Living Design: Danielle Trofe Transforms Lighting Through Mushroom Mycelium

MushLume Hemi Pendants illuminate The Riverhouse Suite in the newly opened luxe 1Hotel Brooklyn Bridge in NYC /Photo courtesy Danielle Trofe Design

By Laura Goldstein

If you watched the award-winning documentary, Fantastic Fungi on Netflix you know about the incredible communicative and medicinal properties of mushrooms and their mycelium roots. Brooklyn-based biodesigner, Danielle Trofe of Danielle Trofe Design has taken this ecological phenomenon another step further by working with living organisms to produce contemporary, organic and sustainable lighting.

Biodesigner, Danielle Trofe of Danielle Trofe Design/photo courtesy Danielle Trofe Design

“From architecture to business management to product design, ‘biomimicry’ looks to nature’s evolved patterns and strategies to help solve human challenges,” explains Trofe from her Brooklyn studio. With degrees in Marketing, Biomimicry and Design, and teaching at The Pratt Institute and Parsons The New School, Trofe has parlayed all her specialties with a love of nature into the new realm of biotechnology.

“I originally got in touch with an American company, Ecovative who were creating substitutes for styrofoam packaging using ‘mushroom packaging,’ as it’s called. By allowing the mycelium to grow around clean agricultural waste such as hemp, corn stalks or husks, over a few days, the fungus fibres bind the waste together, forming a solid shape,” she explains . 

MushLume Hemi and Linear Pendants over a kitchen island. Photo courtesy of Danielle Trofe Design

This process sparked her ingenious lighting application to design 3D printed lampshade molds then pack them with the same natural materials then injecting mycelium, that grows very quickly over four to ten days. Everything is then mulched together to create each lampshade’s form.

The MushLume Stagger Chandelier/Photo courtesy of Danielle Trofe Design

“Grown in a lab, the mycelium product is very sustainable and there are no off-gases or leeching into the earth,” says Trofe.

In 2013 she launched her prototypes at New York Design Week and the Mushlume Lighting Collection received an enthusiastic response.

Light and velvety to the touch, Trofe has also experimented with adding colour to her lampshades. “The mycelium was eating the dye! ” she laughs, “so for now I’m staying with the natural, white colour.” 

The MushLume Hemi Pendant is available in two diameters – 24” and 18” and three different metal hardware options of powder-coated black, white and polished brass. 

The sensuous curves of the textured MushLume Trumpet Pendant is contrasted with a smooth, hand -turned wood stem and brass hardware. And the MushLume Stagger Chandelier (available in several permutations ) and MushLume Linear Chandelier,) is an elegant, sculptural addition to a hallway or over a dining table. Trofe has also designed variations in the form of  single and double wall sconces.

Her very cool residential and commercial collaborations include restaurants and boutiques.  Mushlume Lighting Lampshades and Pendants adorn the Westley Calgary, Alberta Downtown Tapestry Collection by Hilton and The Riverhouse Suite in the newly opened luxe 1Hotel Brooklyn Bridge in NYC.

MushLume Hemi Pendants are part of the Westley Calgary Downtown Tapestry Collection by Hilton/Photo courtesy Danielle Trofe Design

Like Trofe, more and more fashion and textile industries are starting to embrace eco-friendly solutions to traditional product manufacturing through biofabrication using seaweed (seacell,) pineapple skins and cocona fabric made from coconut husks.

“We’re on the brink of a materials revolution and I think that will significantly change the way we live,” Trofe affirms.

Danielle Trofe Design lighting is available at SwitzerCultCreative, Unit 102-1636 West 2nd Avenue,Vancouver.

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