While the Layers Cloud Chair might feel (and look) like you're sitting on a cloud, the bulbous lounge is anything but weightless. It's made from 550 pounds of solid wool—and its construction was a woolly beast of its own. Designed by Richard Hutten, the chair made its debut in Milan last week as part of an exhibit by the Danish textile manufacturer Kvadrat, which enlisted 22 international designers to explore the diverse capabilities of its Divina fabric.
"For me, designing is in the first place a thinking and research process," the Rotterdam-based Hutten says. "So I looked into the material. What makes it special? How does it look, feel, smell? How can I use it in an exceptional way?" Divina is a durable wool blend, and Hutten chose to focus on what he considered the main qualities of the material—its soft tactility and its availability in a range of vibrant hues.
As an added challenge, the designer resolved to use Divina as the structure for the object itself. "I wanted to use the Divina material as the sole material for the piece, not only as a cover, which is the normal way it's being used," he says. "These I called 'the rules of the game.' From there, the playing started."Struck by the idea of stacking the fabric, Hutten and his team played with various shapes and forms before deciding on a cloud configuration. "As a child, like most children, I was fascinated by clouds," Hutten says. "They look so nice and soft. You really want to lay on top of them."
But what seemed like a simple concept quickly turned into an arduous process. "Then the trouble started," Hutten says. "How do we get each layer in its shape? And how do we keep each layer in its place, so you can actually move the piece?" The answer turned out to be 545 individual layers of wool—which also meant 545 drawings, roughly equating to 400 hours of drawing and engineering by Hutten and his team. To build a solid shape, each layer had to be a different size to allow for a continuous globular form that also had a striated transition between colors.
After the drawings were complete, the layers were cut one-by-one on a CNC-milling machine. Then the individual pieces, totaling more than 9,000 square feet, were glued together by hand, a process that accounted for another 200 hours of work over the course of a month and a half. "Each step was trouble," Hutten says, "and a lot of sweat and swearing."
The team's toils paid off. In its final form, the Layers Cloud Chair really does show off Divina's softness and spectacular color palette to maximum effect. Of the 120 shades the material comes in, the chair uses nearly a hundred of them, in a thousand unique color combinations.
So will we be seeing a full line of Layers Cloud Chairs on sale in the near future? Not likely, Hutten says. "Only one was and will be made."