Meubles en carton
February 26, 2009 4:00 PM   Subscribe

Cardboard furniture: cheap and convenient. Or astounding.

How much weight can a piece of cardboard really bear? This guy (video in French) and these people can show you. They're cartonnistes -- who knew there were so many people building cardboard furniture in France that they have a word for it?

Accomplished cartonniste Eric Guiomar founded the Compagnie Bleuzen, which gives occasional cardboard furniture workshops and sells an instructional DVD. You can also find him on YouTube and Instructables.

Association Récréation, a group in Brest dedicated to making art from reused and recycled materials, has a blog of cardboard furniture made in its workshops. I love this coffee table: shaped like a nautilus shell with a little drawer at its mouth and covered in used coffee filters.

How they do it: this Instructable from Guiomar shows internal struts inside a cylindrical cardboard stool, which seem to be the cartonnistes' preferred way to give their furniture structural integrity. Leo Kempf's approach is a little different; inspired by Frank Gehry's wiggle chair, he glues layers of identical cardboard cutouts together, sometimes with plywood spacers, to take advantage of the strength of the corrugation inside. Will Holman does a little of both. A little more pedestrian but still useful is this laptop stand, and I bet this collapsible cardboard futon is...well, at least as comfortable as a regular futon.

(Previously, origami-style cardboard chairs for kids.)
posted by clavicle (24 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

This pin used to hold a pearl the size of your eye. Look at me now,look at me now. I'M WEARING A CARDBOARD BELT!
posted by nola at 4:10 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

That's rad and reminds me that I forgot to link the cardboard chair entries from designboom's folding chair contest, some of which are DIYable for sure.
posted by clavicle at 4:12 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nicely put together post! What gets me though is the microscope and wheelchair.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:13 PM on February 26, 2009

P.S. - I have had cardboard furniture, and I have had antique walnut furniture.

It is better to have antique walnut furniture.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:14 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Neat stuff there. I ran across some designs for cardboard furniture in a book from the 70's and liked the overall idea. I showed the plan to my girlfriend and she gave me a look like I'd just suggested a spirited session of scat play.

I've kept my ideas to myself since.
posted by lekvar at 4:35 PM on February 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

FedEx box furniture
posted by marble at 5:17 PM on February 26, 2009

orange swan is NOT gonna be happy. This is her turf. She gonna cut you!
posted by Ritchie at 5:37 PM on February 26, 2009

She doesn't get into knife fights ever since she made a bricolage crossbow system using knitting needles, aluminum cans, elastic bra straps, carpet tacks, and a molded stock out of recycled egg cartons.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:06 PM on February 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

My very next post was going to be about things to do with cardboard and I had a long list of links already saved for it. Sigh.
posted by orange swan at 6:06 PM on February 26, 2009

C'mon orange swan! Post your links!

Here's one now!
posted by orme at 6:07 PM on February 26, 2009

Awww! I'm a fan of your posts, orange swan, and it did briefly occur to me that I'm kinda biting your style here. Sorry for the inadvertent poaching. I agree you should post your links here.
posted by clavicle at 6:15 PM on February 26, 2009

All right — this is such a good post I can't very well do another one on the same topic any time soon.

Check these out:

Tote bag. Picture frame. Bookmark. Gift boxes. Christmas tree ornament. Christmas tree. Light fixture. Cardboard doll furniture. Doll house. Playhouse. Kid's chair. Toys. Cat chaise lounge. Deer, moose or rhino bust. Furniture. Coffeetable. Chairs. Red desk. Console. Instructable group "cartonnistes". How to design your own cardboard furniture. Sound box. Cardboard luggage. Ghandi. Tobias Putrih art installation.

And check out this article for more ideas.

That's what I had, anyway, minus some dupes. I wasn't done researching by any means.
posted by orange swan at 7:12 PM on February 26, 2009 [6 favorites]

Don't forget about Graypants' beautiful cardboard pendant lamps.
posted by purpleclover at 7:16 PM on February 26, 2009

Just don't ever get any of it wet.
posted by emjaybee at 7:30 PM on February 26, 2009

Wow. A cardboard Fiat 600. Somehow I think that's probably more solid than my real one.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:51 PM on February 26, 2009

This cardboard bridge can support 20 people.

I remember seeing in the 70's a TV commercial touting the strength of cardboard showed a Jaguar crossing a cardboard bridge. Googling for it was unsuccessful. Anyone else remember that?
posted by Daddy-O at 8:05 PM on February 26, 2009

Daddy-O, per this it was a Rolls and the advertiser was the St. Regis Paper Company. Otherwise, nada.
posted by dhartung at 8:42 PM on February 26, 2009

Thanks dhartung
posted by Daddy-O at 2:12 AM on February 27, 2009

orange swan, I had started sketching for a DIY deer bust! Thank you for saving me the trouble.

This is awesome. One of our first projects in college was to design a cardboard stool, using only one box - the cut-out-and-keep learning experience for me was mostly that there is way, way less cardboard (and potential for making cool things) in one box than you might guess.
posted by carbide at 6:03 AM on February 27, 2009

orange swan, I had started sketching for a DIY deer bust! Thank you for saving me the trouble.

I will eventually learn to click the whole way through to discover it's not so much DIY as build-your-own-bought-kit. Ok, back to sketching with pilfered structural ideas.
posted by carbide at 6:12 AM on February 27, 2009

My enthusiasm for recycled cardboard objects was dampened by the realization that cardboard, despite its many virtues, is often a medium for roach and spider eggs.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:52 AM on February 27, 2009

I have had cardboard furniture, and I have had antique walnut furniture.

It is better to have antique walnut furniture.

I have some of the latter, and I have to admit it's much more my style than the cardboard versions. When writing my posts, I try to pick examples of good design, but it doesn't follow that the examples are to my individual tastes, nor would they work aesthetically in my house and with my existing furnishings. Somehow I don't think a plastic bottle chandelier would look right over my 1900's dining room chairs or 1930's walnut china cabinet or 1912 mahogany piano. So when I needed chandeliers during my recent living/dining room renovation, I did not make one out of plastic pop bottles or wire hangers. I went to Rona and bought some new ones.

But then one of the points of my posts is not that we should make the specific projects I link to, but that we should be trying to reduce consumption and waste in general by creative reuse and salvaging of existing materials whenever possible. So yeah, I bought new chandeliers for the living room, and energy-efficient lightbulbs to go in them, but I repaired and repainted my existing stucco ceiling and its plaster medallion moldings rather than ripping it all down as my mother urged me to do, and I kept and painted my fake mantlepiece and am working on covering its crappy old tile surround with a mosiac surround made out of smashed Value Village crockery, some old jewelry I never wear, and seashells I picked up on the beach while on vacation in North Carolina last summer.

And my furniture is not made from cardboard, but not much of it is new, either. My dining room chairs were my great-grandmother Swan's. I bought my piano via an ad on Craig's List. The china cabinet came from a family-owned antique shop around the corner. My wall clock is a 1940s walnut pendulum clock that came from a small store near my work place. My dad built my bookcases out of wood from a dead tree my brother had to cut down on his farm. The two armchairs and hassock were thrift shop purchases that I reupholstered. The only pieces of furniture in the room that I bought new from a store are the cream couch and walnut dining room table. I bought them in 2001. They still look almost exactly as they did the day they were delivered, and when the upholstery gets worn out or the table marred I'll be reupholstering and refinishing them.

Am I some shining example of eco-friendly living? No, but it's a consciousness I am trying to cultivate, and a mark I am trying to work towards.
posted by orange swan at 5:15 PM on February 27, 2009

When you live in an apartment, sometimes you have little nooks and crannies that require a very particular piece of furniture that will probably not work if you move. In my case it's the spot next to the door under where the AC protrudes in the window where I keep my shoes. This seems like an ideal place to put a custom cardboard shoe shelf. There are a couple of other nooks and crannies where I may wind up putting knickknack shelves — even though I generally hate knickknacks.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:14 PM on February 27, 2009

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