Cologne The furniture industry has discovered the topic of sustainability as a walk across the furniture fair imm Cologne shows.
When is a trend still a trend? In other words: Can we still talk about trendsetters when almost every furniture manufacturer uses the word "sustainability"? At least that's the case for the exhibitors at imm Cologne, the furnishing show that opened on Monday. "The careful use of resources is one of the trends," says Jan Kurth, Managing Director of the Association of the German Furniture Industry, during the press tour on Monday.
Wood is undoubtedly the trend at many manufacturers, and is often given a special presentation: whether untreated, roughly hewn and with a strong grain, whether processed into inlay surfaces using computer-controlled milling machines or dramatically highlighted by indirect light. A manufacturer from the Münsterland region decorates tables and tall cupboards with the bark of oak, which he places behind glass.
Sustainability should not remain merely lip service for many manufacturers. Some already want to become climate neutral. "We have photovoltaics on the entire site, and all rainwater is collected by us, enters the groundwater and is fed back into the system as drinking water," explains Bernhard Hartmann, owner of the traditional company of the same name. The company has also already had 7000 trees planted as compensation for the wood used in the furniture.
Even expensive design can be sold as sustainable
Another practical feature of the "sustainable" label is that it can also be used to sell high-priced design. "A product that you can keep for a lifetime is sustainable," explains Italian designer Luca Nicetto. His leather sofas are modular, can be adapted to different (seating) needs and have a side table and shelf integrated into the wooden platform on which the back cushions can be arranged in different ways.
Connected with the awareness that natural resources are finite is the turn towards outdoor living. "Outdoor has become very important," reports Sara Nosrati, Marketing Manager of the Italian company Cassina. Furniture for the patio or garden is not just weatherproof and functional, it's a design object in its own right, which, in terms of detailing, dimensions and demands for shapeliness, can hardly be distinguished from furniture for indoor use. Wickerwork made of polyrattan, thick upholstery, wood and plastic are elaborately processed together.
Mattresses made from recycled PET bottles
But not only wood is an ecological material. You can also sleep on PET bottles, because they are shreddable. The small shreds can be used to make polyester, which is then processed into mattresses. These in turn can be recycled. With these innovations, manufacturers are reacting to the EU regulation, which will require them to take back old mattresses from customers from next year. With six million sleeping pads sold each year in Germany alone, this is no small feat.
And somehow sleeping is also something sustainable, because it strengthens people's health and well-being. "Pillow Talks" take place every lunchtime at the trade fair, a round table discussion on the subject of sleeping.
The "Smart Village" is all about intelligent solutions designed to make everyday life easier. "Technology is no longer an end in itself here, but we are creating coherent living situations," explains project manager Christof Flötotto. For example, manufacturers are addressing the fact that many people are returning to the cities to live, but where living is so expensive solutions for small areas are needed. For example, you can see a work table connected to cables anchored to the ceiling. When friends come to visit for dinner, the table can be quickly pulled up to the ceiling.
A telescopic sauna fits everywhere
Another example: the telescopic sauna, which can be pushed together to a depth of 60 centimetres to disguise itself as a cupboard. There is also a shelf with five boards on which plates and cups are arranged. One model demonstrates how this can be folded out into a laid table in two easy steps. Space-saving and easy to install also are the roof tiles, each with a narrow solar panel. Each roof tile can produce ten watts of electricity.
"Sustainability touches every manufacturer here," says designer Kathrin de Lauw, who created a special show of German manufacturers and German design. It should also be a look into the future.
The imm Cologne will be open to the public from next Friday until Sunday.