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How might we design a chair for small spaces?

 
 

Problem:

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

IDEATION:

 

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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SCALE MODEL:

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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MODIFICATIONS:

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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BUILD PLAN:

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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PROTOTYPE:

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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FINAL DESIGN:

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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