Just Add Water: Grow Your Own Furniture with These Pop-Up Sponge Designs

a collection of sponge furniture and functional goods on a blue backdrop

Photo by Jasmine Deporta. All images courtesy of ÉCAL, shared with permission

A team of industrial designers prototyped a furniture collection that dramatically transforms from flat sheets into fully functional objects, no tools required.

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Taking Gaetano Pesce’s spectacular “Up 5” chair as a starting point, Under Pressure Solutions (UPS) is an experimental research project helmed by industrial designers and ÉCAL teachers Camille Blin, Christophe Guberan, Anthony Guex, Chris Kabel, and Julie Richoz. The team recognized the rampant demand for online commerce and subsequent shipping processes that, for furniture, was often cumbersome, expensive, and wasteful given the size and bulk of the products.

As an alternative, they produced a line of stools, chairs, wine racks, and more from cellulose sponge that can be squashed and dried flat, sometimes small enough to fit into a regular envelope. The biodegradable material activates with water and expands ten times its size. Once dry, it hardens into its final form and is more durable than other plastic-based foams. As the furniture bows or dips with use, a spray of water allows the material to spring back to a more robust position.

UPS departs from the particle board and plastics often seen at big box stores. During a two-year research process, the designers tested 56 materials before settling on cellulose sponge made with vegetal fibers, sodium sulphate crystals, softeners, and wood pulp. After various manufacturing and sustainability tests, the team produced 16 unique objects from pendant lights and shelves to chairs and coffee table bases.

The project was recently on view for Milan Design Week, and you can learn more about making process on the UPS site.


a mug and book rest on a yellow stool made of sponge bricks

Photo by Younes Klouche

a yellow sponge stool

Photo by Younes Klouche

a sponge chair on a blue backdrop

Photo by Jasmine Deporta

a person stands atop a sponge stool with holes

Photo by Jasmine Deporta

an acrylic top with a glass of water and other objects sits atop a sponge base while a person sleeps on a couch nearby

Photo by Jasmine Deporta

wine bottles rest on a sponge wine rack

Photo by Jasmine Deporta

the sponge bowl and wine rack on a blue backdrop

Photo by Jasmine Deporta

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Source: thisiscolossal.com

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