Furniture and fittings made of natural materials create a sense of wellbeing, are aesthetically pleasing, can improve indoor air quality and, ideally, are produced in an environmentally friendly way. Since they fit with current trends, such as health consciousness, premium quality and environmental sustainability, they offer great potential for the entire sector.
The natural look of products such as wood, cork, natural stone, wool products and leather can be used to create design ranges that offer floor-to-ceiling harmony – where every product works with every other product. One of the most popular natural and long-lasting materials is wood. Solid wood furniture is durable and signs of wear often make it even more beautiful. With its unique grain pattern, each piece of wooden furniture has its own individual character. Most softwoods have a more subtle structure, whereas the contrasts in hardwoods such as acacia, oak and cherry wood create a strong focal point in the room. Interiors that feature wood have a calm, cosy ambience and the wood has a positive impact on the indoor air quality – solid wood parquet flooring, floorboards, tables, shelving and beds absorb moisture and release it again if the air is dry. Any surface scratches can be removed by sanding the wood. These are all good selling points for retailers. The only disadvantage to the material is its sensitivity to light. Wood darkens in colour if it is exposed to strong UV light. Wooden furniture has a particularly natural look if it has been treated with oil or wax.
Cork, which is obtained from the bark of the cork oak, is just as long-lasting as wood. The fact that this decorative material does not gather dust makes it suitable for people with allergies. It can be used in furniture surfaces or on stools, lights or accessories. This recyclable material also dampens noise and creates a warm ambience. Cork is lightweight, water-repellent, flame retardant and springy. The qualities of this natural material make it a favourite among manufacturers and designers. With its bouncy, elastic characteristics, cork flooring is also gentle on feet and joints. Ideally, the binding agent used in cork should only contain natural resins so that no chemical vapours are emitted. Cork can also be printed – for example, with a stylish concrete-effect design – to create designer flooring. Cork flooring expands when heated, so it should always be fitted with expansion joints.
Using felt and wool – the material from which felt it is made – is an excellent way to make rooms feel cosy and homely. High-quality wool is the perfect material for making durable carpets and curtains, cuddly cushions and snuggly blankets. Wool is an organic material that does not fade and, when made into felt, it is extremely robust. Felt is produced in an environmentally friendly way and it does not have to be transported very far because wool is available locally in most countries. Its insulating properties keep spaces warm or cool and it can improve the acoustics of a room. It is also springy, flame retardant and does not crease. In recent years, there has been a trend for using natural wool felt and recycled felt in interior accessories, rugs, lamps and decorative acoustic panels. Many consumers also esteem the high-quality, premium look that is achieved by combining wool products with natural leather sofas, easy chairs, beds and interior accessories.
Be it slate or marble, there is something unique and refined about natural stone. Depending on the way the stone is processed, it can be used to create rustic, traditional or modern looks. As compared to polishable limestone, real marble mostly consists of aragonite, calcite or dolomite. The stone is available in a range of colours and marble pattern types. The best-known variety, however, is Carrara marble, which is white. In Germany, marble is traditionally used for flooring and steps but increasing numbers of manufacturers, designers and interior designers are using this premium material as an elegant, durable surface in kitchens, on shelves, on tables and even on seating. Due to its sensitivity to acids, marble is a material that should be given a special treatment before being used in the kitchen. Once treated, it can simply be cleaned using water. Marble has a dense crystal structure and, when polished, it shines like no other natural product. Its impermeable surface, which is easy to clean, makes the stone an ideal choice for flooring. It is particularly suitable for those who are allergic to dust because there are no pores or gaps where the dust can settle.
In addition to wall and flooring elements that are made of wood and natural stone, new solutions – containing materials such as pressed hay with petals – are available as wall coverings and flooring panels. Water-based paints and paints made of sustainably produced, plant-based oils are becoming increasingly popular for decorating walls because they are free from solvents. They are also odourless and pose no risk to health. Ecological insulation made of hemp, flax or paper are some of the materials that offer a more environmentally-friendly alternative to products that are produced chemically. These alternative products are increasingly in demand in the retail sector.
Natural materials don’t just look good. They also improve indoor air quality and promote health, wellbeing and relaxation. They can also be environmentally friendly. For these reasons, more and more people are surrounding themselves with natural, healthy and long-lasting furniture and environmentally friendly products that conserve the earth’s resources.