From junkyard to Living Vroom: the world’s first street furniture collection made from upcycled car parts

May 22, 2024

What if a public space could be as inviting as your home?

With more than half of the urban space dedicated to car infrastructure, cities have become pragmatic commuting corridors. 

But research shows shared mobility can reduce the need for car trips by 19% and, as a result, free up space to make cities more people-friendly — almost like an extended living room.

What could they look like then?

Enter the Living Vroom

We asked Interesting Times Gang, a Swedish design studio, to imagine what could happen when something that wastes space turns into something that gives it back.

The result is Living Vroom — the world’s first street furniture collection made from upcycled car parts. From the sofa-shaped bench to the solar-powered flower street lamp, each item is designed to make you feel at home and will be open to the public on the sunny terrace of Paulinas Kök & Kakeri in Stockholm.

We sat down with designers Sean and Alex to talk about the furniture — and the future of cities.

Hi guys! Tell us about how the project started.

Sean (Head of Innovation): When Bolt told us about their vision of a more comfortable urban environment, a city that felt like home, it resonated with us. It was something we wanted to be a part of. Repurposing materials is something we obviously love to do, but this project involved working with waste materials from the automotive industry — something we’d never used before.

You chose airbags as one of the key materials for the collection. Why?

Sean: To do research for the project, we went on a buddy road trip to a junkyard in Norway. We stumbled upon high-quality materials used in car interiors and seats, but soon realised that each one was different and we’d lack a sufficient amount of homogeneous material to create an entire collection.

Then, Alex came across these detonated airbags. He got super excited, as he often does. He ran up to a car, asked for a knife, and began cutting the airbags out. Their original state, with soft nylon texture and pastel colours, was truly beautiful.

Alex (Head of Design): Yeah, the car seats, which we considered first, had too much of an American retro-futuristic vibe. Then, we considered taking metal parts from cars, but that felt too much like something out of Mad Max. We realised we needed something more neutral as a starting point before transforming it into what we envisioned.

One of the most spectacular pieces in the collection is the gigantic flower lamp. How did this come to life?

Sean: We started with the shape of a circular airbag and wanted to experiment with different forms. We explored how round shapes could transform into petals or flowers — and, as usual, we ended up with a happy accident

I believe in pushing boundaries to create something playful and unique. Excitement always comes from uncertainty. When I see something that I’m not sure about, I know it’s going to be great.

Is there anything you learned from the research and design phase of this project?

Sean: When we arrived at the recycling plant, we were surprised to find that most of the cars were less than a couple of years old. They didn’t fit my stereotypical notion of what an end-of-life automobile would be. This is an intriguing insight because there was a time when cars were designed to be easily repairable by their owners.

With the rise of complex computerised systems, fixing cars has become increasingly difficult and expensive. As a result, many end up being replaced rather than repaired. Perhaps there needs to be a framework established at both the political and governmental levels to ensure that products are designed with repairability in mind.

Let’s talk about our urban environments. What do you think could be improved from a design perspective? 

Sean: People used to prioritise a beautiful environment, even outdoors. But over the last few decades, we’ve become increasingly pragmatic, and everything has been made to be cheap. Design seems to have lost its importance, becoming an afterthought rather than a priority. If you consider architecture, we’re unlikely to produce works of art like Notre Dame, the Sagrada Familia, or the Eiffel Tower again, as we’ve prioritised function and cost over beauty.

Alex: It seems like we’re no longer encouraged to spend time outdoors. The journey from point A to point B has become purely functional, and cities don’t put much effort into making it pleasant. While some spaces, like cafes, create inviting environments to attract customers, public spaces generally lack this appeal. 

This is why I really like our approach to the Living Vroom collection. We believe that public areas should be inviting, playful spaces that encourage interaction and spontaneous conversations with strangers. 

Transforming our cities

While most cities have been built for cars to drive from A to B, rather than for people to enjoy, Living Vroom serves as a gentle reminder to slow down, take a seat, or even start a conversation with a stranger.

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