Young Designer Finds New Home for Playing Cards and Zippers

You don’t have to search long on the web to realize that eco-fashion and design hardly mean frumpy, drab, and boring.  The Dwell on Design Show in Downtown LA last weekend featured all kinds of cool home furnishings, using repurposed materials, LED lighting, or sustainably-grown materials like bamboo.

One designer, however, really stood out for his creativity and reuse of products that are not necessarily intuitive.  Say good-bye to the chair made out of plastic bottles, ciao to organic cotton upholstery, and sayonara to the lampshade from recycled paper!

Benjamin Rollins Caldwell, based in South Carolina, designs furniture that not only looks chic in a living room, office, or boutique hotel, but uses materials that generally would never find a second life other than slow, painful decomp in a landfill.  Leading a group of skilled craftsmen from various backgrounds, Caldwell and his studio, BRC Designs, churn out production and custom pieces, none of which are exactly alike.

What first caught my eye was the Spider sofa, part of a collection that includes a matching chair and table.  From afar it looks squishy, inviting, and comfortable, the type of sofa in which you’d want to lounge while sipping a Manhattan or martini and reading a Truman Capote novel.  Up close the Spider is jarring:  streams of zippers, sourced from Chinese apparel factories, spike out in every direction.  But despite all the zippers, the sofa a very comfortable, and you do not feel the zippers at all.  Full disclosure:  you may not want to sit on it if you are wearing a silk dress, but otherwise the zippers will not snag any fabric.

I do not know of any program that recycles old Las Vegas casino playing cards, but Caldwell has found a use for them.  His Deuces Wild Chair looks like paper mâché while approaching it, but upon close examination, you’ll find that the chair is made from 350 retired decks of cards.  Caldwell designed the lounge chair ergonomically so that it is comfortable to sit in, as well as functional and sturdy.  The cards are tightly bound together—you forget you are sitting on a stack that was once dealt and shuffled.  The chairs come in red and blue.

Finally the Organ Low Table and matching chair cannot be ignored.  Inspired by the texture and striking appearance of organ pipes, ½-inch PVC pipes entirely compose this set.  For those who remember the 1970s, the chair is especially nostalgic:  Caldwell found old bean bag chairs, from which he salvaged the little white foam balls to make the cushions.

Learn more about what influences Caldwell from his blog.  His booth at Dwell on Design was one of the most visited and boasted the most smiles from attendees:  after speaking with him and testing out all the furniture, I could see why.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

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