An early, iconic example is Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata’s Miss Blanche armchair of 1988, which looks both modern and romantic, with red acrylic glass roses suspended inside its geometric transparent resin backrest and arms.
Today’s designers are seduced by resin for a variety of reasons. It can be dyed with pigments to create any colour and depending on their strength, the pigments can render resin opaque or tint it in deliciously delicate pastel shades.
“Despite looking hard-edged, resin is luxuriously smooth and soft to the touch,” says Canadian Martha Sturdy, who designs resin furniture and accessories.
“Unlike metal or marble, it responds to the temperature around it, so in a warm room it feels warm, too. It’s practical, durable and non-porous: spill wine on it and it can be easily wiped off. Scratch it and you can sand it down — the mark disappears.”
Resin was originally used in industrial contexts, such as warehouses and car parks, because it’s so hardwearing, points out architect Andy Martin.
He has created a multicoloured polyester resin furniture line called Blocks, which combines clear and frosted resin elements. His pieces capitalise on the way dyed resin glows and casts colourful reflections when light penetrates it.
“In the Sixties, artists such as Steve Kaufman made resin sculptures,” he continues. “Over the years, resin has become more popular. It’s easier to install resin flooring now, too.”
TRICKY TO MASTER
Even so, says Martha Sturdy, resin is a tricky material to master. “It’s mixed with catalyst, an agent that solidifies it, but if you add too much, the resin can crack.” But this hasn’t deterred designers from embracing it.
Sturdy creates monumental opaque tables for which she has devised an unusual technique. She pours resin of one colour into one end of the mould and another shade into the other, so they bleed into each other where they meet.
She also makes space-saving stools on castors that can be tucked under her tables as well as pendant lights, which, encircled by a ring, resemble the planet Saturn.
London shop Mint stocks Tel Aviv designer Nir Meiri’s eggshell-like Shell lights, £1,600, made of overlapping layers of resin in different hues, which graduate from dark to light.
Some designers combine resin with other materials. Jo Nagasaka’s Udukuri cherry red table for Established & Sons has a wood top sanded down to emphasise the grain. Resin poured over this provides a smooth surface, while allowing the grain to remain visible.
German company Studio Nito interweaves yarn with strands of resin to craft its Bobina chairs and tables in funky shades such as lemon yellow and turquoise. Italian designer Moreno Ratti’s minimalist Sospesa pieces look gravity-defying. He traps marble vases and bowls inside clear resin cubes so the marble forms appear to hover. From £1,238 at Matter of Stuff.
Taking a more organic approach, London designer Marcin Rusak suspends real flower petals in resin to create his elegantly geometric Flora Lamps. Similarly romantic are French designer Hélène de Saint Lager’s tables coated in “puddles of resin”, incorporating anything from flowers to twinkling metallic sweet wrappers. Her designs adorn several Dior shops and a Schiaparelli boutique in Paris.
Korean designer Saerom Yoon’s Crystal tables are comparatively clean-cut, yet their sharp edges are softened by the resin’s sugary pastel shades, which are specially formulated not to fade in sunlight.
More vibrant are polychrome vases by Seoul-based design studio Hattern. Some are made of hazy, frosted resin, while others come in clear resin tinted in vibrant orange, pink, violet and green. As resin can be dyed any shade, the colour combinations are limitless. Price on application.