#sturdyascardboard: why is cardboard furniture sustainable and durable?

According to a die hard stereotype cardboard is a weak material and it’s not suitable to meet the needs of furniture

Cardboard furniture is an excellent alternative for those looking for ecological furnishing solutions. And this is not a news. However, there is a persistent perplexity about the quality and durability of these products which are often seen as a kind of playful imitation of “real” furniture in wood, plastic or metal. This negative stereotype is connected to the fact that cardboard is a relatively new and certainly niche material in the world of interior design. There’s also an aspect connected to the concept of cardboard that encompasses a universe of materials, not all suitable for the construction of furnishing solutions. To make an analogy, it’s as if we were speaking generically of wood, without specifying whether a piece of furniture is made of sturdy beech, larch, or oak boards, or if it’s rather made of plywood, veneer or chipboard sheets. As it’s easy to guess between two products of this kind there’s all the difference in the world and therefore under the same “wood” label there can be very precious furniture and low-cost low-alloy furnishings.

The same goes for cardboard furniture: there’s a whole universe of furnishing solutions and they range from the simple do-it-yourself cabinet, perhaps obtained from the creative recovery of used packaging boxes, passing through “light” cardboard displays, only suitable for displaying a few brochures, reaching huge modular bookcases capable of withstanding a load of quintals without problems.

How are these differences explained? And above all, can the combination “Cardboard + Furniture” work, or is it really just a kind of trend not to be taken too seriously? The answer goes through some basic factors:

  1. Material: which cardboard to use for the furniture?
  2. Technology: how innovation has changed the sector?
  3. Know-how: because you always learn from mistakes

1. Is cardboard furniture durable? And which cardboard to use for ecological and sturdy furniture?

Cardboard is light and totally recyclable and this certainly makes it an excellent eco-sustainable material. Despite this, it’s mainly used for disposable packaging, when in reality it could be exploited for many more uses, such as furniture for homes, shops or offices. Toys, chairs, armchairs, tables, desks, displays and even bookcases can be reinvented if redesigned with a cardboard structure, but here the material comes into play because not all cardboards are the same. For its products Nardi mainly uses triple-layer corrugated virgin “naval” cardboard. Let’s see what it means and why these characteristics are fundamental: naval cardboard is an extremely resistant to humidity material and is used for transport in the ships hold, hence its name. We come to the concept of virgin cardboard: the fiber used for the production of cardboard can be derived from recycled pulp, or from virgin fiber coming 100% from cellulose (in the case of FSC-guaranteed fiber it comes from forests properly managed according to environmental sustainability criteria). With reuse, cellulose fibers have a tendency to lose their original performance, which is why the use of virgin fiber is necessary to ensure an important performance. Finally, let’s move on to the triple layer: this cardboard is made up of flat paper surfaces (called covers), alternating with corrugated paper layers. The 4 covers and 3 corrugated paper sheets are linked with the use of natural starches (corn, peas and potatoes) which act as glues. The combined action of the flat covers with the internal wave confers rigidity and resistance to the structure and the triple wave cartons are certainly the ones that have the best performance in terms of reach. In short, the type of cardboard used is the fundamental basis for having a furniture that is eco-friendly, but at the same time durable and solid.

2. Why is technology essential for functional and sturdy cardboard furniture?

Nardi is a company that combines technological innovation with typically artisanal know-how and this means that, at the base of the success of its cardboard furniture, there are various aspects: “tailor-made” design allows you to simulate the furnishings solutions in detail, building them precisely on the specific needs of customers; the modern machinery used gives the possibility to make the most of the cardboard potential, with precision cuts and waterproofing prints that make the products incredibly solid and resistant to wear; the innovative interlocking solutions are designed to make assembly simple and effective at the same time, without the need for glues (and therefore no formaldehyde emissions).

3. The experience factor: cardboard works, but you need to know it

The last aspect is perhaps the most trivial, but it should not be underestimated: it may seem easy to build cardboard furniture, but we can assure you that, to have a product with highest quality standards, it’s necessary to be impeccable at every stage of production, from design to finding raw materials, from processing to assembly. Nardi can boast a decade of experience in the sector and, in order to arrive at beautiful, solid and durable products, it has had to experiment and constantly innovate. At the beginning some requests really seemed impossible missions, while now, with years of work behind and countless achievements around the world, we can say with certainty: cardboard is a fantastic sustainable furnishing solution … as long as you know it!

We hope this article will be helpful in clearing up some doubts and perplexities that often arise when it comes to cardboard furniture. For questions and requests please do not hesitate to contact us and if you are enthusiastic users of cardboard furniture, help us to defeat negative stereotypes by sharing your ecological furnishings on social networks with the hashtag #sturdyascardboard!

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