What’s not to love about flatpack furniture? It is easier and cheaper to ship to the store and to get home, and to get up the stairs and through the doors of our smaller homes and apartments. Perhaps the fact that there are so many different fasteners that don’t really hold all that well, and that the furniture often doesn’t seem to last. Or, people’s needs change and the furniture doesn’t. According to Ed Reynolds of furniture startup MOJUHLER, 12 million tons of furniture is sent to landfills in the United States every year. He writes:
Most modular furniture today primarily serves only one functional use, like modular shelving for storage, or modular sofas for seating. I wanted to design a system that could be reconfigured to serve multiple functional uses and continue to adapt as needs and spaces change.
His new system is designed to "adapt to ever-changing needs and spaces". It is made from high quality Baltic birch plywood with a Wilsonart laminate applied, drilled with a pattern of holes so that the pieces can be connected in many different ways with aluminum angle brackets and sex bolts. (yes, sex bolts!) I thought it was a typo of hex bolts, but in fact:
Also known as Chicago screws or barrel bolts, sex bolts get their name because there is a female internally threaded barrel nut paired with a male externally threaded screw. When combined, they sit flush to the surface and eliminate protruding hardware, which depending on what you build, might be uncomfortable if they didn't! Since sex bolts fasten together, and not into the what they are joining, they won't damage or weaken the structural segments. Other flatpack furniture utilize screws or hardware which secure directly into the material. This can damage the material and is a big reason why other flatpack furniture never goes back together as securely as it did the first time.
Perhaps we are more prudish where I live, I always knew them as barrel bolts. With such quality materials, finishes and hardware, This is going to be durable furniture that will be around a long time, possibly in many different forms and iterations.
The only problem is that it is, to my eye, ugly. Reynolds notes that “We frequently hear it looks like an adult version of some well known children’s toys because of the holes.” But children’s toys are not furniture. And really, US$ 99 (early bird price on Kickstarter) for this little bench is expensive.
However that pattern of dots reminded me of furniture designed by the Florentine architect and design group Superstudio, that operated in the late sixties and early seventies. Superstudio downplayed design sophistication, writing "...if design is merely an inducement to consume, then we must reject design.....until all design activities are aimed towards meeting primary needs. Until then, design must disappear."
Superstudio designed their furniture based on based on gridded histograms; MOJUHLER designs theirs on a grid of holes. Perhaps there are lessons here about how one can take standard elements and patterns, and put them together in ways that are less clunky and a bit more avant-garde. How one can develop a system and then let design disappear, along with that uncomfortable looking Adirondack chair.