F. from Stockholmorm us with love is an unusual design studio in that it is also a kind of incubator where team members have the freedom to explore and start projects inside and outside its boundaries. The original co-founders of Form Us With Love – Jonas Pettersson, John Löfgren and Petrus Palmér – teamed up with entrepreneurs Johan Ronnestam and Fredrik Franzon to make conventional architectural products more visually appealing BAUX (Palmér has since switched from FUWL to Hem, but remains involved in BAUX). They used the extraordinary heat and sound insulation properties of a Swedish building material called Träulit, invented in the 1940s, and completely re-invented its aesthetics. More recently, they have given a second life to production leftovers as a commercial acoustic solution, the BAUX Acoustic Flexfelt System, which is completely compostable at the end of its service life. However, this is by far not FUWL’s only experience with waste handling – the design studio has designed furniture for IKEA from recycled PET plastic and is currently exploring options for previously non-recyclable glass. We spoke to Jonas Pettersson to find out more.
Tell me a little about your education and your background and how you are interested in creativity, design and sustainability.
We [Jonas Pettersson, John Löfgren and Petrus Palmér ] met at the industrial design school in Sweden and last year discussed the potential of starting your own studio. The idea was to create our dream work environment instead of trying to come up with a good business idea. The discussion took shape and the same day after it closed we ran to the bank and started Form Us With Love.
How would you describe your product?
At FUWL we co-founded the sustainable acoustic brand BAUX and we have continuously expanded its range since its introduction. First came Wood Wool, an established building material that we have turned into a global furnishing solution that is loved by Stella McCartney, Google, United Nation and many others. Second, we launched a unique paper pulp solution made from 100% natural ingredients that meets the needs of workplaces but is also compostable at the end of its life. Next, we’re working on taking textile scraps out of post-production and giving them a second life as a commercial acoustic solution. It is a 100% traceable source, which is often the challenge when it comes to waste. The new product will not only introduce a new sustainable material, but will also guide BAUX into new product categories to support the challenges of tomorrow’s architecture.
What inspired this product?
The inspiration is rational. Together with BAUX, we are constantly looking to meet the future expectations of architecture in terms of acoustics and sustainability. In close dialogue with the textile industry in Sweden, we found out how residual materials can be converted into a second-life product. It is important to understand the properties of a material and then realize its full potential. In this case, we’ve made the leftovers visible to avoid additional material and to help convey the story to users.
What waste (and other) materials do you use, how did you choose these specific materials and how do you source them?
We are in constant dialogue with industrial partners – be they material scientists, experts, recyclers, manufacturers, etc. From our experience, it is crucial to see design as a collaborative process, to hear different insights and perspectives in order to drive real change. Upcycling these leftovers was a direct result of our approach to collaboration. Designers can bring both a critical and a curious perspective on a problem.
When did you first become interested in the use of waste as a raw material and what motivated this decision?
When we were in school fifteen years ago, the industry wasn’t that interested in what to do with waste. The world has changed, and our approach and know-how have been more relevant than ever for a number of years. The first time we worked with industrial-scale waste was at IKEA, where we examined several potential waste streams that turned out to be material solutions for the wood PP Odger chair and the recycled PET Kungsbacka kitchen system. Our motivation is to change perspectives, from waste to value.
Which processes do the materials have to go through in order to become the finished product?
It is difficult to give a straight answer as it depends on how the material is used and to what extent. Our task as designers is to develop solutions that work for both culture and industry, i.e. to identify both use and provision.
What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they get back into the circular economy?
Yes – it’s a circular solution. The product consists of a mono-material mix and can be withdrawn and reproduced. It is important to think about the end of life, but also how the life of a product can be extended through both quality and aesthetic values.
How did you first feel when you saw the transformation from waste material to product / prototype?
The project team is always excited to see how design prototyping leads from waste to new solutions. For several years now, we have had a joint venture that deals with waste from the glass industry. The glass has been tipped into the ground for decades and this particular glass contains toxic heavy metals that affect groundwater. The project team consists of recyclers, designers, scientists and engineers. Only a few months ago we managed to separate the heavy metals from the glass. Now we’re doing design research to find uses for refined glass.
How did people react to this project?
One of the first projects we did out of waste on an industrial scale was with IKEA and the Odger chair. It was a challenging project and during the process there was a lively debate about how global consumers would buy the products when they saw a new material in that context. The timing was spot on – people were ready to rethink what beauty is, from perfection to imperfection. It was rewarding for everyone involved who fought for change.
In your opinion, how is the opinion on waste as a raw material changing?
There has been a dramatic change in at least what we’re seeing, both in the global brands we work with and among consumers. It’s a difficult subject, so we believe it is our job to be informed and come up with solutions that will best help improve the lives of people, businesses, and the planet.
In your opinion, what does the future look like for waste as a raw material?
The future will be more informed and sustainable, but at the same time people will continue to value convenience. We believe that with a critical approach, designers can play an important role in finding solutions that work for people, the economy and the planet. Resource scarcity and rising material prices will accelerate this change. It will evolve from a nice-to-have to a must-have, simply because the resources will not be sufficient to meet the growing world population.