written by:
April 22, 2009

Every year, journalists make the pilgrimage to Milan in the hope of finding products that are unique, that offer a new typology, and that may very well one day revolutionize the way we live. It’s a tall order—and one that rarely is fulfilled. At today’s press preview of British manufacturer Established & Sons' fifth collection, designer Sam Hecht sat down with Dwell to discuss a new piece, Table. Bench. Chair. Most likely too quiet to revolutionize the entirety of home furnishings, the new piece nonetheless offers something most unusual—furniture that doesn’t do anything, but rather, everything.

sam hecht

What inspired the design?

The piece started off from a conversation—which most of our designs do, especially with Established & Sons because they never ask us do to do anything, they just ask us to do something. It was a conversation between myself and Ippei Matsumoto, a Japanese designer who works for us. I asked him, why is it that on the subway trains in Tokyo you have this long bench and there is this strange colored zone which is not in the middle, and not at the end? I said, Is it for disabled people? And he told me no, it's a system for allowing maximum density on the subway. So when the first commuter gets on the train, they subconsciously gravitate toward this colored zone. When they sit down, by default they subdivide the whole bench for maximum density—so you don't have this situation where someone just plops down somewhere and then there's not enough space for the last person to sit. And I thought that was fascinating, and would you be able to apply that idea to a bench, where suddenly a chair pops out? That was really the starting point. And then of course the difficulty is that it becomes an in-between piece. It’s not really a chair that has to be easy to stack or easy to lift, and yet it has a surface to it, you can put it in a corner of a room, or you can use it for other things.

As the name implies, it’s something of a multi-tasker.

We’ve only started making furniture quite recently, but when we did that table for Herman Miller, we tried to get them to realize that no one buys a table for work. They buy a table and they use it for working on or eating on or all sorts of activities, so there is this very pluralistic feeling that I think is very relevant now. It’s harder for people to buy things or consume things which are very specific, because sometimes life changes and things become redundant. Where as things that are pluralistic, like a chair that you can use indoors as well as outdoors, start to feel more relevant and more appropriate for living. I say that with a piece that is totally untried and untested—some people might hate it or think it's completely nonsensical, but others might feel that its quite liberating because of it.

hecht bench

In the case of the shortest version, the form itself is quite reminiscent of the Link table for Herman Miller, with a ledge off to one end.

It is indeed, but it was very unconscious.

I suppose it doesn’t slide and it's not green.

Right. It does have this surface that you can put a coffee on or a newspaper, or you can put your shoes on next to your jacket or whatever.

And yet, for the unusual nature of it, the chair form is quite classic.

It’s got a little Chinese Ming. It’s Hans Wegner. It’s Thonet—all of that stuff. I’m not denying it. But the fact that it connected with the structure of the legs, it’s essentially a table that becomes a chair that is also a bench.

Would you say that it falls into the Supernormal category?

I’m a big admirer of Supernormal, but I’m an even big admirer of “Under a Fiver.” [a book project that Industrial Facility will release with Rizzoli in 2010, documenting design to be had for under five quid]. When I think about Supernormal, as far as I can gather, they are tried and tested pieces that have proven themselves. I don't know if you can label new things—which I have literally seen 15 minutes ago—as Supernormal. Nevertheless, the values are following that trajectory.

hecht bench chair shadow

What does it mean to be working as a designer who deals in simplified and reduced forms rather than bombast?

Those kinds of ideas have been talked about for a while, but the problem is that if you talk about those things and everyone does it, isn’t that the same? Isn’t it just more consumption and more stuff? There’s a danger that those attributes just become another thing. What happens is that they become a style in itself and I’m not sure if that’s right or wrong, but it's inevitable.

Therein reduction becomes less about style, but meanwhile everything has some kind of style.

You can’t ever escape that. That is especially true in Milan because the pressure is to perform and to make impact. The real measure is what’s left after Milan—the stuff that is produced, and is consumed, and that lasts. Those are the pieces that give a different kind of feeling to the world.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016