On the Grid: Fastener-Free Modular Home Furniture System


It might not be much to look at, but that is a trade-off of sorts for the fact that it is super simple to build. “It” might be a bit misleading, actually, since there are no real limits to (or instructions for) what you can and cannot create from this kit of parts.

Colin Schaelli made these modules with the proverbial “everyman” clearly in mind – like IKEA, but even easier. The thin, faux-posh veneer is stripped away too … a humble honesty shows through in the exposed pieces of rather raw-looking plywood.

Tables, shelves, desks are all obvious, but structurally the formations are strong enough to hold a person, too, making seats and benches possibilities as well. The gridded Tatami-based Japanese system is flexible and references a rich historic design heritage.

Interlocking cross-braces stabilize vertical and horizontal planes, and most configurations lock even more tightly into place once weight is applied – the load effectively reinforces the overall design, and becomes legible through construction.

One complaint, though: these are sold as pre-finished pieces ready to be assembled, not as individual building blocks. And they are not cheap. In a sense, these aspects are self-defeating given the otherwise direct, inexpensive and straightforward approach of the design itself. A consumer would (rightly) expect to find that the cheaper manufacturing process would result in a less pricey product.

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