Before we get started, let me begin by saying that while these are common issues we at Ek Design encounter in furniture execution, there are exceptions and considerations for each one. This list is by no means exhaustive, however, keeping these 5 factors into account will almost certainly result in better quality and more likeable furniture. More importantly, it will reduce friction in the client – designer- manufacturer triangle which is a win for everybody.
Practicality and Feasibility
One of the most important aspects of designing furniture is the feasibility of manufacturing.
However good your design, if it cannot be replicated in real life, it will remain a concept.
Try and gauge the ability of your furniture manufacturer/ maker and use those as starting points for your design. Another important aspect to consider is machine vs man made. Many successful international brands such as Ikea, Minotti and Georgetti are backed by complex and highly advanced machinery which allows them to create things that are just not possible to replicate by hand. These brands produce a set number of products and replicate them on a mega scale. This results in each piece looking alike and having near identical finish – this is simply not possible while working with more traditional methods and tools.
Not Using Cross Braces or Connectors
We see a lot of client designs come through to us for manufacturing which have tables and chairs with independent legs. While this may look good from an aesthetic point of view, it certainly is not a good idea from a durability and stability perspective. Remember that wood being a natural material can expand/ contract over time and in adverse weather conditions.
When the legs are connected to each other, they provide strength as a whole and restrict any movement which can cause joints to open. This rule applies more to frequently moved objects such as chairs and still can be bent on more stationary/ fixed pieces like a dining table.
Most furniture that we use has been made to a standard dimension devised over a long period of time. These are the dimensions that most of us are used to sitting on, eating on or sleeping on. Many a time, we get requirements to customize furniture dimensions based on the physical attributes of the user. We strongly recommend against this practice, the reason being that whoever this furniture is being made for has been sitting on standard dimensions all their life and has gotten used to the same. Changing dimensions would definitely cause the user to feel that something is off and also make the furniture difficult to use by other members of the house.
Not having a Primary Function
Very rarely has a sofa cum bed been as good as just a sofa or just a bed. While trying to meet both these expectations, a lot is compromised in the process. It is always advisable to decide the primary function of a piece and design around that function rather than trying to squeeze everything in. The result is a confused piece of furniture that usually gets avoided in the house and is the last preference in terms of usability.
Not Knowing constraints and interactions
On some occasions, we get some furniture returned to us because the original dimensions specified did not fit or were too small for the space. For example, the width of a dining table is not considered while designing the chairs and it is sometimes possible that these chairs will not fit into the table. Always visualize your furniture in its space and try and predict possible interactions and design accordingly. Another great example would be side tables. Keep the height of your bed/ sofa in mind and set the height of the table accordingly. If not, your table may be difficult to reach or operate, causing irritation to the user.
The key takeaway here is that the most successful and practical designs result in the user not thinking about the furniture they are using. This is the best-case scenario. The moment something is off, your client will notice it and then start noticing all the flaws in the furniture. This opens it up to further scrutiny and dissatisfaction which is never a good outcome.
To put this into perspective – imagine you get home after a long day of work and all you want to do is sit in your armchair with a nice book and a cup of your favorite tea/ coffee. If everything has been designed well, all your focus will be on your book and beverage and not on the furniture. However, if your side table is too low, the moment you reach for your cup you are going to strain, which will make you realize “oh this side table is too low, I can’t reach it without straining.” Now, the furniture has been brought into your focus and your mind is automatically trying to find what else could be wrong with what I’m sitting on. Your focus has been shifted from your book and is now on the person/ brand who made your furniture – and not in a good way.
We'd love to know what your thoughts are on the above! Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on instagram @ekdesignfurniture.