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Modern Benches Ideas by Nico Yektai

This series was born of a commission for a piece of functional art furniture. A hallway bench to be exact. The piece was the second bench that I had made and became the first in my ongoing numbered series of one-of-a-kind benches. Since then I have expanded my approach from thinking in terms of entry benches to thinking of benches for public spaces. As always, the beauty of handmade wooden furniture is that any moment in any bench can serve as the starting point for a commission. Commissions are great because they become a collaboration that results in the perfect size, shape and material for your needs. Keep in mind that these benches are all designed for indoor use.


Bench #15 uses the same curved leg that I made for Bench #14. I wanted to use the leg in combination with a new leg that also used the new reinforced concrete to its maximum potential. The new leg curves its way up above the oxidized Sapele seat and serves as an arm rest. It also serves as a visual gesture that helps give this bench its unusual thrust. This modern bench employs one more material, stainless steel, to push the design into new territory. The stainless brackets are bent to form the supports for the partial back. The back enhances the gesture of the bench and serves to increase the comfort of the bench.


Bench #14 represents the moment that my ability with cast concrete took an evolutionary leap. I had just finished a commission for a concrete dining table which had forced me to learn about reinforced concrete. I immediately applied those new techniques to a curved casting. The leg would not have been possible for me to make just a few months ago. The high-tech mix combined with my expert ability making molds will further allow for further exploration of complex forms. The white cast concrete is paired with a walnut that is stacked up in my signature style. The piece was very well received at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show, where it made its debut.


Bench #13 is one of those pieces of furniture that jumped out of my imagination and came to life. The cast concrete legs are poured in white concrete to establish a contrast tot he oxidized Sapele of the seat. The legs come up above the benches surface in decorative eruptions. This allows doe a new approach to the wood/concrete transition. The legs are threaded on to the seat emulating mortise and tenon construction of solid wood furniture. The subtle curve of the seat is clearly defined at this transition. This bench can go anywhere, but I like to see it used as a window bench or any other situation where it can find an open expanse. The bench is nearly 8 feet long, but it is quite narrow and will fit into many situations. I should mention again that the benches in this series are indoor benches. I mention this because many people see concrete and think outdoor bench. In this case I use concrete because for me it says modern bench!


Bench #12 was designed after a flurry of activity in my other bench series. I wanted to return to the wooden bench and see what I could do. The result is a contemporary wood bench that is subtle yet powerful. The lone arm rest sets up an asymmetrical rhythm to this nearly 8’ long bench. The arm rest and back leg erupt above the surface like a mountain pushes up from a plain. This moment and the unusual hand shaping of the arm beg to be touched. I love the tactile nature of wood, it is always warm to the touch! Wood will always be at the center of this exploration of decorative benches.


Bench #11 represents a few firsts within this series and my body of work. Bench #11 uses a single massive piece of Maple that has a very pronounced grain structure. I am not the sort of woodworker that uses wood like this. In fact the board had the natural edge that a whole category of wood design is built around, referred to as live edge. My approach to design takes a different approach to material. I strip the live edge and any other character away from the board. I then put my own vocabulary back in. If I have done my job well then the finished piece has a balanced, natural, feel as a result of my understanding of composition. The bench also introduces cast concrete to the series. The legs are quite unique and combine with the spalted maple in a pleasing way. This bench is narrow enough to fit in an entryway and still show off the benches character.


Bench #10 was supposed to be an outdoor bench. I abandoned that notion half way through and decided that it would be an indoor bench, like the rest of the benches in this series. The reason has to do with the approach to composition and the resulting detail in this bench. The stacked up legs and the integrated stretchers are so clearly related to Bench #3 that I knew that this bench had to be part of this series. The bench could be used a foyer bench, but it would have to be a large foyer due to the fact that this bench is 8 feet long.


Bench #9 employs the same unusual approach to dovetails as Bench #8. This time the dovetail joint helps transition the two halves of the unusual back/leg structure of this modern bench. This bench is monumental at 10 feet long. The 4 inch thick seat feels proportional to the size. This bench is one of the best wooden benches that I have designed. I still have it in my collection and I would like to see it in a museum of other public space some day. If I had to put one bench forward as an example of my work I would be hard pressed to think of a better bench than this one.


Bench #8 explores my structural approach to design from a slightly different perspective. The seat of the bench is hand shaped while benefiting from the layering that is my signature approach to building up mass. The layered Cherry transitions with the help of massive dovetails to connect the legs. Dovetails speak to the history of furniture design and craftsmanship as they are the single joint that expresses quality. I use the dovetail as a landscape within a landscape. The pins and tails are not trimmed flush as would be the conventional thing to do. They are left long and trimmed into a spontaneous composition that becomes the focal point of this sculptural bench.

Product Design & Text by Nico Yektai

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