Evolving furniture design

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The Eames Recliner

Yesterday I was sitting in a Eames laminated plywood recliner and thinking to myself about the process behind the chair.

It really is amazing when you think about it. This chair and possibly The Eames’ entire career spawned from a necessity. They were commissioned by the US military to design and build wooden splints for world war 2 using the laminated plywood technique, and shortly after evolved that expertise into making plywood furniture, as well as what could be considered one of the most famous chairs of all time.


See some other laminated plywood projects in my post here -Laminated Plywood

Human factors and ergonomics really became a thing during WW2. The military was pioneering this field in vehicles and planes, it’s awesome to see how this transferred from a military to a civilian field of study.

When designing splints the Eames’ obviously had to put a lot of thought into ergonomics and the best way to build these to fit a range of humans in the field. The same dedication to human factors shines in this lounge chair as well. I happen to fall into the average size that is designed around, for most US men my age. I even happen to have the “sample size foot” by shoe industry standards (which has landed me more than a few pairs of free sneakers from friends that work in shoe design, but that’s another story). I have to admit this chair is designed perfectly for my proportions and is super comfy!

Now for a little throwback to the only time I have dabbled in bent laminations in the past. I once made a DVD storage piece by creating a form, and then vacuum pressing multiple layers of birch ply together with probably excessive amounts of glue. I wanted to channel some of the old school jukebox vibe when the DVD’s were flipped across the rack. It actually came out pretty cool. Too bad it is now obsolete by Netflix and Hulu standards.

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My Favorite Chair of ALL Time

I know, I know, that’s a big statement. In my last post I mentioned that I wanted to head the blog in a more personal direction, so what better way to start that off than with my all time favorite.

Someone once told me that when buying art, it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, you should buy a piece if you truly love it, and feel a visceral connection to it. I think furniture can fall into this category. There is only one chair that I can honestly call my favorite of ALL time! I don’t own one yet, but maybe someday.

In 1969 Gaetano Pesce designed the “UP” series of furniture for C&B Italia. It wouldn’t be until many years later that I learned about it in design school and fell in love. The basic concept behind this series of furniture was coined “transformative furniture”. The concept was that the owner would have a much deeper connection with their piece of furniture if they could watch it grow and evolve into it’s “grown up” state.

The pieces that Pesce designed were built out of foam that could be vacuum packed and by doing so shrunk down to a much smaller package. When the consumer cut the vacuum sealed box open, their furniture would grow and expand over the next few hours into the final usable piece right in front of their eyes.  I have been enamored with this concept since hearing about it years ago, and only recently got to sit in these chairs on a trip to NYC.

Beyond the concept of the transformation, there is one chair and pattern that really caught my design eye, and without further ado, I present to you my FAVORITE CHAIR of ALL TIME!

The UP5 (la donna) by Gaetano Pesce.FullSizeRender.jpgFullSizeRender 2.jpgFullSizeRender 3.jpg

Now unfortunately this is not an original. It was found that the original foam degraded over time, so the modern versions are no longer made with the same vacuum sealing squishability. This is a new version with modern construction underneath which does take away some of the experience, however it was still just as comfortable as I could have imagined.

Leave me a comment and let me know what YOUR all time favorite piece of furniture is.


A little more history;  Not only was this chair innovative in the realm of flat pack shipping that we now take for granted, the UP5 was also called the La Donna chair because when Pesce was designing it, he wanted to speak to “the shackles that keep women subjugated.” The ball shaped ottoman is actually attached by a chain or cord to the chair itself. It really is a deeply artistic & meaningful piece. One thing Gaetano Pesce was famous for was the statement behind his pieces, more derived in artistic pursuit than necessarily wanting to produce for the mainstream market which is amazing considering what an incredibly comfortable chair this is, and how popular it has become.

Some photos of the originals, and yes. That would be Sean Connery in the last one.


Photo Credit to Modernica.net

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RawFern is back from hibernation!

I’m back, and more excited than ever! I have been dormant from the blog for a while, but it’s time to let it grow back to life. Although I’ve been away, there definitely has been no shortage of inspiration or amazing ideas that I want to share with my readers. I have all sorts of exciting posts lined up.

First, why the time off?  Well to be honest, Life has just been incredibly busy, and with so many things going on, unfortunately the blog took a back seat for a little while. Since my last post I landed a job at a new company, proposed to my girlfriend, bought a house, put together a dream wedding on a shoestring budget, grew a beard lol, and traveled the world; not a small list by anyone’s standards!

Second, I felt like the blog was going in a very impersonal direction. I was writing about all the furniture I loved, but many pieces I had only saw a photo of, or read about. I really want this blog to evolve into more of my own experiences; things I’m building, or pieces that I have actually touched, sat in, or kicked the tires of.

Of all the adventures recently, I’m really excited to let everyone see all of the projects going on at the new house! Now up until this point, my wife and I have always been renters, so obviously we were limited in our design/ reno choices. Now that we bought our first home, it’s like the flood gates have been opened, and everything I’ve ever wanted to try in a space is suddenly top of my priority list. Down to the studs!!! Did I mention I now have a full wood shop in the basement of the new place? (I will have to dig up a photo of the makeshift shop from when we were in our apartment, so you can see the improvement) My wife is a saint for allowing it, and I can’t wait to show off some of the new furniture I will be building for our home!

In the meantime; Some photos to catch you up to speed 🙂

Designing and Building some awesome furniture at my new job (we even made it into a few magazine spreads)

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Proposing on the beach. Total surprise style.


The Wedding!



And of course our new house, which I’m sure you will see a lot more of soon! So many projects to come!IMG_9934.JPG

Feel free to leave comments about anything you would like to see more about in future posts, and see you soon!

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Miscellaneous Monday

Is it furniture? No.

Is it Awesome? Yes!

Here’s just a few cool design ideas to get you through your manic Monday 🙂

airplane faucet


How cool are these bath tub controls? I always had a thing for planes when I was a kid, and still do to this day. There’s something nostalgic and timeless about this design. I love it!



Champagne flutes sometimes feel too flimsy or fragile. I’ve been referred to as a bull in a china shop after a few drinks, and I think these might just help me get a grip 🙂

lightbulb candle


Oh how I love Irony in design!

night lite


Sweetest nightlight ever. Kids think it’s fun, parents respect the artistic element. Win Win.




When you run out of silverware at work, attach these washable beauties to the end of your pen, and problem solved! if you happen to be mowing down at a coffee shop while reading war and peace, now you’ll have a pen at hand to jot down that cute girls number sitting across from you…



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Retirement Rocks

For some it’s a house in warmer weather, for others it’s traveling around Europe.  While contemplating the challenges of future retirement in about 35 years, between the financial issues of IRA’s, 401K’s and social security, my next biggest hurdle will probably be what rocking chairs to adorn my front porch with. Since I envision my retirement on a big porch in the country with my dog at my side watching corn grow, rocking the sunset away, this will be a very important decision. By the time I retire I believe my taste may evolve a little from the high tech modern aesthetic I currently lean toward, into a more timeless handcrafted theme. Below are some designs currently in competition for square footage on my porch. I do after all, have a few years or so to decide 🙂

The title of my favorite rocking chair of all time currently belongs to Sam Maloof’s iconic version. Done in the grain figuring of the second photo, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more beautiful piece of hand carved wood. Although Sam Maloof passed away, his legacy is continued in his shop by fine woodworking craftsman in the same style, even using the same patterns he did.

sam maloof        maloof1108edit2


Next on the list is this rocking chair held together with rope suspending individual blocks of hard wood. It is designed and crafted in Vermont by a company aptly named Vermont Folk Rocker. I have had the pleasure of trying these out, and they are quite comfortable!




This beautiful piece is designed by Gary Weeks, and speaks for itself. It has clean elegant lines, yet stays edgy, sharp and manly at the same time. It looks like it could hold up the years of front porch sitting abuses.




Bill Kappel is an incredible craftsman and woodworking expert. Just take a look at this rocker designed by him below and I think that point is obvious. I think these would be perfect for a long relaxing sit.





A few other options are below. Decisions Decisions. Since many of these aforementioned rockers are priced in the $6,000 range, I had either better make some smart financial moves, or begin to whittle my own chair now, in order to have a seat when my days of office chairs are finished !










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Sprouting new ideas out of Ikea furniture

When I was younger I loved the concept of IKEA, maybe it was the way they market the products in individual vignettes, or maybe it was the weird Swedish food we always got when we went there. Now I admire IKEA for what they have done. They have basically changed the furniture buying market upside down. Where furniture used to be a struggle to find the right piece, IKEA offers hundreds of solutions under one roof. When arranging a delivery and setup used to be an issue, now you can take it home yourself, flat packed in your mini-van and struggle with building it for hours. IKEA really has filled a section of the market with independence more than anything. People are now free to design it themselves, build it themselves and all while staying on a college budget. IKEA has shown us what someone with a 150 sq foot shoe box of an apartment can do to survive, and have the place be functional, they really are the innovators of design on the cheap.

Being a design snob, yes, part of me is always saying buyers should at some point rise above the IKEA price point, get into some high quality well designed furniture as they mature, but the other part can’t help but accept IKEA’s role in the market share. Usually as long as you don’t have too many parts left over when you’re done, you will have something that will last through college and into your first apartment.

This brings me to my real reason for today’s sprout. There is an incredible website I recently stumbled upon, and can’t get enough of. It’s called IKEA Hackers  http://www.ikeahackers.net/  and it is AMAZING. It is exactly what you might surmise from the title. People post projects  where they have tore apart IKEA products and rebuilt or reused them to create incredible spaces. It’s everything you wanted IKEA to be, just never had the guts to cut up your new table and make it. Projects range from the simple decoration, to an entire office built from random IKEA parts. Imagine IKEA warehouses as giant bins of LEGOs, now you can take them and build whatever you wanted; Ugh, it’s so liberating from the confines of Swedish directions!!!!

Here are a couple cool examples of projects I found, but please for the love of cam-lock attachment check out the site and upgrade your IKEA shopping experience. You’ll never see this stuff the same again!

Frosta_x3-700884   Frosta_x2-799808    frosta+x



Complete instructions on how to turn a couple stools into a deco shelf.



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Turning a couple bookcases into a hideaway bar!


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Maybe you need to create a literal catwalk out of a kitchen shelving system.



Using a shelving system to divide the room. see it here



Awesome use of wood kitchen countertops as a bathtub surround.


Here are a few simple, smart ones, equally exciting for the weekend do-it-yourselfer.


See how to hide your remote here.

Wait, you’re telling me I can hang my shirt or jacket over the back of a chair, and not take up that footprint? I love!


see the build here.



See the instructions on back lit frame sconces here.