Most of the time, a furniture designer is someone who makes critical decisions about a piece’s form, proportions and colour palette. But what if, instead, a designer acted as a true intermediary between manufacturers and consumers, tapping into supplier inventory to address demands on a case-by-case basis?
That’s the idea behind the Stackabl collection — which Toronto design studio Stacklab and New York furniture gallery Maison Gerard unveiled at the Salon Art + Design fair in November — and it’s currently patent pending. “It’s designing in reverse,” says Stacklab founder Jeff Forrest. “It’s asking, ‘What’s available, and what problem can I solve with that?’ ” Powered by digital wizardry, the Stackabl process starts by trawling the databases of regional suppliers like FilzFelt to catalogue any excess materials that are currently being warehoused.
From there, a charming Atari-inspired web interface invites shoppers to configure everything from dining chairs to daybeds as customization options and price quotes reflect the real-time availability and cost of each component. Once someone places an order, the relevant warehouse receives instructions for the materials needed and dimensions required.
Each piece is assembled from some hundred-odd layers of felt, with a few sheets of PET mixed in for rigidity. This stack — prepared to each customer’s exact colour specifications — is clamped down with aluminum bolts and supported by wooden legs available in various finish and silhouette options.
Since Stackabl is built to repurpose material offcuts that are otherwise unlikely to get used, the concept is rooted in sustainability — but it also makes good economic sense. Offcuts occupy valuable storage space, and often cost more to dispose of than they do to give away, incentivizing suppliers to offer them at a steep discount. “If locally made goods have a hope in hell of competing with overseas manufacturing, it’s by paying less for our raw materials,” says Forrest.
To help demonstrate the system’s capabilities, Forrest invited a star roster of designers — including Elena Frampton, Jamie Drake and Caleb Anderson — to create their own interpretations. Forrest refers to the six designer creations, which are available to order through Maison Gerard in an open edition, as Stackabl’s first “couture” collection. While shoppers are free to engage with the same configurator used by the pros, Stacklab is also currently at work on a “ready-to-wear” version of the tool that will offer a more limited range of tweaks at a more accessible price — while also introducing additional offerings like a floor lamp. Let the customization begin.
The design studio’s custom furniture configurator finds a use for excess materials while letting shoppers tweak everything from proportions to patterns.