Shiro is an appealing stool, designed with the innovative Mushroom Material in mind. It is the outcome of a research and design process, which questioned the integration of a new material in furniture design. A material that uses the growing process of mushrooms to create new products. It sounds like an absurd idea, but the principle is simple yet clever: by bringing agricultural waste together with mycelium (the substance in the fungus out of which mushrooms emerge), a natural reaction takes place. The mycelium starts growing and will act as a glue that bonds all the particles together. When the growing is completed, the material is dried to extract all the water and make the part stronger. The result is a 100% natural and biodegradable product.
This bachelor project at Howest (Belgium) explores the properties of this innovative material in several tests and transfers the conclusions in the design of a stool. One of the design-changers is the discovery of using a wooden insert to improve strength. This conclusion was deducted from a material testing phase where six samples were produced with different thicknesses and shapes of the insert. An ideation process followed and delivered four concepts, from which one was chosen for further development.
The outcome is a stool that is a perfect marriage of old craftsmanship and clever microbiology. By combining sturdy wooden legs with an ergonomically moulded seat, the properties of both materials are used at its fullest. The solid wooden structure is designed to absorb all the forces, while the mushroom seat is moulded to improve comfort. This moulding process is not only completely natural, it also doesn’t have any waste material and because production steps are reduced, the process is cheaper than conventional methods. The combination of natural materials creates a good-looking contrast which fits in a wide range of interiors.
With sustainability and efficiency being two key values in this creative process, this stool is designed for flat packaging. By decrease the unused volume in the package, the ecologic and economic impact of transport is reduced. To make this way of packaging a success, self-assembly by the end consumer is preferred. The stool is designed to make the assembly very obvious. The slots in the front leg easily slide in the slots in the back leg. Next, the top plate is fixed with screws to the legs. The last step consists of securing the seat, which has a moulded insert inside, to the top plate with three more screws.
The outcome of this design process is an appealing stool that is designed with the innovative Mushroom Material as a key element. By bringing agricultural waste and mushrooms roots together in a mould, a natural process takes off. In 5 days, this grows into a finished seat. Shiro combines this wonderful piece of microbiology with sturdy wooden legs. The result is a stool with a solid structure and cushy seat that is easy to assemble and efficient to transport. Shiro demonstrates the potential of this material in furniture design and can be a solid base for further improvement.
- Leon Van der Veken
Industrial Product Designer