Evolving furniture design

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Tractor Seats

To go along with my recent post about reclaimed wood, I thought I might touch on some other cool sources of reclaimed materials used to create furniture. I stumbled upon a bar stool made from a tractor seat and and felt that it really embodied that same upcycled aesthetic that is sought after right now. The old rusty barn-chic look is currently making a run in rural and suburban design circles, and has an amazing quality to it. The patina and age give the pieces a hand crafted soul, that you just can’t find any longer in a factory mass produced item. Tractor seats were designed to be sat on for hours at a time in a bumpy field. In order to take a piece of hard metal and make it comfy for this use requires some incredible ergonomic design. When the tractor seat was first sculpted, ergonomics wasn’t a field of study, these really showcase a design born out of necessity. Check out these tractor seats, and keep on the look out for the next cool reclaim trends!

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Reclaimed wood straight from the RawFern forest

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Some people might look at this dusty old pile of wood and not understand, but to me, these are all beautiful projects waiting to happen. Reclaimed wood has gained a lot of attention in the last decade as being a sought after aesthetic. You can design an entire living room based around a 1920’s barn motif and fit right in in LA. Below are a few instances of taking that old growth soul, and putting toward a new purpose, and I might add an elegantly designed one.

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This bathroom takes the reclaimed soul of barn wood to a new level. With integrated wrought iron accents and mating up to the new age aesthetic with the glass, this is an epic space that I would love to call my own.

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This kitchen island is a great example of rustic contemporary. The stools are awkward and not my favorite, but the island is a sure win.

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How about a 48″ round coffee table made from taken down and recycled lumbar? love it!

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A dresser / credenza unit utilizing the lighter washed out drawer fronts as contrast to the more finished vertical lines of the piece.

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I love when reclaimed wood meets metal in a perfect commingling of function and medieval aesthetic 🙂Product Image Reclaimed Wood Platform Bed Reclaimed-Wood-Bed-Plans-With-Window-Glass Reclaimed-Wood-Table-With-Wood-Headboard

Oh reclaimed wood beds, where do I begin?


This slab of wood is something that you just don’t find anymore, and definitely not within your local lumbar yard. Theres just something amazing about the way a large piece of lumbar can feel extremely strong and powerful in a space yet feel warm and light at the same time. The concrete floors only add to accent this piece and bring together the overall feeling of this incredible space.

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Not all reclaim has to come from a barn, or from a very expensive custom lumber supplier. Wood is used everywhere, and pallets are some of the most common pieces you can find everywhere. Very often, warehouses will let you take their used pallets for free to get rid of them. I love furniture made out of pallets like these examples above. Many pallets are made out of hard wood in order to take the abuse of shipping, and it’s that exact abuse that makes the wood look as beautifully worn and varied as it does.


Usually spiral staircases are a pet peeve of mine. They look amazing, but are typically not a good experience to use on a daily basis. I would have to make an exception for this particular staircase with it’s infinite perfection haha!

Moral of the story? Reclaimed wood and metal are in! Use them as an accent piece or do an entire room, not only is it good for the environment, it’s great for design!

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Reclaiming Found Furniture

One of my favorite types of furniture is repurposed items. I love when you interact with a piece of furniture and almost get a history lesson at the same time. Up-cycling is the hot trend right now, saving antiques from hitting the junk yard, and even reclaiming some from the junkyard itself. By repurposing some of these incredible finds into furniture, it serves as a functional way to display the soul of the piece without shrouding it glass. I love to see old factory equipment used in this capacity. These original tools of the trade were built to last, with american made craftsmanship, heavy duty aesthetic, and usually have that real distressed patina and soul that comes from 100 years of abuse. Check out this awesome use of a factory cart being turned into a coffee table. A friend of mine rescued these from a factory that closed down, and has cleaned them up and sealed them. You know you want one for yourself 🙂

Please contact Curtis for purchasing info @ Curtis.Mathes2020@Gmail.com

Consider this your teaser and stay tuned for an entire sprout on reclaimed wood later this week !!!

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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!

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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.

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Sprouting Back to School

It’s that exciting time of the season again where everyone starts planning their “First Day Outfit”. Back to school is almost a mainstream media holiday with every commercial and news topic somehow touching on the subject. Stores are making a push to sell everything from backpacks and notebooks to clothing and breakfast cereals, guaranteed to get your kid off to school on the right foot. In honor of this glorious holiday that little kids dread, and to college kids screams freedom like William Wallace, I hereby bring you some back to school furniture ideas with a little RawFern flair !


Ah yes, the dormroom classics; the inflatable chair, the foldable camping special, or the beanbag… What if you could wow your entire floor and score some points with your RA? The Tooth Brush Sofa is a sure fire win with drunk college kids whose biggest concern is where the next party is or what pajamas to stumble into class wearing. This piece was designed by a Buck University student as a tribute to the seriousness of oral hygiene, every college students first concern.


With the onset of the new college semester, getting acquainted with your new dorm room floor may be an understatement. With real estate being at a premium in most common rooms, why not make the most of it for relaxation and comfort? This carpeted masterpiece is reminiscent of a mini golf challenge from hell, but looks perfect for lounging or studying.


When does a door constitute a piece of furniture worthy of RawFern? Answer: When it flips open in half and becomes a ping pong table! Pure awesome. College fun sure has come a long way since I was taking doors off of hinges, and mounting them on top of dorm chairs.


If Ping Pong isn’t your  thing for the dorm room, how about pool? This sofa back flips into a pool table that is easy to stow away when company comes over and wants to play some N64 🙂


Since going back to school is an enterprise for selling products to the elementary school demographics, why not extend this outside of the basic supplies and cereal commercials? This ironic park bench is exactly what I had in mind! Styling an old school bench with a school playground slide brings me back to my childhood. It’s unique playful sense of nostalgia works fluidly with its functionality.

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As any designer taking intro to color theory classes can attest; there is something extremely beautiful about the blending of colors and using gradient to tie pieces together. These cool sofas are any designers’ dream seat. They come in all sorts of colors and intersect beautifully. Designed by Philippe Nigro, see more about them here.

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When I was a kid, there was nothing I loved more than building things out of Legos. I always dreamed of having life size versions that could be built into real world items. Now it’s possible! These soft foam building blocks interlock and provide a comfy seat with childhood style. When you get bored with your current version, pretend you are the Hulk, knock it down, and rebuild it into a spaceship!


When all your studying for finals has you at your breaking point, here is the perfect chair to channel that stress. The concept is a perfectly beautiful steel cube that you need to smash and beat into something that resembles your dream chair. Now personally, being a minimalist and probably a little OCD, it would drive me nuts if this didn’t smash into what I planned. With a $6,000 price tag, I think the statement is really more about the ability to be frivolous with your trust fund and probably not in the cards with most budgets that consider ramen noodles top of the grocery list. Get one here.

Have fun on your first day back!!!

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RawFern Checks out Street Seats

After a couple of attempts to see this being thwarted by rainy weather, I finally got a beautiful day last week and jumped on the opportunity! The Street Seat exhibit is truly one of a kind for Boston. Designed and arranged by Design Museum Boston, and sponsored by companies including RedThread this exhibit puts creative ideas for outdoor seating on display in Boston’s Fort Point district.

I love the idea that a design exhibit can be demonstrated and shared with the public in its actual environment. The benches were picked from many submissions and placed strategically downtown for all to enjoy. The benches comprise a couple mile loop around one of my favorite areas of Boston to wander. You have an amazing view of the boats, yachts, architecture of the financial and seaport districts, the historical reenactments of the tea party in the channel, and refreshing sea breezes rolling in over the piers. Over the past few years, the Seaport district has seen a huge awakening with the art community with so much renovating going on, and new buildings popping up it seems like an excellent place for such an initiative.

We had so much fun exploring the area, seeing how the public interacted with new seating options offered to them and reading about each bench’s design process. It’s really interesting to see all of the different approaches to the same design criteria, and how each creator tied the bench into it’s surroundings. Some made connection to the local architecture, the waterfront heritage, or spirit of the environment in Fort Point. Of course we had our favorites, but you will just have to go check them all out for yourself and make your own opinions. This really is an amazing exhibit and I encourage everyone to support these art-integrated-into-society shows, and Design Museum Boston.

Check out some photos I snapped along the way, and visit the link here for more info on locations, guided tour dates, and the design process behind these awesome works.

From the exhibits website;


Design brings communities together. Public seating sets the scene for chance encounters, people watching, connecting with nature, or just taking a break.

On September 20, 2012 Design Museum Boston invited individuals and teams from around the world to rethink the humble public bench and design an iconic bench or ‘street seat’ for around the Fort Point Channel. The goal of the challenge was to improve the livability of this burgeoning urban area, using design, while being socially and environmentally conscious.

We received over 170 entries from all over the world — 23 countries in all were represented. Entrants participated by designing sustainable outdoor sidewalk furniture with a focus on reuse, using environmentally-friendly materials, and innovative construction methods. Design teams recorded their process along with their final designs.

Street Seats: Reimagining the Public Bench is the culmination of this incredible challenge. The outdoor exhibition features 17 unique public benches. Enjoy a walk around the Fort Point Channel and see the city in a whole new light.”

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street seat 9                http://designmuseumboston.org/exhibits/streetseats/

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Getting back to nature RawFern style

Todays sprout comes as a result of a recent backpacking trip myself and 7 other guys made into the White Mountains. For anyone who has ever been backpacking with 39 lbs of gear to near 5,000 ft summits you understand… For the rest, Let me try to associate the pain to something; Imagine grabbing a 35lb plate at the gym, strapping it on your back, then do the stair climber for 5 hours at a decent pace, Exactly! Now why would anyone want to do such a thing, only to get to the top with the reward being you get to set up camp and act live like a homeless person in the woods for the night? I think everyone on that trip with me would agree that the reward significantly outweighs any amount of pain and struggle to get there. The views from the ridge are breathtaking and there is a sense of accomplishment that you can’t get anywhere else.

So what does this have to do with furniture? Well believe it or not companies do cater to this market of craziness. There are all kinds of chairs, tables and accessories that you can take along with you to the top of a mountain, so that you can camp in luxury. Personally, when I was trying to decide if I should take deodorant or not, because I didn’t want the extra weight and pack volume, furniture was not on my radar of concern. However should you get to do a shorter flatter hike, or have a personal sherpa to carry these, some of these ideas would be incredible to enjoy at the destination.

Ah yes, we’ve all had our run ins with the foldable camp furniture. It really is never that comfy, breaks easier than a dollar store torque wrench, and really isn’t all that light. As opposed to the versions we all see at the big box store, take a look at this, I find it much more attractive, although still not the easiest for tough hikes.


This is called the “Crusader Frankie Folding Camp Chair” I love it because it doesn’t sacrifcie sleek modern design to integrate those bulky collapsable connectors. It almost looks like an alien spider about to attack when all collapsed up, and when open transforms into a elegant stylish side chair.


This camping chair and table contraption is the creation of the Brazilian designer Paulo Henrique Rafael Calloni Storch. Luckily the chair itself folds smaller than his name. I love how once all folded together the leg becomes the carry handle. I have yet to try one for sturdiness, but the concept is well executed, bringing just enough design into an equation which relies most heavily on how easily this folds.


Got a packable air pump, or better yet a friend that’s willing to try and blow this thing up without passing out for a buck? If so, then you can have this comfy beast as your camp fire accommodations. This is quite possibly the most comfy looking inflatable furniture I have seen to date, ensuring that you fall asleep by the fire in style. Careful not to get too close or an hot ember may end your comfort real quick.


What is more fun to sit at while camping than a picnic table? Answer: A picnic table that was easy to carry into the remote location of your choosing! This table and 4 seats folds up into a handy suitcase sized package for transport. Although they make lighter versions out of plastic and aluminum, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the beautiful aesthetic of the wood variation. Ah, the price you pay for design even in the middle of nowhere.

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Camping used to include everything except the kitchen… Stop right there, because actually you can bring the entire kitchen with you, including the sink. And yes of course to go with todays theme it folds up smaller than any studio apartment in Boston 🙂

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Definitely not furniture, but you know how being a designer I get that “ooh shiny thing” moment. I couldn’t help but share this, as it fits with the folding camp theme!!! SHOES!

Arguably one of the most important pieces of any extended hike would be the tent. Now I have seen some downright disasters with carrying, setting up, and sleeping in tents. In most cases it comes down to what I have witnessed being; simpler is usually better. The smaller, lighter, simpler you can get when it comes to the tent, the less hassle you will spend on creating your living quarters, and more time relaxing by the fire before bed. Since there are soo many tents on the mainstream market today, I will let you decide on your realistic tent selection. I will however digress, throw in the caveat: “what if you will be the only one sleeping in this tent, and want the lightest simplest design possible”.  The solution: a wearable tent jacket. Believe it or not, more than one concept exists for this. Check them out..

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Maybe you want to integrate camping into your moutain biking addiction, well look no further, this cool tent design used the frame of your bike as the structure to support your tent, saving you weight and volume over packing a regular pole version. Called the Topeak Bikamper, this design really looks like it take functionality to another level for the camper on the go.


Ryan Helser has come up with a great concept called the Respite tent; A hammock for chilling by the fire which turns into the fly of your tent, when you’re ready to sleep inside. It’s simple and elegant. Just the way I like my camping experiences to be!

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Because this blog is sometimes more about avant-garde design rather than function, I am throwing in the next crazy idea. Meant to be a art concept for a photo shoot I find it extremely interesting that clothing can take on the form of furniture or architecture (hmm wearable furniture… Don’t be surprised if you see a sprout on that soon) This is called Dress Tents, by Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao.

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Check out the entire set of images here on Robin Lasser’s website . These really are incredible concepts of art!

Last but not least, Let’s imagine you live in the big city. You want to do some camping without having to drive into the true wilderness, but don’t know where you would set up camp? Since pitching a tent is frowned upon in central park, why not invest in this genius idea; “The car cover tent” Looks like a covered up car in a parking spot and acts as a home (not too far) away from home!  (check local laws before trying this out 🙂