, they found the mycelium grew particularly well in woodchip from hazel and goat willow. .. two British wood species largely without economic value and often considered waste. Once packed into moulds, all you have to do it wait for the fungus to take shape. The designer then decides when to halt the growth. SOUNDBITE (English) NINELA IVANOVA (PRON. NIN-ELLA), DESIGNER, HOLDING STOOL MADE WITH FUNGUS, SAYING: "As designers we can control the process. By understanding how the fungus behaves we can decide when we want to terminate the process and preserve the shape and the textures as they are. At that point we then dry the piece and it's ready." So far they've grown fungus lamps and stools, but believe the eco-friendly process could be scaled up. Convincing people to have fungus furniture in their homes, though, is still a challenge to overcome. SOUNDBITE (English) SEBASTIAN COX, FURNITURE DESIGNER AND MAKER, SAYING: "We really want to encourage people to think of this as a material that you'd be happy to have in your home, and explain to people that it's perfectly safe and it's not gross; it's actually really beautiful. It feels soft and lovely, it's got all of the really appealing properties of things like velvet or leather." The first batch of their fungus furniture is on display this week as part of the London Design Festival.