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Forget drinking activated charcoal. Now we’re using burnt, charred and smoked surfaces in our homes

Activated charcoal is the supplement of the moment in the wellness industry: added to food and cosmetics or popped as a pill, it is said to treat hangovers and even whiten teeth.

Its detoxifying health claims are, on the whole, not supported by science, but there’s nonetheless something visually compelling about those blackest-black pills and powders. It’s been met with a parallel rise in popularity of charred, burnt and smoked surfaces in our homes.

Shou sugi ban (or yakusugi) is a Japanese method of preserving wood by carbonising its outer layer. What began as a prosaic way of staving off rot and insects has migrated over here as one of the most fashionable materials for cladding a house or…