The deVOL Stool
23rd December 2016
I’ve been designing furniture for over 30 years now and considering the chair and the stool and to a lesser extent the table are seen as the measure of a furniture designer, I’m wondering why I haven’t done this before. We have designed several kitchen ranges over the years and the style has moved with the times and with our own developing tastes. We’ve made lots of tables for people too, but the designs were always classic, Shaker, Victorian farmhouse, etc. I never really went back to the drawing board, I just concentrated on what made a shaker table a classic and stuck to those principles and made sure it was made from the best timber and in the most honest and correct way. That’s not really designing is it? It’s more like appreciating, having focus and dedication and it’s all about craftsmanship, but it’s not inspiration.
We have so many talented designers here and they are all involved in the hundreds of design decisions that take place daily. We send out up to 20 kitchens a week now; that’s a lot of design meetings, lots of site visits, lots of vans on the road and kitchen fitters, not to mention the hundred or so carpenters, painters and stonemasons that all have to work to an exceptional standard. A graduate furniture designer’s dream is to design an iconic chair or stool and to say “There, that’s my stool” and to be proud of it. This year a few of our talented designers have had the luxury of being able to work on the simplest and most complex of design problems and I have enjoyed the privilege of overseeing this totally satisfying project.
Michael, Huw and me have been the main protagonists with invaluable input from Robin, Helen and of course Creedy. They are a pretty special bunch and there probably aren’t many better teams to tackle this age-old project.
I have driven this project from day 1; sometimes I take a back seat, but this was to be my stool, driven by my priorities. Day 1 involved sitting on a 3” slab of wet clay. Each day the clay would harden and we would carve bits off and roll up sausages and add bits on. A rudimentary base was thrown together and adjusted daily to reach the optimum seat height and angle and the footrest position. No attention was paid to style, material or method of construction. The shape of the seat is not something that has been designed, it is the seat that bodies, more specifically bums, have formed. Not just my bum, that would be silly, lots of bums.
I always think that life points you in a direction and I see signposts everywhere. Your mess of a mind convinces you to ignore them, but your self sees every one. That’s the half of me that I always follow. Life inevitably brings some pain and suffering, but the human spirit is so awesome that for the vast majority of souls, they find a way through it. We make the best of it because the alternative is misery and despair. In particular, as my body ages and as I experience some hardships, my incessant need to solve and improve leads me to use my insight into a particular problem, and focus more intently on resolving it than anyone has ever done before. I am the man who invented fart pants after all. Seemed like a hair-brained scheme at the time, but we sold 30,000 pairs of fart filtering pants this year! Not so crazy an idea. For every ailment there is a practical solution and often it’s just simple mechanics and material properties.
The problem that led me to focus on comfortable support more closely than had been done before was my horribly unstable pelvis. A whole bunch of skiing accidents, climbing mishaps and a short flight attached to one of those huge kites led to all the ligaments in my sacroiliac and symphotic pelvic joints being about as useful as blancmange. As a result, sitting on a bench or flat chair is nauseatingly painful after about 5 minutes, which is when my pelvis decides to realign itself to the surface it’s on. Without all of that strife, I never would have started designing a stool by sitting in soft clay. As a young man I would have penned something stylish without a second thought for comfort.
I hope you can tell just by looking at these photos that this is the most comfortable solid wooden stool that you will ever sit on. After the form came the style, and it’s thanks to my lovely designers and all of our experience and taste combined that this stool looks so cool. The seat is machined from one lump of solid oak. The figure accentuates the deep bowling of the seat pan, showing every contour that nature has defined. The legs and struts positioning are all ergonomics and physics, but the style reflects our current appreciation of 60’s and 70’s Scandinavian led furniture forms.
We are still in the process of designing and prototyping a matching chair and a table, but this stool is done, I am satisfied. I don’t say that often, when it comes to product design. You can order stools like this one in the new year, all that is left is to give it a name……………. every iconic design has a name and if I’m hoping this might one day be considered a classic, I need a name.