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Building and furnishing sustainably

Terrazzo is conquering floors, furniture and accessories

We are familiar with the material from bathrooms, kitchens and stairways in 1950s post-war buildings. Or we may have admired it in historic villas on holiday in Italy. Terrazzo – a construction material made from chips of rock, chalk or cement – is currently riding high on its colourful speckles. And that’s not all: As sustainability is becoming more and more important, terrazzo offers a promising alternative to other materials.

Venezia coffee table by TIPTOE

Made from recycled plastic, the Venezia coffee table by TIPTOE is a captivating sight with its speckled terrazzo look. (Photo: TIPTOE) Find out more about the product on ambista .

Terrazzo can look back on a long history. It was produced as a floor covering as far back in time as ancient Rome and Greece. The material experienced its first comeback during the Renaissance, when the palaces and churches of Venice were decorated with the splendid “Venetian floor”. Less aesthetically pleasing, but all the more sustainable were the terrazzo slabs made from rubble in the post-war period, in particular in Germany. They were often installed in stations and stairways.

Terrazzo’s next rebirth began in 2014. Today growing numbers of designers are opting for the sustainable construction material with a speckled look, mixing in plastic, old bricks or construction waste. Some are even designing furniture and accessories in the terrazzo aesthetic.

The Fil clothing rack by SCHNEID pairs terrazzo with black steel. (Photo: Schneid Studio) Find out more about the clothing rack on ambista.

Precious marble has been back in high demand in the design world for some years. Now terrazzo is stepping on to the scene. But the material is not just suitable for floor coverings or sinks. Terrazzo furniture is catching on as well. In this clothing rack by SCHNEID, for instance, the stone-like material serves as a robust and stable base. Terrazzo also creates a striking impression as a tabletop for dining, side and coffee tables – each one in a unique speckled pattern. And it can be lightweight, too, as TIPTOE demonstrates: The company uses recycled plastic instead of rock in its coffee table .

Terrazzo decor and fabrics are also very much on-trend: Its characteristic flecks are appearing on shower curtains, bedlinen, sofa cushions, vases, lamps, serving platters, wallpapers and carpets, to give just a few examples. The imagination knows no bounds. What’s more, tiles and furniture fronts can also be decorated with the speckled look at a later stage. The adhesive decor foils in the Meta series by Interprint are astonishingly realistic, but unlike the real thing, they weigh just a few grams.

But terrazzo is about more than just design. The material opens up completely new opportunities for sustainability.

Interprint blends micro terrazzo and concrete in the Meta decor foils for furniture and furniture fronts. (Photo: Interprint GmbH) Find out more on ambista .

Turning the old into new – terrazzo as a sustainable material

What was considered dated yesterday can be the foundation for sustainable construction today.

This is certainly how the Berlin design and architecture collective They Feed Off Buildings sees terrazzo. The studio quite literally manufactures terrazzo slabs from old buildings. Founders Luisa Rubisch and Rasa Weber collect construction waste and scrapped marble from gutted or demolished buildings and recycle it into the material they work with, Urban Terrazzo . In this way, resources are conserved, waste reduced, and a piece of urban history preserved.

Terrazzo opens up a host of opportunities for recycling. Construction waste and scrapped rock are just two examples from many possible sources. Plastic in particular makes a good basis, as the TIPTOE coffee table shown above proves. The French furniture manufacturer has set itself the mission of producing sustainable furniture that is built to last. Because after cheap plastic and mass production revolutionised whole branches of industry, the question of what to do with the waste is becoming more and more pressing in the furniture industry, too. Turning it into a material for high-quality furniture – as demonstrated with terrazzo – is an important step in the right direction.

Terrazzo design – timeless and easy-care

Sustainability goes beyond merely using recycled resources. Timeless design and long-lasting, high-quality materials counter the throwaway mentality. Terrazzo slabs are exceptionally hard-wearing and easy to maintain. The seamlessly cast surface of robust cement screed stops all moisture from penetrating. Even after years of use, the material can be given a new shine with a simple polish.

As with marble and natural stone, the speckled pattern on each piece of terrazzo is one of a kind, which meets the desire for uniqueness and authenticity. At the same time, terrazzo decor, floors and furniture can be combined with many different styles and materials. Scandinavian minimalism and a delicate terrazzo pattern make a stunning combination, and one we are likely to see for some time in the furniture industry.

In the ambista business network, we present a manufacturer who uses this versatile material in a smart and modern way.

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