Meet the perfect sustainable kitchen design material

We all want to live happier, healthier lives and using wood from sustainable sources helps both ourselves and the environment to do so. Luckily, there have also been many breakthroughs in interior design to help us with greener living. One such breakthrough is sustainable plywood. Thanks to advanced engineering, kitchen design using plywood is at the forefront of home sustainability. Read on to discover why a sustainable plywood kitchen is a perfect choice.

Plykea’s custom-looking plywood cabinets. © Plykea

A Word on Sustainability

Sustainability, a buzzword when it comes to green living, refers to practices that do not deplete natural resources. Sustainable development, production methods, and sourcing practices take a long-term view, aiming to meet the needs of the present without compromising the future. According to the Brundtland report, it is essential that the global community work together to use fewer resources. Or to commit to using resources that are strictly sustainable for next generations’ needs to also be met. That’s exactly why we started our Respect Food project.

What is Plywood?

Plywood (also known as veneer ply) might sound like a fairly new concept, but the first occurrence of using layered wood dates back to Egypt, 1500BC. However, the first standardised sheets of plywood as we now know it today was only introduced in America in 1928.

Plywood consists of thin sheets of wood (also known as wood veneer) and adhesive. The layered sheets and adhesive are compressed to sufficiently bond and create the final product. Plywood is used in construction because of its strength and durability, and also in furniture making because of its versatility.

How can plywood be sustainable?

The sustainability of plywood is determined not only by how the wood is being sourced but also by the manufacturing process. The wood wastage of the plywood manufacturing process is significantly less when compared with traditional lumber practices. Choose FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified plywood to guarantee ethical manufacturing and ensure that the plywood is formaldehyde-free. Formaldehyde had always been used in the adhesive, but its use has significantly decreased since 1979.

One of the many great aspects of plywood is that it is affordable, which not only makes it an ethical option but a budget-friendly one too.

Plywood sheets can be made from hardwoods, softwoods, bamboo, or a combination of different wood. The best practice is to choose plywood that is locally sourced from sustainably managed forests, and that is also produced locally.

Plywood Pioneers

Plywood is resurfacing as an excellent construction material and enjoying a new-found admiration for its inherent aesthetics. Witlof is one pioneer company that strives to create original and bespoke kitchen designs while aiming to find new ways of using materials and the latest technology. A Witlof kitchen is characterised by the use of plywood and contemporary cabinetry. Witlof also has a sister company, Holte, which aims to create affordable, sustainable kitchens with craftsmanship-quality and environmentally responsible materials.

Opendesk is another company at the forefront of alternative manufacturing, opposing mass-produced items and encouraging local makers to grow their craft. The concept may be simple, but revolutionary. Find a design you like on their website for which you will then receive quotes from local makers in your area. You then choose a maker and get your furniture within four weeks. The Opendesk process cuts out shipping and uses plywood as their primary material. The furniture for living rooms, offices, bedrooms and kitchens are made with CNC machine manufacturing, which is one of the most resource-friendly methods of building furniture.

How To Use Plywood in the Kitchen

From walls to utensils, plywood is versatile enough to use throughout any kitchen.

Structural plywood can be used as a central element in the building of a home, but often needs to be AA grade interior plywood to achieve a suitable look. Interior plywood is not a structural element, but it does offer more strength and support than drywall making it a great choice for cladding. Alternatively, sealed plywood can be mounted to an existing wall to add the natural look and warmth of wood.

Beautiful plywood floors are a great affordable alternative to solid wood floors. Whether as a plank floor or a parquet floor, plywood flooring options are endless. While these floors are not necessarily as durable as solid wood floors, they can last a lifetime with the same care and attention afforded to solid wood floors.

Cabinet-grade plywood is generally made from hardwood with the inherent properties of the source wood providing the colour and pattern. Birch or ash wood are often used and have a beautiful light colour. The options for cabinet doors are endless: from plain contemporary and cottage panels to decorative designs. Choose to keep the wood aesthetic or add a paint finish to suit your kitchen style.

Finished plywood can even work as a kitchen countertop. Ensure the top is sealed correctly and apply the proper care as you would with solid wood tops.

© Kosuke Arakawa

Interior Styles Perfect for Plywood

Sustainable plywood is a great choice for any kitchen, regardless of the interior style. Plywood can be painted to cover the grain or stained to any colour, which will retain the grain of the wood. However, some interior styles are ideal for the freshness and lightness of plywood. Here are our favourites:

Contemporary interiors are all about experimenting with new designs and pushing boundaries. The casual aesthetic of plywood can create a great contrast with a sleek subway tile backsplash and black marble countertop.

Scandinavian style is known for incorporating blond plywood furniture into interiors, often with white-dipped accents. Stick to the simplicity of the style by incorporating light plywood cabinetry with black or white detail in kitchen finishes and utensils.

The Japanese are known for their awe-inspiring wood structures since most homes consist predominantly of wood. These interiors follow a minimalist principle by keeping only the necessary items in a kitchen. A kitchen may seem unembellished, but the use of wood with a defined grain adds a natural beauty that ensures a harmonious and calming atmosphere. Choose plywood with a clear grain and light tone for a Japanese-style plywood kitchen design.

The industrial look of loft kitchens pays homage to the structure of the building; brick, concrete and wood often function as part of the interior décor. The beautifully layered edges of plywood expose its manufactured core, which is why they are perfect for industrial kitchens. Choose a cabinet design and finish that exhibits the lovely layers for all to see, combined with stainless steel details for a sleek look.

Plywood is one of the most versatile modern building materials, suitable for both structural and decorative elements in your home. Get the ultimate green thumbs-up by ensuring your plywood is sustainably sourced and produced and know that you’re doing your bit for the environment.