In early 2010, Dutch designer Christien Meindertsma became interested in flax. So she approached a local farmer, Gert-Jan van Dongen, and asked him to sow flax seeds on a farm in his field. By the summer, van Dongen had grown an entire field of flax, which Meinderstma harvested with the intention of using as a design material.
Six years later, the resulting Flax Chair has won two Dutch Design Awards (DDAs)–not just because it looks good, but because in creating it, Meinderstma was able to invent an entirely new sustainable material.
Although perhaps best known as a food crop, flax has long been used to make textiles, including linen. Linen has been used in furniture design as an upholstery fabric, but Meinderstma’s Flax Chair isn’t merely some linen canopy chair. Rather, the designer combined flax with a biodegradeable plastic made from lactic acid. The resulting material can be used to make rigid chairs that hold a person’s weight without a frame, almost like a cross between linen and fiber board.
Meindertsma created the Flax Chair for Label/Breed, a Dutch design house that specializes in teaming industrial and material designers to collaborate on new types of products. It can be constructed from a single 2-foot-by-3-foot sheet of flax composite, without any material left over.
In addition to winning the 2016 Product Design award, Meindertsma also won the Future Award, the Dutch Design Awards’ equivalent of Grand Prize.
You can preorder a Flax Chair for around $540 through Label/Breed here.