Why Plywood is Great for Furniture Design
1967 was the summer of love, when 100,000 people living in San Francisco converged in the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood. Hippies, families and groups from all walks of life campaigned for a better world. They rejected consumerist values, opposed the Vietnam War, and celebrated the arts and meditative practices.
So 60 years on, what would the hippies think of 2017 being the summer of plywood? The V&A show: Plywood Materials of the Modern World opened earlier this month, which features product and furniture designs from the internationally famous designers Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer and Charles and Ray Eames. Plywood is an honest material which has been popular with architects since the 1950s but it has had a mixed appeal from the general public. In the spirit of starting a revolution, I protest!
In 2010 I lived in a small London flat and couldn’t afford expensive furniture. My only option was IKEA but I really didn’t like the idea of buying furniture made from chipboard wrapped in a plastic coating. It felt wrong to me as I believe in quality materials as you tend to respect the product and therefore keep it for longer – sustainability is as much about buying less as it is about buying better.
Then I re discovered plywood and imagined how it could be used to create furniture designs. I thought ‘this is great material, it’s honest, flexible and incredibly strong’. Plywood is made from the fast growing Birch spices by peeling the trunk into veneers and bonding multiple layers to form a panel. Plywood designs can also be inexpensive compared to furniture made using Oak or Ash – even if you make glu-board solid panels. I love Oak and Ash furniture but with global populations increasing the demand on these timbers isn’t manageable. Most Oak / Ash furniture sold is a mix of veneered MDF with some solid timber for legs or beams. Plywood is plywood, you are buying real wood throughout. Plywood furniture design is more genuine than most other wood based pieces available on the market.
Plywood is the material of the future. Plywood can be used to create beautiful furniture designs, cabinets, kitchens and even complete houses… it is time to change our preconceptions and enjoy this natural, wooden material with the benefit of a more sustainable life. Below I have included some of my favourite plywood furniture designs.
Peace to plywood!