Pictured: The likes of discarded fish skin (left), peanut shells and rice husks (middle) could soon line the staple features of your home. According to Victoria Redshaw (right) of trend forecasters Scarlet Opus, interior product designers are turning to unusual materials in a bid to help lower the environmental impact of their work and introduce interesting new textures and styles to the design world

03/05/17 – DUBAI, UAE: How would you feel knowing your sofa was once someone’s left-over dinner?

As unusual as it may sound, the likes of discarded fish skin, peanut shells and rice husks could soon line the staple features of your home.

In the ongoing quest for sustainability, interior product designers are turning to a pool of bizarre new materials in a bid to help lower the environmental impact of their work and introduce interesting new textures and styles to the design world.

Fish skin leather, for example, is now finding uses in upholstery, furniture and across accessories – such as on cushions. Rice and nuts can be found as base structure materials, while fabrics discarded from the fashion world are used to insulate, and waste magazines are becoming wall coverings.

With their alternative feel and cheaper cost, the materials are now superseding the more traditional for many designers.

This month’s INDEX Design Series – the UAE’s biggest interior design exhibition – is exploring the theme Design for the Senses. UK-based trend forecasters Scarlet Opus are inviting visitors to the show to experience both their Trends Hub and Trend Tour, which will look at the many different materials finding their way into the wider design domain.

Victoria Redshaw, lead futurist at Scarlet Opus, explained: “As consumer desire grows for makers to be more responsible about the materials they use, their production processes and how they address waste in getting products to market, designers are getting ever more creative and innovative in their search for eco-friendly materials.

“Sometimes the use of unexpected materials comes from a serendipitous event, but mostly it’s through the efforts of niche-designers, younger creatives with a passion to design in sustainable ways and find waste by-product of the food industry.

“Fish skin leather has been used for some time in fashion, but is now finding its way into the hands of very good designers in the interiors world. This is because the raw material is much more readily available to them and is using what is otherwise mostly waste. Using them not only helps to reduce waste material disposal around the world – which in many countries is very expensive – it also avoids the need to ‘manufacture’ new materials or cause the partial use of yet more natural resources.”

The INDEX Trends Hub will showcase eight products from around the world that have been designed and manufactured to achieve 100% sustainability. Those include a salmon-skin drum table made, a pasta bowl made out of one million year-old slate, and a pair of sunglasses devised from shrub-plants.

INDEX director Samantha Kane-Macdonald said: “Our Trends Hub and Trend Tour will really open people’s eyes to the changing of the guard in traditional material use. INDEX prides itself on looking to the future of design and – although it may sound outlandish – foodstuffs are now crossing into the textural and architectural sides of design and having a genuine impact. Not only does this present major environmental and financial benefits, but exciting new opportunities for design too.”

With more high-end exhibitors amongst the show floors’ 800 stands than ever before, the INDEX Design Series is promising a style experience like no other in 2017. The four-day show – running May 22-25 at the Dubai World Trade Centre, alongside Middle East Covering and workspace – will explore Design for the Senses; furniture, furnishings and décor that not only stimulate visually, but trigger a sensory feast, bringing design to life. The show, this year set in a lush forest environment, will welcome many of the world’s most exclusive home brands and is promising to be the design event of the season.

London style icon Henry Holland and former British Designer of the Year Bethan Gray will take part in four days of engaging Design Talks, sponsored by OFIS. Jo Hamilton, widely regarded as the UK’s leading high-end interior designer, will also feature, offering direct advice on how to create the perfect interior and on hand to meet and discuss design with interested parties. Harrods Interiors will welcome the show’s leading visitors into a stunning VIP Oasis in the heart of the exhibition.

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INDEX takes place at the Dubai World Trade Centre from May 22-25. We are planning a media launch event on May 22 – please let me know if you are interested in attending. Details TBC.