Final Presentation

  • Post author:
  • Post published:April 30, 2020
  • Post category:Final

Project Description

Over the last number of decades, the amount of furniture in landfills has increased dramatically along with the demand for fast furniture. While inexpensive and quick to produce, these cardboard and plywood furniture pieces often contain toxic chemicals and only last a short time before being thrown away and replaced. Growing furniture from mushrooms benefits the environment by absorbing carbon-dioxide during production, and reduces the need for furniture disposal once the product reaches end-of-life.

Mycelium is the main body of fungus, that when grown together with crop waste forms a water resistant, flame retardant, and fully biodegradable Styrofoam-like solid. Mycelium furniture is grown from this composite into simple modular shapes. Once grown, the pieces are attached using bamboo components. The modules can be disconnected and rearranged to form stools, benches, and chairs, adapting to fit environmentally-conscious furniture into different types of indoor spaces.

Slide by Slide Presentation Transcript

Slide 1

Hi, I’m Myles, and for my capstone I worked on creating mycelium furniture and I also designed modular mycelium furniture for possible production. 

Slide 2

I’m going to begin by talking a little bit about the topics connected to the project as well as how they connect to each other, mainly sustainability, furniture, and the connection being the environmental effects of the fast furniture industry. 

Slide 3

I began this project with my interest in bioplastics, which are plastics derived from biological materials as opposed to petroleum, and I started learning about them and other sustainable materials in my sophomore year Materials Lab D-block where we explored and created our own bioplastics. 

I wanted to create furniture and I decided to do it in a mid-century/Scandinavian minimalist style, which is the style that I’ve been influenced and inspired by. So when I began the project, I set out to design mid-century modern furniture that incorporates bioplastic and CNC milling, CNC milling being basically a computer-controlled drill bit that can carve and cut materials, and I wanted to learn how to use that as well as create interesting furniture designs with it. 

Slide 4

Some background on mid-century modern design, these are a few notable examples, but it’s generally characterized by clean lines and a lot of attention to detail with warm inviting curvature. 

Slide 5

Sustainability is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Historically, this has meant finding a balance between the consumption and regeneration of resources, so if you were going to make paper you would make sure that you don’t cut down more trees than could grow back, but now this expanded more to being conscious of the environmentally detrimental effects of the resources we use and the byproducts we create. This means making sure that we understand the effects on the local ecosystems between the time we remove a resource from the environment and when it regenerates. It also means making sure we don’t release toxins back into the environment from the processes we use in production. 

Slide 6

You might know fast furniture as something like IKEA stuff. It’s generally inexpensive and made of cheaper materials like plywood, particleboard, and cardboard, and it’s much lighter than traditional solid wood furniture, so it could be considered to use fewer resources, yet the binding agents used to glue these composites together often contain formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen and general toxin, and instead of lasting generations like traditional wood furniture, fast furniture needs to be replaced in months or years, so a lot more ends up in landfill. 

Slide 7

Over the last number of decades, furniture production and the amount of furniture in landfill has increased dramatically. Between 1960 and 2017, annual furniture production in the US increased by over 450%, which is 10 million tons, and although we’re recycling more there’s so much more being produced that the amount of furniture in landfill increased over 350% in the same time period. 

Slide 8

I wanted to look at ways to help improve this process, so I began looking at what kinds of materials we can use to create more sustainable furniture, and also how to create environmentally conscious furniture to be more accessible, since it’s currently difficult to find and also very expensive. 

After researching bioplastics over the summer, I realized I didn’t have the resources to work with them at a large scale, so I shifted to using mycelium instead. Based on the properties of mycelium, I decided it would be best to go with minimalism and clean lines and drop the detail and curvature of mid-century furniture because mycelium can crumble fairly easily. 

Slide 9

I’ve mentioned mycelium a few times, but I haven’t really explained what it is. Mycelium is the massive hyphae of a fungi, or the body of a fungus. It’s not the flowering body, which would be the mushroom. It’s the part that grows underground and holds the ground together. 

To use it as a material, it can be mixed with crop waste, in my case hemp hurds, and the fungal cells bind to cellulose structure, which would be the crop waste, to form a stronger material that can be grown in molds, sculpted, carved, and compressed. 

The methods for working with mycelium as a material were invented by Philip Ross of MycoWorks Inc. and they also own the process patent which was filed in 2011 and granted in 2016, so this is a very recent development and new material to be working with. 

Slide 10

The process that I go through when working with mycelium isn’t the entire thing, where you would get the mushrooms themselves and cultivate them and add in the cellulose. In my case, I order mycelium in a dry loose form, so it comes looking like mulch, which is the hemp herds, and then there’s bits of mushroom in it. 

I rehydrate it, adding water and flour to start the growth process, and then that sits for four to five days until it gets a white foamy outer layer. 

Then that gets crumbled up, I add a little bit more flour, and it can go into molds where it grows for another four to five days, after which it can be removed and dried immediately, or it can be incubated, so removing it from the mold and putting it in a sealed environment for two to four days in order to form a white outer layer. 

Then it’s dried for two days to two weeks, and then gets baked at a low temperature for a short time just to stop the mycelium from being able to grow again if it were to get wet. 

Slide 11

The benefits to using mycelium materials are that the growth process itself absorbs carbon dioxide, and if you make products out of it, they are fully compostable, so instead of requiring disposal at end-of-life, they can just be crumbled up and put in a garden. Using mycelium for furniture can help reduce our reliance on plastics, metal, and irresponsibly source lumber. 

These are just a few pictures of different types of mycelium bricks. Mycelium itself is just the fungus, whereas mycelium as a material would be a composite, and different companies have different formulations with trademarked terms like MycoComposite and MycoFoam. The different formulations have different properties, but it’s a very similar process for working with all of them. 

Slide 12

Some of the main resources I’ve been using throughout this project are Ecovative Design and their DIY subsidiary Ecovative Design produces mushroom packaging, so instead of having foam corners in the packaging for a large heavy item that gets shipped to you, they might be made out of mycelium instead. Ecovative Design also produces videos and writeups on working with mycelium, and they partner with companies around the world to provide resources and materials for working with mycelium outside of the US. is where I purchased my mycelium. They also produce videos and instructions, and have a shop that has all the tools and resources to work with mycelium at home. 

Slide 13

Since mycelium is a new material to be working with, there’s been a lot of experimentation, including in furniture. One notable example is mycelium chair on the left, which is printed on a 3d printer using PLA which is a bioplastic. It is then filled with mycelium since it has a hollow form and allowed to grow. The mycelium is not killed off, so mushrooms end up growing out through the chair and it becomes more of a living art piece. 

On the right is more of a traditional way of working with mycelium similar to what I did at home. This stacked stool is made in thinner sections that are grown in a mold and then removed and grown together to form a larger object. This process allows you to create things at home using a simple mold that only has ventilation on the top, where you wouldn’t want to go more than four inches thick because air does need to circulate throughout the mycelium, which is what I did at home, but for the projects that I designed for manufacturing, they would have ventilation on all sides. A massive part would require tubing and air pumps to make sure air gets through so the material grows evenly. 

Slide 14

There has also been some experimentation with mycelium material in architecture. The Growing Pavilion on the left was on display at Dutch Design Week 2019, and it’s a large outside structure with mycelium as the outer walls and also the seating that looks like plywood is compressed mycelium, so it’s a lot stronger. It’s a really interesting building where they grow cattails, the material that the floors are made of, inside the building, so they grow that materials to make the building inside the building. 

Now on the right is MycoTree, which is an experiment in using mycelium as a structural component in architecture. It’s grown in small parts that are then attached to each other and the intention is for it to be able to transfer weight and hold up a ceiling. 

Slide 15

Towards the beginning of the year, I began experimenting with mycelium on my own. 

Slide 16

I started designing a side table that was going to have a cutoff conical shape to it. I started by creating a mold template…

Slide 17

and then making cardboard molds. I decided to go with the teardrop shape that formed when I taped the cardboard together because I thought it was a little more interesting than the circlular base that I was going to originally use. 

Although the cardboard is wrapped in tape, which is plastic and not great for the environment, this is really just a proof of concept, and in production you would be using reusable molds. 

Slide 18

Once I had the molds, I could fill them with mycelium. I went through this entire process twice, and the first time I didn’t have enough mycelium to work with so I had to rush and figure out how to create some spacers, and ended up needing to use paper towels and plastic wrap, although the second time around I used cups which would be reusable for other times that I do it. I didn’t fill all of the molds, so the project went from being a side table to being more of a coffee table height. 

Slide 19

After letting the pieces grow in the molds, I removed them and stacked them, and then they grew again. 

Slide 20

On the left is the final result of the first attempt that I did, where I ended up sanding down the mycelium to make a smoother finish, and the intention would be to paint this with milk paint, which is protein-based as opposed to the polymer, or plastic, of a traditional paint. 

The second time around I let it incubate for a little bit longer to form more of an outer layer and I left it with a natural finish. 

The difference between the finishes is that with the white outer layer it has a bit of a velvety texture to it in the end, whereas leaving it without the white layer it is still fairly smooth where the mycelium grew against a smooth mold, but it feels more like pressed wood, where there’s definitely a difference where the pieces grew together.

Sitting on the mycelium is fairly comfortable. It doesn’t compress like foam or upholstered furniture, but it’s not cold or hard like concrete either. 

Slide 21

This is a render of what these bases could look like with a glass table top, so they would be used as coffee tables. 

Slide 22

Last mod I spent my time at NuVu, an innovation school in Cambridge, to work full-time on my capstone project. Due to COVID-19 I did this digitally, so although I went there with the intention to create furniture with a CNC milled bamboo structure and adding mycelium onto it, I ended up moving more to 3d modeling and rendering as opposed to creating something in the physical world. 

Slide 23

I chose to work with bamboo because it’s a much better source for lumber than the other options available. It grows extremely quickly, up to almost a meter per day, and can adapt to different climates and soil types, so it can grow in many places around the world. Bamboo is also very strong, but the thing with working with bamboo is that because the stocks have a very small diameter, it needs to be in plywood form, so it’s essential that this is formaldehyde-free, green plywood. 

Slide 24

When I was looking at what kinds of designs I would work with, I started thinking about what type of product I wanted to create. On the left, this mycelium chair is a very thin piece of the mycelium material which looks clean and light, but it would require an understructure of wood or metal inside the mycelium because otherwise it would just break in half were someone to sit on it.

On the right is MYCOsella, which has much thicker sections that can actually hold weight themselves and don’t require additional components, so that’s the way I decided to go. 

Slide 25

I also looked at cork furniture to look at different shapes I could work with. Cork and mycelium have somewhat similar properties, even though cork would possibly be carved and mycelium would be grown in a mold, so they have similar possibilities for shapes, so I looked at that for some design inspiration as well, and I decided to go with modular furniture. 

Slide 26

When thinking about attachment methods, I found a very similar project to mine at RISD, which is modular mycelium furniture painted with milk paint. They created cylinders of mycelium that slide along a wooden base, so I decided to test that out with a slight modification, as well as explore other options. 

Slide 27

These are some sketches of my initial designs when I was looking at different ways to work with the mycelium. There are some modular designs, some solid mycelium pieces that aren’t modular, and also the idea of having a bamboo structure with the mycelium components added on, and as I said, I decided to go with modularity. 

Slide 28

I ended up with two main types of designs with the initial iteration, the first being home furniture. There’s the cube and rectangular prism that have a wood plank that connects them, which can be removed and configured in different ways to form chairs, benches, and television consoles. 

And then there’s the wood slider like the RISD design, which I modified to use half cylinders and cubes in order to create a few different configuration options. 

Slide 29

The second type of designs are for public furniture. This allows you to have larger pieces with interesting spoke designs for larger seating that gradually comes out against a wall, or things like the hexagonal or long benches. The intention with these designs would be to have a carved wooden surround as the base, so it’s not configurable after purchase, but there are different options at purchase. And once this is installed in a public space, people can remove the individual components, move them around, use them as side tables or stools, and then put them back when they’re done. 

Slide 30

So far all the attachment methods have been using the additional component of the bamboo plywood, but I wanted to also explore using a mycelium on its own. I started sketching out different ways to have interlocking modules, where the mycelium would be grown in ways that it can actually connect with itself. 

Slide 31

After dividing up a rectangle with shared angles that the pieces can be configured against each other, I played around with different ways to put them together and decided to go with this idea. On the right is a sketch with dimensions of what I actually decided to go with for the interlocking modules. 

Slide 32

After simplifying all the designs down to what I would do for the final, I have two main types of modules. 

There are the simple modules, which include the cube, the half cylinder, and the triangular prism…

Slide 33

And then there are also interlocking modules: The apostrophe and the chair, which are chair-like in shape, and then the double angle and single angle, which are more like side tables or stools. 

Slide 34

I had all my designs, so I wanted to put them through structural analysis to test the way that the forms would hold up if there were actual forces exerted on them. Because I wasn’t making these in real life, I used simulations for the structural analysis, which means that you need to input all the properties of the material. 

Mycelium isn’t a traditional building material, so it’s not available to select out of the box. So I needed to find all the properties myself. For the failure type, any kind of fracture or break means that the product fails, then density, yield strength, and compressive strength, I was able to find from where I purchased the mycelium. Density being the density of the material, yield strength being the amount of flex or bend before the product fractures, and compressive strength being the amount of compression that the material can take. 

The Poisson ratio is the expansion perpendicular to compression, so if you were to squish the material in one direction, it would have to somehow come out in the other direction. Most materials are between 0 and 0.5 with this ratio, so I picked a number, around 0.35. 

Then for the elastic modulus and tensile strength, which relate to the elasticity of the material, I based my estimates off of testing done on different types of mycelium with similar density that are cold-pressed or non-pressed, mine is not pressed, These materials have low scores because the material itself is not densely packed, so it’s more likely that the cellulose and mycelium would break off from each other and the piece will crumble rather than the entire thing stretching. 

Once I had all the properties, I could put all the modules through the analysis, and luckily none of them showed high deformation or danger levels. So that was great. 

Slide 35

The process of doing the structural analysis involves selecting the objects and adding the material, in my case the mycelium, then adding restraints, which would be the faces on the ground that can’t exactly push down through the surface. 

The next step is adding forces downward for sitting or standing on something, and a sideways force for leaning on something or a chair back. 

Then the program generates a report that includes displacement levels, which show the areas that are going to move the most. This can also be exaggerated to show how the product will compress. 

The report can also show stress levels and danger levels, which will show if the product is likely to fail. 

Slide 36

An example of this process is with the interlocking chair module. It has a 200lbs force down, and a 50lbs force back. 

Then the displacement shows that the top of the back of the chair would move the most, and it marks the maximum total displacement of that area, which is not a very large number, so it’s not going to move much. 

The stress levels are highest where the back and the base meet, but not too high, and the danger levels are slightly raised at that stressed area, but nothing that would cause the product to fail. 

Slide 37

In the end, I have the simple modules with example configurations, which could include spoked seating, large hexagonal public seating, and long benches. 

Slide 38

And then I also have both single and double width interlocking modules. The reason for both the single and double width is because certain modules, like the chair, can be a chair on their own, or a bench if it were double width. This also allows for extra ways of configuring the modules. 

Slide 39

Some example configurations include a small chair using only single width modules, a larger chair using both single and double, long benches, and a bench with arms. 

There are many ways to configure these, so I have only shown a couple examples. 

Slide 40

I’ve talked a lot, and It’s been a long process, so I’m just going to summarize what I’ve done. 

I began looking at incorporating bioplastic and CNC-milling in furniture, but switched from bioplastic to mycelium since I didn’t have the resources to work with bioplastic at a large scale. I decided to move from mid-century design to just a minimal aesthetic to better suit the properties of the material.

While experimenting with growing mycelium, I was able to test different surface finishes. 

At NuVu, my plans for creating CNC-milled bamboo structures with grown mycelium pieces were derailed by COVID-19, so I moved from physically making objects to focusing on 3D modeling and rendering. I Then modeled and rendered modular mycelium furniture, and finally, I performed structural analysis tests.

Slide 41

Thank you for listening.

I want to thank Todd [Bartel], my capstone advisor, for guiding me throughout this process. 

I also want to thank Ayako [Tanaka], my CSW advisor, for being there throughout my entire time here [at CSW]. 

Ammar [Ahmed] at NuVu, for helping me learn the software I needed for my project, discussing designs, and guiding me while I was at NuVu and away from CSW. 

Paul [Clayton], for being available with connections to resources. 

My family, for dealing with the mess I made in the basement while growing mycelium, and my stressed out self at the end of this process.

And then Alison [Safford] and Jenna [Wolf], because without their Materials Lab D-block, I wouldn’t have thought to do anything like this. 

So, thank you. 

Question and Answer Session Transcript

Q: What are the possibilities to use this on a larger scale, or is this important to produce on a larger scale? 

A: There is a possibility to do this on a larger scale. It’s much harder to grow large mycelium pieces, so it would more likely be smaller parts that are attached to each other. I’m not really sure about the importance of using this on a larger scale at this point in time. It’s definitely interesting to look into, and it could become more important in the future, but until we figure out exactly how it works outdoors and using it on buildings, it doesn’t make sense to go right into using it at a large scale. 

Q: Can you describe your intended project had COVID-19 not prevented the actual fabrication process?

A: My original plan was to model (in two dimensions) pieces that would be cut out of bamboo plywood on a CNC router. I was going to try to use a mid-century inspired design because that’s when more plastics became popular in furniture, and adopt that to be made with more sustainable materials. So it would be a structure that was made of bamboo plywood, with mycelium as extra components on it.

Q: Is mycelium’s use restricted by environmental considerations given needs for ventilation, etc.? For example, high humidity equatorial.

A: The mycelium itself can do well in humid environments because it actually creates its own, but yes, there are some environmental considerations. It gets killed off at a fairly low temperature, so it would have to be an indoor situation, and not in the sun. It also can’t be exposed to direct sunlight since mycelium would normally be growing underground and not be exposed to that. So there are environmental restrictions.

Q: Where would you like to go with this? Do you think you’ll further study this? 

A: I’m not sure where I’m going to continue with this. I think what I did was really a test just to see what was possible and not necessarily going into production, but there is that possibility of continuing designing molds and trying to contact a company for production. I might come back to this at a later date, once there’s been a little bit more figured out about it and see how things have changed. 

Q: Given the properties of the material and its tendency to crumble, what do you need to consider when attaching pieces together? What works best, glue or fasteners? 

A: There are certain types of glue that can be used. For example, you can use starch based glues. The mycelium itself can also grow into things very easily if it’s an organic substance. So if it’s still wet, you can attach the pieces and they grow together on their own. There is also the possibility of having holes in things to slide other components through, so if you were to use metal fasteners or a larger wood dowel through something, that could also work, but keeping the walls fairly thick is important to make sure they don’t crumble.

Q: What about dorm furniture? no need to transport.

A: For dorm furniture, it’s not something that would be grown in a dorm itself. It’s something you’d have to bring because it needs a specific space and environmental conditions to grow. But it could be a possibility for something that people would be able to get rid of after the year. I would not necessarily want to go down that route though because then it’s using up resources to create disposable items, and I think it is a better idea to do something that’s not meant to be disposable, but that can be disposed of easily at the end-of-life. 

Q: What problems do you see between making furniture for private versus public spaces? 

A: I think for public spaces things need to be a lot more durable. In private spaces, you could have something that’s more of an artistic piece that you would treat very carefully, but in public spaces, nobody’s going to care about that. It has to be able to withstand daily use. In private spaces, furniture needs to be more comfortable because in public spaces you don’t necessarily want to sit somewhere for very long time, or at least the institutions that have added the furniture don’t want you to, whereas in a private space you want to be able to sit down and relax in the furniture. 

Q: What types of finishes might be possible? 

A: There’s a bunch of different ways. The mycelium itself can be painted with milk paint, which is a pretty easy way to go, but I’ve also seen growing mycelium into fabrics, so it’s almost upholstered right when it’s done growing, which is really interesting. 

Q: Are there any firecode issues? 

A: That’s actually pretty interesting. Mycelium is actually flame retardant, so it doesn’t necessarily catch on fire that easily it can go out fairly quickly. It’s also water repellent, so water just beads off. 

Q: Could it be like a 3D printer with the idea that individuals could DIY on location as opposed to shipping around the world? 

A: For working with mycelium on location, there is definitely a possibility that you could have molds that are a lot lighter and easier to ship than full products, and then grow the pieces themselves on location, but it wouldn’t be the same way as 3D printing a building which is done outside at a very large scale. You might have a warehouse that’s much closer to your location in which you could make these and then transport them a shorter distance, but that could be a great way to get around shipping products around the world. 

NuVu Platform

I have moved most of my current work on this project to the NuVu Platform. You can access my newly posted precedents here.

NuVu Platform

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  • Post published:April 12, 2020
  • Post category:Blog

From now on, most new posts will be on the NuVu Platform, accessible via the NuVu on the top right of this site, or by this direct link here.

Second Base: Done

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  • Post published:April 12, 2020
  • Post category:Blog

I wanted to make sure the mycelium was fully dry before photographing it, so I let the pieces dry for a number of weeks as opposed to just the couple days recommended before baking. Now I have two bases with three slices each, and an additional bottom slice that may be attached to one of the larger sections.

Second Base: Out to Dry

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  • Post published:March 16, 2020
  • Post category:Blog

Today I removed the plastic from the mycelium pieces and left them to dry. I plan to bake them in a couple days before testing their moisture levels, then I will need to see if I am going to attach the smaller piece to the main one for a taller stool.

Second Base: Incubating

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  • Post published:March 13, 2020
  • Post category:Blog

Today I tried to remove the weights (books) from the mycelium and pull the plastic away from the sides so the white coating can start to grow. I had some metal toilet paper holders, so I clipped the plastic bag to the holders to pull it away from the mycelium. There will probably still be some places where the plastic touches, but it should allow much more of the coating to develop than my last attempt. In the process, I accidentally pulled one of the layers off of the base, so I added the books back. Hopefully it will stitch together again (and be stronger than it was before).

Second Base: Stacking Slices

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  • Post published:March 10, 2020
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Today I demolded the mycelium slices and stacked them. The cups do seem to have taken up more space in the mold than the last spacers I used, which explains the extra mycelium I had. Since my oven can only fit 3 slices stacked at once, I chose not to add the fourth slice at this stage. I might add it after they are fully dry, or maybe not at all.

While stacking the slices, I tried to press them together a little bit to help fill in some of the gaps that were left in my first attempt, so we will have to see how that works.

In a few days I will try to pull the plastic away so the mycelium can grow the white coating over it, then I will leave everything out to dry.

Second Base: Filling Molds

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  • Post published:March 4, 2020
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Today I filled the molds for the second base. It took a long time for the mycelium to hydrate because my basement was too cold, so after five days it had not grown at all, but it seemed ready today. I used plastic cups as spacers this time since I knew I would need the spacers, unlike last time.

I used the same amount of mycelium, but I was actually able to fill a fourth mold this time. It is probably because I did not compress the mycelium as much, but we will have to see.

Second Base: Hydrating Mycelium

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  • Post published:February 23, 2020
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Today I hydrated the mycelium to make another piece using the molds from the previous foot stool. I purchased three bags again because I am trying to recreate existing one, not fill the molds entirely. In five or six days I should be able to fill the molds, this time using actual spacers rather than the plastic wrap and paper towel that I used last time. Once I have both pieces, they can be table bases, or if they are the same height, I might be able to use them to make a bench.

Mycelium Chair

I stumbled upon this design today. This chair is a solid piece of mycelium that has been grown into the wooden legs. The seat rested on the mold with the outside edge completely exposed. This is the best image I could include since the images on the main post are protected, but you can find more here.

Simpler Chair Design

If I do end up making a mycelium and bamboo chair, a design similar to this seems like a possibility. This particular chair is just mid-century inspired, but the shapes of the wood component should be fairly simple to CNC mill, and I could grow two squares of mycelium instead of the cushions, which would only require a simple mold.

Other views of this exact chair can be found here.

Noguchi Table

The Noguchi Table, designed by Isamu Noguchi in 1945, is one of the most iconic mid-century furniture designs. It is so popular that both the original and many copies are still sold today.

I plan to base my coffee table design off of the Noguchi Table by growing a simplified version of the base components out of mycelium.

You can find more images on Herman Miller’s website here.

Foot Stool: Processing

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  • Post published:January 26, 2020
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I have renamed this project to foot stool, since it is no longer a side tablet (too short). In the last post, I mentioned the possibility of sanding and coating the mycelium for a better finish, and I have decided to do just that. I started hand sanding the stool, which worked for the mycelium itself but didn’t get very far with the hemp hurds, so I switched to a sander. Some of the more even points of contact blended well, but there are still raised areas and deep gaps. When I tried to keep sanding down the raised areas, I ended up reaching a point where the mycelium started to crumble away instead of sanding down, so I had to stop.

I found that milk paint could work for covering the piece after I smooth it out. Milk paint is biodegradable and zero VOC. Lime activates the proteins in milk which cause it to stick to the surface. I will order some, probably in white, to paint with, and since it ships as a powder I can store it before use.

I thought of using a starch based glue mixed with the sawdust from sanding in order to fill in gaps, but since starch based glue is water soluble, I won’t be able to paint over the piece after filling the gaps, so I am not using the glue after all. I started researching alternatives that I could use to smooth out the entire piece now that bits are beginning to pull away, and it seems that there is a sustainably sourced resin coating that could work, but it is not available in the US. I might look into making a bioplastic and using it as a form of joint compound or skim coat, but it will have to be water-resistant.

The Growing Pavilion

The Growing Pavilion is located in the Netherlands, and is constructed almost entirely of biomaterials. The goal of the project is to create a structure with the lowest CO2 emissions possible. The walls are made of mycelium and coated in a sustainably sourced resin. You can read more about it on New Company Hero’s website. There are also some nice images in this Dezeen article.

Side Table: Dry

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  • Post published:January 5, 2020
  • Post category:Blog

The mycelium component of the foot stool is now dry, and I baked it to kill off the fungus. There are some brown/orange spots and the seams don’t line up, so I might sand it down and put some kind of finish over it before adding the bamboo top, but that won’t happen for a while. It is now a single piece, so the growing the slices together worked.

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Side Table: Ready to Dry

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  • Post published:December 20, 2019
  • Post category:Blog

Today I removed the stacked mycelium from the incubating bag and set it out to air dry. The slices seem to have grown together well, so it should stay in one piece. The areas where the bag touched the mycelium are not fully coated in the white powdery coating, but I’m fine with it. The white part seems to flake off and get all over everything in my previous tests, so I may need to scrape/sand it off, or maybe even seal or paint the final piece.

Because I only have three slices, the resulting foot stool should fit into my oven, so I have brought the piece home to air dry, and I will bake it when I have a chance.

Yesterday I worked on my presentation. I created a diagram showing the textures of the mycelium throughout the growth process, and I redesigned some previous slides.

Side Table: Stacking Sections

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  • Post published:December 17, 2019
  • Post category:Blog

Today I removed the slices of the side table from their molds. It was surprisingly easy to remove them, much easier than the plastic mold I purchased from I was able to get out the spacers that I had put in to reduce the amount of mycelium needed for each piece, and then I stacked the three slices. I put everything in a larger bag, and after sealing it and poking holes for condensation to escape, I put two heavy textbooks on top to keep everything in place. In two days I should be able to take the piece out and let it air-dry. I am a little bit worried about the three slices growing together because the sides that touch are not fully flat, but I think it will be more of a visual issue.

Side Table: Filling Molds

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  • Post published:December 12, 2019
  • Post category:Blog

Today I broke up the three bags of mycelium and filled the molds to form the slices of the side table. It did not go as planned.

I think I miscalculated the volume of mycelium that I would need, so I did not have enough to fill all of the molds. I noticed that the three packages did not look like much when I received them, but I did not think anything of it. It took 2.5 bags just to fill 2 molds, so I wanted to place cups in the center of the molds to take up space that would not be structurally important to the final shape. I could not access any cups in time, so I had to resort to crumpled up paper towel wrapped in plastic wrap. This is not at all sustainable, since I will probably have to through it all out later, but my work is more of a proof-of-concept. If this were to be manufactured, no paper spacers would be needed, just like cardboard and tape molds will not be used in a manufactured version.

I also ran into a timing issue, so I had to stop working and cover everything in the morning before coming back to work in the afternoon.

I ended up with two almost fully filled molds and one that will be thinner. The piece will have to be a foot stool since it will probably only be 10 inches tall (I couldn’t make all of the slices). Now I have to wait 5- days until I can start growing the pieces together (I still have to figure out how to hold them together without a stabilized clamp. I need to make sure they can at least air-dry by the time winter break starts, then I will bake the piece after break.

Side Table: Hydrating Mycelium

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  • Post published:December 4, 2019
  • Post category:Blog

Today I rehydrated the three bags of mycelium for the side table. I followed the same process as in the original test (following the written and video instructions from Now I need to wait four to five days (12/8-9) before I can break it up and fill the cardboard molds to start the growing process.

Side Table: Mold Making

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  • Post published:November 28, 2019
  • Post category:Blog

Over the last two days I have begun working on the side table to grow out of the mycelium. In order to create cardboard molds, I needed to figure out what pieces I needed to create the conical shape. I modeled the design in Fusion 360, but it does not have an easy way to unroll the 3d shape into a template, so I recreated it in Sketchup, which has an extension to to the unwrapping. I could not figure out how the export the file correctly, so I tried Rhino3D. I knew Rhino could do exactly what I wanted, but I had already used up the trial. I ended up taking a screenshot of the result because I couldn’t export anything, then I resized it in Photoshop. I printed it as a poster to tile the image across multiple pages. After trimming all of the pages, I could tape them together to get a full template.

I cut a piece of cardboard to match the template, then I tested out how the shape would look. I liked how it had a teardrop shape instead of being perfectly round, so I decided to keep the design that way.

The next day, I cut the thinner strips from the full cardboard sheet because I need to grow the mycelium in thinner, 4 inch thick, sections for better airflow. has a tutorial for making cardboard molds, and they recommend covering the cardboard in packing tape so that the mycelium will not grow into the paper, so I spent the entire day working on that. I then cut teardrop shapes as base pieces and attached them to make sure that the mold hold their shape. This is not the most environmentally friendly, since I am covering everything in plastic, but if this product was produced, a single reusable mold would be used instead of a cardboard and packing tape one.

After calculating the volume of the table, I found that I need about 2.5 bags of mycelium, so I ordered three. I will hydrate them when they arrive, then I can begin growing the pieces for the side table.

Testing Mycelium: Final Formed Objects

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  • Post published:November 13, 2019
  • Post category:Blog

Today I cleaned up the edges of the mycelium test objects and photographed them. I hope to try sanding some of the pieces to see if it is an option for smoothing. Originally, I thought it would be a bad idea to sand the pieces because I would lose the white coating on top, but it leaves a residue on anything that touches it, so leaving the pieces without the coating is not that big of a deal. I also want to try breaking the pieces to see how strong they are. The texture seems styrofoam-like, so I don’t know that it will be strong enough.

I am thinking of switching the order in which I try out shapes for the mycelium. Originally, I planned to try the most complicated seat design and then simplify it if it did not work out, but it makes more sense to build up to a complicated design so that I have something even if the next trial does not work. I think I will start by making a side table/stool, and then try a coffee table or a two piece chair design with the mycelium as the seat and back ‘padding.’ If everything works out and I still have time, I might move on to trying out a single piece chair.

Eames Fiberglass Side Chair

While beginning the design process for my chair, I started looking at mid-century modern furniture, since that is when plastics and mass-produced furniture really started. I want to recreate a design using the mycelium and bamboo, so I was looking for something simple and small enough to fit in the kilns at school.

Charles and Ray Eames were really big in mid-century furniture. They designed many of the pieces we still associate with the design style today, and Herman Miller still produces many of their popular designs. One of their most iconic designs is the fiberglass armchair, which was also available as a side chair without the arms. The formed fiberglass seat was dangerous to produce, so it was switched to plastic, only to be brought back by Herman Miller after they found a safer manufacturing method. The chairs can still be purchased from Herman Miller, and are available with upholstery, as well as different base options.

You can take a look at some more photos of the chairs on Herman Miller’s website here.

Testing Mycelium Step 3 (Part 2) Update

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  • Post published:November 7, 2019
  • Post category:Blog

It has been over a week since I last attempted to dry the mycelium. I have been checking on the air dry process, and two days ago I realized that all of the pieces are around 50 percent of their original mass and not getting lighter, so they are probably fully dry. The instruction from the are probably for a different mycelium mixture that they used to sell, so the the final mass could be different. To check, I ordered a moisture meter that I need for the full chair anyway. It arrived today, and each mycelium piece registers as 5 percent or less moisture, which is the low end of what says. They say that a full dry piece should be between 5 and 12 percent moisture, so everything is dry.

I can now continue the design for the chair which I began last Wednesday, and then possibly order more mycelium. I checked the sizing of the kilns at school, so I know what size I can make the chair, and I have a space to work, so I just need to set everything up.

Testing Mycelium Step 3 (Part 2)

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  • Post published:October 29, 2019
  • Post category:Blog

Today I tried to bake the mycelium test pieces that have been air drying for 2 days. The pieces are supposed to be baked at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, and they are supposed to end up about a third of their original mass.

When I checked on the pieces before baking them, I noticed that some had started to yellow or turn brown around the edges. I’m not sure what caused that, but it isn’t too noticeable (the planter is not white because it was in a mold, so the color on it is from the crop waste itself. I could have let it grow in a bag for a few days to turn fully white, but I didn’t).

It didn’t go ask I planned. I ended up baking some of the pieces for an hour, and the rest for the 30 minutes, but none of them are fully dry. One piece was even damp to the touch after baking. I’m going to air dry them for another day or two, then I will bake them again. Hopefully it will work.

Testing Mycelium Step 3 (Part 1)

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  • Post published:October 27, 2019
  • Post category:Blog

Today I removed the mycelium test pieces from their molds and set them out to dry. Removing the planter proved extremely difficult until I realized that hitting the mold with a mallet in the same spot over and over would release the opposite side, and I had previously been rotating the piece around.

I weighed each piece to determine their wet mass, that way I will be able to weigh them again once they have dried to make sure they are about a third of their original weight, meaning that they are fully dry.

The piece need to dry in open air for 1 or 2 days before I can put them in the oven. And once I do, I will be able to see how the final piece turned out.

Testing Mycelium Step 2

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  • Post published:October 20, 2019
  • Post category:Blog

Today I completed step two of the mycelium growth process for testing. I removed the mycelium out of its filter bag where it had been starting to grow for 5 days. I crumbled all of it up, added flour, and then split it in half to add the sculpting mix to half of it. I hope it was grown enough, because I left it for 5 days and the instructions said 4-5, but the outside was not all white, and it was really easy to crumble.

I filled the planter mold that I purchased from with the regular mycelium mixture and compressed it. I was surprised that it took half of the mycelium to fill the mold when the walls are actually pretty thin. I guess it just compresses a lot. Once that was complete, I covered the mold in plastic wrap and poked holes for condensation to get out.

After that, I started working with the sculpting portion of the mycelium. I had to mix all of it in, and then I started to make a miniature model of a chair. It was good that I did this testing now, because I learned that the mycelium doesn’t stick to itself that well even with the sculpting mix. If you compress it, it does stick, but trying to get any complex shape is difficult. I has to use large curves and thick sides to make the chair, and then I just made a mound to use as a base since I could not make anything resembling legs.

I had extra sculpting mix mycelium, so I tried out making a thin sheet, which would be what a tabletop or flat chair seat would be. This was easier than a complex shape, but getting a nice circle wasn’t too easy. I also tried to make a cylindrical base as if this was a miniature table, but instead of compressing it I left the mycelium fairly loose. This was much easier, and it will be good to know if it is actually a method I can use and have it be strong.

I also made some mini items, like some bricks that may or may not release from the mold, and a sphere because I thought it would look cool. Getting the spherical shape was surprisingly difficult because every time I tried to smooth it out, the compression would release and it would fall apart.

Now that everything is covered and growing, I need to wait 4-6 days before I can weigh the objects and start drying them on October 24-26. Hopefully they are all stable.


MycoWorks holds a patent on methods for working with mycelium. The inventor is Phil Ross, who also founded MycoWorks. They now produce mycelium leather substitutes.

Their website can be accessed here

The patent can be viewed here


Mycotech is an Indonesia-based mycelium startup that makes mylea (mycelium leather), biobo (mycelium boards), and the mycotree (a demonstration of how mycelium and bamboo can be used in architecture).

I can’t post any images since they are protected, but their website can be accessed at

First Day (Mycelium Testing Step 1)

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  • Post published:October 15, 2019
  • Post category:Blog

Today I rehydrated the small batch of mycelium for testing. I now know why the instructions said to wear goggles to stop alcohol from getting in your eyes. The mist from spraying it stays for a while, and I ended up inhaling some. It was not fun. The mycelium will now sit for 4-5 days (until october 19th or 20th) before I can move on to the next step where I will crumble it up and then split half to add the sculpting mix. It is great that I can leave in the fridge for 2 weeks after 4-5 days so I don’t have to worry about exact timing.

Received Mycelium

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  • Post published:October 15, 2019
  • Post category:Blog

I ordered a single order of mycelium last week, and it arrived last Friday. I still need to re hydrate it before I can test anything, but I have everything I need to begin testing. I also purchased a small mold to see how that process works, as well as a batch of the sculpting add in that should allow me to test how sculpting the chair seat could work.

Krown Designs

Krown Designs sells mycelium supplies in Europe, as well as selling their own mycelium furniture, lamps, and accessories.

This video showcases a 3d printed chair that was made using PLA (polylactic acid), a bioplastic, that they 3d printed in hollow pieces and filled with mycelium. They did not kill the fungus, so the mycelium strengthened the piece and continued to grow, resulting in the formation of mushrooms.


I found this architecture dissertation project where the student tried making the mycelium mixture. They ended up purchasing it, and used a plastic IKEA chair as a mold to grow a chair fully out of mycelium. Since it was just dried out, the fungus is not dead, so if it gets wet mushrooms might sprout.

The student has a full write up available here

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