(Image credit: Apartment Therapy )

I always thought of my water filter as something purely utilitarian — something to hide in the refrigerator, or an ugly but ultimately necessary plastic bulb sticking off the side of my kitchen faucet — so the charcoal water filters Italian designers Formafantasma created for the Vitra Design Museum threw me for a loop. Could water filters be art?

The filters were made by charring pieces of wood in a smoldering mound for several days in the Swiss forest, then digging them out and sculpting them into ladle, funnel, and lid shapes. The charcoal objets purify tap water poured into the blown-glass vessels.

The Formfantasma may be out of our reach, but I found myself inspired to reconsider the utilitarian clunkiness of my normal plastic water filters. Charcoal is a popular material for purifying air and water, especially in Japan, and even the most basic black cubes are aesthetically appealing. If you feel inspired to try out charcoal filters for yourself, Design Within Reach has a stylish pitcher designed specifically for filtering water with charcoal. Or you could acquire your own Binchotan charcoal sticks and let them do their thing in the jar or pitcher of your choice.

Have you tried charcoal water or air filters? Let us know about your results in the comments.

(Images: Formfantasma)