29 Dec

Parker O'Halloran

2 minute read

Circular Icelandic Design | Sustainability 

Circular Icelandic Design | Sustainability 

Discover how Icelandic designers embrace circular design principles to create sustainable, eco-friendly products while preserving their cultural heritage.

Flétta airbag pillow

Airbag pillow by Flétta

On the road again

What does it mean to "throw away" something? Where is away? How can we design and make the things in our lives with a more Cradle-to-Cradle approach? Where we can minimize the negative impacts of the materials we use but instead create a beneficial ecological influence. 

Icelandic interior and lifestyle brand FÓLK teamed up with Birta Rós Brynjólfsdóttir and Hrefna Sigurðardóttir, the conceptual design team behind studio Flétta and Tinna Gunnarsdóttir, an experienced metal designer and Professor of Product Design at Iceland University of the Arts. Together, they address waste streams, upcycling, and the life-cycle of products in their Circular Designs presentation for Design March 2021. 

Filtering through all the various wastes was perhaps the most challenging aspect of the project. Finally, Flétta found the perfect item to work with—airbags from salvaged cars. 

The airbags could not be used in vehicles again but were perfect for upcycling into durable floor cushions. For those readers who have not wandered through an auto salvage yard, these places are generally hives of disorganization except to the few—often gruff—proprietors. FÓLK partnered up with Fletta and paired them with a used auto parts seller called Netpartar. Netpartar has built a cloud-based inventory management system of salvage car parts as organized as any new dealership. Fletta recovered airbags from different vehicle manufacturers for a mix of beautiful colors, patterns, and sizes. The source of the filling for the cushions was old duvets from the Red Cross that were unsellable. Cleverly added details and stitching from Fletta made for extraordinarily unique and durable cushions with a great story behind them. No wonder all their pillows sold out during Design March 2021! 

Tinna Gunnarsdóttir has worked with metals for years but is particularly fond of aluminum. It is light, does not rust, and can be recycled endlessly without degrading the quality—a rare feat in the recycling world. Tinna worked closely with the professionals at Málmsteypan Hella foundry in Hafnarfjörður to reimagine "junk" aluminum parts into elegant multifunctional trays and candle holders. The simplicity and beauty of the pieces belie their practical applications in a previous life as bumpers, rims, and engine parts. These durable homewares will serve for generations—if not thousands of years! Best of all, recycling aluminum requires 5% of the energy compared to smelting new aluminum. Tinna is happy to know that someday, her products may very well be melted down and given a new life.  

In partnership with FÓLK Reykjavik, designers are leading the charge in shifting our perspective on waste and what they can accomplish with thoughtful design. Transitioning our entire consumptive-based economy is undoubtedly a lofty challenge, but inspiration often leaps from humble beginnings.

Reykjavik's FÓLK lifestyle brand nurtures local designers to think beyond waste to find a new life for everyday items as beautiful as they are practical.


Tinna Gunnarsdóttir
Flétta air bag pillows
FÓLK Circular Design

This article was written by Parker O'Halloran

Parker is a seasoned writer and editor living in Reykjavik, Iceland.

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