Working on a project for Dutch office furniture manufacturer Ahrend, van Daal learned how to make conventional chairs and couches that are comfy and cost-effective, but had a difficult time coming to grips with the environmental costs of her design decisions. "I gained insight in the production process of soft seating," says van Daal. "It's a big process with a lot of different factories, materials, material waste, and unsustainable assembly." The chief problem is that contract furniture is made of dozens of different materials, usually laboriously glued or fastened together, so when it's time to redecorate, everything goes into landfills rather than recycling bins.
Van Daal resolved to work out a design that was elegant and eco-conscious and turned to biomimicry for inspiration. She took cues from sea sponges and other naturally occurring structures that have a springy feel, but are a made from a single material. "In nature a material grows into different structures and this is the way different functions arise," she says.