When it comes to upcycled chairs, it seems the humble seat can surprise, delight and be made from just about anything. If you’re sitting comfortably, read on to see some of the wildest chairs imaginable, functional art pieces, all made from repurposed materials. Pictured above – Nickel Couch by Johnny Swing made from welded nickels.
Upcycled radiator chair
Swiss designer Boris Dennler has worked with recycled materials in his work for over 10 years. His Radiator Chairs made from hand bent radiators have become iconic pieces of upcycled furniture with each one signed and numbered by the designer.
Reupholstery with leather scraps
Pepe Heykoop is the Dutch designer behind the Skin Collection. In response to the fact that 25-30% of leather is wasted in the furniture industry, he covers old furniture in stitched together scraps of leather leftovers. The result is a beautiful collection of sculptural works that boast a unique textural effect, designed to resemble cell structures and growth in nature. Photos by Annemarijne Bax
Fishing rope chair
Swedish designer Hampus Penttinen has made a chair from woven flotsam rope. In response to the global problem of polypropene trawling nets and cut off anchor cables that get washed up on to the coast, Svartskär is made from a grafting technique usually used for covering fragile decorative objects. The rope used comes from the shores of Kosterhavet, Sweden’s only marine national park.
Shredded is a range of furniture made from shredded Elle Decor magazines by Belgian designer Jens Praet. With the help of clear resin and moulds, the finished material not only boasts an attractive and unique colour and pattern, but a hardness and durability similar to wood.
Recycled plastic carrier bag chair
Award-winning South African designer Ryan Frank, calls his work Free Range Furniture and focuses on using sustainable materials and recycled objects. Upcycled gems include this limited edition Inkuku chair, made entirely of plastic carrier bags. The project was inspired by South African townships where the same wrapping technique is used to create handcrafted chicken ornaments.
Upcycled money upholstery
The idea of upcycled money may seem paradoxical, but Angela Mathis isn’t the first to make art out of cold hard cash in order to play with our perception of value (see Justine Smith). The Swiss-born artist takes the reuse of currency to new heights with her graduation project Value.
Value is a range of stools with seats made from a new textile formed of shredded notes. Each design comprises a different combination of currencies, making the most of the purple hues of the English pounds or brown Indonesian rupees.
The average life of a note is scarcely 18 months before it is de-commissioned and burned. Without its value ‘any paper bill is worth nothing more than its material composition; a mix of cotton and linen,’ explains Mathis.
Inner tube and upholstery fabric
The Drops chair by Norwegian designer Camilla Aspeli is made from inner tube covered with strips of recycled upholstery material. The ring can be tilted into the desired position of the user and can also be removed from the frame to be used as a pouffe.
Upcycled spray can armchair
First exhibited at Milan Design Week 2011, Sparvar is a spray paint can armchair and pouf, designed by Luigi Semerano. It’s made of over 200 empty cans of spray paint used by street artists. The cans are supported either side by two painted wood panels.
Repurposed coin seating
If we can raise the ‘value’ of materials by reappropriating them for upcycled chairs, this is certainly explored in Johnny Swing‘s Coin Furniture collection, which blurs the lines between art and furniture design. He welds together coins to create seating in beautiful organic shapes. The sofa above is called All the Kings Men and is made from welded JFK half-dollars and stainless steel.
‘I have made objects of refulgence, with money–the material that makes the world go round. These, flat hard shiny coins in a circular format, which have been touched, hoarded, travelled, and traded for goods and services are now released from their original burden. Assembled together to form the furniture they become part of the play in swirls, lines and patterns.’
Foam mat stools
Zieharsofika (2013) by Meike Harde demonstrates a unique approach to upholstery which involves the repurposing of conventional rubber foam mats. The mats are transformed with elastic bands, giving the seat a comfortable cushion texture and striking ornamental form.
Upcycled aircraft parts
Plane Industries create unique furniture from upcycled aeroplane parts. The luxurious 737 Cowling Chair is made from a Boeing 737 engine cowling and even spins around on its aluminium base.
Armchair made from recycled piano keys
For furniture that certainly goes against the grain, check out US design company BRC Designs, headed by Benjamin Rollins Caldwell. With pieces made from playing cards, photographic slides, books and as illustrated in the Korobeiniki Chair above, old piano keys, his stuff really is out of this world.
Repurposed plush toys
Upcycled chairs are statement pieces and the iconic stuffed animal chairs by Campana Brothers is not for the faint hearted. Cake Stool, like all their cuddly toy chairs, re-contextualises an overlooked, mass-produced object whilst playfully referencing the ‘luxury’ that gets associated with animal fur. Surreal, fun or disturbing? Well it does look quite comfortable.
Shanghai-based designer Nicole Teng is the founder of Brut Cake. She designs beautiful one-of-a-kind furniture and accessories using antique furniture, found objects and vintage fabrics. Many of her pieces are brought to life with funny faces and animal characters which she designs alongside skilled craftsmen who use traditional techniques. Nicole’s mix of quality craftsmanship and naive design is inspired by the Art Brut movement.
Transit chairs by Boris Bally are made from cold connected recycled steel street signs. All edges of the traffic signs are flattened and hand filed so that they are no longer sharp. In addition, the Rhode Island based metalsmith/designer upcycles the signs into wall sculptures, key chains, tables and mirrors. He also works with golf tees, crushed can blocks and even weapons that have been destroyed.
Under the brand REcreate, South African designer Katie Thompson makes upcycled products ranging from typewriter lamps to bottle top baskets.
These two monochrome upcycled chairs are called Farmyard Pair and are upholstered in a fun farm yard themed fabric by Design Team Fabrics. If you feel like trying your hand at making one of these, here are a couple of suitcase chair DIY tutorials from See Kate Sew and Snapguide.
You may also be interested to read upcycled lighting designs made from repurposed objects