The origin story of the Xylinium stool sounds like the plot line in some kind of sci-fi B-movie: A Berlin-based designer, together with a renowned biomaterial company, sets out to explore future material and production possibilities. They develop an organic compound—originally used for medical purposes like blood-vessel implants—to “grow” a chair with a skinlike consistency. In the fictional tale, the seat would become sentient and start consuming humans, butt first, then try to take over the world, and we’d probably watch it via an old episode of MST3K—but in real life, Jannis Hülsen actually made it happen.
The project was made possible by Jenpolymers, which owned a patent on the unique process and allowed Hülsen to use its labs to experiment. There, he took a basic, wooden, three-legged frame filled with a mold and placed it in a “nutritional liquid that contains only the genetically modified bacteria [Xylinium] and plant sugar,” according to the video below.
Within a week, a thick artificial cellulose coating develops. The stool is taken out, washed, and sterlized. Once removed, it’s well, it’s pretty gross. “When wet, the most common reaction is disgust,” Hülsen tells Co.Design. Once dry, the “skin-like” substance—which is 100% biodegradable—undergoes post-process treatments that determine its durability. Now that his initial trials have been successful, Hülsen is developing the project for further prototypes. In the meantime, he made a book to share the research with others. Will test-tube sofas be far behind?