Flat-pack furniture has been around for years now, gaining immense popularity a couple decades ago when IKEA stores first swept the nation. Once you assembled the furniture, however, there was no question that you would never be taking it apart — ever. The hardware pieces always outnumbered the furniture components by about 50 to 1 (usually with a few odds and ends left over), and the instructions were pages long and extremely complicated. No one wants to go through that experience more than once.
But no more. Henning Stummel, an architect based in London, has now designed a leather and birch plywood furniture set called “Nomad,” which packs flat, requires no tools or hardware to put together, is easy to assemble and disassemble, and creates minimal waste upon production.
Stummel’s story is as simple as his furniture collection. Him and his wife were out shopping for furniture for their Shepherd’s Bush “Tin House,” a home that was itself on the 2016 shortlist for RIBA’s House of the Year prize. The unique structure is made up of a group of pyramid-shaped rooms clad in red metal and artfully arranged around a central courtyard.
The shopping spree sparked Stummel’s core design-based beliefs: that buildings and furniture should be built to last, create the least amount of waste possible, and echo the way their source materials were used.
Stummel’s premier furniture collection consists of the basics that every living room needs: a two-seater sofa, an armchair, and a coffee table. Each piece yields minimal waste and is extremely easy to take apart and pack flat. On top of all that, there are no tools or hardware required to set them up, with no instructions necessary! Stummel says that all that’s needed for set-up is “two minutes of common sense.”
Each piece can be broken up into five 2D cutouts, which Stummel hails as a major victory. “It takes so long to have anything made in England. These 2D cutouts were an epiphany: you can send off a design and get it back the next day,” he says.
A single sheet of birch plywood is used for each piece, with strategic cutting techniques using almost all of each sheet and further keeping waste to a minimum. Stummel explained that five pieces were needed to give the sofa, chair, and table optimum stability and strength. The upholstery for each set of chair and sofa cushions is manufactured from a single leather hide, again with minimal waste in mind.
Comfort is King
Stummel’s a big fan of relaxation, and he wanted to make sure that value was reflected in his furniture. He designed the sofa frame to be strong but supple and incorporated all the right angles for maximum comfort.
“The frame is just a useful vehicle,” he explains. “The surface is what makes the experience of the sofa; the leather transcends time. That’s where the focus is, where you sit, watch TV, and fall asleep.”
The leather cushions, custom-made by father-and-son design partners Phil and Sam Timings from UpTec, are made from premium aniline cowhide and finished with a solution of oil and wax that creates a naturally distressed, silky-soft surface.
Stummel believes his easily movable furniture line will attract the young people in London, many of whom live in various rental properties before buying a home. He notes: “That’s why flat-pack is so great. IKEA flat-pack has all these funny little pieces that you need to build it, so you construct it and never take it down. With Nomad, you don’t even need a tool. No glue, no nails; you just slot the pieces together. It’s so easy.”