How We Operate: Why we Love our Furniture Division


Its a pretty well known fact that architects like to design furniture as well as buildings. Some pieces are dramatic, site specific one-offs, and others have become by-words in furniture design, instantly recognizable to any lay person, even if not always by designer. Curbed recently set up a slideshow to pose just that challenge to readers.  Some are more difficult than others but they all have a distinctive “architect-y” flavor.

Let’s see if any of these seem familiar …

famous furniture

Recognize a few of those? We thought so!

So why do architects SO love to produce furniture as well as buildings?  Well there are a lot of reasons.  We can’t speak to the rationale of every other designer throughout history but … here’s why we do it…

To make design affordable and accessible

While not everyone has the budget or inclination to build from scratch or even to remodel extensively, good design is still within the range of young people just starting to take an interest, of people who live in apartments, of people who appreciate craft and want to surround themselves with beautiful things.

As much as we love creating whole spaces for our clients, sometimes its enough to offer up a beautiful object.  Our LAX desk is inspired by a favorite design style of Matt’s – the Googie style of futuristic modernism – and shows off both local Chicago construction and a beautiful reclaimed elm barn wood surface.  Click here for more info.

LAX desk

To accommodate specific space requirements

Design is all about context.  To quote Eliel Sarrinen:

“Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, and environment in a city plan.”

We quite agree, and also believe that its importance to consider the chair to be placed in the room.  Especially when we are doing remodel projects to make the most of interesting (read: difficult) existing spaces, it can happen that off-the-shelf furniture doesn’t quite feel or fit as we want.  Designing just the right table, planter, or book shelf to suit the room gives us the power to match the room to its interior context as well as the house around it!

These sliding built in book shelves for the Vic Loft project are both storage and separation between spaces.  They’re tailored perfectly to the space and the client’s needs.  See more here.

vic loft bookshelves

To play with beautiful materials

Our love of reused and reclaimed materials is no secret!  We love giving beautiful wood a new lease on life.  Well cared for wood has so much potential for re-use and its painful to see it end up in a landfill or scrap pile.

The enlightened man’s entertainment center below showcases books and wine right along with the reclaimed Walnut (framing members and siding) from a demolished barn in Northern Indiana. The mortise and tenon holes, nail marks, and other graces of time are visible on the piece.  The history of the wood adds interest and a story to tell as well as being beautiful in itself.  Click here to see more pics.  

enlightened entertainment center

To try out new ideas, materials, connections

In many cases working with slightly non-standard pieces also affords us an opportunity to think outside the box with connection details and joinery. In this particular case the thickness of the bowling alleys we acquired and the abundance on hidden nails inside made fabrication quite laborious. Even so, the Bowling Alley Console and Bench are a great example of both a beautiful reclaimed piece and the fun we had in turning it into functional art.  Click here to learn more.

bowling alley bench and console

To use ourselves

You’ll rarely find a designer who doesn’t take their skills home on the evenings and weekends to modify their own spaces.  In our off time, members of the moss team tinker in the woodshop to test design ideas and fabrication techniques to learn if something is even worth fabricating. Plus we would never want to provide any design to someone else that we wouldn’t be proud to use ourselves. We also like to apply our problem solving (and play) to our work space.

The moss HQ is filled with design experiments, from the variety of solid slab wood desks we work on, to the set of moveable display walls that demarcate the design area.

moss office furniture

To reach out to people

Creating furniture – especially street furniture – is a great way to rope people into the concept of design’s value.  Our parklet for the Anderseville neighborhood creates an outdoor room out of a parking space using only a floor surface and some fixed furniture but no walls or roof.  We know that its good advertising not only for moss but for the power of design to improve our environment at any scale, from the piece of furniture to the city street!  Learn more about the project here!

andersenville parklet

So there you have it.  We love designing and fabricating furniture.  It gives us a chance to create beautiful objects (much more quickly than a building) and to reach out with them to encourage ore people to appreciate the power of design.  Let us know what you think in the comments below!