How to Design and Make Furniture (Step-by-Step Like the Pros)
Do furniture forms influence our emotions?
According to existing literature, design provides rich interactions. Emotions such as astonishment, surprise, satisfaction, doubt, etc in design furniture follow the dichotomy rectilinear vs curvilinear forms. Studies show that rounded furniture elicits more positive feelings than squared shapes.
Strong connection between furniture design and emotional intelligence therefore has, or at least should have, a key role in the product design process, the art of making furniture from scratch.
Making furniture starts from ideas that, mixed with technology and creativity, turn into a new product ready to be sold.
Furniture we buy is the last step of a long process that starts from an input by business owners, designers, architects or contractors pass by hand-drawn sketches, virtual models, prototypes and finishes with manufacturing.
Product design is a problem solving exercise, where final product fills a gap.
Source: Online Design Teacher
Let’s see all steps in product design.
Specifications, Research and Concept
No solutions are found without understanding problems. In case of furniture design, “problems” may be either social challenges, such as developing a flexible piece of furniture that fits several private or business areas and technical challenges, such as developing something scalable and better than what is on the market.
Balancing specifications and creativity is a key point in product design. Target audience, appropriate use, cost efficiency and feasibility are always kept in mind before starting with research and concept design.
Let’s consider an actual example: we need to design and make a small armchair for hotels. Armchairs are going to be placed in four-star hotel rooms next to the breakfast table. Armchairs must be easily movable and have a smooth shape to either raise positive reactions and welcome the guest when entering hotel room. We want a contemporary armchair in polyurethane foam with ideally a non-removable cover in faux leather. Armchair must be fireproof.
Once design brief is shared, designer researches markets and demands, either to find similar products or to be sure there is nothing similar available. He also thinks about how to improve look or ergonomics of existing furniture and how new furniture can be successful.
Back to our example, a small armchair for hotel use, research may start with discovering closest alternatives and comparing backrest height, width of the seat and upholstery to achieve a new product that has all elements enhanced. Being an armchair for breakfast or reading, dimensions and forms are something in between a writing desks chair and a lounge armchair. More, concept takes into account constraint of the base, manufacturing complexity, product lifecycle.
Goal of research is having drawings with dimensions and selection of materials/finishes that resemble the most the final outcome. Hand draw sketches are tweaked once turned into models.
Creating Furniture Models
Two-dimensional model adds concreteness. Rough dimensions and shapes are transferred in a virtualized environment, sizes are adjusted to give more and more reality to the initial concept. 2D model aims at returning a visual and aesthetic impact of the product. The requested armchair is taking shapes.
Results of our example is armchair Neuma, developed by 999design.it
Neuma by 999design.it – 2D Model
Following computerized 3D model often highlights problems and flaws in terms of geometry, material proofing, volume and weigh, points of fastening upholstery. 3D modelling is the closest virtual representation of final product and it is meant for further product modifications.
Neuma by 999design.it – 3D model (front view)
Neuma by 999design.it – 3D model – rear and side view
Neuma by 999design.it – 3D model (view from above)
First Mould and Furniture Prototype
Let’s keep on using our example, an armchair. Moulding is the step that follows modelling.
Mould is not the prototype still, rather a sintered and rigid form that reflects volumes and dimensions. Moulding is the step of product design process where you may have to go back to 2D model and make corrections or proceed with prototype. It is time to be critical and check once again furniture functionality, sizes, comfort of the seating, stability, balance and space for feet.
Neuma mould: time to see if needed amount of space matches specifications.
Testing has not ended, yet: as the armchair is covered, also the adaptability of coating to the structure needs to be tested so that no issues happen when upholstering. Once everything is verified and settled, prototype is ready to be manufactured for further controls.
See the steps of prototyping Neuma:
1- Double-sided mould. Foam is poured:
2-double-sided mould is opened.
3-Exceeding parts are trimmed and contoured, polyurethane is blown.
Prototype is ready. As specifications stated that the armchair had to be upholstered with a non-removable faux-leather cover, now it is time to test covers. Upholstery fabric is sewed, either by hand or using a sewing machine.
As well as research, concept and modelling, also prototyping involves extensive testing to see, at last, vision becomes reality. Prototype needs to be further tweaked before sending the final design to manufacture.
Manufacturing of the chair
Initial concept has become a sketch, evolved into a two-dimensional image, a 3D model and turned into a prototype ready for industrialization. A new piece of furniture is ready to enter the market: it can be manufactured by hand or by machines, in small quantity or as mass-production.
Concluding the history of Neuma: such armchair has been tested and finally it has become a mass-product manufactured by a local Italian furniture company. Interested in buying this small armchair for contract use? Check online on SedieDesign.