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  • Eric Carlson

Take Something Elegant and Cheap and Make It a Little Less So; A Lesson in Craft

There's an old joke in architecture that asks "How can you make a million bucks in the profession ?" The answer goes "Start with 10 million and go into practice for 10 years!" These notes document similar questionable logic in the pursuit of craft.

IKEA's iconic and ubiquitous Poang chair is a marvel. It's cheap, comfortable and stylish. But the cheap and ubiquitous aspects remind too many of us of that first job or first apartment, rather than of proper, grown up furniture. Over the last 5 years I've browsed more than a thousand chairs and likely have sat in at least a hundred; searching for the perfect marriage of style and comfort. Danish designers of Mid Century are heroes. I've even bought several examples and gone through the cumbersome and expensive process of returning them. I know this sounds obsessive but nothing I shopped has seemed to meet requirements for style, comfort and durability. Thus, we've lived with numerous examples of the humble Poang for 30 years - they're hard to beat. But the quest for the perfect chair has lingered. Many of you know I like hacking, in the positive connotation of the word. You might also call it hot rodding, i.e

taking an existing design and customizing it to make it not only a bit different, but hopefully better. So, I've taken the the contoured, laminated wood seat and back frame of the Poang and added custom legs of my own design and fabrication. I also ordered bespoke cushion covers from a studio in Lithuania. A few hundred bucks, a global supply chain, some laser cut wood and a hundred hours give - or - take later, I've now got something sort of Scandavian modern and Craftsman inspired. BTW, sitting comfort requires usability testing. I forget to mention with a dog and cats durability and replicability of upholstery is also important. My usability tester is already on the job.  To conclude these notes I must acknowledge the genius design of Noboru Nakamura and Lars Engman. I've taken something elegant and simple and cheap - their design - and made it a little less elegant and simple and a lot more expensive. But... there are only two of them in the world!

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copyright: 2020 Eric E. Carlson