Opaque or transparent, colorful or muted, resin is a chameleon of sorts—and it’s having a moment. Increasingly, designers are using the versatile substance to craft bespoke furniture and home accents.
Generally thought of as a plastic derivative, resin, as interior designer Nina Magon of Contour Interior Design in Houston describes, is “a naturally occurring organic compound sourced from plants that consists of a noncrystalline, liquid substance that is fusible.” And resin casting is a method often used for making furniture, whereby a mold is filled with liquid resin, which then hardens.
“One of the most noted designers, who was groundbreaking in using resin in furniture, lighting, and accessory design in the late 1960s, early ’70s, was Marie-Claude de Fouquières,” says Guy Regal, a New York-based dealer of fine art and antiques. “Through a chemical reaction, the material is given a crackled effect,” he says. And Line Vautrin, who worked through the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, was well known for incorporating resin in her sunburst mirrors, which created a luminous effect, Regal says. “Both of these artists’ works are highly sought after by collectors and achieve five-and-six-figure prices at auction.”
One of the main reasons for resin’s growing popularity is its versatility, flexibility, and durability; just a simple hand sanding at home can smooth surface scratches. It also can be used as a varnish or lacquer, which not only makes it something that can suspend objects effectively (think: coins or insects in a paperweight, for example) but also coat them, Magon says.
Marina Hanisch of Marina Hanisch Interiors in New York tries to incorporate resin into wood slab furniture. “The luminosity reflected in the resin combined with the organic nature of the wood creates a perfect harmony between natural and synthetic materials,” she says.
Interior designer Phillip Thomas, founder and principal of Phillip Thomas Inc. in New York, has used the material in millwork designs for counters and shelving, to cover flooring, and as artistic home accents. To create a focal point in a study, Thomas used a fractured resin sphere to decorate a green lacquered desk. As the light changed throughout the day, the sphere went from looking slightly opaque to more translucent to a glowing bronze.
“I love how fractured resin captures the light and changes as the light in a space changes,” he says.