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Comeback of an ancient crop

Furniture made from hemp for sustainable design

One of the earliest plants to have been used by humans is currently enjoying a comeback – hemp. Thanks to its long, sturdy fibres the plant is extremely versatile and relatively undemanding to cultivate. From sustainable textiles and hemp furniture to hemp “concrete”, many companies are rediscovering this material, with its promising prospects for the future. Read on to discover the benefits of this raw material and the most exciting ideas for its application in interior design.

Viale & Corso" lounge furniture series by Joka Kapsamer

This natural furniture collection with sustainable textiles made from hemp creates an inviting ambience in any living room. (Photo: Joka Kapsamer)

A question of sustainability: the benefits of hemp

Humans have been using hemp fibres for thousands of years. The plant was first cultivated around 6,000 years ago, in what is modern-day China, and can now be found all round the world. Hemp offers numerous benefits: it is not sensitive to cold and requires relatively little fluid at just 500 litres of water per kilo of dry product. Cotton, by comparison, is much thirstier, requiring up to 10,000 litres. In addition, hemp grows quickly and does not need pesticides due to its weed-suppressing properties.

From ancient times, its useful characteristics made it one of the most important cultivated plants in the world, alongside flax and cotton. The long fibres provide strength, while absorbing minimal water and remaining relatively tear-resistant, even when wet. As a result, it was considered ideal for ropes, textiles and even sailcloth. The plant first gained a bad reputation in the 1960s, when it acquired new fame as a narcotic. However, regular hemp does not have any mind-altering substances and is now celebrating renewed success as a sustainable textile and even a versatile building material. One example of this is hempcrete, a type of hemp “concrete”, which is an outstanding thermal insulator that actually has a negative carbon footprint. This means that the production process absorbs more CO2 than it creates. Having spent several decades under the radar, today hemp is starting to make a comeback.

Hemp in the furniture industry

Textiles made from hemp are becoming increasingly popular in interior design. The fabrics absorb moisture as quickly as they release it and dry out again. They are also antistatic and suitable for allergy-sufferers, and they have natural heat-regulating properties. As well as traditional household textiles such as tea towels or curtains, today the mattresses , hemp carpets and cushion covers:

Hemp is often blended with other materials to create sustainable textiles and covers. Up to 55 per cent of the final fabric can consist of cotton or silk, which makes it softer. Like linen, hemp also softens naturally over time. However, manufacturing a cover from 100 per cent hemp is relatively costly. Hemp is also slightly more difficult to dye than other fabrics. Blending the fibre with cotton makes the production process easier, while retaining the positive attributes of hemp. As a result, the material is becoming increasingly popular and already forms the basis for many pieces of furniture.

Natural design: furniture made from hemp

In the past, the versatile plant was regarded as a cheap fibre for ordinary people. Nowadays, many designers are using the natural material for their creations, with a creativity that is almost limitless. Berlin-based designer, Yasmin Bawa, designs unique vases and pots from hempcrete – hemp concrete that is as durable as it is flexible and can be 100 per cent recycled thanks to its natural components. Much like the current ceramics trend , the material offers a fascinating combination of hardness and malleability, yielding playful designs.

A different, yet equally sustainable composite is being used by Vepa in its hemp chair collection . The seat is a warm, natural brown and is made entirely of hemp fibres and a plant resin, so it is infinitely recyclable . The entire manufacturing process is carried out without the addition of chemicals and uses such minimal resources that the chair has a negative carbon footprint.

Last but not least, as well as sustainability hemp offers a new form of luxury. High-end, handcrafted furniture with a focus on environmental impact is popular particularly among fans of the Natural Luxury trend. MoonCloth, a young designer brand offering wellness products, has collaborated with Atra to create a seating collection that aims to redefine the term luxury. The minimalist sofas and armchairs have shallow upholstered cushions with hemp covers, combined with dark wood and a pared-back colour palette. These furniture items made of hemp are designed with a focus on high-end, natural materials.

Hemp High" chairs from Vepa

This range of chairs made from hemp and resin is 100% recyclable and will enhance living rooms and home offices with its minimalist chic. (Photo: Vepa)

Natural materials as a trend for the future

These examples show not only the diversity, but also the natural elegance that designers and manufacturers are exploring in contemporary hemp furniture. The plant, which has been cultivated for thousands of years, is becoming a real trend for the future when it comes to sustainability. Modern manufacturing processes and increased demand have the potential to reduce production costs further in future and make hemp an important everyday material once again. As well as the interior design and construction industries, both humans and the environment will benefit as a result.

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