6 Top Materials for a Sustainable Interior in 2021

| Riccardo Del Bello | Sustainability and Well-Being

It’s that time of the year again. Spring is approaching and like last year, I look to renovate and innovate our pool of resources for interior projects. So, following up on the good success of our previous 2020 Guide on Sustainable Interior Materials, I thought about rounding up a shortlist for 2021. There are lots of compelling new options, but I included here the 6 that impressed me the most.

I hope you’ll find them inspiring too, and if you like me are particularly into sustainability, biophilic design, and the benefits that can have in our personal and professional daily life, you might want to check the other resources I put together so far on this interesting topic: Wellbeing and Sustainability Articles.

Let’s start my 2021 shortlist:

1. Airlite

The first is paint, and it’s definitely a special one. This time, in fact, is not just about sustainability. I’m not trying to diminish its importance, trust me there’s more. In fact, this paint promises to directly contribute to our well-being.

The prototype for Airlite was created in Italy in 2007 by AM Technology, and the same year it’s been applied to one of the most polluted places in Rome, the Umberto I Tunnel. Well, after 10 years, not only the walls of the tunnel were still white, but La Sapienza University tests reported a 51% reduction in pollutants within the tunnel.

The paint is completely sustainable, being 100% made of minerals and ships in powder form, with no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). When on-site, water can be added and then the paint is ready to be applied.

What makes it unique is its capability, through photocatalysis when hit by light, to create a concentration of electrons that interact with the oxygen generates negative ions that oxidise and when combined with pollutants transform into harmless salts molecules that are then captured by the paint itself. As a result, Airlite can purify the air from bacteria, molds, spores and it’s been tested effective even against Coronavirus.


It also helps with thermal insulation by reflecting the heat, when used outdoor, and thus saving energy.

So, while not being something immediately visible that one can show off in a project, its use can be extremely beneficial and when designing an interior, it should definitely be considered. Don’t you think?

2. Malai

Another new and extremely innovative material is Malai. It has been around for a while, but it hasn’t got yet the recognition it deserves.

A biocomposite obtained from organic and bacterial cellulose sourced from agricultural waste in the coconut industry in Southern India. The coconut water that would be dumped from the production and would damage the soil, is used to feed the bacteria’s cellulose production. 

The material obtained is not only completely vegan, but thanks to the absence of chemicals do not cause any allergy or intolerance.

Malai can be produced with varying thicknesses and is even shaped into 3D objects through a moulding process. It is flexible and depending on the use can be a substitute for leather or paper. It is offered in a range of colours which are also obtained from natural dyes.


So how it is used in Interior Design? It has a different tensile strength compared for instance to animal leather, so its use for upholstery is advised only on areas of sofas and chairs, such as the backrest or armrest. However, it is also suitable for a number of different applications such as pillows, storage boxes, stationery items, wall panelling, blinds, and lampshades.

3. Kvadrat Really

Kvadrat is a Danish textile firm established in 68 which takes strong inspiration and design values from the Scandinavian tradition. Its focus is on both textiles and related products for architects and designers. They present different brands: shade, soft cells, Kinnasand, Raf Simons. Each one is dedicated to the production of a specific and innovative product. But the last, and the one that really caught my eye is called Really.

As the statement says

“Designed for circularity

Currently, only 25% of the 95% of textiles that can be recycled actually are: In response to this urgent global issue of waste Really upcycles textiles to create materials that challenge the design and architecture industries to rethink their use of resources and to design their products with a circular economy in mind”

bright design-pieces cos panels paravento powder benches retail samples shelf shelves

*Photos by Kvadrat Really.

I touched on the circular economy already in the past when discussing the Principles of Sustainable Interior Design.

Really produces a range of solid textile boards and acoustic textile felts all from cotton and wool textiles wastes. These are upcycled without the use of any chemical, water, or dyes and eventually produce only recyclable wastes. The results are beautifully coloured panels that can be applied in a number of different contexts to add real value to an Interior.

4. Foresso

A similar philosophy is the one adopted by Foresso, but with a different direction. The British firm, in fact, produces Terrazzo Timber. This material is obtained, like for Airlite with no VOC, but only the use of timber offcuts and leftovers, and mixed planning wastes that are the ones giving the final terrazzo look to the finished material.

The substrate is realised using renewable FSC Birch which is claimed also to be extremely durable and not contain any harmful chemical. Finally, the material is finished with mineral powders to give durability and a matte finish to the surface, and natural oils and waxes to make it safe for use in contact with food, such as tables and worktops.

interior foresso-shop REPEAT-AzureMonomed REPEAT-BiancoMonomed REPEAT-CharcoalMonomed REPEAT-IvoryDuomedium

*Photos by Foresso

Foresso too aims at creating a circular cycle, with a sustainable supply chain, that is transparently traceable and where 95% of the wastes are actually recycled.

The products come in a nice variety of light and dark shades, that not only give a refined look but can also be used for a number of different purposes, from flooring to furniture surfaces.

5. StoneCycling

This Dutch firm was born in 2011 with the objective of upcycling buildings wastes from old buildings. According to StoneCycling, this accounts, only in Europe, for around 30% of the whole wastes generated. Additionally, the construction industry is one of the major causes of CO2 production in the world.

Once again, their objective is creating a high-quality material, this time from stone and bricks wastes, usable for both exteriors and interiors walls and flooring. The bricks are made of at least 60% recycled materials and can be provided in custom shapes and sizes.

In even more varieties and colours come the slimmer bricks called Slips. All are featured in a number of high-profile projects mainly in the Netherlands, but also in other important locations such as Barcelona, London, and New York.

stonecycling-bright-retail stonecycling-bar stonecycling-detail stonecycling-dark stonecycling-green stonecycling-meeting-room stonecycling-plants stonecycling-restaurant stonecycling-seating stonecycling-retail stonecycling-shop

*Photos by StoneCycling

This an extremely interesting solution for interiors, as it can be used from entire floorings as well as to give a special styling to certain surfaces like feature walls or receptions.

6. Alulife

For the last one featured in this article, we go back to Italy. It’s Alulife’s turn. This company offers a 100% recyclable, antimicrobial, and antibacterial product that is quickly gaining popularity in Interior Design. Recycled Aluminium.

Alulife offers a completely bespoke service, from consulting to installation, for its high-end product that comes in different shades and is applied for flooring, interior surfaces, and a number of special accents and finishes.


*Photos by Alulife

The certification of the product comes from a certified supply chain. While retaining lightness and durability, aluminium is an extremely advantageous choice as it is virtually infinitely recyclable.

So, this is my selection of Sustainable Interior Materials for 2021. I hope to have inspired you as much as I get inspired by researching and finding about these amazing people creating something revolutionary and seriously innovative. Which of these would you pick for your next project? Let me know via Social! Find the links below:

A Designer at Heart on Instagram

Riccardo Del Bello

Written by: Riccardo Del Bello

Riccardo is the marketing manager and partner of A Designer at Heart. He is in charge of the development and brand definition of the company for its marketing activities.


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