What do you do when you have too many guests at your dinner party and not enough chairs? You probably have a few folding chairs stashed away in a closet somewhere. But folding chairs are ugly–and they still take up a lot of space.
Now, the San Francisco-based design firm Box Clever has partnered with the Australian custom furniture maker French Furniture to create a ingenious alternative to the folding chair. Called Cinch, the chair needs no screws, no glue, and no tools to put together–instead, precisely carved pieces of wood join together perfectly, and there’s a leather belt that goes around the top of the chair’s legs to make sure the whole thing stays together. While the belt is practical, it’s also the chair’s most intriguing aesthetic feature, with the leather contrasting beautifully with the wooden frame.
“It’s a chair with a belt–that is a conversation starter, which is part of what design does,” says Bret Recor, the founder and creative head of Box Clever. “It’s not like pulling out the ugly folding chairs no one wants to sit on. It speaks to the need for space saving and not compromising what you really want to have as your home decor and the quality of your furniture.”
Cinch came about because one of Box Clever’s designers, Merric French, asked Recor if the design studio could partner with his parents’ furniture company in Australia. After months of discussion and prototyping, the partners created a chair that’s supposed to be beautiful enough to leave out all the time, but can be disassembled and reassembled whenever you need more space or more chairs.
The biggest challenge during the design process was making sure the chair would hold together. The designers played around with having a prescriptive order that people would use to put the chair together, and then a final piece you’d slot in–like a keystone–to make sure everything stayed put. But Recor wanted a design that wouldn’t require any instructions at all and didn’t require any pins that people might lose, so the team instead created a prototype very similar to the final version, where all you have to do is slot the legs into their holes in the frame, add the back and seat, and the chair is finished. But there was still a problem: The front legs had the tendency to come undone. That’s when they created the belt–and everything came together.
Now, Recor and his team are looking for manufacturing partners because French Furniture, which focuses on custom pieces, isn’t equipped to scale up the idea. The partners are toying with the idea of a limited run of the chairs if there’s enough immediate interest. And in the future, Recor hopes to turn the chair into a collection, one suited to people who want beautiful, quality furniture that is easy to take apart and put back together on a dime.
While Box Clever isn’t accepting orders yet, Recor estimates the initial cost of each hand-made chair will be $1,000–pricier than a folding chair, to be sure. But so much easier on the eyes.