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Dismountable, repairable, recyclable: These innovations from Copenhagen’s 3 Days of Design show how responsible design can be applied in the furniture industry.

By Jasmin Jouhar

“Modular Sofa” by Moebe

Copenhagen feels like a better future. Cyclists often have the right of way, and there is also plenty of space for pedestrians. In the middle of the city, office buildings with wooden structures are emerging behind stylish glass facades. And right next to the opera house, on an island in the harbor, a park was recently created, with an airy restaurant pavilion designed by the architecture firm Cobe. However, hidden beneath the public greenery is a two-story parking garage for the neighboring opera. Because in Copenhagen, not only cargo bikes are used, but also a lot of cars, and far from just electric ones. Despite the perceived normalization of a more sustainable lifestyle, contradictions abound even in the eco-capital, starting with delivery vans shamelessly parked on bike and pedestrian paths.

This year’s edition of the “3 Days of Design” was a reflection of the city where it took place. Considered the most important showcase of the furniture industry after the Salone del Mobile, it was both a “more of the same!” from an industry facing economic turbulence, similar to the Milan fair in April. But there were also innovations and initiatives that demonstrate how sustainable, more conscious design and business practices can already be normal and natural today – steps towards a better future that were often missing in Milan.

More than the sum of its parts

For example, upholstered furniture. Sofas, armchairs, and related items have so far been among the most complex typologies when it comes to designing for circularity. The individual components are traditionally glued, foamed, or otherwise inseparably connected, making recycling only possible with great effort. In addition, the widely used upholstery material polyurethane foam has so far only been downcycled. After Stefan Diez showed with his sofa “Costume” for Magis that it can be done differently, the concept of a circular upholstered furniture is now becoming normalized in the market. For example, Vitra’s new sofa “Anagram”, designed by the Panter Tourron design studio from Lausanne: In the Copenhagen showroom, the modular system was arranged in various very homely scenarios typical of Vitra. The fact that the cushions only loosely rest on the aluminum frame of the base, that the backrests and side tables are only hooked into the frame, and that the covers can be removed and the filling can be exchanged – you can’t tell from looking at the system. And it works: The backrests can actually be removed with one hand. Thanks to a recess, the loose cushion does not slip. The majority of the materials that make up “Anagram” are already recycled.

Anagram” sofa by Vitra in collaboration with the Italian-French designer duo Panter&Tourron

Groove and Zipper

The Danish design brand Moebe has also managed to develop a completely disassemble-able sofa. Unlike “Anagram,” the “Modular Sofa” is based on a very Scandinavian-looking wooden frame that is only sealed with oil. The cushions are reversibly attached to the frame using a groove. As with all its products, Moebe promises to have spare parts available for the sofa. Erwan Bouroullec found such a clever and elegant solution to be able to remove the cushions for his lounge chair “Arba.” Both the backrest and the seat have a zipper precisely guided around the edge, which holds both halves of the cover together. However, the underlying cushion material is still firmly attached to the supporting shell. Additional design advantages for Raawii: The chair is completely disassemble-able and can be delivered as a “flatpack.”

“Modular Sofa” by Moebe

Disassemblable Light

In lighting matters, sustainability used to only mean energy efficiency. As if a luminaire were as intangible as the light it emits. However, at the 3 Days of Design, some of the innovations showed that the focus was also sharpened here. After the fully disassemblable luminaire “Ayno” by Stefan Diez, the Hamburg-based brand Midgard has now presented “Loja,” a design by German designer colleague Sebastian Herkner. “Loja,” with its voluminous glass body, is habitually the opposite of the spindle-thin, fickle “Ayno.” However, for repair or recycling, it too can be disassembled into its individual parts. The paper shade sits loosely on top like a hat and can be moved depending on the need for light. The technology is housed in a base made of steel, and the transformer and LED can be exchanged without tools. A similar concept, but a completely different design result: the Danish traditional manufacturer Le Klint presented “Spot,” a design by Pascal Hien from Berlin. The small luminaire with a metal frame and plastic shade functions as a table and wall light. The head can be tilted, and the whole thing is held together only by a clamp.


Wood has always been considered a sustainable material, and many furniture manufacturers have long relied on this assumption. The FSC certification label used to be enough to signal credibility. Now the label is quite controversial, and slowly the realization is dawning that using wood is not necessarily responsible. In addition to the question of how and where the wood was grown, the ubiquitous coatings are also being criticized because they contain plastics. Coated wood cannot simply be reintroduced into the biological cycle. Some manufacturers therefore refrain from painting their furniture. For example, Vaarnii delivers its new “Aamu” bed frame made of pine with only an oiled surface. Plywood or laminated wood can also become a problem at the end of the product life cycle, as they are made with resin-based adhesives. A Danish brand, Please Wait to be Seated, presented an alternative to the omnipresent wooden seat shells: the “Flax” chair. The stackable chair with a steel frame features seat and back shells made of a composite of flax fibers and polypropylene (PP). The fibers are a by-product of textile and food production. Due to the PP content, the “Flax” shells are also not biodegradable. But, as emphasized by CEO Peter Mahler Sørensen in Copenhagen, the two components of the composite can be recovered and reused through recycling processes.

Chair “Flax” by the brand Please Wait to be Seated from Denmark

Read the fine print

Despite all the normalization, there is still plenty of room for improvement in responsible design, as demonstrated by the exhibition “Re Think” at the showroom of Kvadrat. Instead of presenting their own novelties, the Danish textile brand invited designers, architects, and artists to develop projects around the theme of sustainability – using Kvadrat textiles. Designer Fernando Laposse from Mexico reminded us with his contribution “The Good Shepard” that sustainable business practices are not enough to preserve our livelihoods. In the spirit of regenerative design, the Earth must be given back more than is taken. He illustrated this concept with a documentation of a sisal cultivation project. Particularly striking was the installation “Tag” by British designer Maxwell Ashford. He hung ten colored tote bags made from different Kvadrat fabrics from the ceiling. Each bag was labeled on the outside, similar to clothing labels. On the front, two numbers were displayed: the CO2 emissions generated during the production of each bag, and the total ecological costs incurred, calculated according to the guidelines of the so-called Life Cycle Assessment. Ashford further detailed this information on additional sheets of the label, breaking down the impacts of production on water and air quality, for example. In conclusion, if the industry is serious about sustainability, every piece of furniture, accessory, and textile should ideally be labeled in this way in the future – for maximum transparency regarding environmental impacts. According to the spokesperson, Kvadrat is working towards this goal.

Re Think” exhibition at the Kvadrat showroom

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