Decoding Design

Philips unveils an elegant 'Microbial Home' concept

Philips unveils an elegant 'Microbial Home' concept

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Electronics giant Philips has designed an ecosystem of beautiful appliances powered by bathroom waste, bacteria, and fungi. Models of these concepts are on view during Dutch Design Week in the Netherlands.

Designers at Philips are taking the idea of the natural ecosystem indoors and applying it to everyday appliances. This past week, Philips unveiled "the Microbial Home," a set of domestic machines that re-use household waste for power or offer natural alternatives to electronic or chemical processes typically used in a contemporary home.

These range from the Bio-digester kitchen island, which houses a device that converts solid waste from the bathroom and vegetable trimmings into methane gas for fuel, to the Bio-light, which is designed to use luminescent bacteria that feed on methane and composted materials.

“Designers have an obligation to understand the urgency of the situation, and translate humanity’s needs into solutions. Energy-saving light bulbs will only take us so far," said Clive van Heerden, Senior Director of Design-led Innovation at Philips Design, in a statement. "We need to push ourselves to rethink domestic appliances entirely."

Other elements of this system include

  • the Larder, a table made from reclaimed wood that includes a terra-cotta food-storage system and a table-top garden
  • a sleek indoor beehive for harvesting honey
  • a scultpural "up-cycling" machine made from plywood and copper that breaks down plastic waste using enzymes found in mycelium (mushroom fibers)
  • the Filtering Squatting Toilet, which sorts for solid waste to feed to the Bio-digester island

Although these appliances won't be manufactured any time soon, lifelike models of the concepts are currently on view at the Piet Hein Eek gallery during Dutch Design Week (which opened on October 22 and runs through October 30) in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. While the thought of cooking dinner with gas harvested from bathroom waste might not seem appetizing, the elegant concepts of Philips' Microbial Home appliance system may seduce some skeptics via the power of their eye-catching design.

Images: Philips

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Reena Jana

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Reena Jana has written for the New York Times, Wired, Harvard Business Review online, Fast Company, Architectural Record, Artforum, Time Out New York, Harper's Bazaar, and GQ. Previously, she was the innovation department editor at BusinessWeek. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Barnard College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure