To help reinvent the material, Lina Chi, a graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven, has created a collection of curvy furniture pieces made from single sheets of linoleum.
The collection, called Linoleum, includes a bench, a low table and two stools designed to demonstrate how linoleum, typically used as flooring, can be used to create furniture.
Linoleum is a biodegradable material made by mixing biomaterials such as cork, wood dust and limestone with linseed oil and applying it to a jute fabric backing.
According to Chi, the biomaterial is often misinterpreted as being made of plastic, possibly due to PVC surfaces with a similar appearance.
The Linoleum furniture collection aims to preserve a sense of familiarity with the material while showing how linoleum can be reinterpreted in different ways.
“It’s a rebrand because it’s an existing material and I wanted to show it in a new light, but for me it’s also a legacy, something we had back in the 1970s,” Chi told Dezeen. “If we use it again today in 2022, what does that look like?”
“It’s been around me forever in schools, hospitals, kitchens, and these were very strong memories because of their visual qualities, as well as their scent and touch,” the designer continued.
“So specific to a period that it was perfect material for me to bring contemporary questions to an already existing material.”
Chi teamed up with British flooring manufacturer Forbo to test how linoleum samples could be bent and curled into sculptural shapes by hand.
Linoleum as an interior surface coating material is resistant to water and fire. According to the designer, the main challenge in using the material for furniture was making it strong enough to support a person’s body weight.
Chi was inspired by how cardboard was made stronger by adding a corrugated layer between two sheets of paper to make the cardboard stronger.
Linoleum furniture is made without the need for adhesives or permanent bonding. Chi created a corrugated structural shape by hand-bending a single sheet of linoleum in a heated room, with sculptural curving ornaments that hardened in place when cooled.
“I noticed that the tighter I made the linoleum wave, the stronger it got, and the interesting thing is that the linoleum changed with my body temperature, but also with the temperature of the room,” said the designer.
Chi hopes the furniture collection will encourage others to experiment with available materials in unconventional ways and to use them in combination with other materials that complement the linoleum’s properties.
“I would love it if it reshaped our home space once again, but with new materials,” the designer said.
Other designers have developed furniture made from biomaterials to offer more sustainable options, including children’s stools made from waste olive pits and restaurant furniture made from food waste.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Collins.