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Adventures in Custom Table Top Design – Part 1

by Kayce Joyce, Mayumi Nakazato, Sarah Oeftering, Elyssa Kelly, Cari Villescas

We love a design challenge. Especially when it means we get to try something we’ve never done before. So when Bora was among 6 firms invited to design a custom table top for Turnstone’s Bassline product line, we jumped into gear.

We selected a large rectangular base for our table, and had a week to start generating ideas before it arrived at the office. We started by considering the ways people use a typical coffee table, and how we could create a form that supported those functions. This led to the idea of exaggerating different “regions” of the table, creating peaks and cavities for setting down keys, reading magazines, and amplifying phone speakers, among other things.

Pretty quickly, we came up against our first design challenge. The Bassline product consists of a beautiful set of steel legs (we chose a black finish), and a low-pressure laminate sub-top, intended to support our custom design but otherwise remain invisible. This was a problem, because we wanted parts of the table to hang below the main surface.

Our solution was to ditch the sub-top altogether. This eliminated one constraint, and presented a new challenge: how to attach our custom top to the leg structure. But first, we needed to figure out a final design, including material selection and fabrication methodology.

Determined to use this as a learning opportunity and do everything in-house, we didn’t want to outsource fabrication. Our design objectives led us towards creating a minimal surface, and after several material studies we decided to try a combination of performance mesh fabric and non-toxic resin.

We rigged up a frame and got to work. Team members alternated shifts, adding a new resin layer every 12 hours for nearly a week, with a couple days at the end intended for curing. By the time we were done, there were only four days until the launch party and it was obvious our experiment wasn’t going to hold its form, let alone support the weight of a stack of magazines. There were some disappointed faces as we gathered to determine next steps, but fortunately our tight deadline didn’t leave much room for wallowing.

To see where we ended up, and a hint of where we’re going next, look for Part 2 of this post!