Laminate has come a long way. This handsome, environmentally friendly, sustainable, offers homeowners an affordable innovative option to the pricier marbles and granites for their cupboards and countertops. But that's not what I am here to write about. Wilsonart, a leader in high quality decorative surfacing products sponsors a design competition for emergent furniture designers. Each year they partner with a different university to foster the careers of these young designers, and each year these students are selected to design and create a chair using Wilsonart laminates.
This year Wilsonart partnered with the University of Oregon's Product Design Department. The semester-long course, led by John Arndt and Grace Jeffreys, taught students about laminate, its history, market trends, its sustainability as well as the history of the chair as a decorative artform.
This year the students were instructed to create their version of the ideal "Cafe Chair." This theme was chosen based on the popularity of the coffee houses in the Pacific Northwest. I had the opportunity to see these incredible designs when I attended the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Jacob Javitz Center in New York City last week. I was quite taken with the creativity and clever design interpretations by these young students.
I had a chance to go see these wonderful creations at The International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Jacob Javitz Center in New York a couple of weeks ago. As with everything, photographs do not do these amazing creations justice, but you do get a sense of the unique visions these young designers possess.
The Winning Chair was "6 Shades of Grey" by Katie Lee
Katie describes her chair:
"Imagine running into a warm cafe in Eugene or Portland, Oregon on a grey rainy day. You are seeking comfort from the hot coffee in your hands, from the chair you sit on and from the environment you sit in. A local artist's painting hangs on the wall, the furniture may be choice vintage pieces or mismatched thrift store finds and yet the space is curated to have a feeling of newness. I created a chair that reflects the essence of these cafes.
The runners up were equally as creative.
"I go to cafes to have some alone time to read, write and draw. The design of this chair is developed out of a consideration for all the amenities one might use in this situation. The arms are generously wide allowing the safe placement of coffee mugs, books, notebooks and even laptops. A magnetized coaster locks into place on the arms so that the drinks don't slip off. A cubbyhole under the seat can store a jacket, umbrella, newspaper, laptop or other objects that aren't actively being used. The Cub Chair is named for the cubbyhole below the seat structure."
Tyler Baum created the Sail Chair. He describes his chair:
Life moves quickly and sometimes you have to sit back and relax in solitude. The Sail Chair was designed for this purpose. The shape of the chair echoes the form of a ship's sail billowing in the wind. The cupping quality of the shape is intended to be simultaneously open and enclosing; open enough to give a sense of personal freedom and cocoon-like enough to be comforting. Like modern sail craft, the chair was designed to be lightweight. The soft bright colors reinforce the idea of light as well as the open coolness on the water.
Adam Horbinski created the Ribbon Chair. He describes his chair:
Functional art or arty design?
What are the elements of a chair: a back, arms, legs and a seat? The Ribbon Chair makes us aware of each element separately because they are all very different here. The back is not a backrest, it is more of a backdrop to the sitter. The seat is an independent stool. The frontal view of the chair shows a seemingly voluminous form, which then appears paper-thin from the side.
Justin Mellott created Derrida's Chair. He describes his chair:
What is a chair? What is a not chair? The Derrida's Chair explore this conundrum by playing with our perception and understanding. When viewed in profile the chair is meant to disappear, particularly in a white space. However, as the viewer changes perspective, the "not chair" (the iconic silhouette of a French chair in the Louis style of the French court) begins to take form. This is where the question arises: "Which chair is the one I am perceiving?" The chair juxtaposes the "is" and the "is not" and ultimately makes us question "What is a chair?"
The Silvia chair is the updated version of a bentwood chair. Laminate is a rigid material, but here the organic shape gives the illusion of a compound curve. Drawing inspiration from the curling of leaves and flower petals, the form is technically advanced but with the appearance of simplicity.
Simon Ratti created the Triangle Man Chair.
The inspiration for the Triangle Man Chair came from the structure of plants. The seat pan on a chair is a suspended platform that holds your body off the ground similar to the way a leaf branches off a stem. It seems to float but it has to be held up by something substantial. The structure of the chair has to be stable, so
the way a trunk is both grounded and held upright by the root system seemed like a perfect solution. Plants and trees are made strong by fibers in their material and the layered plywood and laminate construction emulates this. The front legs and the backrest are one single piece and the set is held up by a triangle. All of the parts pull and use each other to make one unified interdependent structure.
While I think each one was extremely well created and crafted, I must admit that I have my own favorite. My own chair that I would like to sit in at a cafe. For me, the Cub Chair was it. It seemed to say to me, "Come, sit, stay a while." And that is just what I like to do when I go to a cafe!
I wish you all a wonderful weekend! TFIG!
*This was a sponsored post and I was endorsed by Wilsonart