Material Innovations at the Surface Design Show 2020

This year’s Surface Design Show was once again brimming with innovative material concepts, creative design ideas and interesting surface pattern. This show is the leading event for Designers and Architects, with over 180 exhibitors and a selection of ‘New Talents’ showcasing exciting developments in interior and exterior surface materials and lighting.

Images – INAX Japanese Tile World, Wilde collection by Grestec Tile

The New Talent section of the show promotes emerging creatives within the industry. As we are living through a climate emergency it is no surprise that the focus was on Sustainability; moving beyond aesthetics and prioritising designing with a conscience. Sustainability remained at the forefront of the design agenda throughout the whole show; looking closely at manufacturing processes and the disposal of goods which can have a detrimental impact on the environment. Redefining waste material, through reuse and recycling was strongly showcased including the exploration of designing products that fit a circular economy; a fundamental element of designing for the future.

Sally Angharad curates the Surface Spotlight section of the show; one of the highlights of our visit; with a selection of innovative and tactile material samples on display for designers and architects to enjoy. This year’s theme was ‘Close to Home’ focusing on locally made and issues of waste within the production chain. Here are a couple of our favourite exhibitors…

Beyond Plastic

Beyond Plastic by Jannis Kempkens is a project that see’s the potential in food and agricultural waste being reformatted to create a new compostable material. They turn food waste from local homes, restaurants and supermarkets into biodegradable tableware that can be returned to the earth after the end of their use. This product can be used as an alternative to single-use plastics.


Organico is a project by Studio Philipp Hainke. Through extensive research they discovered ways of utilising local hemp as a traditional and renewable resource to create an innovative material for applications such as furniture. The great thing about this material is that it is non-toxic, CO2 Neutral and 100% biodegradable.


Durat is a colourful solid surface material that is made in Finland with recycled post-industrial plastics using renewable energy and is fully recyclable. The post-industrial plastic waste is collected from local manufacturing waste management companies. We were so attracted to their new collection that uses natural pigments and precious minerals to enhance their ‘recycled to last’ vision. This material redefines ‘eco-luxury’ and its use ranges from kitchen worktops to furniture, lifestyle goods, wall panels and retail displays.

Terrazzo takes centre stage

Contemporary Terrazzo featured prominently at the show. From the simplistic and stylish to the lavishly maximalist. Terrazzo’s versatility means designers can get creative with strong colours, large scale formations and unique compositions. The Terrazzo Garden presented a collaboration between International firm Vicalvi, manufacturers Helmann Vella and architecture and design brand Mizzi Studios, showcasing columns of Recycled terrazzo in different colours. The varying heights, attractive installation and the introduction of natural and organic elements made this stand a real showstopper.

The need for Nature

Our innate desire to connect to nature is stronger than ever as we continue to search for the materials and surfaces that embrace biophilic qualities. Whether it’s in your home or at work we see warm wood tones, plentiful greenery and organic textures that allow us to surround ourselves with natural elements. With the current outbreak of the Corona Virus we expect this desire to increase as people seek solitude in the home, embracing comforting trends and focusing on creating an environment that will have a positive effect on their health and wellbeing.

Images from ClayLime, Organoid & Innerspace

Acoustic Wooden Walls

Linking in part to the above – our need for Nature – is also seen in the form of wooden wall panelling. As a material wood is reassuringly calm and grounding; whether it is real wood or wood effects. We also see a move towards wood tones that have a warmth to them, creating inviting spaces of comfort. Acoustics also play an important part here, we saw lots of ideas that are aimed to help reduce noise in open plan spaces, creating important areas if privacy. Due to the rise in communal working spaces in the pursuit to encourage collaboration, there is also an increased need for spaces that enable concentration and focused individual work.

Images – Oberflex’s new collection of Obersound customizable acoustic panels and Soundtect‘s new Timber effect Freestyle acoustic wall panel.

Beyond wood… we also saw acoustic wall panels using alternative materials such as textiles; Anne Kyyrö Quinn once again displayed a beautifully large wall installation with examples of their bespoke acoustic collection. Within the Surface Spotlight section we came across Tŷ Syml; a company who create acoustic panels using a natural composite material that is 100% natural, can be recycled and is fully compostable. Made from binding hemp and other substrate with fungus to form a lightweight material that can be used in both residential and commercial applications.

Share it