Published on July 27, 2021

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Photography by Meghan McNeer

By day athletes at the 2020 Olympic Summer Games compete in some of the most important events of their lives. And by night they sleep on cardboard beds. Ever since the competitors landed at the Olympic village in Tokyo, their TikToks revealed that they’ve been assigned sturdy paper beds that can be manipulated to accommodate different heights. (Also, ever wonder how many Olympians it takes to break a cardboard bed? The answer is apparently nine.) 

And even though cardboard furniture is a new concept for the Olympics, it has been a sturdy and eco-friendly option for decades, ever since the 1960s, when it was considered a response to postwar consumerism. When pieces are made from previously used cardboard, they’re giving the material new life. Plus the medium inspires creativity (Frank Gehry created his Wiggle chair from it), and for the most part it’s compostable.

Lately we’ve noticed it in other places, too, like at the brand-new Ganni store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where our associate style editor, Julia Stevens, spotted it propping up stacks of sweatpants. And recently designer Max Lamb repurposed Samsung TV boxes into three different style chairs.

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We’ve also spied some great options available to purchase, from a Crayola-friendly kids table to a customizable chair to a slim desk that’s ideal for disassembling when WFH is all over. The best part? You can bring the cardboard furniture trend into your home—without all the Olympic training.

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