Cutting-Edge Materials for the Home

Creating a truly unique home is one of the joys of home ownership. Many seeking to personalize their residences in an unmistakable way do so by settling on an unusual paint color, a trip to the antique fair or an estate sale for a stand-out find, or decorate with mementos from travels.

But what if you had a budget that allowed you to think big? Not just concerning yourself with what goes on the walls, but what the walls are made of? Global materials consultancy Material Connexion has scoured the world to confer their annual Material of the Year awards, and this year's finalists offer up some intriguing possibilities.
The winner, Concrete Cloth, is a kind of cement with flexible fabric technology that molds quickly to set into permanent and lasting shapes. "With the simple addition of water, Concrete Cloth makes it possible to create safe, durable, non-combustible structures for a wide range of commercial, military and humanitarian uses," says Andrew Dent, vice president, Library & Materials Research at Material ConneXion. For example, the cloth could create insulated shelters in a short amount of time for use as a shelter or food storage structure – infrastructure greatly needed in areas of crisis and disaster.

Infigure is a breakthrough in creating wood veneer finishes. Homeowners and designers wishing to truly personalize any wood interiors could add one of what appears to be a limitless number of patterns and other designs to the veneer finish without damaging the actual wood.

For some real curb appeal, Quin Media Arts and Sciences, of Vancouver has created large-scale textural and 3D visual effects on exterior rainscreen cladding. The metal finishes create images that can change based on lighting or the viewer's perception. Principal Roderick Quin suggests the surfaces could even be used in interiors, for an eye-catching room divider or backdrop. Paint or printed graphics no need apply.

And Xylogramm, by German firm Keil GmbH, has come up with decorative panels that also display visual and dimensional effects. But the added bonus here, is Xylogramm, with its art-inspired designs, also acts as a sound-proofing material, perfect for the home or commercial audio studio, or any place that needs shielding from outside noise.

The winning material, the finalists and an entire library of materials can be viewed at Material Connexion's exhibition, MEDIUM Award for Material of the Year 2009, in New York City through February 19.
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