Carbon fibre is often used for high-performance things. Golf clubs or tennis racquets, for example, which need to pummel balls at Milos Raonic speeds. As well as bicycles, cars and airplanes, which are more efficient to operate the lighter they are. And carbon fibre is light: It’s composed of wispy, woven strands of carbon atoms bonded together by crystals. When coated in a polymer, the composite is as strong as steel or aluminum but a fraction of the weight. It’s one of the main materials of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliners that Air Canada is starting to use in its fleet – massive planes that are 20 per cent lighter, and therefore use 20 per cent less fuel, than a comparable aluminum plane of the same size. (If only tickets were 20 per cent less expensive.)
Not everything made with carbon fibre is so high-performance. Furniture, for example, rarely needs to withstand gale-force winds or travel at several hundred kilometres an hour or whack balls down the fairway. But chairs, sofas and stools made with the impossibly thin material are appealing in their own right. The inherent strength and lightness helps reinvent forms. A floor-bound bathtub, for example, is turned into a hovering hammock that can suspend from the walls. Or a desk whose strand-like legs warp around as if it were something out of the Matrix.
Plus, it just looks really good. Athletic and lean, fresh and futuristic. Here, six cool carbon-fibre accents for the home.
In the late 1950s, famed furniture designers Charles and Ray Eames tried to develop a sofa version of their moulded armchair. Made of fibreglass, however, the body was excessively thick so the piece was too heavy and difficult to move and the idea was abandoned. Now, however, Michigan-based designer Matthew Strong has recently revived the plan, fabricating the shell out of a light, carbon-fibre caning pattern. Although it’s not yet in production, Strong is in talks with Herman Miller to finally bring the piece to market. Updates on availability through cargocollective.com/matthewstrong.
By its nature, carbon fibre tends to be achromatic. Black or grey. Over seven years, Formula 1 engineers developed Hypetex, a vibrantly hued alternative. But it isn’t just used for fast cars. London-based designer Michael Sodeau recently turned it into a prototype chair called Halo, so named for its eccentric, disc-shaped backrest. It will officially be unveiled in September at Designjunction during the London Design Festival. Updates on availability through hypetex.com.
The Vessel bathtub, handmade in Britain by Splinter Works, was inspired by a hammock. It doesn’t swing, but what it lacks in rockability, it makes up for by holding muscle-easing warm water. Within the carbon-fibre body is an insulating foam core that keeps in the heat and prolongs the relaxation. Pricing and availability through splinterworks.co.uk.
Sitting on air
To Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, the appeal of producing a near-weightless carbon-fibre seat is in the efficiency of the materials. His Carbon Balloon Chair (hand-crafted using real balloons covered in an epoxy resin) weighs less than two pounds and is highly durable. Custom orders only. Pricing and availability through marcelwanders.com.
A new weave
The Filament Wound Stool, designed by New York-based architecture studio Moorhead and Moorhead, is a blend of old and new. The texture looks like bygone basket weaving, but the material is made from modern carbon-fibre strips. Pricing and availability through mattermatters.com.
Ahead of the curve
Brodie Neill is a London-based designer who uses carbon fibre to custom-create tables and stools that are as supple and elastic as an Olympic gymnast. His Jet Desk, for example, created for Swarovski, has legs that look like a back handspring mid-flight. Glinting black crystals help accentuate the curves. Pricing and availability through brodieneill.com.
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