10 Cool Things Made From Cardboard

Who know you could build a functional car or virtual reality goggles from cardboard?

a curving bookcase made out of recycled cardboard on display

kynny / Getty Images

Cardboard boxes have been around for about 200 years. The original purpose was packaging, of course, but since then people have transformed the simple brown box into some really fun and innovative things. Here are some of the coolest cardboard items you can buy, make or just dream of owning. As you'll see, it's an often-overlooked material with an impressive range of uses.

1. Cardboard Car

The interior of the Lexus Origami Car
The interior of the Lexus Origami Car. It doesn't look super-comfortable, but it's still pretty cool. Lexus UK

Lexus UK unveiled a drivable electric car made of cardboard in 2015. (Note: It’s drivable only in a highly controlled environment because the wheels are also made of cardboard.) Taking three months to build in London, this car is constructed of 1,700 precision-cut pieces of cardboard, which were adhered together by hand with water-based glue. The motor is mounted on an aluminum-and-steel frame. It has functioning doors, headlights, and a replica interior.

2. Cardboard Partition

Karton NOMAD dividers in an office using cardboard furniture
The Karton NOMAD dividers, shown here in the background in white, green and black, bring a pop of color to a room. Karton Group

Do you live with an open floor plan and want to mark off sections of your home? Instead of going with one of those generic panel room dividers, add a pop of color to your room with one of these freestanding, modular cardboard walls. These can be "configured into screens, partitions, displays or even rooms without hardware or damage to existing walls and ceilings," making them ideal for renters or people needing flexibility. They were selected to be part of Treehugger's Best of Green Design Awards in 2021.

3. Virtual Reality Goggles

Google Cardboard goggles
You can buy Google Cardboard goggles, or download a kit and make them yourself. Imcardboard.com

Have you tried Google Cardboard yet? When you look into it, it's like you're really standing next to the Eiffel Tower or swimming the Great Barrier Reef. (A doctor has even used the device to perform a tricky surgery on an infant.) You can buy a cardboard viewfinder or download a kit and make one yourself. The kit includes "technical specifications and drawings for lenses, conductive strips, die-cut lines and more, plus manufacturing tolerances and material specifications."

4. Cardboard Décor

Cardboard elephant head
No need for an actual elephant head when you can have a cardboard version. Cardboard Safari

Instead of mounting a real big game animal head on your wall (ew!), opt instead for a trendy cardboard one. You can pick from an elephant, moose, bison, rhino, lion and even a unicorn. These would make a great playful addition to a child's bedroom. If you're crafty, it's something you might consider making yourself.

5. Cardboard Playhouse

A playhouse made of cardboard
This playhouse made of cardboard is modeled after a Mid-Century Modern. Design-Conscious.co.uk

Just think about all of the great imaginative play your kiddos can have with this mid-century modern cardboard house. Throw some blankets and pillows in there and let the games begin. This is something you could potentially recreate yourself, especially if you had a Makedo Cardboard-Building Set to help.

6. Cardboard Kitty House

A cardboard Cat Cube
Made from recycled cardboard and eco-friendly ink, s could be your cat's newest nap place. Cat Cube

Your BFF will be the coolest feline on the block when you give her a cardboard cat house. The best part is that it's made from recycled cardboard and no there are no glue or toxic chemicals involved. All of the designs are printed with eco-friendly ink. Check out the Water Gem cardboard cat house by Boba & Vespa, selected for the 2021 Best of Green Pets Awards.

7. Cardboard Crafty

A Mumaroo cardboard igloo
A cardboard igloo makes for a fun play space for little kids. Mumaroo

Looking for something fun and inexpensive to make this weekend with the kids? Learn how to make a cardboard igloo or play dome, a cute Lego storage house, and even a puppet theater. See Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration. You'll be amazed by what you see.

8. Cardboard Robot

A Calafant cardboard robot
A Calafant cardboard robot is fun for adults and kids. Calafant Cardboard Toys

Build and decorate your very own robot out of cardboard. This kit could be for kids or for a robot-loving grown-up. The company also makes lots of cardboard craft kits as well, including castles, pirate ships and farm sets.

9. Cardboard Luggage

A cardboard suitcase from the Museum of Modern Art
While this cardboard suitcase is a great travel accessory, you can't check it at an airport. MoMA

This retro designed luggage is a stylish storage container and it can even be a travel accessory (but it can't be checked.) It's been manufactured in Czech Republic since 1925. For stability, it has metal-reinforced corners and edges and wooden slats. Side pieces are riveted on and the inside is laminated with paper. If you want to make your own, check out this little DIY project, great for kids.

10. Cardboard iPad Stand

A cardboard iPad stand
No need to hold your iPad while watching your favorite shows or movies with this TV-styled stand. Cardboard Safari

Tired of holding your iPad while binge-watching your fave TV show? This retro-inspired cardboard TV stand solves that problem nicely. Or make your own, less fancy kind that does the job just as well, as shown here.