Transforming Furniture Part 1: A designer’s journey
Lately I’ve been noticing the popularity around transforming furniture more and more. Ahh yes, cue the Transformer theme song; however, I’m thinking less about robots in disguise and more about multifunctional, innovative furniture. This concept is not a new one, but changing designs, usages and styles throughout the years allows for inventive and exciting new ideas when creating more out of one piece of furniture or even a space.
Multifunctional furniture has many appeals, one being that it’s well suited for small spaces, allowing for space saving opportunities. Using one piece as the replacement for many presents a more sustainable, eco-friendly option. Best of all, when it comes to custom creation and design for these types of pieces, you have the opportunity to create something that is specific to your exact needs and purposes. You know, for those times when you want your custom table, to be more than just a table.
For me, the thought was just that. When I was in design school I had a furniture studio where I had to design and build a piece of furniture…from scratch. Think of it as, my equivalent of making a mug in one’s first ceramic class. At home, I really needed a coffee table. When I started sketching numerous ideas of what I wanted my piece to look like, I kept thinking about function. How would I use my coffee table, what would I place on it, what kind of activities would I use it for, and how would it fit within my space? Clearly, I wasn’t just resting my “coffee” on this thing!
Other than the shape and size of the top, I focused on the base (which when built, became my least favorite part of my piece). I imagined myself kneeling on the floor sliding up to my coffee table gathering with friends to play a board game, or sitting on a floor cushion to work on my drawings as a change of scenery from my office. Because of that I went with an “X” style base.
I thought about how I would use the top, as well. I knew I would most likely keep a bowl of sorts in the center…something decorative from time to time. We have friends over a lot, often to watch a game or a movie, which usually involves beverages and a lot of food! I kept toying with the idea of the table expanding or extending to allow it to reach to others on either end of the couch to rest a drink or a plate on. And then, this is where my childhood love of all things changing and transforming came into play: what if the extensions pulled out to reveal hidden storage? My top became a sort of reverse drawer design where the recessed storage spaces would be deep enough to store all our remotes and gadgets within the table so we could eliminate the clutter at any time. Or, it could extend to create an extra space to display plates and platters for all our munchie food while entertaining!
It was complicated, but creative. It was just what I wanted, just what I needed. But then, I remembered I had to build it and I had never even touched a table saw!After a foam more model and a full scale wood mock up, I mustered some confidence and I decided to make the whole table out of a fantastic selection of walnut. It was very intimidating actually building the piece; I had this beautiful (and expensive) wood and a really complicated design for a beginner…I mean real beginner. Undercutting my pieces and cutting off my finger were always a concern, but I found it waning the more the piece came together. The whole process only increased my appreciation for makers and their craft and the amazing amount of thought, time and skill that goes into these custom pieces. It’s not only about creating a handcrafted piece of furniture, but designing, engineering and transforming a piece of furniture.
In the end I had my table, a unique, multipurpose design. For a first timer and newbie, I felt accomplished. With the exception of a finishing coat, anticipated redesign and change to the under proportioned base, I was surprised how closely it resembled by original plan. For the future, I decided I will be leaving the work to the makers that know their craft well, but designing the piece was and has always been part of the process that I love. Building it just gave me a new appreciation for it!
From our friends over at Dornob, here are some images of some other wood based transforming pieces.
Have you thought of a design or built a multipurpose or transforming piece before?
Make sure to stay tuned for Part II, where we take this theme to a whole new level. Prepare to be wowed with a few videos of some fantastically innovative pieces and spaces that will transform before your eyes….just amazing!