Meet the Holocene Coffee Table by Modify Furniture

 

Our new Holocene Coffee Table is designed as a commentary on current Environmental Issues

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The Holocene table is designed as 5 discrete bamboo rings balanced perfectly, yet seemingly tenuously on delicate anodized aluminum supports. The design represents a centered, currently stable earth under the weight of the four barely balanced planetary boundaries that we humans have transgressed, leaving us teetering at the edge of the Holocene period, the only time in all of our planet’s 4 billion year existence capable of supporting life.

Climate change, loss of biodiversity, deforestation and biochemical flow have already been realized, leaving us at the precipice of an uninhabitable world.

“Thank You for Being Late”, by well known New York Times Journalist, Thomas Friedman, is an incredibly in-depth and quite overwhelming analysis of the current state of the modern world. He eloquently discusses how society and our environment are impacted by the accelerating advances technology, market globalization, and industrialization. The reader can’t help but appreciate the delicacy of the Holocene Era, which supports life as we know it. This table is meant to represent the tenuous situation we humans face.

materials include:

sustainable bamboo hand polished with low VOC oil-wax
bioclean-anodized aluminum
glass
36w x 36″l x 15 1/2″h

This modern, minimalist is handmade to order. The table is now available at modifyfurniture.com  Custom options available on request. Or visit us at the Modify Furniture Factory in Bridgeport Connecticut.

Bacteria take a Bite out of Messy Manufacturing

Anodizing aluminum has  gotten a bit of a bad rap in the environmentally conscious community. It’s not the anodizing process per say, but rather the by-product of the cleaning method that is the culprit. The emulsified slurry of greasy buildup and detergent typically needs to be hauled off and dumped by the ton daily in many manufacturing facilities. That’s where Timothy Calhoun, CEO of BioClean USA in Bridgeport, CT and his miraculous microbes step up to the plate and take a bite out of pollution.

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Pseudomonas bacteria

photo credit: Quantov

All metal manufacturing requires the use of oily coatings which are indispensable in both the machining process and as a coating used to  prevent corrosion. But a quality anodizing job worthy of high end furniture and product design requires squeaky clean aluminum. As Timothy astutely puts it, “A good anodizing job requires three qualities of the metal: clean, clean and clean.”. This typically requires the aluminum parts take a soapy hot bath in potent detergents or highly alkaline (and dangerous) solutions.  The resulting by-product is a toxic emulsified sludge whose destiny is to be dumped in a toxic waste site.

Calhoun, with a grant from Connecticut Innovations and the help of U Conn doctorate students in environmental studies,  was able to develop and perfect his 10,000 gallon machine and system which acts like a brewery, optimizing the medium for his special bacteria who have a particular taste for greasy, oily sludge. Essentially, he offers his little pals a permanent table at their favorite fast food restaurant.

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American Anodizing Plant, Bridgeport, CT

And that’s nothing to turn your nose up at. These bacteria, when give the optimal environment (Calhoun’s machine), can munch their way through tons and tons of sludge, saving companies huge amounts of money and saving the planet thousands of gallons of fresh water  while avoiding pollution.

Anodized aluminum is used frequently in high end furniture and products, given the material’s aesthetic, mechanical properties and insusceptibility to rust. Modify Furniture is fortunate to have the ability to work with Calhoun, whose shop a mere three miles from the Modify Furniture Studio. Our newest product, the Nebula (gradient) light is made using BioClean-anodized aluminum, recycled glass and our sustainable bamboo.  The Modify Furniture Nebula Light will be available November 2016 but for a sneak peek  visit us at the Broadway Market in SOHO,  at 483 Broadway, Manhattan.

Modify Furniture eco-friendly LED light
Inside the Nebula Light by Modify Furniture
color changing eco-friendly LED light by Modify Furniture
The color changing Nebula Light by Modify Furniture

For more information about Modify Furniture products,  visit our online shop  at www.modifyfurniture.com. To read more about our eco-friendly materials and processes visit our sustainable practices.

3D printing: from prototype to production to the populous

We are seeing more hobbyist-grade 3D printers in the community. Who wouldn’t want to make his own adorable little trinkets like frogs, mini-eiffel towers and piggy banks?  Home-model printers are readily available these days  but why do we need to learn CAD, buy a machine, and deal with the repeated breakdowns (yes, they do get clogged regularly) just to make an adorable figurine for our shelf?

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http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/ugly-dolls

Stay tuned, the story is about to get a bit more interesting…

But first, a bit of history. The birth of additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) goes back to the late 1980’s.  In 1986, Charles Hull, the co-founder of 3D Systems, invented stereolithography, a printing process that enables a tangible 3D object to be created from digital data.    (http://invent.org/inductees/hull-charles/) The earliest use of additive manufacturing was in rapid prototyping during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Prototypes allow manufacturers a chance experiment with design and even test a product or component before producing a final product in mass quantities. (http://computer.howstuffworks.com/3-d-printing1.htm).

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Since that time, additive technology has been widely used in countless industries from Aviation and automotive to medical and, most recently, has extended to hobbyists, food industry and even jewelry.

The medical field caught on in 1999 when the first bladder augmentation using the patient’s own 3D printed cells was successfully accomplished. In 2002 it was the 3D printed kidney, and in 2008, the first 3D-printed prosthetic leg, with all parts — knee, foot, socket, etc. were printed as one unit without the need for assembly.

 

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Aviation and automotive industries are now using 3D technology for many complex components. Additive technology produces parts that are structurally comparable to steel, lighter,  create less waste, use less energy, and is of lower cost than a tooled component.

The transition to the consumer market  was spearheaded in 2005 by Dr. Adrian Bowyer’s RepRap Project, an open-source initiative to create a 3D printer that could basically build itself—or at least print most of its own parts. It’s 2008 release, Darwin, is a self-replicating printer that’s able to do just that. Suddenly, people everywhere had the power to create their own printers and make whatever stuff they could dream up on their own. In  2008 Shapeways launched a private beta for a new co-creation service and community allowing artists, architects and designers to make their 3D designs as physical objects inexpensively http://individual.troweprice.com/staticFiles/Retail/Shared/PDFs/3D_Printing_Infographic_FINAL.pdf.  Soon after, Makerbot hit the market as a consumer friendly and modestly priced (for 3D printers) machine. And with the opening of makerbot stores across the country, suddenly the masses had access to this cutting edge technology that had previously only been open to big industry.

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This couldn’t happen at a better time, with the Internet and social media making small startups and micro businesses possible, now there is access to affordable prototyping for the budding inventor.  And for entrepreneurs that don’t feel like learning programming, there are plenty of freelance options for help.  Now all you need is  a dream and a computer (and an idea, lots of research, luck, and  a bit of money to get a new business off the ground. Economically speaking, the days of needing half a million or an investor to start your business are also in the past. New businesses can start on a shoestring. Throw in crowd funding sites like Go Fund Me, Indigogo and Kickstarter, and even cash is available.

But not everyone aspires to launch a new business.  So what can everyone else do with this new technology For starters, the educational aspect cannot be underestimated. learning CAD and 3D modeling, computer technology and having a deeper understanding complex spacial relationships at an early age (with the added reward of making ones own object) has tremendous potential.

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Alternatively, There is the possibility for joining the additive marketplace, freelancing  to create objects or files for objects. Shapeways is the etsy of additive technology.  Admittedly, most of these objects are of limited use. We don’t really NEED to print our own business card holder or phone case.  But it’s only a matter of time before the community develops more functional components.

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At Modify, we embrace this concept and are currently reaching out to designers and students to help us develop new drop-in accessories for our Invisibin™ System of routed depressions in our furniture line. This system allows customers to design their own furniture without the need for a workshop in their basement. Desktop Accessories that help with cord management, lamp shades, planters and device mounts are just a few of the possibilities. Artists may opt to design a paint well tray, or specialty pencil holders.

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Looking forward, Modify Furniture will soon launch our open-source our accessory line, creating a  “customer-generated” line called the Modify Marketplace, a collaborative community everyone can  design, make, and share their own designs.  In this way, we will help to create a collaborative community,  a new platform for designers and makers across the globe.

Week 2: Finishing the Pallet Garden

Modify furniture is proud to offer our old pallets to this great new project.

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This week, it was all about structure. Using three pallets, scrap 1×4’s, and a whole lot of muscle, I was able to construct the vertical pallet garden. Now it’s time to get some plant donations from local garden shops!

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A fresh look at “good design”

What characterizes good design? Clearly form and function are key components. Add longevity, innovation, manufacturability and toss in sustainability; you’ve got a winning product. Sometimes these features conflict with each other and it is the task of the designer to come up with the perfect balance.Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 7.48.59 PM

One of the greatest challenges is creating a product whose form will be stylish and current yet still span the life of the object. A quality, well built, credenza may last a century but it’s design may become dated quickly as styles change. With pantone colors changing yearly and the fashion world moving forward exponentially, it is a select few products that can truly hold up to the standards of good design. With the average product taking two years from concept to market, it can be quite a difficult task to design a truly iconic product.

Modify Furniture, a newbie in the design market, has come up with an interesting workaround, The concept: adaptability built into the design. Their core line, the Polychrome Series does just that. With their patent-pending aluminum framing system, the sleek, minimalist and timeless frame is the “scaffolding” that supports endless creativity. “I have a hard time committing (except to my husband). I can’t bare the thought of closing the door on a particular color, design or material. I wanted to create an innovative line of furniture that could evolve with time. The design for the framing system was critical to get right. The versatility of the whole line is dictated by the morphology of the frame. But at the same time, the aesthetic had to be clean, minimalist, and simple enough to be ageless”.

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modern clean lines and simplicity create the perfect canvas for a pop of color

The aluminum frame can be powder coated, anodized or plated. Modify uses the same system for their line of case goods, desks, coffee tables and their playful Omnicarte and Cubist small storage solutions. Plans are underway to create office pods and floor to ceiling room dividers that double duty as book shelves. Hinge doors and drawers that can be retrofitting into and unit are also in the works.

The true fun is in the sliding panel doors. Because the frame itself is structural, sliding panel doors are purely aesthetic. Owner and designer Marci Klein compares it to a post and beam structure with the sliders acting as curtain walls. It leaves a world of options for playing around with color, materials, and textures. “As new materials and styles come on the scene, I can work them into the existing structure rather that start with a new design from scratch”.

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modify furniture color pallet

The core line uses a playful yet sophisticated mix-and-match pallet of 11 colors. Color matching is also an option for customers that need something special. As these panels are removable, it’s easy to re-design own’s furniture on a daily basis if desired.  So when a customer goes from the young, urban pop color vibe to the more sophisticated white decor, it’s as easy as changing one’s outfit.

“Glass, recycled through-color fiberboard, eco-friendly resin panels are all directions we can go quite easily.”

One of the most exciting adaptations of their core polychrome line is the After Dark Series. This is where the real magic lives. “We have developed a unique process by which we can embed artwork from HR images into the surface of our furniture. So any credenza or coffee table can become a one-of-a -kind piece of functional art.” With the art printed directly onto a metal surface, it is resistant to physical and UV damage and absolutely glows when the sun hits it.

Modify plans to continue designing innovative products that are high-function, high-design and have the unique ability to adapt.

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Modify After Dark collaborative piece with artist Kristin Reed

Crazy Customizing Customers

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Modify Furniture offers a a wide array of colors and options for customers to choose

One of the earliest lessons in life is taught in preschool; “You get what you get and you don’t get upset”. Sure, it makes sense that your child should accept the cupcake with red frosting rather than the one with blue frosting. Seriously, they both taste the same right?

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preschoolers offered choices

Hold on, the last time you painted your house were you forced to take the first paint can on the shelf? There are at least 1,677 Pantone colors for a reason.

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pantone color chart

Individuality and differences in  taste are intrinsic to human nature.  But choice in the retail world means huge inventory, and resulting loss of revenue when that inventory doesn’t move. Overstock shops and outlets may help but not all companies choose to let their  high end  brands wind up on the shelf in these locals. Many stores would sooner demolish their overstock and drop the debris in the dumpster than donate or discount. This is the unfortunate outcome for many products. The environmental (and economic) impact is too often disregarded in hope to protect the “brand” name.  So how can retailers offer choice?

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discarded products

Several major trends in recent years have offered a solution to this unfortunate situation. Firstly, small local businesses with a “made-to-order” model are popping up across the states. We have become (again) a country of makers. Whereas mass produced, foreign made,  and cheaper  products was the ethic in the last century, we are now seeing a trend toward quality, American made, and yes, custom made products with a world of options.  Items made to order may cost a bit more and take longer but today’s consumers are willing to wait for a product that is made exactly the way they want it.

The “artisan economy” has its roots possibly in Brooklyn, N.Y. with the hipster population and strong “built in Brooklyn” sentiment. Cities like Brooklyn, Austin St. Louis, Portland, Minneapolis  to name just a few have opened their doors for small shops that make products to order. Even larger companies like Room and Board are proud to work with local craftsmen for their custom items.

 

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modify furniture worker cutting aluminum parts for custom piece

The internet and social media have been instrumental in helping this new “Artisan Economy” thrive. Customers can easily find the right products and companies they want to buy from. Likewise, small businesses can now reach out directly to potential customers. Social media, affordable internet marketing and “maker” sites like Etsy and Custom Made help customers “meet their makers”. Social sites encourage customer engagement, company transparency, and foster a meaningful relationship between the seller and buyer. Feedback and reviews help a small company gain credibility and help them to quickly adjust their products to meet  their customers’ needs in a way that would be challenging for a large corporation.

New web-based “visualizer” or “customizer” platforms make it easy for smaller businesses to offer their customers a world of options. They offer consumers the ability to see in realtime what they have chosen. Visualizers make it less scary for customers to make these choices when buying online. Several years ago this option was available only for large corporate businesses. Today there are a number of companies that offer more affordable options for smaller businesses.

 

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typical visualizer tool for customizable products

 

The next step in customer customization will allow everyone to be the maker. DIY’ers are everywhere. Sites like Instructibles and Pinterest make it easy to discover new ideas and then learn out how to make them. Home models of 3d printers, laser cutters and mini CNC routers are becoming more affordable and more common in the homes of hobbyists. This will take the customization to the next level. People will be able to design a pencil tray that uniquely fits their writing tools, design their own dresses, bike helmets. The options are endless.

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CNC routed desktop accessories by Modify Furniture

Simple blue cupcakes are the way of the past.

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visit us at modify furniture.com

Bringing midcentury modern design to the 21st century table

What makes midcentury modern design so intriguing? Beyond the clean graceful lines and simple geometric form characteristic of this period, there is a critical aspect of design from this era that is a direct consequence of the social pressures at the time. World events necessitated a change in manufacturing and design. It was in part, these historical forces that helped shape the form of midcentury architecture and design. By the latter part of the century however, it was these same innovations that may have ultimately contributed to the loss of manufacturing of these products on American soil. On a brighter note, over the last decade, we have seen a resurgence of American made products in the design world. Understanding how and why this trend is occurring may help us moving forward in the 21st century keeping US a leader in the design and manufacturing world.

The Second World War was a time of limited resources for the US and much of Europe. The scarcity of steel in particular, prompted a search for new building materials. This sparked the use of more innovative materials including aluminum, plastics and fiberglass. As soldiers returned home and the post-war population boom occurred, there was now a surge in the demand for new homes and home products. These items needed to be produced quickly and efficiently to supply an ever-increasing need. Architects and designers alike needed to focus not only on form and function but also on the new concept of cost effective mass production and manufacturability. This new focus favored more simple geometric forms over more ornate complicated details.

 

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The innovations that worked to supply the needs of the growing population of the midcentury era may have paved the way for a less beneficial trend in latter part of the century. Simple design and cost effective mass manufacturing, in conjunction with advances in modern transportation allowed for products to be made in very high volume and low cost abroad. The cultural shift toward mass accumulation of cheaper products with less focus on quality only further supported this outsourcing of production. The consequence, a cultural explosion of “more, more, more” with accepted tolerance of decreased quality. The surge of supersized superstores supports this concept In essence, we gave up quality for quantity.

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Moreover, the mass production of goods in places with fewer regulations also paved the way for irresponsible use of materials during manufacturing. Disregard for environmental issues as evidenced by the cutting down of forests and use of potentially carcinogenic adhesives and toxic finishes have only recently become a focus.

 

So have we seen the death of high quality design and responsible use of resources? Possibly, the future is not so bleak. In the past decade, Americans have been starting to realize that less may be more. Tiny homes and container homes are all the rave. Modern magazines like Dwell focus on the benefits od smaller spaces. Eco-friendly building solutions, while still being thoroughly modern are becoming the new norm. Quality custom-made products and craftsmanship are becoming more important to us.

The internet and social media have made it easier for consumers to better understand the companies that make these products. Transparency is the way of the future. Companies are listing what materials they use and where they get them, allowing customers to make informed decisions.

Etsy, Custom-made, and countless other sites are helping to bring craftsmanship back to the US. Today is the time for American entrepreneurs, small local businesses, and independent craftsmen. “Maker Towns” like Brooklyn, St Louis, Oakland, and Austen are sprouting up across the nation. A “maker mentality” is rampant across the states with  incubators and shared workspaces to help startups. Modern innovations like additive technology, 3D printers now make it feasible for new companies with limited means to prototype quickly and efficiently, opening the door for new innovative products.

Where to from here? Possibly the answer is to take lessons from mid-century modern designers and continue our search for innovative processes and new materials. But we should also focus on using buying products that rely on local resources and sustainable manufacturing practices. As consumers, we should look for products with high quality, and craftsmanship. And with the use of social media, we should aim to create true connections between maker and consumer for a truly trusting relationship, something that can’t be outsourced.

 

custom desk made with eco-friendly materials and finishes by Modify Furniture.base_v1.jpg

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