From Mushroom Risotto to Furniture Upholstery

Why Mushrooms Taking the Design Industry by Storm

Sustainable Interior Design

Every time I think of mushrooms, it reminds me of a memory of Florence, Italy: sitting in a quaint Florentine restaurant, on the fringes of a sunny piazza, eating a delicious plate of mushroom risotto.  Mushrooms, considered a healthy and mouth-watering ingredient included in a number of tantalising dishes, are now also used in the creation of products within the interior and architectural design industry!  How did this happen, what drove the need to create products from an edible fungus, readily available in all supermarkets and available for picking in the wild?  

The need for sustainable products generally, is growing and will continue to do so as we become more conscious of our impact on the planet, the impact of products on our health, and how we can innovatively use alternative materials to overcome sustainability issues.  

A sustainable product has a lifecycle with an overall positive effect and is not detrimental to the environment.  Lifecycle refers to the sequence of phases that includes: collection of raw materials; manufacturing processes; transportation and disposal, re-use (is it reusable or biodegradable).  There is an increasing movement away from products, which consist of non-sustainable materials and whose manufacturing processes require the use of toxic chemicals and large amounts of water and energy.  Mushrooms are being used as a healthier and more humane alternative to existing traditional products.   Crosby (2018) describes this new revolution in the use of mushrooms as:

‘Natures world web under our feet’

So, what is the architectural and interior design industry using this fungus for?

Sustainable Wall and Floor Covering

Mogu, a company situated in Inarzo, Lombardy region in Italy, uses mushrooms to create acoustic wall coverings.  The materials included for creating the wall covering consists of the mushroom mycelium and upcycled fabric fibres.  The mushroom mycelium grows, connecting and binding the loose upcycled fabric fibres together resulting in forming panels with desirable acoustic properties. The mycelium and upcycled fabric fibres are grown together to create a number of different styles of wall covering, which will add texture, form and contrast to a design.  An ingenious method for creating a wall covering, which will not only reduce noise but will also promote healthier spaces for people to work and live in.  As Mogu (unknown) cites:

‘Nature is the best architect of all’.

Image provided by Mogu
Image Provided My Mogu

Mogu have also used this culinary delight to create a sustainable flooring.  The flooring is made from, as cited by Mogu, ‘‘composed by a 100% natural and biodegradable mycelium composite core, coupled with a proprietary bio-based resin characterised by a very high biological content (80% bio-based), resulting in final products whose bio-based composition is on average 90%+’.

The tiles are available in two different textures, ‘fiboured or non fiboured’ and are finished in a ‘soft touch and matte texture’.  The floor tiles can complement a number of different design styles, from modern to contemporary and have a positive lifecycle.  This is due to the tiles being able to be recycled, which as cited by Mogu:

‘are currently working towards the establishment of an integrated value-chain allowing for the products’ recollection at the end of their lifespan.  Once recollected, the floor tiles can be processed in house and the two main layers (mycelium core + bio-PU) can be easily separated’.

The composite core of the tile is fully biodegradable but the bio-Pu layer is grounded down and re-used for new floor tiles.   The floor tiles are Blue Angle certified, a German ecolabel and are available in six different colours.  The floor tiles are water resistance, in line with EN 13553 standard (water tightness) and do not damage easily, so are suitable for spaces with a high flow of traffic.

Image Provided by Mogu

Sustainable Fabric – An Alternative to Leather

Mushrooms are now being used to create an alternative to leather, eliminating the need for less humane raw materials and sourcing methods.    This includes muskin, made from the Phellinus Ellipsoideus, a mushroom which grows in the wild.  This alternative to leather is manufactured by Zero Grado Espace, located in Montelupo, Fiorentina, Italy.  The manufacturing process, as cited by Chiara Riccio, does not involve the use of any chemicals.  Its texture and appearance feels like and is similar to suede.  This alternative to leather is described by Chiara Riccio as being ‘water-resistant and soft to touch’.  Muskin’s, alternative to leather, is currently being used for upholstering furniture within the interior design industry.

Myco, situated in the Unites States of America have created another alternative to leather using mushrooms.  This method involves the use of the mushroom’s mycelium and is also used in the creation of furniture. 

Sustainable Building  Insulation

As cited by Biohm:

We harness the power of mycelium – the vegetative filament root structure of mushrooms – to grow our materials using organic and synthetic substrates that are the by-products or ‘wastes’ of other industries”.

Biohm, a UK company, have developed an insulation panel, which is made from the mycelium of the mushrooms, to be used in the construction of buildings.  This natural product surpasses other types of insulation panel made from ‘petrochemical and plastic-based materials’ due to it containing no harmful/toxic products.  The method implemented for developing and creating the mycelium insulation panels, as cited by Biohm includes ‘by-products from the commercial and agriculture industries‘.  In addition, Biohm states the ‘manufacturing process is estimated to be carbon-negative, sequestering at least 16 tonnes of carbon per month’.  So how does it perform in reducing heat loss from our homes and places of work?  Insulation panels made from mushroom mycelium are considered to have better insulation properties than many products created from traditional man-made materials.

To Conclude

Who would have thought that this culinary delight would one day be used to create healthy and humane living space’s?  It is intriguing to think that such a simple and natural growing material, found in forests or on the shelves of supermarkets, is now being used to create products for the architectural and interior design industry; replacing traditional materials, which involve the use of chemicals or inhumane processes.  What will continued research into the use of mushrooms reveal for the creation of products,  what next will this mini marvel of a fungi be used for?

‘Bringing the magic of the outside in’

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