Monday, June 8, 2009

Botanist Benches

I just returned from High Point, NC. The city of 100k residents had its heyday as "The Furniture Capital of the World." It is still home to the world's largest furniture trade show. I have family ties there and have been visiting since I was little. It's hard to fully experience this as a visitor, but the once vibrant local furniture industry is struggling (dying?) as the factories close down and manufacturing shifts overseas. As a manufacturing geek and a lover of old, industrial things, I looked at all those empty factories and dreamed of being able to restart them to make affordable eco-friendly furniture, locally produced in the USA. Since I'm not a captain of industry or ready to relocate my happy Bay Area family, all I can hope is that someone else will do it. If you do, I suggest you feed your belly and soul with some of Kepley's hush puppies and BBQ.

All this thinking about US furniture production inspired me to post about California-based Botanist, which is interesting on a lot of different levels:
  1. The benches appeal to my eclectic style, with minimalist forms combined with intricate surface graphics. It's hard to get simple just right, but the proportions and lines are very nice.
  2. The design process is lean: By limiting their product offerings to one basic design in three sizes, they can keep their engineering and tooling simple. Their partnership with designers allows the customization to happen with graphics and color.
  3. The manufacturing process is lean, flexible, and VERY simple: Cut, fold, weld, paint, add feet. Ship it. It makes it seem like you could bang out a new bench in an hour, plus drying time.
  4. Their process is naturally eco-friendly, not forced that way. By minimizing material waste, they also reduce costs. By keeping the process lean, they are able to manufacture in the US, reducing transportation costs and carbon footprint.
  5. The company is open, providing CAD of their designs, video of the manufacturing process, and enough details to satisfy even the most curious manufacturing geek.
  6. They donate a percentage of every sale to a charity or foundation of the designer's choice.
  7. By using one set of tools and changing the colors and graphics, the designs are easily customized (Tricia, this sounds a lot like another project we've been working on...).

"Rest your molotovs and martinis here."

The only real downside is that, like most designer furniture, the benches are out of my I-found-it-on-Craigslist price range, but they aren't crazy expensive, either.

Images from Botanist.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, deja vu! I just had a discussion about the decline of American furniture production a couple of nights ago, plus I have a Botanist table on my back patio. You should check out Misewell - new furniture line made in Milwaukee, and won the equivalent of Best in Show at ICFF last month. They don't formally debut until July, but I'm probably adding it to my inventory, and I'm sure there are some Bay Area establishments planning to do the same.


Here at the lab, we value nice. Gratuitous web links, spam, or general snarkiness will be deleted.