Space10 proposes linking NFTs to furniture to encourage better care
IKEA’s research lab Space10 developed a concept to connect a physical piece of furniture to an ever-evolving NFT tree, which “grows” through acts of care to encourage people to keep, repair and recycle their possessions.
In Space10’s speculative design project Carbon Banks, the furniture in question is IKEA’s wooden Froset chair, while the non-fungible token (NFT) is an augmented reality artwork of a tree that reflects the item’s real-life circumstances.
The tree grows larger and lusher the longer a person keeps the chair, and it also reacts when the chair is repaired, resold or exchanged for another piece of furniture. At the end of its life, the chair can be recycled to cause a final visualization – an all-encompassing bloom of flowers.
Space10 created Carbon Banks in partnership with Berlin studio WINT Design Lab to explore the potential for digital assets like NFTs to build an emotional bond with real-world items and help us see them as less disposable.
“We know that furniture waste is a big problem,” Space10 creator Ryan Sherman told Dezeen. “Yet, an item of wooden furniture can serve as a carbon store for decades – if not longer – if properly cared for and recycled.”
“Within the ever-evolving landscape of NFTs, we saw an opportunity to explore this technology as a promising vehicle to promote circular behavior.”
With Carbon Banks, which Space10 is currently developing into a prototype, the experience begins when a person buys a new Froset chair and scans the unique pattern on its seat with their phone.
This action “mines” their virtual tree, which means that the unique digital asset is recorded on a blockchain, after which it can be bought, sold or traded.
The owner will experience this action as the sprouting of a seedling that appears to grow out of their chair in augmented reality.
If the chair is traded or sold, the NFT goes with it and the change in ownership is registered on the blockchain when the new owner scans the chair and the previous owner approves the transfer.
These changes add new, unique growths to the tree, as well as acts of repair and maintenance. The tree’s character is also based on the production journey of the physical item, such as the type of wood used and the place of manufacture.
Creative studio Zünc developed Carbon Bank’s visuals, aiming to celebrate the beauty of nature, while also giving the tree a more stylized and “grafted” look, by mixing species chosen for their symbolic associations with the chair and its story.
“There is a branch with oak leaves – a nod to the oak veneer of the IKEA Froset chair used in the film,” said Zünc Studio. “Pine needles are digitally pruned to resemble bonsai arrangements, a practice of care and patience.”
“And the ferns that unfold after the leg repair are based on the resurrection fern, which felt appropriate.”
While NFTs have developed a reputation for being unsustainable due to the vast amounts of energy required to power blockchains, Space10 explores how this could change on the Carbon Banks website and in a white paper co-authored with digital design studio Bakken & Bæck was developed.
The researchers note that switching to a more efficient proof-of-stake protocol — as modeled by blockchains like Ethereum — could reduce their energy consumption by up to 99.95 percent.
This presents the opportunity to use blockchains for purposes other than speculation and investment, they say.
“NFT applications have evolved iteratively,” Sherman explained. “First, there were ‘digital originals’ – one example being Crypto Punks – where collectability, community and exclusivity were key values.”
“Then we started seeing ‘digital receipts’: traceable signs of ownership of physical objects,” he continued.
“Now there’s a lot of digital twin work going on: adding a digital original to your physical object like ‘buy a pair of sneakers IRL and wear them in virtual spaces too’. It’s not that far from the mp3 download code that you don’t get. a vinyl record, but the mp3s can be unique.”
Space10 is positioning Carbon Banks as the next generation of NFTs, which the studio calls “digital amplifiers”, as the technology is designed to “amplify” aspects of a physical object.
“Digital amplifiers are connected to physical objects via the blockchain and magnify the items they are attached to, visualizing the history of an object, our relationship with it, and encouraging new behaviors,” Sherman said.
“This presents a unique time to move away from financial incentives to care, where digital objects visualize and reward sustainable behavior in our real world, creating opportunities for new forms of digital self-expression.”
Space10 is a Copenhagen-based research and design laboratory working with the IKEA brand. It regularly addresses issues of sustainability and circularity with its concepts, prototypes and products, which range from open-source Bee Homes to furniture that will use artificial intelligence to tell owners how to update it.
The studio also worked with architecture studio EFFEKT on a subscription-based collective living proposal called The Urban Village Project, which would bring together people of different generations with shared facilities.