My DIY Desk

The desk I’ve been promising to post since mid summer when I built it.

Basically two 10″ deep by 4′ wide by 2″ thick cedar slabs make up the surface, stained dark brown and glazed with epoxy resin in such a way that it follows the wood’s natural texture, creating a reflection surface like that of a deck outside in the rain. Since it’s not a writing desk (really, it just holds two monitors, a Wacom pen and the occasional glass of cider) it didn’t have to be very deep nor smooth and since everything I found on the market was quite massive, I opted for the DIY method.

Shown above are the flanges and the 1″ galvanized steel piping I used. Of course this is overkill hardware but the store I was at didn’t have the grey iron I originally wanted, so I paid slightly more and simply sprayed it all matte black with my ever present rattle can (I spray almost everything I can matte black).

It’s a cantilever design so the left side is completely open and free for my legs when getting up (my chair is on carpet and while it rotates, it doesn’t move) and the right side is where my computer sits (acting as armrest and mousepad) and where the wall is (the desk itself situated in the middle of the room front-back and against the wall on my right). So it’s a nice solution, just sort of floating there to stand screens upon since I don’t need much else.

Seems stable enough, even with the cantilever design. The two supports from the back forward actually go past the half way point, so the moment arm isn’t as bad as you might think from looking at it. Of course, the steel itself is fairly weighty on that side and I have no problems placing things on the floating edge. My heavy monitor sits pretty much directly over the middle leg sweeping back, so the forces are reasonably dealt with there.

The full parts list, if you want to make your own (although honestly one could definitely design it better): 2x 2′ threaded 1″ pipe (assume all pipe is this from now on), 3x 1′ pipe, 1x 4′ pipe, 2x T connectors, 3x 45 angle connectors, 3x flanges (and maybe an extra brace for the cantilevered side for extra support. Ideally, bowtie dovetail the wood together – I just used a fourth flange empty) and 3x threaded connector pieces to go between the 45 and flanges. Screws to fit (4x per flange, maybe 2 more for that brace).

Since there is the sharp edge of threaded steel pipe as legs you might want to look at those sticky foam feet for use on hardwood or whatever. I’m on carpet so it’s not too big a deal.

Interview with Jeffrey Matthias of Furnlab

So, Jeffrey, tell us a bit about yourself / how did you first get into design?

During my time at Ohio State (1997-2001) working on a degree in sculpture, I kept finding myself leaning more and more towards furniture design. Sadly, my profs didn’t tell me that there was an entire program geared towards that one building over, and instead just pushed me to refocus on more conceptual and less functional work.

After I graduated, I started getting one-off furniture into galleries, but the prices were always a barrier to entry for the people who really seemed to like my style. I ended up focusing on how to build simpler designs in ways that I could produce multiples relatively quickly and affordably. When I told my sister-in-law that designing for production was way more fun than actually making the stuff, she arranged a tour for me of Fitch, the company where she did copywriting, and introduced me to the world of industrial design.

Alas, I had just finished my 2nd degree, in automotive technology, and didn’t have the money or the drive to jump right back into school. So I continued to work on projects on the side while trying to make a living doing just about everything else.

It wasn’t until 2007 that I was thinking about going back to school for an MBA that my wife asked me if I shouldn’t be thinking about something more creative. That got me to remember my previous dreams of studying industrial design. Going back to school filled in all the gaps between the skills I already had, and introduced me to the world of 3D CAD, which has been a life changer.

Could you describe your approach and philosophy to design?
As far as aesthetics and products, I try to bring something new to everything I do. I want as diverse a portfolio as I can get. If I have designed something, the next project is an opportunity to try something different, within the confines of the client’s desires, of course.

As for work that I do under my own name or my label, FurnLab, I work to make most of what I do open source. I focus heavily on CNC processes, whether 3D printing, laser cutting, or a router. I figure if I can look at other people’s work and cough up my own versions, there certainly isn’t anything preventing someone with access to the same gear from doing the same to my designs. Instead of spending my time obsessed with protecting my idea, I’d rather be working on the next project.

So I make my work available and just restrict commercial use. If someone likes something I’ve made, let them build it. Who knows, maybe they’ll give me some feedback or make some awesome improvements.

What do you love the most about the open source world?
People who understand the concept are very positive and supportive of the work. Open Source implies that you can make changes to your design down the road without implying your previous version is flawed or the the new one is the final iteration. I’m still evolving one of my oldest designs, The Mod, which is about 11 years old now.

I have more ideas than I have time to develop. The open source concept allows me to develop an idea as fully as I can within my budgetary and time constraints and put it out there for the world to see/enjoy without having to make the promise that it is a perfect design, just a worthwhile idea.

I love feeling like a pioneer. There is plenty of open source software, but beyond Thingiverse and its audience, most people have never heard of the idea of an open design for a physical object/product.

What do you hate the most about the open source world?
Ha! Explaining to friends and family that I’m not sinking my career by giving away my best ideas. I restrict commercial reproduction on my designs, but it still seems risky to them. The funny thing is that my brother used to work for the Eclipse Foundation, one of the biggest open source software organizations, and no one seemed to bat an eye. There just isn’t the same kind of precedent for open source product design.

The documentation. Even an 85% developed idea still requires documentation and this is where I am the worst. I have about 4 or 5 fairly complete designs that I haven’t made available simply because I haven’t found the time to provide documentation/instructions and I don’t feel right putting out a DXF without any additional information. My most recent product, Xylotones, are Half-tone images cut on a CNC machine. The individual products are custom and I’m still scratching my head about how to open source the work.

What’s the hardest thing about what you do?
Did I mention the documentation?

As far as consulting work, there is always something the client wants that you either dislike or are pretty sure won’t work but can’t talk them out of.

Getting strangers to understand open source is pretty difficult. I mean, if I can’t get my own family to fully understand, well, a 3 minute introduction typically leads to more questions than understanding.

As I mentioned, sometime I have trouble figuring out how exactly to open up a design.

If you had any advice for young designers, what would it be?
Draw, draw, draw. I don’t care if it is is pen/paper or digitally. There is absolutely no replacement for good drawing skills. Furniture design is one of the few places where you can get away with mediocre drawing skills, but you have to be good at what you do to overcome it. 3D modeling will never be as fast as sketching for throwing out quick ideas. Do no let your equipment be an excuse to no draw. I’ve got friends whose napkin drawings make my best Wacom work look like a kindergartner’s work. Well, that may be an exaggeration, but, you get the point.

If you could instantly change anything about our society, what would you change?
Planned obsolescence and the culture around it. I wish we still designed things to last, be repaired/upgraded, and be treasured. Sadly, people are not willing to pay higher prices for well-built things because they expect to replace them sooner than later. The cost of hitting the prices that they are willing to pay takes an incredible toll on our environment, and on the quality and timelessness of design.

Describe your favorite colour using only nouns.
Yikes! 1st gen Porsche 911, 1970s VWs, clementines, construction cones, discontinued iPad Smart Covers…

Scrapbook 26

Saarinen grasshopper chair

Warm minimalism.

It’s silly that I need that adjective. Minimalism, despite common reputation, is not inherently cold. But, I’ve ranted on this before, so I’ll leave it be.

Spinnaker Sail Chair

I just realized I haven’t written at all about one of my favorite chairs on sale currently: The Spinnaker Sail Chair. It’s been a favorite of mine for a long time now, so it’s surprising I haven’t mentioned it previously.

As the name implies, the canvas used is recycled sail material, which is not only really cool in a waste-not-want-not sort of way, but also makes for a sturdy, durable seat. It’s minimal and comes in tons of fabrics and materials to suit a surprisingly large variety of interior styles.

I just like it, you know? It’s one of those objects that I just appreciate.

Still, for ~$3000+, I think I’ll just make my own, thanks.

Photos via

UC Chair Critique

As a student it’s always cool to see what other students are doing. They might be complete strangers but you can relate to them in way, having shared similar struggles and challenges.

This is the work of the University of Cincinnati IndDes students and I must agree with the outcome: I’m a sucker for bent wood and smooth white forms. Would love to see some proper photography / renders for these things to do them justice. Awesome work.

You can see more chairs of all sorts over on their Flickr gallery.


SW 1 Collection for Coalesse

Cool Hunting Video: SW_1 from Cool Hunting on Vimeo.

Yes, the chairs are very nice, very vintage Eames, blah blah blah. Did you hear what he said?

Because it’s important.

It’s not about the awards. It’s not about what your peers think. It’s about the experience you give your clients. Not their experience with you (although that is important), the experience that they are selling to their clients. They wanted a chair that gave off an attitude and as a designer, it’s our job to create that. Design isn’t about trends or focus groups, it’s about intuition and attitude. The overall effect and experience with the object.

Is that colour “in” right now? Not really. Does it matter? No.

Don’t be trendy. Don’t be original. Be good.

Mishima House – Keiji Ashizawa Design

Digging that lofted office space. Would definitely go for that if I ever find myself needing a home studio space (which, lets face it, I will want even if it isn’t necessary). There would be a big drafting table and computer area and everything; it seems sort of useless as it stands in the photo there. I might change the furniture altogether, actually, and bring that matte hardwood floor into the main kitchen / living room area – it’s a little bit cold right now. Maybe a big area rug?

Check out the Keiji Ashizawa site, they have lots of other fantastic works.


19/365 :: Eames

The Kosha Chair is Rubbish

I know, I know, I promised when I started Acrylo that I would be more positive with it; showcasing good design instead of just ripping on the ever-abundant bad. This chair actually makes me angry. Like, physically, I want to hurt whoever thought this was a good idea.

Sorry, that’s a wee bit too harsh. I’m not at all a violent person. Still. It’s just. Ugh.

The Bad

Okay, so. It comes in Birch plywood, Walnut or “dark matt [sic] varnish” and weighs a solid 160 kgs (~350 lbs) which, on the positive side, does effectively prevent theft. Though honestly, I’m not sure who would want to steal this beast.

Dimensionally, I’ve been to skateparks with smaller half pipes. The spec sheet has “186,5 x 115,5 x H:103cm” and in copying that, I just noticed the site is table based. Entirely unrelated to the chair itself, that’s just poor web design.

Space. I laughed at the unofficial description:

In this modern era, the rat race has made people so busy that they don’t even have time for themselves. For everybody is searching for peace and stability in their lives. To have a fresh and healthy body, we need proper place and time for meditation and relaxation. Unfortunately, in this competitive world sparing time from your hectic schedule is not an easy task. Addressing the issue, Swiss designer Luckily Claudio D’amore has created a comfy chair called “Kosha” that looks like a wooden cave providing a secluded place for relaxation.


It’s so ironic. The statement is saying that everybody is searching for peace and this chair will help you find it. Really! Sign me up.

If your life has degraded so far that you truly believe that, you need more than a new chair.

I do believe we need a meditative space. Truly, I agree with the statement itself. I also believe (because I do it every day) that this space can be completely free. Which brings me to it’s next flaw:

It’s $41 500. Just think about that number. Do you know what else you can buy for the same price? a 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD A-spec. Or, if you want something bigger, how about a 2007 BMW 4.8i X5? And the chair doesn’t have financing options. You could buy an older Corvette or Lotus or a Nissan 370z. Like. Seriously. You’re buying a chaise lounge. You could buy ten Eames Lounges or Corbu LC4s (five of each is still one in every colour). You could buy a 370z AND have money left over for both an Eames and a LC4.

The Solution

I mentioned it in the last statement. If you have that much in your reading chair budget, there are lots of great alternatives. If you just need to throw away cash, buy either of the chairs mentioned above and donate it to me, I’ll gladly accept it as repayment for my saving you from the worst purchase in your life.

I know I’m preaching to the choir, since the people who would like this chair are not the people reading this column, but the examples are abundant. It’s not specifically this chair, it’s the philosophy. So often we can achieve the same function with less stuff, and that’s good design. Call it minimalism, call it whatever, but the fact is, the above is an example of design gluttony. Excessivism. Unnecessarism. I’m not sure if those are real things already or not. If not, I’m coining them.

Don’t be wasteful. This is a waste. Of money, of resources, of time spent constructing it, of the ships burdened by the sheer size and mass of it. It might be a real problem, but I think it’s one of culture and this certainly doesn’t solve it. If anything, it probably contributes to it.

It’s harder to be good than original. This is original, it is not good.

Be good.

Via a Core77 tweet about Designbuzz, the latter of which I’ve lost a lot of respect for.

Cay Sofa – Alexander Rehn

cay sofa alexander rehn from Alexander Rehn on Vimeo.

Absolutely brilliant.

Clever, practical, infinitely comfortable, beautiful, honest. It’s just good design, really.


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