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Taking a Closer Look at Carbon with mafi America

Sustainability is a word often used as the token expression of “green building.” But what does it actually mean and what are the consequences of paying attention to the sustainability movement? Written by mafi America’s Head of Sustainability Walter Lourie, LEED AP BD+C, this article will take a closer look…

An Overview of Wood Block Printing

Wood block printing onto fabric has been a main staple of Indian culture and commerce for the last 2,000 years. Although today there are mechanical means, such as screen printing, which are able to mimic the appearance of traditional block printing—some not only echoing the motifs, but integrating minute mistakes…

Biophilia and Biomimicry in Design

It’s easy to see why biophilia and biomimicry are frequently confused. They’re both design strategies that are inspired by nature and they were both introduced through the environmental movement – not to mention that they sound quite similar. But they’re actually entirely different concepts used in different ways – and…

A Closer Look at Linen

An age-old material made from the fibers of the flax plant, linen is a renewable resource regarded for its soft touch, smooth texture, strength, and durability. As one of the oldest textiles developed, linen can be traced back to ancient Egypt when it was often used as currency and a…

A History of Subway Tiles

The subway tile is an essential element of interior design that holds a storied 100-year history, having first emerged in the early twentieth century as an easy-to-clean, sleek surfacing solution for the subterranean spaces beneath New York City streets. The ubiquitous three-by-six-inch rectangular tile has evolved from applications across Manhattan…

An Exploration of Pleats as an Expressive Interior Element

A material embellishment embraced for its ability to infuse volume, texture, and dimension, pleats are an expressive element of design that hold a long history. The traditional techniques used to create this age-old motif can be traced back to ancient Egypt, and pleats have been reinterpreted in recent years across…

Exploring Encaustic Tile

Boasting bold patterns that appear inlaid, encaustic tiles are made using multiple colors of clay through methods first conceived centuries ago. “The encaustic tile represents a part of history in the design world,” says Erica Puccio of TileBar. “The combination of multiple color patterns is not typical for a tile,…

A Brief History of Bentwood Furniture

A pioneering design that transformed interiors and revolutionized industrial production processes, bentwood furniture features an iconic appeal that has transcended time. Its sleek and sinuous forms are fashioned from a centuries-old technique rooted in steam-bent, laminated woodwork. As a formative feature in the history of furniture design, classic bentwood chairs…

Exploring the Designer’s Role

Designers make some of the most important decisions about the spaces we live in. The wooden floor, the carpeting, the wall cladding and windows, the bronze kitchen hardware and tile backsplash and leather couch – all exist based on choices made by designers long before they became part of interior…

Navigating Local Sourcing

You’ve seen it in your grocery stores, your farmer’s markets – and likely in your materials libraries too. Alongside “sustainable,” “green,” and “clean,” there’s another buzzword associated with socially and environmentally responsible consumerism: local. Locally produced goods and materials are a growing consumer preference – and there are plenty of…

The Iridescent Intrigue of Mother of Pearl

Luminous and shimmering with an ethereal appeal, mother of pearl is an opulent, natural material found in the iridescent lining of a mollusk shell. Distinguished by a delicate, pearlescent finish, this material boasts unique textures, natural veining, and mysterious movement that ensure each piece is individual. Popularly used for bath,…

The Alluring Art of Embroidery

Embroidery is the art of using needle and thread, yarn, or fine wire to decorate a material. A practice that is as far reaching as it is old, embroidery methods have been found on every continent but Antartica and the craft continues to be practiced by nearly every society today….

The History of Passive House

Passive building strategies use elements like a building’s location, the local climate, and materials as natural opportunities to save energy on heating and cooling systems and keep operational costs down. They can help reduce front-end costs, as well as emissions related to heating, cooling, and lighting. Passive House, or PassivHaus,…

A Closer Look at Concrete

Utilitarian, ubiquitous, and undoubtedly robust, concrete serves as a sleek, stalwart design element and is the most used manmade material on earth. Its usage worldwide, ton for ton, is twice that of steel, wood, plastics, and aluminum combined. The versatile material is irresistibly sleek and sturdy with a surprisingly stylish…

The Many Faces of Metal in Design

For centuries, metal has been popular in architecture and interior design. While metal details such as faucets and drawer pulls have been used for centuries, and embossed tin ceilings gained popularity in the early 20th century as a cost-effective substitute for elaborate plaster ceilings that were seen in Europe, we…

How Materials Passports Could Transform the Building Industry

Imagine that your house, your office, your grocery store, and your bank are all part of a database with information about what building materials they contain and how each can eventually be reused or recycled. It’s housed in something called a “materials passport,” a digital document that provides information about…

An Introduction to Terrazzo

More than 500 years ago, Venetian builders in the Friuli region invented terrazzo in order to make use of marble remnants left over from posher projects. Drawing on ancient marble mosaic styles, these tradesmen began to set irregular fragments of discarded stone into clay to build terraces around their living…

A Comparison Between Thin Brick and Extruded Brick

Although there has been evidence of kiln fired bricks since 4400 BC, new opportunities with technology and a resurgence in popularity of having exposed brick has led to a variety of brick types over the last few decades. Today, two types in particular—thin brick and extruded brick—are often utilized by…

The Advantages of Aluminum

An aesthetically appealing, silvery-white metal that is accessible, lightweight, durable, and infinitely recyclable, aluminum is an abundant and versatile material that is favored for an array of end applications, which range from design and architectural uses such as decorative detailing, structural elements, and construction to automotive and aviation design. While…

Insights Into the Advantages of Wool

An all-purpose material with an expansive array of uses, tried-and-true wool textiles have been turned to throughout history. With common types that include merino, cashmere, and mohair, wool is a textile fiber obtained from sheep and other animals including alpacas, llamas, camels, goats, and more. Utilized for many interior applications—from…

The Benefits of Bamboo

Bamboo showcases sustainable qualities, nuanced natural textures, and hardwearing characteristics that make it ideal for an array of design applications. Acclaimed for its design-forward aesthetics, physical strength, and environmental benefits, bamboo is becoming increasingly popular as a material in architecture, interior, and industrial design. Bamboo’s broad selection of interior uses…

A Closer Look at Leather Alternatives

From leaves and mushrooms to plants more, an expanding array of innovative and eco-friendly leather alternatives exists. Our article on innovations in traditional hide leather explores the stricter environmental and health protocols that many manufacturers have adopted in recent years. Leather manufacturers argue that cow hides are a byproduct of…

Innovations in Hide Leather

Leather is a luxurious, soft, and durable material that’s been used by human civilizations since at least 2200 BCE.  But leather is also a warzone—that is, between those who believe hide leather is a fantastic, sustainable material and those who would argue to the death that it’s both unethical and…

An Overview of Acoustical Plaster

Although plaster has been used since the ancient world, acoustical plaster has been gaining momentum in the industry over the last couple of decades due to its sound absorption properties and seamless appearance. Acoustical plaster has an array of inherent advantages that include flexibility, ease of installation, a lightweight design,…

The Enduring Appeal of Zellige Tile

Zellige tiling is a time-tested art form that features fresh textures, rich colorways, and handcrafted charm. The glossy, handmade tiles come in a broad selection of shapes and sizes—though they are most commonly square—and due to the imperfect nature of the glaze no two pieces are exactly alike. With artisanal…

A History of the Environmental Justice Movement

In 1983, the United States General Accounting Office found that three out of every four off-site commercial waste hazards in the southern US were located in predominantly African American communities—even though African Americans only made up 20 percent of the region’s population. And this was no anomaly. Today, three out…

A Brief Overview of Bouclé Fabrics

Showcasing a stylish and sophisticated aesthetic achieved through a unique weaving process, bouclé is a heavy textile that holds a rich and intricate history. A staple of midcentury modern design, bouclé fabrics continue to bring cozy texture to upholstered furniture and accents in contemporary interiors. The fashionable fabrics feature a curly,…

A Closer Look at LVT Flooring

Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is a hard surface flooring material available in a range of shapes, sizes, and aesthetics that can evoke the appearance of authentic wood or stone while providing practical benefits not possible with natural products. Available in a diverse array of different constructions, LVT plank or tile…

Exploring Thermally Fused and High-Pressure Laminate

For more than a century, designers and architects have used laminate when looking for surfacing solutions that offer a range of aesthetics. Today, Thermally Fused Laminate (TFL, also known as Thermally Fused Melamine (TFM)) and High Pressure Laminate (HPL) provide cost-effective options. The information that follows will explore the similarities…

Biomaterials and Biodesign

Biodesign is a quickly growing field that uses materials derived from living organisms rather than finite resources or synthetics. Living materials—made from anything that can reproduce, including plants, animals, insects, fungi, and even bacteria—have the potential to be more sustainable, healthier, and higher performing building alternatives than traditional materials. Biologists,…