Brewing inspiration

Designer Vilma Farrell creates richly coloured, translucent fabrics for lampshades out of used paper coffee filters. Even common household waste can be a source of an interesting material innovation.

Coffee filter paper is a light (100g/m2) type of crêpe paper. The crêpe in the material’s fabric lends it a unique wet strength, absorbency and porosity. Inspired by materials and colours from her native Brazil, such as dark coffee, spices and the juices from plants and vegetables, Farrell took an interest in the rich colour and patterns of coffee stains left behind this on this very absorbent type of paper.

After brewing what we assume is numerous pots of coffee, Farrell lays the used coffee filters out to dry. Once the paper has dried, she weaves the coffee-stained paper around a wire form to create textured lampshades with a range of coffee colours and intensities. To introduce different colours, she simply adds beet juice, lemon juice or spices such as saffron to the wet filters. The porosity of the paper allows a light to literally filter though the lampshades, creating a kind of translucent, ambient-glow that would add atmosphere to any hip coffee house.

Farrell was formerly a journalist in Brazil. Since moving to New York she has developed her coffee filter creations into a company called Lampada. She is a stay-at-home mom who weaves her coffee coloured creations in the evening, after her children have gone to sleep.

As an interesting coincidence, the inventor of coffee filter paper was also a stay-at-home mother. German housewife Melitta Bentz was tired of the bitter taste that resulted from boiling coffee grounds so she began to experiment with different types of paper. She patented the coffee filter in 1908 and immediately launched a company to produce her creation, with her husband and son as the company’s first employees.

Find out more about Lampada here.