“Form follows function” is a design principle associated with the fields of architecture and industrial design. It simply means that how something looks should be determined by how it’s used. After all, some things simply look good but don’t do much outside of looking good. And in places like our homes, it’s important that the things we use everyday have the right balance of form and function. One new trend that embodies this principle perfectly has its roots in none other than plumbing — enter, the humble pipe.

Either in their upcycled form or cleverly designed to accent your home interiors, pipes as decor have been on the rise across the globe. Read on to see different ways you, too, can try it in your home.

Exposed Pipes

Image credit: freshome.com

Leaving pipes exposed instead of covering them up with plasterwork is a good and simple way to add a little flair to your otherwise pedestrian interiors. The pipes don’t have to be strictly linear either. Install joints along the paths of the pipes to make interesting and intricate-looking designs on your walls, or paint them in colors that complement the rest of the room. In this way, Carla Muncaster, owner and creative director at UK-based Urban Grain Interiors Limited, shares that being creative with piping leads to really “striking, bold, and graphic” patterns.

An example of an area where this could work could be your bathroom. Keeping the hot and cold water pipes exposed in your shower gives it an appealing industrial-style design. Couple this with the fact that you’ll no longer need to break into the walls to install a shower, and you save both time and resources — striking the perfect balance between form and function in the process. While this has certainly become a trend in homes across the United Kingdom, it has also made its way into other countries as seen in this cool industrial restroom in Sydney.

However, one possible drawback would be installation and maintenance. UK plumbing experts at HomeServe don’t recommend doing this type of work by yourself, as small mistakes in installation and water pressure can be disastrous to your home’s piping. What this means is, while it may seem simple to just not cover up your pipes with plaster, it would still be best to consult with experts for the best form and function, and less risks of costly repairs.

Upcycling

Contrary to popular belief, upcycling doesn’t mean taking old furniture and refurbishing it so that it looks new. While it isn’t too far off, a feature on The Independent defines upcycling as taking new component parts of a redundant object and using them to create a new, more useful object. Doing this lessens the use of new resources in the manufacturing process, which impacts the environment in a positive way.

To put this into perspective, an Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries report claims that recycled copper, the main metal used for pipes, satisfies two-fifths of the global demand for the metal. This means that upcycling isn’t only trendy, it also benefits the environment quite a bit.

Image credit: Dornob.com

Now, there are two ways you can go about this. One is to use the pipes as raw material for furniture. You can basically have most fixtures made, but comfort and function will vary as pipes aren’t the most comfortable things to sit on. Another way you can use pipes is as raw material for DIY vertical gardening, a trend that has taken hold in homes here in the US. Using the pipes this way doubles down on the environmental impact that results from upcycling. If this is something you’re interested in, why not check out the Inhabitat’s guide on Vertical Gardening.

So there you have it — clever ways to utilize pipes in decorating your home. Be sure to consult with professionals before undertaking your own DIY projects to get around any complications that you may face along the way!

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