Organic and Natural Materials in Upholstery

Organic materials for upholstery

IS there such a thing as ‘organic’ upholstery?

The confusion arises when we go to our knowledge of ‘certified organic’ products. Most of us are familiar with organic foods and organic fibers like cotton, but how does this apply to what lies beneath the fabric of an upholstered chair?

Lola organic upholstered mcm swivel chair by Living Home Furniture

Lola upholstered mid-century style swivel chair by Living Home Furniture

I’m pretty sure there is no such thing as a 100% ‘certified organic’ piece of furniture. This is partially because many of the fibers used in such furniture grow naturally without the use of pesticides or chemicals, so there is no need to certify them. Hemp, jute & flax fall into this category, and in fact you’ll often see them blended with organic cotton in fabrics. Wood may be certified as well, but not by the same standards as fiber. The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) is one organization that provides certification for lumber stating that the source trees are farmed in a sustainable manner.

So… when I see a piece of furniture labeled as ‘organic’, I assume that it probably contains certified organic materials where the term is applicable, as well as naturally grown materials that do not require toxins to produce.

The Milton Rocking Chair by Living Home Furniture, upholstered with organic & natural materials.

The Milton chair by Living Home Furniture, upholstered with organic & natural materials.

‘Traditional’ upholstery

I can’t address natural materials without mentioning fine traditional upholstery. Think: meticulously shaped seating elements using jute, horsehair and other natural fibers. This is the centuries-old craft that comes to mind for many of us when we think about antique upholstery pieces. Traditional upholstery techniques predate the use of foam and polyester that’s common in modern day upholstery, and thus may accurately be referred to as non-toxic.

Traditional Upholstery materials are all natural

Traditional upholstery: Shelly Leer of ModHomeEc teaches this non-chemical sustainable method of upholstery at her workshop in Indianapolis

Latex Foam: Organic vs Natural?

Latex foam for upholstery has inspired a deluge of questions in recent months, especially over flame retardants. It’s easy to get confused by the use of the term ‘natural’, which has become as unreliable in the latex industry as it is in the food industry. Because many questions about latex have come to me directly due to my specialized work in non-toxic upholstery, I’ve been compelled to do the research so I can answer your concerns as accurately as possible.

Natural Latex Foam for Upholstery - Living Home

Living Home Furniture will soon be offering GOLS organic latex foam cut to size for upholstery.

The Good News: There is now a source for organic latex, certified by the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS). For those seeking the security of certified products, I am excited to announce that I’ve finally located a trusted supplier who sells both organic and 100% natural latex as well as more affordable synthetic blended latex – ALL free of fillers and additives, with NO Flame Retardants!

Because latex foam products are historically made for the bedding industry, it’s easy to find 6″ thick mattress sizes, but ordering custom-cut upholstery sized pieces is another story. That’s why Living Home Furniture is setting up an online store where you can order either organic or blended latex foam cut to the size you need for your particular project. Sign up for our mailing list and be the first to know when the store up and running (scheduled for the end of April 2015). You’ll also receive upholstery tips, tutorials and schedules for upcoming courses for using alternative materials in upholstery.

About the Author

CarlaHey there! I'm Carla Pyle. I love the stories that our furniture tells. For me a picture of my Granddaddy Milton's green upholstered arm chair brings to mind the vivid rhymes & colors of 'The Cat in the Hat' and his soft low voice in the telling. I love too that there is always an element of nature in furniture - the warm-toned curving grain of a walnut leg or the reflection of life in a mid-century chrome piece. The best part of teaching & sharing natural upholstery is that it ties all of these things together. Stories - of individual experience and of the planet - help us build happy & healthy homes.View all posts by Carla →

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