Frank Furniture

Description

Frank is a set of modular furniture pieces designed to mitigate the waste and effort generated by traditional furniture shipping and construction.

Role

Sole Designer

Timeframe

2016 - 2017

Built With

Rhinoceros 3D, Physical Prototyping, Adobe Suite

Case Study

How might we mitigate
furniture waste?

In 2017, I was working as a Design Consultant for a furniture company in Boulder, Colorado. I witnessed firsthand the amount of waste that is generated from traditional shipping methodologies, and the level of difficulty that many people have not only in assembling their furniture but also in transporting it from one location to another. I spent the year studying struggles and pain points with traditional furniture in order to create a new kind of product that would help mitigate these issues.

Walking Through the Traditional Process

  1. Find a particular piece that not only fits physically in the space but also is coordinated with design needs, either online or in person
  2. Someone will come and build the furniture for you, you can hire someone to build it, it comes pre-built, or you build it yourself
  3. Options 1-2 cost money, option 3 poses a shipping and moving issue, and you might not be qualified or interested in 4, although it is free
  4. Once they are moving again, they either have to hire a moving company to take items pre-built, disassemble and then reassemble, or get rid of existing furniture in order to purchase new products that fit better in new space and lifestyle

01

A lot of time or money is spent trying to assemble or disassemble furniture

02

Moving the piece between locations required effort and time

03

The piece might not be the right size or style for what you are moving towards

Initial Redesign Stages

The first stage of the design process explored mainly the ease of assembly and disassembly by relying on the construction of the furniture by eliminating the tools necessary to create the pieces. By eliminating tools and external joinery, the assembly process could be accomplished quickly and by anyone. Early prototypes relied on prefabricated joints and fabric goods. 

Instead of relying on traditional furniture stylistic practices, Frank Furniture takes a total departure and instead looks outside of the existing realm for inspiration. I wanted the project to in inherently flexible. Modular furniture already exists, primarily in the form of items such as sofas or shelving units, but I wanted to create a product with an even greater range of flexibility. What if your side table could become your wall shelf? What if your statement chair became a footstool? I was occupied by thoughts of how to create something that could be transformed in more ways than we had previously considered. 

Inspirations and Precedents

As a child, I was an avid user of LEGO. It’s a brilliant toy that grows with the child, enabling them to grow from building simplistic items from prefabricated designs to overwhelmingly complex and beautiful structures. I wanted to emulate the possibilities of LEGO but in a much larger scale. I knew that the module had to be able to have the capabilities of being assembled to create both flat and curved surfaces, while maintaining maximum tensile strength.

Modularity

Frank Furniture ended up consisting of two modules, one with three “keys,” the other with two, in inverted shapes to allow them to be assembled in both curved and flat surfaces. The modules lock together in two different dimensions and can be layered for maximum load-bearing capabilities. The pieces slide together without the use of any additional external joinery nor the need for tools. After being assembled, the individual pieces can be disassembled and then reimagined as something else.

frank table

Looking Forward

I was limited by my abilities and resources to fully explore materials that might be better suited for the product. I did do some exploration into utilizing recycled plastic plywood to address material waste, but the machinery I used to fabricate the prototypes did not have the capabilities to cut the material without off-gassing. I would be interested in exploring the idea of integrating the existing frame of the product with a fabric exteriors to increase cushion for seated use.