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Issue 60 - The Kitchen and Bathroom Issue

Issue 60

The Kitchen and Bathroom Issue

HABITUS has always stood ahead of the rest with a dedicated Kitchen and Bathroom issue of exemplar standards. For issue 60 we have taken it up a notch with our Guest Editor the extraordinary, queen of kitchen design, Sarah-Jane Pyke of Arent&Pyke, speaking directly to Kitchen and Bathroom design with some increadable insights.

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Mater in Milan: Q&A on the collaboration with Patricia Urquiola
ClimateTimothy Alouani-Roby

Mater in Milan: Q&A on the collaboration with Patricia Urquiola

We spoke to Ketil Årdal, CEO of Danish green-tech design brand, Mater, as they unveiled the Alder collection at Milan Design Week.

Alder can be used indoors and outdoors and was created in collaboration with renowned Spanish architect and designer, Patricia Urquiola. It is made from a new biodegradable blend of Matek®, a patented material and technology by Mater that turns waste into a mouldable raw material. With the Milanese dust settling, we turn to an in-depth exploration of this collection launch with CEO Ketil Årdal.

Timothy Alouani-Roby (Editor, Habitus Living): How did the collaboration with Patricia Urquiola come about?

Ketil Årdal: Some years back, our design team came in contact with Tony Chambers, one of the most influential creative forces in the international furniture and design industry. He had an immediate liking for Mater’s vision of changing the furniture industry to become more sustainable. Since then, we have worked closely with Tony on a consulting basis, and he was the one who introduced us to Patricia Urquiola.

Patricia Urquiola’s design is the perfect example of the design of the future. She has an innate interest in materials and the development of new such. She also shares our vision of how to challenge the status quo of the furniture industry to become more responsible and climate-conscious in terms of production, and that made her the perfect partner for Mater. It has been a tremendous honour to work with such a prominent figure in the design world and we have learned a lot from her and her creative team.

Mater and Patricia Urquiola - Milan Q&A
Ketil Årdal.

What does it mean to be a ‘green-tech design brand’? 

Our approach is, in addition to creating furniture of good quality that can stand the test of time, to scrutinise the choice of materials. Can we challenge the common perceptions of what quality furniture is produced from and instead create aesthetically appealing furniture from recycled resources? We believe we have cracked that code by implementing our waste material Matek® in our furniture production. Today Mater is not only a furniture design company – we are a green-tech company that also develop new and innovative materials that can be used for furniture and interior decorating.

Our dogma is to create more from less, to minimise the use of virgin materials by using waste and surplus materials, to design for longevity, to explore the full potential of sustainable materials, to design for circularity, and to keep pushing the boundaries of tomorrow’s furniture production.

Can you explain what Matek™ is and why you chose to work with this material/technology?

Matek™ is a unique waste-based material developed by Mater. It enables us to make furniture of recycled and more responsible materials, without comprising aesthetics. The material is a mix of waste fibres and a waste or biodegradable binder. Coffee bean shells, extracted during the roasting process and thus a byproduct from the coffee roasting industry, or sawdust from wood production, are examples of fibre materials we use. The binder material is made from plastic waste or a plastic-based alternative, mixing the two components to create a compound suitable for press moulding.

Today, we primarily use recycled post-consumer e-waste plastic as our binder material. In the beginning, we used industrial plastic waste as the binder material. However, this is an area that is constantly developing and the large companies we worked with earlier have fortunately realised that what was previously considered waste from their production is actually quality plastic that can be used for other purposes in their own production line.

Mater and Patricia Urquiola - Milan Q&A
Patricia Urquiola, photograph by Nicklas Hemming.

As a company, we are always trying to challenge ourselves to use materials that are difficult for others to use, therefore it has been a natural development for us to move on to other waste streams. E-waste is considered the fastest-growing waste stream in the world, and it thus makes perfect sense for us to incorporate it into our Matek™ production. Especially because it’s a waste stream where the documented global share of properly collected and recycled e-waste is only 20 per cent. Instead, large volumes often end up in landfill sites or are burned with CO2 emissions as a consequence.

Our newest version of Matek™ is biodegradable and made with only natural materials. We use biodegradable plastic derived from sugarcane as the binder material, and the biodegradable Matek™ can be decomposed by living organisms in the same way as wood or any other natural material would.

We consider Matek™ as a material like no other and this is also the reaction we get from architects and designers. It offers a unique tactility and materiality with features that resemble timeless materials like stone, terrazzo or even marble. Another unique quality is that it is truly circular and can be processed again and again. And that is why we unhesitatingly offer to take all Matek™ furniture back at the end of its life to recycle it into new furniture.

What did the manufacturing process look like for Alder?

It has been a close collaboration between our product development team and Patricia Urquiola’s design team. I think it’s fair to say that it has been a mutual learning process. The new biodegradable version of Matek™ has played a key role in the design by guiding the entire creative process, while Patricia and her team pushed us to develop the material in terms of tactility, formability and colour.

Developing a new biodegradable formula with different blends of waste streams was, of course, a challenge for our product development team. Testing and fine-tuning our technology with several different formulas and waste streams was needed before we ended up with the desired finish, quality, look and characteristics of the biodegradable Matek™ we present with the Alder Collection. 

Mater and Patricia Urquiola - Milan Q&A

Why is biodegradability important for you?

We are on a constant journey to find new solutions that will make furniture production more sustainable.

We started our journey incorporating traditional waste materials such as recycled fishing nets and recycled plastic into our furniture production, moving on to finding methods and technology that allowed us to develop our innovative circular Matek™ material – never before seen in furniture production.

Since Matek™ was first introduced, we have experimented with and fine-tuned the technology, allowing us to increase the number of waste streams we can process to furniture. Our eagerness to develop and do better has led us to our newest revelation, the biodegradable version of Matek™. It was only natural for us to see if we could use our technology to create a material that recycles waste fibres while at the same time is completely dissolvable and can eventually return to nature.

We want to continue to push the boundaries and strive toward a future where nothing is considered waste but by preference, a resource to incorporate into new production cycles.

Mater and Patricia Urquiola - Milan Q&A
Mater and Patricia Urquiola - Milan Q&A

How does the principle of design for disassembly figure in this work?

All our furniture made from Matek™ is designed for disassembly. This means that the product can be easily disassembled and each component, in its purest form, can be recycled into new production cycles.

In the case of the Alder Collection, the biodegradable Matek™ is built around a steel frame made from 94 per cent recycled steel, providing additional strength and durability. At the end of the product’s life it should be returned to Mater. We can recycle it into new furniture designs and the steel can be recycled through ordinary recycling facilities.

Are these sustainability principles – biodegradability, design for disassembly, circularity, etc. – the future of furniture design?

We believe that Mater is the forerunner for tomorrow’s furniture industry.

We live in a world where resources are increasingly scarce and where consumption rates nevertheless accelerate. When you look at the numbers from the Circularity Gap Report stating that the world is currently consuming 100 billion tonnes of material each year, of which only 7.2 per cent is being recycled, it becomes clear that we need to do something. We need to think out of the box and produce in new ways where materials can either be recycled or returned to nature at end-of-life. At Mater, we have made this our raison d’être – to constantly challenge the status quo and find ways to create a more responsible and sustainable furniture industry.

How important is it to showcase this at Milan 2024? What response did you get?

First of all, it is a tremendous honour for us to work together with a renowned designer as Patricia Urquiola, and presenting this collaboration in Milan, the home of her design studio, made perfect sense. Milan Design Week is an event that attracts all levels of the design industry from all over the world. This allows us to present the Alder Collection to a much broader audience and of course also to tell the story of Mater as a green-tech design company that wants to revolutionise the furniture industry.

Are you seeing more interest and attraction for circular design products from consumers and professional specifiers?

Fortunately, this is an area that is in great development, and we have especially over the last couple of years seen an increasing interest in circular design and our products. Especially specifiers have become much more knowledgeable and aware of their responsibility for the circular transition.

New building projects must meet a wide range of sustainability requirements concerning building materials and processes. Fortunately, we see a tendency – and this goes for interior decoration as well – towards projects with more sustainable solutions. We work a lot with the contract market – hotels, restaurants and office buildings – and these are areas where there is a huge impact of choosing sustainable products. If, for example, we sell 200 chairs to an office building then that’s a very large amount of waste materials we can recycle through our furniture.

When it comes to consumer behaviour and demands, it is our responsibility to develop and market sustainable furniture, addressing design, quality and price equal to any other design furniture. It is important to highlight that sustainable materials can be functional and beautiful too – you do not compromise on design by being sustainable; they go hand-in-hand.


Nicklas Hemming, Luca Rotondo

Mater and Patricia Urquiola - Milan Q&A

More from Milan 2024: Ten highlights from this year’s MDW

About the Author

Timothy Alouani-Roby

Timothy Alouani-Roby is the Editor of Indesignlive and Habitus Living. Having worked in elite professional sport for over a decade, he retrained in architecture at the University of Sydney, adding to previous degrees in philosophy, politics and English literature. Timothy is based in Gadigal-Sydney, but spends much of his time among the moors of both Northern England and Marrakech.


chaircircular economycircularityClimateclimate crisisdesigndesign for disassemblyfurnitureInterior DesignMater Urquiola

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Issue 60 - The Kitchen and Bathroom Issue

Issue 60

The Kitchen and Bathroom Issue

HABITUS has always stood ahead of the rest with a dedicated Kitchen and Bathroom issue of exemplar standards. For issue 60 we have taken it up a notch with our Guest Editor the extraordinary, queen of kitchen design, Sarah-Jane Pyke of Arent&Pyke, speaking directly to Kitchen and Bathroom design with some increadable insights.

Order Issue