Interior Sustainability in 2021: 5 start-ups' circular materials

| Riccardo Del Bello | Sustainability and Well-Being

Hi everyone! Browsing daily through Instagram I find countless inspirations and interesting news about interior design.

Today, I’d like to introduce SOMA StudioMilano, a Design team located in Milan and focusing on circular economy. I’ve met them during a Salone del Mobile in Milan (one of my favourite design-related events ever! You shouldn’t miss it if you have the opportunity) a few years ago.

So, today I’d like to talk about some unique inspirations I got from @somastudiomilano Instagram and talk about 5 great circular materials, but first, let’s back up a bit.

What is the circular economy?

I talked about it in a previous article when discussing sustainable materials as well as when we reviewed the principles of Sustainable interior design and in particular recycling, but since this article will revolve around this concept, I thought it’d be a good idea to go a little deeper on the topic.

Nowadays, luckily, circular economy is becoming more and more popular. It’s an economic system conceived to address climate and environmental-related issues.

Most productive systems today are what we’d call Linear. Raw materials are collected, refined, and manufactured into a product with the input of energy. The product is then used and then disposed of, once it gets old, broken, or simply substituted with a newer one. This inevitably leads to pollution.


Circular economy aims at closing this cycle. And there are different solutions that can be applied to do so. One is of course recycling, by gathering the materials after the product disposal to reuse them in the production of another item or product. A second is the reuse of the same object. Pre-owned items, pieces of furniture and more, are becoming more and more common in the developing sharing economy, and a significant help against waste and environmental pollution. Last but not least, there are refurbishing and remanufacturing, which indicate the rebuilding of the product to its original conditions through the use of reused, recycled or new parts and materials.

Naturally, there can be numerous differences to this system depending on the sector one is operating in.

Now that we have clarified the concept of circular economy, let’s dive in and have a closer look at these 5 exciting startups and their circular materials.

1. Ottan

Ottan is a Turkish firm focused on “up-cycling green waste into high-quality materials”. They aim at creating an economic and environmental positive effect by using the wastes from food and gardens, such as fruit peels, residues or expired grains and vegetables, and leaves and grass from third companies, or local institutions. The variety is noteworthy, from pomegranate to pepper, lentils, rice, grapefruit, mandarin, and more.


As described through their website, Ottan contributes to a program for sustainability developed by the United Nations Development Program.

The products offered range from a series of small accessories for houses to light design thanks to some materials transparency, to panelling and several custom solutions for different interior spaces.

2. Kenoteq

Kenoteq is a Scottish start-up specialising in building materials and its first product called K-briq composed of 90% of recycled materials from demolished buildings and other construction wastes.

Published by Dezeen as well, the K-briq has the weight and consistency of a regular brick, but along with the environmentally-friendly characteristics, it also offers better thermal insulation and can be produced in any colour.


According to the interview with its inventor, professor Gabriela Medero, the brick’s production requires less than a tenth of the carbon emission of a regular one, and the whole product development took around 10 years.

3. Ioncell

Ioncell is another start-up that using a new kind of sustainable, recyclable, and non-flammable solvent, turns textiles and old newspapers into high-quality textiles fibres without adding any harmful chemicals.

According to Ioncell, their fibres can be used both for clothing and technical applications in composites and they also absorb moisture, it is biodegradable and can be dyed like other regular fabrics.


While not specified yet, several companies now are developing similar products that are employed in interior design as well.

4. Honext

A Spanish company, established in Barcelona, Honext produces a natural, long-lasting recyclable construction material obtained from cellulosic waste with added water, enzymes, and just heat and pressure.

Honext is non-toxic, fire-retardant has sound and thermal insulation properties, it is also moisture resistant. The materials come in boards, and panels that can be cut, drilled and sanded like other regular materials. The boards, once used at the end of their lifecycle can be recycled to produce new honext.


Honext suggested use is as a partitioning material, allowing for any kind of finish or coating or even just as a raw surface material.

 5. Atelier LVDW

Atelier LVDW, is a design studio founded by Dutch designer Laura van de Wijdeven. Researching on circular materials, they too show the possibilities of creating new sustainable materials from different kinds of wastes. With this idea, the studio produces a number of materials, from tiles, lampshades and tabletops with industrial wastes, to biophilic lampshades using bioplastics, to house objects like plates using eggshells.

Atelier LVDW also offers a small range of products obtained from their research on circular materials. Along with this come also a bespoke service for surfaces and custom-made materials.

atelier lvdw

These were the 5 innovative circular materials suggested by our friends at SOMA StudioMilano. What did you think about it?

For me, these are not only really outstanding ideas that translate into beautiful interior materials but are also an inspiration. Today we see more and more examples of creative people that thanks to raising awareness develop innovations and new important ideas for a sustainable future, and I look forward to featuring them in my future interiors!

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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