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The New Bamboo
It can grow more than three feet in a single day, replenish itself with abandon, release 35 percent more oxygen than its fellow plants, and thrive without pesticides. But those eco-friendly qualities are probably not what attracted architect William Merchant to bamboo back in 1939, when he appointed an entire room in the knuckled grass at a design exposition in San Francisco, sparking a craze that captivated the era's most audacious decorators. More than 70 years later, bamboo has made a comeback as a design material. But this time, it has more range than ever.
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"The possibilities for using bamboo have expanded exponentially in the last 15 years with the advent of new technology and machinery," says Susanne Lucas, executive director of the nonprofit World Bamboo Organization. And how. The fastest-growing plant in the world shows up in all kinds of products, including flooring, furniture, and textiles. "I am really impressed with the upholstery fabric," Martha Stewart Living's Kevin Sharkey says. "Bamboo blends are available in damasks, stripes, and wovens, and none of them look like tatami mats. Even more impressive is how they feel. The fabrics are as soft as cashmere but more durable."
Golden bamboo pieces, such as the lamp and the room divider, bring warmth to a space. The window shade, the sofa fabric, and the small throw pillow are also made with the grass.
Bamboo Pieces:Bamboo pieces Canopy fabric (on sofa), in Orchid, qcollection.com. Throw pillow on sofa (second from left): Chenille-bamboo weave, in Foam Green, by Textillery, from gracioushome.com. Floor lamp, alsdesigns.com. Classic weave throw, shishustyle.com. Bamboo engineered click-lock flooring, by Home Legend, from homedepot.com. Natural-bamboo screen, shopgaiam.com.
Other Items:Throw pillows on sofa (from right): Campus Gold, by Ryan Studio; and Rex Wasabi; from gracioushome.com. Drayton chair, in Tangiers Sand, jonathanadler.com. Polo 3 throw (zigzag pattern), in Sage, gracioushome.com. Cocktail ottoman, by Hickory Chair, from bmooredesign.com. Malachite rug, 9' by 6', therugcompany.info. Low-VOC paint, in Tadpole Green, by Martha Stewart Living, from homedepot.com. Untitled artwork (acrylic on board), by Marco Croce, flairhomecollection.com. Decanter, journeydumbo.com. Velvet bag, casamidy.com.
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Pretty and Practical Details
The engineered wood flooring in the living room is made of strips of bamboo adhered to a plank made of other types of wood. This blend of woods is thought to make engineered bamboo floors tougher than typical wooden planks. Fabrics woven with a blend of bamboo and cotton, linen, or polyester, such as those shown here, are more durable than their purebred counterparts.
Clockwise from top left: Throw: This bamboo-cotton blanket goes with everything. Classic weave throw, shishustyle.com. iPad Case: A handsome, earthy shell for protecting the gadget. Bamboo iPad case and holder, bambooipad.com. Pillow: The fabric has just the right amount of texture. Chenillebamboo weave, in Foam Green by Textillery, from gracioushome.com. Wall Material: A contemporary paneling option, it can be stained easily. Amber flat-grain 3-ply plywood 4'-by-8' sheet, and chocolate edge grain plywood, 4'-by-8' sheet; plyboo.com. Fabric: A soft graphic print. Apollo Ivory, bamboo-viscose-polyester by Hamilton Fabric, from interiormall.com. Fabric: Stain resistant and comes in an array of colors. Bilbao bamboo-rayon-cotton-polyester, in Moonstone, Chrysolite, and Amethyst, designtex.com. Fabric: Upholstery-weight with a sophisticated pattern. Canopy bamboo-linen, in Lichen, qcollection.com. Stationary: Its rich organic feel sends a good message. Bamboo folded cards, orangeart.com. Flooring: The Home Legend option, top, clicks into place; the Plyboo, bottom, requires nails or glue to install. Bamboo engineered click-lock flooring by Home Legend, from homedepot.com. Havana Squared Prefinish flooring, plyboo.com
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The Dark Side
Deep shades of bamboo work nicely with moody colors, a combination that's perfect for a cozy home office. In bamboo, even functional objects -- letter trays, storage boxes -- add organic texture.
Bamboo Pieces: Shelby writing desk with bamboo-fronted drawers, mgbwhome.com. Blow-Up citrus basket, nest-living.com. Stacking letter trays (on desk shelf ), and recipe-card boxes (on wall shelf, right), containerstore.com. IPad case and holder, bambooipad.com. Small shallow round bowl (on wall shelf, right), in Forest, corebamboo.com.
Other Items: Brass and glass lamp, journeydumbo.com. Brass brackets, hooklady.com. Antique Orkney straw-back chair, bunnywilliams.com/treillage.
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A Serene Retreat
Striated bamboo -- which shows up on the walls, sink, and furnishings -- gives this bathroom its spa-like feel. Once available in only a few earthy hues, bamboo textiles can now be found in all kinds of elegant colors, such as these muted towels.
Bamboo Pieces: Cubes, set of 3, kalonstudios.com. Above-counter sink, lenovasinks.com. Structure bench, in Amber, alsdesigns.com. Natural-edge grain 3-ply plywood (on wall), 4'-by-8' sheet, plyboo.com. Boardwalk jar, by Martha Stewart Collection, from macys.com. Spun-bamboo tray(on cube), velocityartanddesign.com. Wash, hand, and bath towels, in Amethyst, cassadecor.com.
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Fresh and Clean
In its various guises, bamboo retains many of the characteristics it boasts as a plant. Its fibers are water absorbent, making it an excellent material for towels. Its resistance to bacteria makes bamboo plywood an especially good choice for washroom walls and floors. What's more, it's just as durable as wood.
Clockwise from top left: Bowls: A pretty way to corral cotton balls, hair bands, and other odds and ends in the bathroom. Petit bowls, 5 (in different colors), by Roost, from velocityartanddesign.com. Wall Material: A fresh take on traditional wainscoting. Natural-edge-grain 3-ply, 4'-by-8' sheet; unfinished amber tambour paneling, 4'-by-8' sheet; prefinished natural tambour paneling, 4'-by-8' sheet; and squared amber plywood, 3'-by-8' sheet, plyboo.com. Bathmat: The slats of this round mat ensure efficient ventilation, and the rubber backing prevents it from slipping. Banu bath mat, by Jason Nip for Umbra, from gracioushome.com. Washcloths: Silken, spa quality. Rayon-bamboo Channel washcloth, in White, and rayon-bamboo washcloth, in Ash Grey; cb2.com. Towels: Absorbent Egyptian cotton-bamboo-rayon blend. Bamboo hand towel, in Amethyst, and bath towel, in Ecru; by Kassatex, from cassadecor.com. Flooring: Available in a range of finishes and patterns. Neopolitan Strand, and prefinished Sahara; plyboo.com. Bamboo Pebbles: Decorative "river rocks" made from cutting-board scraps. Bamboo pebbles, by Bambu, from branchhome.com.
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Mixing and matching different shades of bamboo adds depth to a room. Here, dark tables contrast beautifully with light baskets. Bamboo is also woven into the bedding and the rug, which is so lush that it softens the blow of getting out of bed.
Bamboo pieces: Bamboo Dreams queen sheet set, in Almond, yaladesigns.com. Quilted coverlet, in Lotus, beyondbeds.com. Strand flooring, by Foundations, from greendepot.com. Plush rug, 8' by 10', in Beige, vivaterra.com. Hazel bench, in Warm Caramelized finish, and Nandina bench (next to bed), in Warm Caramelized finish; hayneedle.com. Radio, conranusa.com. Smoked-bamboo kitchen basket, tenthousandvillages.com.
Other items: Minwax water-based wood stain (on floor), in Slate, minwax.com. Atlantico queen bed, in American black walnut, delaespada.com. Paint (on wall), in Orchid, by Martha Stewart Living, from homedepot.com. Tang-style plaster horse, flairhomecollection.com.
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Sumptous and Hardworking
Bamboo can wick away moisture better than cotton, making it an ideal bedding textile. Plus, it has natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, which help keep sheets fresh longer. Not to mention that it looks like silk. "Bamboo fibers add a beautiful sheen to textiles," Kevin says.
Clockwise from top left: Pillow: This concave rattan cushion is surprisingly comfortable and good for keeping cool. Rattan hollow pillow, pearlriver.com. Throw: Light enough for warm months but snuggly enough for cooler ones. Current throw, in Grass, inhabitliving.com. Pillowcases: The muted colors create a lovely dreamscape. Bamboo Dreams pillowcases, in Almond and Green Tea, yaladesigns.com. Bamboo quilted sham, in Ivory, beyondbeds.com. Rug: Extra-soft and easy on bare feet. Bamboo plush rug, 8' by 10', in Beige,vivaterra.com. Radio: Far more decor-friendly than a plastic version. Bamboo radio,conranusa.com. Flooring: Simple to install and wipe clean ( just mop with a standard floor cleaner). Strand bamboo flooring, unfinished (far right) and finished (in American Walnut, second from right), by Foundations, from greendepot.com. Minwax water-based wood stain (applied to unfinished Strand flooring), in Winter Moss, River Stone, and Slate, minwax.com.