Whimsical Furniture Made From Recycled Cardboard

© Clôdie Francois
A bookshelf and a dresser by Mesdames Carton.

Inspired by both the beauty of the American West and the wares on sale in a tiny Parisian shop, Clôdie Francois turns discarded cardboard into colorful, playful tables, shelves, and dressers that look straight out of "Alice in Wonderland."

Born in Paris, the self-taught artist moved to New Mexico in the 1990s and fell in love at first sight with her new home.

"One summer, as I was trying to figure out how to express the outstanding beauty of New Mexico skies and landscapes, a little 'souvenir' rang a bell: a tiny shop in Paris with amazing furniture made from cardboard," Francois writes on her website, Mesdames Carton (Cardboard Ladies).

© Clôdie Francois
A willow-branch lamp and a recycled-cardboard side table by Mesdames Carton.

With some mentoring from the designer at the French store, Francois began salvaging used cardboard from dumps or (with permission) the trash bins of stores. "As an alternative to wood, the flexibility of cardboard is a gold mine for imagination since it allows almost any shape, any amused wink," she writes.

'Secret Stories' In Abandoned Materials
For heavier-duty pieces, Francois mixes the cardboard with recycled wood or Masonite, covering the finished works with handmade acid-free paper and a non-toxic, water-based varnish. She also makes lamps out of willow branches gathered in New Mexico and handmade paper from Asia. (Francois told TreeHugger that she would like to buy the paper locally but it would drive the price of her furniture -- which she sells for between $90 and $220 -- up too high.)

"Since my childhood, I have a special attraction for landfills ... [where] objects and materials which are abandoned, dirty, broken still have a memory of their own, some secret stories," she writes on her website. "I like the idea that my furniture [is] filled with these fragments of unknown feelings."

Tags: Cardboard | France | Furniture | New Mexico | Recycled Consumer Goods | Recycling