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How might we design a chair for small spaces?



In this gig economy where consumers buy, sell, and transport goods every few years, it is important to have modular furniture that has both beauty and functionality.

My role: 

I worked on this chair over the course of 3 weeks.

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The Process



Starting out, I explored as many different directions as I could - anywhere from a tent, to a stool, to folding chairs, to even a sort of cushion.  I began to narrow down my idea to a modular, futon-like wooden bench.  Although uncomfortable, it would solve the “designing within a small space” constraint, seat 1-4 people, or if you had two, you could create a mattress frame.  I began to explore what this concept would need, trying to understand how the pieces would fit together, how the hinges would work, and how big I wanted it to be.

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As I started to visualize my idea more, I realized that hinges were much more complicated than I imagined.  I created these scale models by layering on brown cardstock.  Even at such a small scale, I was beginning to see some stability issues that I would have to work around or design upon.  It was a difficult concept to begin with, and I decided to simplify my project by going back to the drawing board to sketch out some more potential ideas.


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As I tested out various hinges at Ace Hardware, I decided to scrap my plans for a modular chair/bench. I sketched out some more ideas - trying to understand notches and the constriants that come with notches.  I ended up creating a stool idea, held together by many dowels going across which created a unique visual effect. The legs would attach to the seat by notches, and the legs would stay in place from the dowels.


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I got started on scrap wood to test out the drill press.  I had never used the drill press before, so understanding it and how it functions was important to my process.  I learned that the laser the machine provides is slightly off, to the left.  I had to adjust accordingly.  I used the bandsaw for the seat, to cut out the notches.  For the 2 by 4’s, I cut them down to 1.5” by 3” to create much sharper edges.  I measured out the distance between each dowel hole to ensure that the legs adjacent to each other would be alternating.

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I used a 7/8” head for the drill press to create holes, and lined the legs across from each other up to make sure the dowels would hold.  Unfortunately, I cut the notches a little loose, but tight enough dowels would be able to keep the entire piece together.  I also believed that after I stained and finished it, the slight cover would add a bit of friction.  I bought dowels from Ace Hardware, and decided to cut them down to 13” each (the circle seat’s diameter is 11.75”).  I created 5 holes on each 2 by 4 leg, and added another circle of plywood on top to give the impression of a seamless look hiding the notches.

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After many hours of staining and adding a finish, my final product transformed with a dark mahogany color. I decided to name it “Chutes” because the dowels resemble a ladder of some sorts (Chutes and Ladders).  I learned a lot about staining, finishing, dowels, the drill press, and notches.  Although it was much more different than my initial idea of a modular chair/bench, I am very proud of the outcome.


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