Trend Report: Charcoal

December 30, 2013 | Alex

Charcoal has a long and complicated history with mankind. It's been linked to cancer and reputed to increase air pollution when burnt on a large scale. But the Japanese have long relied on the wood charring technique shou-sugi-ban to seal the exterior of their homes against wood rot and insect infestation, as well as to enhance its fire resistance. Contemporary Americans use charcoal to filter our drinking water and fire up our grills. The theme is so pervasive that the Vitra Design Museum recently payed homage to our conflicted relationship in their show "Confrontations." 

But recently, we seem to be wising up to other uses for charcoal's purifying powers. Have you noticed the sudden proliferation of Binchotan products? As it turns out, the Japanese also rely on charcoal to remove toxins from the skin. An alternate use that seems to be catching fire (no pun intended, I swear!) in local shops.  Binchotan is everywhere in Brooklyn-- in the form of body scrub towels, facial puffs and eye masks. American craftsman are even adopting shou-sugi-ban as a decorative technique.

Here are a few of my favorite applications, most as visually arresting as they are practical:

Trend Report - Charcoal.jpg


  1. Charcoal Drawing by Formofantasma and Francesco Zorzi, for the Vitra Design Museum
  2. Binchotan Charcoal Body Scrub Towel, by Morihata (via Steven Alan Home) - $20
  3. Binchotan Facial Puff, by Morihata (via Steven Alan Home) - $18
  4. Charred Comode, Moran Woodworked Furniture  - $1,250
  5. Bincho Water Purifier, by Sort of Coal (via Remodelista) - $125

If you don't hear from me again tomorrow, have a very happy new year! 2013 has been quite a year of change for me-- starting my business, leaving my job as a regulatory analyst and launching I hope its been a great year for each of you too. Now onward to 2014!