Furniture: Insightful Design for Production, Fall 2016, Instructor: Ayako Takase


A ready-to-assemble entryway bench made from red oak.


Timeline: 2.5 Weeks

Design a small furniture piece and prototype for a specific market, brand or opportunity of your choice. You must carefully identify your design opportunity/problem statement, your objective/criteria/methods for tackling the challenge, and create a noble solution/design.


- Must be a small-scale furniture

- Must be manufacturable

- Must be functional

- Must be targeted for a specific brand or market opportunity. You must select a brand, or a competitor to your furniture piece, research, analyze, and position your design in the market

- Must be market ready

- There must be extensive mock up studies to arrive to your final design.


At the beginning of this project, I first started researching West Elm, which was founded in Brooklyn in 2002. Their mission is to help customers express their personal style at home and in the world. They want their products to be organic, local, handcrafted, sustainably sourced, and Fair Trade Certified. Their three current consumers are new, young citydwellers looking to add style to their home or apartment, workspaces wanting to bring residential pieces into the workplace, and hotels wanting to generate a modern aesthetic and a hospitable environment.

Many of West Elm's products are made from MDF covered with veneer, or are solid wood that has been stained or painted.

Another insight I found lay in how they get their product to their consumer. Oftentimes, West Elm uses "White Glove Service" and "Inside Delivery," where the consumer needs to schedule an appointment for when the furniture can be delivered. For pieces that need to be assembled, delivery teams also come into houses to assemble the furniture. There are also processing fees for such services in addition to the shipping cost. Delivery can also take 2-4 weeks and for special orders, can take up to 12 weeks.

I wanted to create a competitive brand with West Elm that better served their market of young to middle-aged citydwellers. This furniture would:

     -have the same bold, modern aesthetic of West Elm

     -have the same brand values as West Elm

     -be offered at a lower price point

     -suit their fast-paced, changing lifestyle

Young citydwellers are not necessarily settled down in regards to where they live, so it is important that they can easily transport their furniture if need be. This age group also tends to be purchasing their first set of furniture, so it is an investment. If they are looking to furnish their entire apartment, for example, they might not be able to afford West Elm furniture. In addition, I wanted to eliminate the hassle of delivery appointments and additional shipping costs.

Below I broke down the aesthetics and materials used in West Elm furniture.

An observation I made of my user group is that due to their fast-paced lifestyle, they need to be organized as well as be able to conserve space. As a result, I started thinking of different types of designs that could fit this criteria, quickly sketching out storage ideas. 

During my quick sketching, I referenced West Elm furniture to see how the top furniture structure was supported. I ended up proceeding with the structure pictured below.

Ultimately, I decided to design an entryway bench. Entryways are generally spaces where shoes, bags, and other items can be organized and stored away. In addition, a common activity at entryways is putting on shoes and getting ready to go out of the door, so I wanted to create a bench where people could sit and also a surface for which they could place items in order to free their hands.

I then created some full-scale models to determine the proportions of my piece.

A key element of my furniture piece was the construction – I wanted it to be RTA so that it could ship at a lower cost, and so that when the user moves, they can take their furniture with them without too much of a hassle.

I used cam and lock screws, which secure the boards perpendicular to each other without creating the necessity for joints.

In addition, the legs and supporting frame of the piece can be attached using screws. The cushion is also attached using screws.