The first piece of usable furniture I ever made from scratch was part of the School of Architecture’s First Year Studio curriculum at Carnegie Mellon University. It was a curvaceous white oak bench, seen here in my portfolio, and it was at once a pain and pleasure to make. Inspired subconsciously by the clean, fluid lines of Japanese design colliding with Borromini’s Baroque San Carlino, the bench was designed around the parameters that it must comfortably seat and hold two people.
The previous year, the furniture assignment was similar in that a bench was required, but different in that instead of seating two people, it need fold into a carry-able package suitable for the main cabin on an international flight to London where apparently there was a show of such oddities. Really glad I wasn’t one year ahead in my education, for most students were rumored to do incredibly poorly on that project, the benches that folded were rather dry and uninspired. Obviously that prompt lasted only for a semester and was never revisited. I still wonder, “Why would anyone need a wooden bench to fold up neatly?” And even if it did get smaller, the weight of it wouldn’t be reduced to the weight of an extruded aluminum and fabric carry-about seat that folds neatly into a cargo pocket and it ubiquitously available (as an aside, because my laminated bench is mostly glue, it is incredibly light and easy to whip out into the center of the room every time company arrives to my parent’s living room, aka my masterpiece’s current abode. It still would have a hard time traveling, though, especially with today’s airline regulations and fees!).
The notion of gorgeous, folding furniture never crossed my mind after that semester. Sure, I’ve slept on many Murphy beds and futons and sat in stadium pop-up seating, camping chairs, beach chairs and bridge table chairs covered in hideous cushions in the past six years, but all those pieces were purely functional; although some might say the addition of a neck pillow and two cup holders is beautiful on a beach lounger 😉
Now, times are a changing: with the invention of the Flux chair, right, in the very recent past, form is finally beginning to meet function when it comes to tot-able seating. The Kada, far right, priced four times as high as the Flux at $900, is a stool that packs flat and can be “customized” with endless patterns and veneers. While the “packs flat” novelty may be useful if you hate furniture in your everyday life and have excessive, languid guests at your soirees, I am still unsure of the usefulness of a folding, aesthetically pleasing chair. Perhaps if one of these options agreeably pulled up to a dinning room table, then there would be a use for a folding, well-designed stool for that unannounced +1 guest.
So, for those keeping track of my feelings on folding furniture as if they were baseball stats (Hey! I’m not oblivious to the time of year, just to the teams still playing!), folding wood benches: a miss; folding chairs that are too pretty (and expensive!) to pull out just for company: a miss; folding leather couches that transform into settees: a hit, by golly!!!!
Just take one look at this couch turned sofa bed, by Cattelan Italia, folded flat, way above. It is multi-functional, gorgeous, durable (leather gets better with age!) and can be featured in your living room daily, making it’s steep price tag rational (It’s like a good-boned trench coat: you can buy one for $$$ to last twenty years or one for $ every two years. $ x 10 over 20 years = three times more than $$$).
So… folding furniture, you were one strike away from losing it for the home team, when this Italian origami sofa hit a home run out of the park!
(AHH! LOOK! Look closely at the tree sculpture on the table next to the sofa. It’s quite similar to the ceramic tree I just made to function as a jewelry holder. Perhaps my next attempt will be to replicate this couch?!?!! Just kidding, afterall I’m quite far from a tannery.)