Ranging between light beige and dark brown, plywood usually isn’t very colorful. But a new process from Japanese designer Kazuya Koike makes plywood as beautiful and colorful as textiles, thanks to a dying process. And while the plywood chairs may look like a selection of blue Pantone swatches placed together, there’s no paint involved: The color’s baked right into the wood, accentuating the wood’s innate burl patterns instead of obscuring them.
Plywood is normally made by taking at least three thin layers of wood and affixing them together with paste. These veneers are made by shaving the top layer of a piece of source wood off with a peeler, a process sort of like unrolling toilet paper. The resulting veneer’s pattern may only be surface deep, but most people can’t tell. It’s a cheaper method of making wooden objects, but plywood ends up having the same color as its sandwiching veneers: ash, maple, mahogany, oak, teak, and so on.
To create his Decresc chair and accompanying stool, Koike teamed up with the Gisen Company, a Japanese textile processing company that produces dyed synthetic fabrics. Koike discovered that by dying strips of maple veneer using Gisen’s textile dyes, he could impart a lovely blue patina to the wood, without hiding or destroying the maple’s spiral burl pattern.
Presented at the Material Design Exhibition held at the Material Connexion Tokyo during Tokyo Design Week, Koike’s process could open the door for all sorts of lovely dyed plywoods. A gradient pink molded plywood Eames chair, or rainbow-hued Ikea furniture? Sign me up.