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Furniture Design

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Posted by erika rae  |  23 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Ping pong tables seem to be having a moment. What was once a gaming set-up hidden away in the basement for the occasional game or two around holidays when family get-togethers run rampant and often, is now taking the front seat in office design. I even took a spin on a concrete version being shown at last week's ICFF. The You and Me table is the perfect solution for those offices looking for a completely functional work space with a "members only" way to solve all of those tough corporate decisions over an after hours game of ping pong.

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The table—thoughtfully designed by the Antoni Pallejá Office for RS Barcelona—features a discrete side drawer that houses the paddles, balls and net. When it's closed, there's no trace of the table's alternative—and I'm willing to bet, more popular—use.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |  15 May 2014  |  Comments (1)

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Many of my organizing clients live in somewhat small homes, so I'm always appreciative of furniture that serves a dual purpose—and coffee tables are an ideal place for adding some storage.

This coffee table from RKNL provides storage in a subtle way, with a space that could store magazines, TV remotes, etc.—the kind of things an end-user is likely to want at hand when in the living room, great room, etc. But this would probably be a horrid table for someone with small children, who would gleefully pull everything off that shelf.

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This Gus Modern wireframe coffee table makes everything stored totally visible. I can see this being used to store things like lap throws or a child's stuffed animals—if these are things that would be used in the same room as the table. There are bumpers on the bottom of the frame to protect hardwood floors from scratches.

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On the other hand, there are a number of ways to keep the items in storage totally hidden. This coffee table from Cummins Design does it with two drawers.

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The Chiva coffee table from BoConcepts has a lift top which provides access to the storage compartments; the raised top could also turn this table into a dining space or laptop work surface. One minor inconvenience: End-users would probably want to remove anything placed on the lift-up sections before the tops were raised. And if there were small children around, I'd want to investigate how easy it was to lift and lower the lids; could little fingers get hurt?

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Posted by Robert Blinn  |   2 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Brandon Washington's Martino Hamper may look like a fugitive from Dr. Frankenstein's menagerie of forgotten K-Mart furniture, but it belies a playful human behavioral dynamic. He pitches it as a reward system for laundry procrastinators, and perhaps the sort of person who would tolerate its aesthetic flaws is exactly the constituency who would benefit from having the object in their home, because it's not much of a chair (laundry chair?) unless you've been slacking on your cleaning duties. That's because the "cushion" doesn't appear until its owner has been remiss in their washing for at least a week, but once you've accumulated a week's worth of smelly socks and crusty jeans, what was previously a void where the seat would be becomes a plush accumulation of layered fabric.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |   1 May 2014  |  Comments (2)

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As popular as eBooks are, good old books-on-paper are still hugely popular, too. As a professional organizer, I have many clients who love their books and have a lot of them. Which means I care a lot about bookshelves.

This shelf from Signalement has no backing to the shelves—which means that books need to be well propped up with bookends to ensure they don't fall out. However, the lack of a backing also means the shelves don't need to be positioned against a wall. End-users in places prone to earthquakes (or with small children or rambunctious pets) might be better served by shelves that are placed against a wall, so the shelves can be bolted to it. But other users might like to use shelves like this as room dividers—as long as the books going into them aren't too valuable, since books do best when not exposed to a lot of light.

The rounded edges are a nice touch, with no sharp edges to run into; feng shui practitioners will appreciate this feature. And the rounded edges only remove a tiny bit of storage space from the bottom shelf.

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The Pyramid from Fitting is a modular design, which is always nice for the flexibility it provides. Bookshelves with interesting shapes don't appeal to me unless they also do a good job of storing books—and the Pyramid does indeed accommodate a lot of books. However, I'm a bit concerned about the books that are stacked horizontally on top of each other; a large stack can sometimes cause bowing to the bottom books, and those tallest stacks are about twice as high as one expert recommends.

The Pyramid is pretty easy to assemble, as demonstrated in the video above.

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Posted by erika rae  |   1 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

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The only thing might be missing from this design is a built-in speaker that pops every time you pull out the cork. Hyeonil Jeong, a freelance designer based in New York, is responsible for this quirky furniture design. With a quick glance, there are a two obvious things to love about this table: 1) It's extremely easy to put together, and 2) it's just as simple to take apart. (The designer's website says it takes less than a minute to assemble.) There are no screws, tools or glue needed for assembly—it's all held together with a well-fit cork and a little bit of faith in the good old law of gravity.

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While the ease of putting it together is one advantage, the design is another. The clip legs are made of plywood (making them relatively easy to paint or finish). The cork stopper-turned-centerpiece would make a great storage spot for any notes and other push-pinnable objects.

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Posted by core jr  |   1 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

Coalesse-CarbonFiberChair-MY_Stacked.jpgMichael Young and his aptly named Carbon Fiber chair

While Salone headlines tend to be dominated by news of the latest and greatest collections from European manufacturers—and the biggest European names in design—plenty of exhibitors hail from further afield. We're always keen to see what San Francisco-based Coalesse has to offer and they didn't disappoint. The new Michael Young-designed Carbon Fiber chair is something of a marvel, weighing in at <5lbs and available in fully custom paint for maximum versatility.

We had the chance to catch up with Design Director John Hamilton, who shared the story behind the chair. The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity.

We do projects both internally and with partners—Michael's our latest one; I've been working with Michael for a couple of years now. We started the process thinking we don't just want to make a carbon fiber chair, we don't want to make a gallery piece—we want to make a real, industrialized solution, at a pricepoint that will enable it to be used for a variety of applications.

So when we started, we set a couple of bars for ourselves: 1.) Make sure it's under five pounds and 2.) make sure you can stack it at least four high. We hit both of those marks—we're at 2.2 kilos or right thereabouts, which is 4.8 pounds... and it does stack four high. Four of them in a box will weigh less than 25 pounds, which is pretty amazing—I have photos of people holding four on each arm smiling, which you can't do with any other chair.

The other interesting thing was working with Steelcase engineering—we were able to leverage their expertise in seating and FEA modeling to be able to understand how to utilize the material in the most efficient way possible in order to reduce the amount of carbon fiber needed to pass all of the business contract solution testing. They have these very, very high standards for what a chair has to be able to do, and this chair passes all of those tests.

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Since carbon fiber is so expensive, optimizing for as little material as possible brings the cost down. When you add more material and have a big surface of carbon fiber, you're going to end up with a $5,000 chair, or you add a lot of labor to it by having to polish this huge object and it becomes more expensive. The way we've done this chair allows it to be (again, that metric that we set for ourselves) more affordable. It's not going to be the least expensive chair on the market, but it's not going to be the most expensive. I think it's going to be one of the lightest chairs on the market, and I think it's going to be one of the funnest chairs, because it allows the designer to participate in its final step.

Basically, you can do any paint you can imagine with the paint methodology used in the automotive, bike, boat, etc. industries, because it's the same material. If you send me a chip that's the color of your shirt, we can do it. For the chairs at the show, we did an ombre effect on the legs to show that you can actually do a transition. We did one in metallic, to actually have a depth to it—a copper color—which we did it kind of as a play, because you look at it and think, "Oh, it's a metal chair. Oh look, it's made out of copper." But then you touch it and there's this surprise and delight that you get because you pick it up and go, "Oh, it's not. It's balsa wood... but it's strong."

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  29 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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We've seen the concept of gizmo-joined furniture plenty of times before, most recently with Henry Wilson's A-Joint. To refresh your memory, the idea is that the end-user takes a bunch of wood of predetermined sizes, and fastens it together using prefabricated connectors, no traditional joinery required.

But it's this slightly different take on the concept that has our attention. Netherlands-based design studio Minale-Maeda has combined the concept of self-joined furniture with 3D printers and downloadable plans for the connectors, calling the resultant line of furniture Keystones, pictured here. By distributing the production of these connecting components, at least theoretically, among the MakerBot-owning households of the end-users, Minale-Maeda may have struck upon something that could challenge even the mighty IKEA.

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Actually, strike that: If Ikea's smart, they'll look into this for themselves. The company has already got the inexpensive mass manufacture of panels down to a science; it is arguably the cam-nut-and-hex-key assembly that serves as the largest barrier for mechanically-challenged consumers. If 3D printers were to see mass domestic uptake, it's not difficult to imagine Ikea shipping you a flatpack of panels, for which you would then self-print the connecting components. (An idiot-proof design for assembly would have to be an integral part of this plan, of course.) It's also conceivable that they could refresh furniture lines with a minimum of hassle, as end-users could print connections for new designs that incorporate existing panels—saving themselves, or their local deliverypersons, a trip.

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Posted by Ray  |  29 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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I'm done with IKEA.

Having recently moved apartments, I've decided that I'm at a point in my life where I need (or deserve, or at least aspire to own) nicer things, and while the Swedish megastore is fine for miscellaneous housewares—I'm perfectly happy with my Idealisk colander, thanks—I feel that it's in my best interest to invest in real furniture. No more cheap-o particleboard furnishings for this discerning urbanite; longevity, durability and timelessness are the main criteria this time around.

Which brings me to HAY, a new-ish Danish housewares and home furnishings company that is often favorably compared to their mass market neighbors to the northeast. Founded in 2002, the company draws on its national heritage, harkening back to the 1960s, while offering decidedly contemporary takes on everything from sticky notes and matchboxes to the Bouroullec brother-designed "Copenhague" furniture collection.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  24 Apr 2014  |  Comments (2)

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We've looked at desks designed to cut cable clutter, desks with storage and desks with gutters. But this deceptively-simple-looking desk by Artifox may be one of the most efficient designs we've seen yet for modern-day usage. Designed for pure functionality, if not flexibility, Artifox's Desk 01 is the type of object that an archaeologist could dig up 1,000 years in the future and study to deduce how we worked in the year 2014.

My biggest gripe with modern-day desks is that there's no allowance for the bags we all carry. Artifox has taken care of that with a simple knob on the front that provides easy bag access. Make that two knobs, with the second providing a handy spot to stow headphones for your Skype session.

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An angled groove in the desk surface provides a handy (if static) spot to place a tablet and smartphone, or just a tablet if in landscape orientation.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  22 Apr 2014  |  Comments (3)

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You don't think of big-name designers doing furniture for schools, but Danish furniture brand Hay scored Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec to do their line for the University of Copenhagen. The resultant Copenhague line is a handsome blend of wooden desks, tables, chairs, and stools, some stackable. And in a nod to modern needs, the tables and desks featuring bent plywood provide a slot where the dual surfaces meet, intended for power cables to be routed through.

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Posted by erika rae  |  21 Apr 2014  |  Comments (1)

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In the late 1950's, a swiveling star was born—or rather, designed. Furniture designer and architect Gianfranco Frattini created a revolving bookcase that not only gave books a home, but was fit for displaying other decorative belongings, as well. Now Poltrona Frau has taken Frattini's lead and recreated the much-loved bookcase with few modifications—hey, timeless design is considered such for a reason—naming it "Albero," which means "tree" in Italian. After discovering the ROOM Collection last week, all kinds of customizable furniture systems have been catching my eye—this one included.

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Frau's reintroduction of the design is a reminder that vintage furniture doesn't have to be overused (or used at all), kitschy or "retro." The bookcase's customization and easy use that made it so popular in the first place continues to ring true in today's world where tiny urban apartments and homes are far too common.

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Posted by Ray  |  21 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Along with the nearby ECAL exhibition, Studio Formafantasma's "De Natura Fossilium" at Palazzo Clerici was one of the most buzzed-about projects in the Brera District this year—after all, Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin consistently present excellent work during at the Fuorisalone, and this year was no exception. The Eindhoven-based pair often look to their Italian heritage for inspiration; this time around, they took inspiration from the November 2013 eruption of Mount Etna, creating a beautiful collection of tablewares, textiles and small furniture items from the byproducts of volcanic activity.

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The project page for "De Natura Fossilium" does a far better job of explaining the work than I ever could, including striking photos by Luisa Zanzani; the "Process" section in particular illustrates the depth of Formafantasma's practice.

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Volcanic glass, procured by remelting Etna's rocks, has been mouth-blown into unique vessels or cast into box-like structures that purposefully allude to the illegal dwellings and assorted buildings that have developed at the foot of the volcano. Drawing on their own vocabulary, these solitary glass boxes and mysterious black buildings have been finished with such archetypal Formafantasma detailing as cotton ribbons and Murano glass plaques.

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In homage to Ettore Sottsass, the great maestro of Italian design and an avid frequenter of the volcanic Aeolian islands, this new body of work takes on a linear, even brutalist form. Geometric volumes have been carved from basalt and combined with fissure-like structural brass elements to produce stools, coffee tables and a clock."

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Posted by Ray  |  18 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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The Dutch made a strong showing throughout Milan this year, including in Zona Tortona where a loose collective headed up by Frederik Roijé is returning alongside Tuttobene and Moooi to represent of a range of Dutch design from independent studios to major brands. The factually titled "Dutch at Savona 33" features four brands that fall somewhere in between: Roijé's eponymous studio; New Duivendrecht, the brand he co-founded with Victor Le Noble; DUM, returning this year; and Quodes, whom they've added to their ranks this year.

NewDuivenDrecht-1.jpgMore on New Duivendrecht below

Along with the "Smokestack," which debuted last year and has reportedly been selling briskly (or at least as well as a COR-TEN steel chimney might sell), Roijé launched several new products, including the "Texture Tray," which was inspired by hatching/crosshatching, and the "Treasure Table" (below).

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Meanwhile, the "Cloud Cabinet" is intended to complement the "Storylines" and "Guidelines" series of book shelves and magazine racks.

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Posted by erika rae  |  15 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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While there are many designs out there that look to replicate the iconic style of the Eames Chair, I'd bet that there aren't many doing it quite like Bora Hong. Her work always has some sort of cultural connection, and her recent design series, "Cosmetic Surgery Kingdom" is no exception. The cultural spin? Hong explores the aesthetic surgery trend in South Korea by recreating the classic Eames chair using parts of outdated chair designs. She showcases her design process in two videos, where she dons doctor's scrubs and a hospital mask for added effect:

The project is meant to draw a correlation between the goal of creating a younger and more beautiful self by means of cosmetic surgery and the way in which designers are also always trying to create "good design." Check out her second video, titled "Surgery for an Eames Chair":

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Posted by erika rae  |  11 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

ROOM-Lead.jpgPhotos by Gustav Almestal

In college, I became the master of bin organizing. I'd stack towers of those black and blue mailing bins—you know, the ones where you'll win a hefty fine if you're caught snagging them in public— until they haphazardly leaned forward, compromising my coveted DVD collection. I would've loved to get my hands on a system like this. Part functional and part artsy conversation starter, the ROOM Collection Furniture System by Erik Olovsson & Kyuhyung Cho lets you create your own structure from 25 different pieces.

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Each cut-out block has been inspired by a different object's shape and, as you can see from the photos, the whimsical countours welcome all kinds of household storage/display space, from morning coffee mugs and lamps to bottles of wine and shoes. The designers explain: "Each block was inspired by specific objects, creating various shapes and sizes. The round for wine, zigzag for phones, tablets and laptops, or peaked for an open book. Each block can be a room to invite any object, the composition is unlimited."

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  10 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Here's an interesting design challenge that extends beyond the design of the object you're trying to get into people's homes: Imagine you and your team have designed your thing, whatever it may be, and have engineered the parts to be manufacturable. Now you have to design an additional line of objects that people can use to assemble the initial object with complete precision.

That's the challenge faced by companies like Häfele, Hettich and Blum, as the fittings they devise in their respective studios must be physically installed at the end-user's location by a legion of independent tradespeople. While Ikea handles this by using simple designs, knockdown screws, cam nuts and black-and-white illustrations that any idjit can follow, the fixtures by the previous three companies—just look at Blum's Legrabox, for instance—require ultra-precise assembly by a professional in order to function properly. And because most European cabinetry is made from melamine-covered particle board, there's no margin for error: Holes must be drilled perfectly perpendicular and at the correct depth on the very first try, as there's no patching up marred laminate and shredded screw holes.

So we found Blum's side booth at Holz-Handwerk pretty fascinating, since it was aimed not at consumers or designers but at the tool-toting tradespeople who will be installing Blum's designs in their own clients' homes. Blum has produced a line of drilling machines, assembly rigs and clever jigs, along with CG videos, that tradesfolk can use to get everything together. And these assembly devices, which will never be seen by the general public, are all beautifully designed in their own right. Here's their drilling jig for installing cabinet door dampers, either into the edge of the cabinet wall or affixed to the side of it:

This jig for drilling mounting plates uses a simple trick that carpenters who've ever drilled holes for shelf pins will recognize: A metal pin, placed into the first hole, ensures the second will be precisely spaced.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  10 Apr 2014  |  Comments (1)

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Austria-based hardware manufacturer Blum might make the low-end hinges for Ikea's cabinets, but when it comes to their own branded product, they go for the top of the market. At Holz-Handwerk Blum was showing off their sexy Legrabox, a drawer system that provides the strength of heavy-duty drawer slides—offering both 40kg and 70kg capacities, or about 88 to 154 pounds—with the added touch that you don't have to see the darn things when the drawers are open, as they're completely concealed.

And despite the sides being sheathed in stainless steel (with an optional anti-fingerprint matte coating), each drawer side is just 12.8 millimeters thick!

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  10 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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In addition to living spaces, Häfele is also addressing is the design of kitchens, which they see as areas that need to "look good and meet the highest individual requirements for functionality and ergonomics." At Holz-Handwerk they demonstrated a variety of kitchen and dining pieces that used to be static--tabletops, cabinetry, stovetops—but that are now rendered free to move, slide and hide via Haäfele's fancy hardware. Have a look:

Spotted at Holz-Handwerk.

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  10 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Häfele is a German manufacturer of furniture fittings and architectural hardware, and of all the booths we saw at Holz-Handwerk, theirs was the most mobbed. And it's no wonder why: Aimed at the designers and builders responsible for kitting out homes and offices, their sprawling exhibit was a showcase of what it's possible to make with their products, a sort of vision of our domestic future—and one that's attainable right now, as all of the hardware exists.

In Häfele's vision, storage furniture is not a boring bunch of static objects; rather, everything transforms to serve us in kinetically exciting ways, shifting, flipping and sliding at the touch of a finger, either via tiny hidden motors or cleverly designed and invisible mechanical fixtures. We snuck in early one morning before the crowds got there to show you:

Spotted at Holz-Handwerk.

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   9 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Self-proclaimed "furniture technology" company Hettich makes the clever, mostly unseen hardware that makes cool furniture work: Hinges, handles, drawer slides and door hardware, including a lot of stuff that closes itself after you give it a push. If that doesn't sound sexy, you need to see and touch their wares in person; but for those that cannot, we like the four-pronged approach the company is taking to popularize their products from afar.

First off they hope to draw consumers in with short, sweet videos showing their systems in action, like their SlideLine M sliding door system:

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   9 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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If you're a furniture builder who likes the vacuum clamping set-ups we looked at, but don't have the four- and five-figure budgets to add them to your own shop, there are lower-cost alternatives. Schmalz is a Germany-based global company that's been in the vacuum technology game for some 30 years, and they manufacture everything from high-end vacuum clamping tables used in CNC operations to small desktop units. Their Multi-Clamp VC-M is the entry-level product, aimed at the lone tradesperson who wants to bolt it to their own workbench in place of a vise.

The benefits of vacuum-clamping versus a vise or mechanical clamping are manifold: You don't need to take any protective measures to shield the piece from the vise's jaws or the clamp surfaces, you can get at five sides of a piece at once, and the articulating nature of the clamp means you can quickly reposition the piece—for example, to go from sanding the face to one of the edges—without having to unclamp and reclamp. And the second-tier version of the VC-M can not only be tilted, but rotated and swiveled as well.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   8 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Every workbench needs a vise—or at least they did, until the advent of vacuum clamping. After seeing Guido Einemann's homegrown table at Holz-Handwerk, we spotted a multitude of more big-dog versions made by Barth Maschinenbau, a Bavarian engineering company whose goal is "to optimize the work processes in both craft and industrial businesses" for furniture- and cabinet-making.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   7 Apr 2014  |  Comments (1)

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Swiss manufacturer Peka's no-nonsense tagline, "Fitting and accessories for the kitchen, bathroom and living area" belies a slick line of well-conceived product designed to use every square centimeter of space. The brand has eschewed the particle-board shelves we've become accustomed to on Planet Big Box and opted for laser-cut steel, providing the rigidity and durability required for their designs, which all move through space on various axes; they also allow for magnetic, user-configured dividers and cleanable mats.

Their mechanisms also take your post-usage shoves and turn that into a gentle self-closing motion. Check out their Libell line:

While Peka already has a reputation in Europe, for North American designers looking to spec their stuff, you'd have to go through Richelieu, their Quebec-based distributor.

Spotted at Holz-Handwerk.

Posted by Ray  |   4 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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The phrase "balloon chair" could mean any number of things, really, so h220430's take fits the bill as well as any of the possibilities (according to their website, the company takes its name from its birthday). If I understand the description correctly, the chair is mounted to the wall, as is its canopy of airless FRP (i.e. non-deflating) balloons, but this scarcely detracts from its visual effect. According to the Tokyo-based design studio, "if you sit in this chair, you'll be able to think positive thoughts even if you are feeling down."

And while the "Balloon Chair" might evoke a certain Disney/Pixar film for many of us, it was actually inspired by Albert Lamorisse's classic featurette Le Ballon Rouge from over half a century prior. The critically acclaimed 1956 fantasy is viewable in full on YouTube, and if you haven't seen it (as I had not), I highly recommend it:

The "Balloon Chair" will be on view in Milan next week, at the Ventura Hive group exhibition, where we'll find out exactly how h220430 achieved the floating effect.

Posted by erika rae  |   4 Apr 2014  |  Comments (1)

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Scoope Design is taking small space design to the next level by providing you with only furniture fixture you'll ever really need. SUPERBAMBI—a chair-turned-table-turned-footstool—is pretty fantastic, with its stark white base and bold orange seat (er, step stool?) support.

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The chair is designed so the orange interlocking piece is the only component doing the real moving. By inserting the orange ends into the different pre-cut holes, you can easily transform the piece in no time.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   3 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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In 1968, the Winkler family patriarch was a cabinetmaker working in his native Austria. He needed something to help him maximize his shop space, particularly where materials and cabinet parts storage was concerned, but could not find existing products on the market to suit his needs; so he set about developing a series of rolling, adjustable storage carts of his own design.

Winkler soon began selling the carts to other cabinet shops, building up a small, successful business in Austria. But it wasn't until the '90s that his son took over the operation and hit up their first German trade show, propelling the company into the global market. Jowi, as the company is called, now does business on three continents.

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