Enjoying Time Together: Cafe Set

  • Promote Relationships

  • Helps Slow-down/Relax

  • Rest
  • Supports Community
  • Enjoyment
  • Comfort
  • Being Outside
  • Happiness


Sad Bistro

The cafe set was about taking a moment to sit outside and enjoy each other company. You want the cafe set to inviting, comfortable, and not distracting. 

The typical cafe chair has morphed into a shape that benefits manufacturing but hurts our relationships. It is time for an update that supports us spending time together.

Question: Can a cafe chair and table improve our relationships?


Wonderful moments blossom because of having an excuse to sit and have something to drink. Tables small enough that you don’t commit to anything too serious. Enough of a barrier between you an another person that you can feel safe. It allows you to turn in and talk quietly and privately, or turn out and speak boisterously. Intimate enough for 2, and room enough for a cozy 4… but no more. This keeps conversations manageable and pleasant. I love the cafe setting.




Many cups of coffee, lots of conversations, and prolonged time spent outside chatting with people all in the name of research to discover what makes a good and bad cafe chair and table.

What Makes a Good cafe chair?

  • Easy in/out
  • Light to move around
  • Weather Resistant
  • Aesthetically Pleasing
  • Comfortable seat
  • Supportive back
  • Leg comfort
  • Different ways to Sit

What Makes a Bad cafe chair?

  • Hard to get out (arms)
  • Easily Damaged
  • Can’t get wet
  • Ugly
  • Uncomfortable Seat
  • Sharp edge on legs
  • Too big
  • Heavy

The best experience was  the no.18 Thonet chair originally designed in the 1870’s. 

Loose Initial Sketches:

Models: Scale, Full Size, and Virtual Reality

Full scale model and ergonomic study

Full scale model and ergonomic study

Couple of second round options I was exploring

Couple of second round options I was exploring

Initial 1/4 scale models

Initial 1/4 scale models

Jumping off point models that I brought into virtual space to start iterating and playing.

Jumping off point models that I brought into virtual space to start iterating and playing.

6 differnt versions of the table in a virtual enviorment for context

6 differnt versions of the table in a virtual enviorment for context


Cork for Cafe
baked Cork Oven
VRChairs and Stuff

Drawings, Models, and Virtual Reality

I conducted an experiment by creating scale models, virtual models, and full-scale mock-ups and then seeing how the conversation changed in discussing the design of the cafe chair.

I introduced a project for the cafe chair with 10-12 quick sketches. From there I modeled another 12 or so low fidelity quick models based off of a No. 18 Thonet Chair. I then pulled those models into virtual space using and HTC Vive and Google’s drawing application TiltBrush. I found real value in a fast, low fidelity, high iterative process when starting. In parallel, I created 1/4 scale model and began to test the difference in conversations. I found that it was much easier to talk about specifics with tangible models. A good deal of time was spent talking and looking at each other and less time looking at the object. The discussion was more concept driven that touched on the object. The discussion in virtual space was the opposite. It was more focused on the object and less on the concept. Nearly no drawing was done and less time was spent interacting with each other as one person was wearing the headset. After some initial discussions I made a loose full scale mock-up. That full-scale mock-up birthed six ideas as variants after discussion with others. I decided to build then in Rhino and t put them all into virtual space. It took a total of about 40 minutes to make the new models and evaluate at full scale. It was immediate and wonderful. 

Having a full-scale tangable mock-up changed the conversation dramatically when using in tandem with my virtual mock-ups. We were able to speak intelligently on a specific scale and I was able to make decisions that could be implemented into the final object. When working on small screens there are some things that are difficult to know how it will actually look. Sometimes by placing tape on a object to represent lines, or block off certain parts can help understand changes and can work as a shortcut without having to make another model. 

I had found in the part that small changes tend to get lost in VR when looking at designs on their own. But when it was accompanied with a tangible model suddenly there is a connection with the real and virtual world which changes the conversation. The process was more moving in and out of virtual space to look at both the real and virtual object. As a result I think I got better feedback and was able to try out many new ideas resulting in a better overall design in a shorter amount of time.

Smoking cutlery

Eating is all about the experience. I decided to focus on the bite to design the cutlery rather than starting with the utensil. I decided to focus on desserts done three ways.



Vanalla ice cream, carmel, hickory smoke.



Homemade marshmallow, spicy chocolate sauce, mesquite smoke.



Cheese, fruit compote, applewood smoke.

Salt block cooking


A piece of 2” thick block of Himalayan pink salt that was calling me. This pink stone has it’s own magic power which I had witnessed when I had some friends out from the west coast the previous summer. The salt works by being heated it up until it’s hot enough a drop of water sizzles off it. Then you’re ready to cook. The salt block is ideal for cooking scallops, 3 minutes per side garnished with a little chive, shallot, and bacon. Perfection in a single bite. Like the dutch oven project, the salt block stove has the same ritual action of lighting a fire and standing around but it’s taken one step further. It is like theatre, a little ritual performance with the table and salt block stove as the proscenium. 


The top of the table is made with 8/4 ash with a heavy round over on the edge. I then burned the hell out of it for a finish. The burned finished was to protect the wood from the elements and also to allow any embers from the stove that would be placed on top to add to the patina finish. The thickness of the wood would allow years of abuse before wearing through. The next piece was a 3/8 plate steel on three 1” feet to act as a small fire table to place the charcoal fueled stove. The stove was modeled off a style of a ‘rocket stove’ which allows a inlet for adding fuel while directed the heat upwards. This allowed me to place the salt block on the stove and keep the fire going without having to remove the block. Functionally it worked great, and I embraced the: rough, home made, “honest” aesthetic as it wasn’t hiding anything. 

The performance is magical. We go outside and start the fire, relax a bit and have a drink and a chat as it gets going. Place the salt in it’s steel pan (as to not heat up too quickly and crack) and onto the stove. We patiently wait for it to heat up, and talk some more while occasionally spilling a bit of your drink on the stone to see of it sizzles away indicating it’s ready. Cooking on stone is enough to intrigue people, and is a great hook for it’s use. A few scallops are placed on the stone with a crackle as it cooks and a sweet smell fills the air. 3 minutes later your turn each one. When it’s time, a scallop is placed on a small plate, dressed with the garnish, and handed out. People chat for a moment, have another drink, and then the question is posed, “another?”. And you start again. This process of eating 4-6 scallops each, draws out the experience to last over an hour. There is enough time to relax and let a real conversation can take place. Everyone is interrupted together for a shared act of eating making everyone happy at the same moment and within seconds people are back. The ritual has a rhythm and a flow that is perfect for chatting. 

No matter the weather people are more than happy to stand outside and talk watching the show take place, and are rewarded with single bites of deliciousness. 

Exploring Cork


Material Research: Black Cork

  • Weather Resistant
  • Fire Resistant (EU Class E)
  • Mold Resistant
  • Exothermic (Warm to touch)

Existing Process:

  • Soft and Flexible
  • Toasted Oaky Smell
  • Easy to Machine / Sand
  • Renewable / Sustainable 
Cork Autoclaves

Black cork, or expanded cork uses the by product from the wine cork industry. Leftover, or undesirable pieces are ground and placed into an industrual autoclave. Super-heated steam is injected into the mold holding the cork and the natural resins in the cork cells called suberin bonds the cork together.

Question: Can this process be replicated in a studio environment?

Why do it?

  • Ability to Mold Custom Shapes
  • Indoor/Outdoor Use
  • Reduction in Waste
  • Comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive

Proof of Concept:

 result: Possible


Actual Testing:

Block Test16
Sample 22

 Results: A repeatable process for bonding granules using it’s natural resins (suberin) without the need of additional bonding agents and without using dangerous, expensive, and complex equipment.



I knew I wanted to make something that would highlight the ability to mold the cork, and it’s all weather characteristics. I also wanted to make something reasonable, as this would be the first time I would attempt an object at a larger scale. 

I decided on a small stool with the frame embedded into the cork seat. The frame is stainless steel and is held in place by being molded into the seat.

Stool on bench
A small stool made of cork and stainless steel.

A small stool made of cork and stainless steel.

Continued Works: 


This was a second stool based off the first stool. The ‘cooking’ time was better resolved, as well as improvements to the mold.


This was the first fully developed chair I made using the cork process. Again I used stainless steel so it can be used inside or outside.


This was the first fully developed chair I made using the cork process. Again I used stainless steel so it can be used inside or outside.


I made a cafe set, and couldn’t not use cork as it embodies everything you need in a cafe chair. Comfort, durability, warmth and so on.



This piece of cork was one of my early samples and it has been sitting outside enduring the New England sun, rain, and snow for 2 years. So far so good. There is a little discolor on the side that is up. I assume that is from UV exposure. The adhesion appears to have has gotten stronger overtime, and I’m not sure why.


Dutchoven baking

Ready to go. Easy to use.

This pre-seasoned oven needs no prepping. Simply place coals on top, and beneath your oven with the door in place for 20 minutes to bring the interior to the optimum cooking temperature.

Slide a freshly made pizza directly into the oven, replace the door, and in less than four minutes you’ll have a pizza with a blistered, golden-brown crust.

The cork door keeps your hands free from burns (black cork is fire resistant and an amazing thermal insulator).

Bread has a long and amazing history and I regard it as the most important invention for humanity. Michael Pollan, an Author and Chef who spoken quite a bit about bread wrote in his book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation about how bread is special because you need a civilization to make it. From growing wheat, to grinding it to flour, to fermenting, and baking is a process that really requires people to make it happen. I think it is important having a process that requires ‘people’, not ‘person’. The question is how do you trick people into doing something that takes more than one person without it being a hassle not worth doing? It also cannot be a forced behavior because as we all know people will not do something that is forced. Think about the bar-b-que. Would the average person start the BBQ for just cooking one burger? Bring it out, find paper and matches, light the charcoal, wait for 15-20minutes for it to get ready, dump out the coals, let the grill heat up, constant watching, cooking, closing it up, waiting for the fire to die, putting it way. Lots of hassle to cook one burger. But for a group of people it’s perfect. You go outside, stand by a fire, have a legitimate excuse to stand around in front of the fire for 20 minutes doing nothing, standing and moving around, you have something check on when there is a lull in conversation, cooking with fire is transformative and direct. Cooking with fire is a wonderful thing. 

I wanted to emulate some of those similar characteristics to get similar results. Making bread or pizza outside using fire is a long and beautiful tradition. The problem (or opportunity in design speak) was how to make that possible without having to invest the time, space, and expense in a full blown woodier pizza oven? Cowboy cooking or otherwise known as dutch oven cooking was the answer. I first experimented cooking using a dutch oven I had gotten from my grandfather. This was met with spectacularly poor results. My attempt to make cinnamon rolls was an utter failure but I learned the basic principals and patience that came from cooking this way. In hindsight I should have tried something easier, or asked a few more informed questions before jumping in and nearly ruining my pot, but from that I came to some conclusions: It needed to allow access from the side, easily cleaned, allow for even heat distributing, stackable would be nice, and most importantly should be able to handle some serious heat.

 From a social standpoint I think it is important to cook outside because there is more opportunity for conversations. When one person goes outside to start the fire it’s customary for someone to follow and ‘help’. This provides some one-on-one time, and provides a natural way to break away from the group to start a new conversation. It also provides a specific amount of time for the action of lighting the fire to take place, and plenty of excuses for ‘an out’. By needing to gather things to start the fire you can do this together, or one person can leave, or duties can be split-up. Each of these allows for an ease of the social situation depending on how comfortable people are together. It is also customary and socially acceptable to have a drink or share appetizers while this takes place, which also eases the situation. All these opportunities are lost when you just heat-up the oven in your kitchen. Though it is much easier to make a pizza, it makes the social experience of spending time with people harder. As a whole I would argue that the net comfort level for cooking pizza with a group of people is higher with an outdoor pizza oven than with an indoor kitchen oven. It should also be noted that when people are outside they are less distracted by their phones and more adapt to spend time talking with others.

Something that also shouldn’t be overlooked is the performance of the oven. I did some research on heat distribution and there were two things that I found important: The thickness of the metal surface and the ability to rotate the oven. Those experienced with cooking with dutch ovens will rotate the oven 120 degrees to ensure even heating. Dutch ovens usually have 3 feet to ensure stability when sitting on the coals and that also allows the oven to be twisted 120 degrees and the clearing in the coals for the feet match the feet when rotated. The lid is also covered in coals for top heat and it too is rotated. So when It came time to design my bread oven I wanted to mimic these traits. I gave it 3 feet and also made the top so it could be rotated 120 degrees. I also used 3/8 steel plate for the top and bottom surfaces to help ensure even heat distribution and maintain a good thermal mass to obtain the blistered crust I wanted for making pizza.

From a performance aspect I couldn’t be happier. After about 25 minutes the oven reaches just over 600 degrees and with one set of coals will last for about 45 minutes. The oven cooks 10” thin crust pizza in about 4-5 minutes. I’ve used the oven a few times while having people over and watched how people react and respond. What is wonderful about cooking them one at a time, is people nearly always share their pizza with others as they come out of the oven. The oven has worked as I had hoped in pulling people outside and lengthened the time it takes to cook and eat. This lengthen while still ‘active’ has certainly helped promote conversation and eased social awkwardness.

Memory Table



I got two large pieces of pine in order to make these two tables . Pine is wonderful for this project as it is a softwood which allows for memory to be absorbed into its surface. The tables are made from two 16’ foot boards running parallel to each other and the grain is continuous from one table to the other. The premise is that you are sharing one dining surface even though the tables could be separated by thousands of miles. Each side acquiring it’s own memories separately but knowing that the table top grain is connected and will never change despite the addition of marks, scars, stains, and wear. An object can remind us of the past without sacrificing the moment. This table will hold stories. 

Allowing objects to ‘catch’ artifacts rather than remaining sterile and anonymous is important in them telling a story. One of the things that I do is put photos, or ticket stubs into books instead of scrap booking. I disperse those memories which kind of obscures them. It acts as a reminder, but also gives the book a purpose greater than it’s own story. Like a stain, or the wearing in of an object also gives it a bit of magic: A wine spill contours up the past.


Books and tea

Here I wanted to creating an object that captures those little moments for my wife to enjoy a nice cup of tea and read one of her favorite books. Though rarely in use, it serves as a reminder to slow down and take a break.

 Clearly it is a table but there is something odd about it, some implied functionality. It's really a bookmark. A bookmark that can also hold a cup of tea and perhaps a snack. Most of the time it's not a book mark, it's just an end table but it is made for that moment when you can sit down an indulge yourself in a break. What I like is that when it's just hanging out being a table it reminds us that it's a bookmark. Not in an in-your-face kind of a way, but in a hey-remember-to-relax-too kind of a way.


Ballroom desk

There is that moment walking into a grand ballroom or cathedral and look up and your taken back by the architecture. I wanted to capture that moment on a small personal scale when sitting at this desk. Feeling enclosed but not trapped. The structure and color pallet was taken from a 18th century rococo ballroom, I used the structure of the room to form the basic silhouette and then used graphic lines to hint to those forms. 

Chandelier Shower head

Chandelier Shower head

Chandelier shower head

I just couldn't bring myself to put a modern stainless steel shower head in this beautiful victorian style bathroom. The bathroom was all about this large luxurious tub. But the owner also wanted to be able to shower so the design called for a rain shower directly overhead. The problem was that while you were enjoying a candle lit soak in lavender oils and bath salts when you looked up you'd see this terrible chunk of metal hanging from the ceiling. 

 This chandelier shower head is modeled after the sculpture of the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, being caught after a bath.


I had a client who wanted a new knife design, something interesting, and new. I thought about how a knives lives in your pocket with coins,  The idea of a knife that had a similar fidgeting behavior of opening and closing like you would take coins and run them together. The series of knives all have individual specific functions but within the family of swiveling open.

Fully realized object as a result of experementation. 

Fully realized object as a result of experementation. 

experimental Cork Chair

Through a studio-based research process at RISD, I was able to create “black cork” by bonding cork granules using it’s natural resins (suberin) without the need of additional bonding agents and without using dangerous, expensive, and complex equipment.

The molded cork seat and back is captured in a stainless steel frame making it suitable for inside or outside use. The natural weather resistant, hypoallergenic, mold resistant and fire resistant materials make it suitable for year round use. The cork is soft and pleasing to the touch making it a comfortable seat. 

Selection of successful samples.

Selection of successful samples.

Understanding materials, how they are used and how they can be transformed, is how we understand our world. As an artist and designer, materials are a vital part of the language we use to communicate and shape the world around us. Today’s material science has brought us nanoparticles, polymers, and alloys increasing our vocabulary. I believe that we have an opportunity to further broaden our material lexicon with a fully sustainable material – Black Cork. Cork is unique in that it is weather resistant, hypoallergenic, mold resistant and fire resistant, while also being pleasing to touch, easy to work with and environmentally responsible. Cork comes from the bark of a Cork Oak Tree and can be harvested every 8 years, making it a truly sustainable resource. Cork granules are often by-products of the wine bottle cork industry, as well as recycled wine corks.


Vaulted cocktail Table

There is a lot of opportunity in creating a sense of space using furniture objects. I wanted to create a space that when you were in it seemed inclusive. The space it's self is a graphic representation of a gothic vault. There is something special about a vaulted space that I've always been drawn too.  

This cocktail table is like walking into a space and joining others in this little enclosed space. 

Cork Lounge Chair

Here I wanted to explore using rolled cork that is usually used for floor underpayment. Using lamination methods ,traditionally for creating plywoods, I exploited the natural flexibility of cork and it's non-grain nature to complete complex curves of a lounge chair.

Cork Lounge Chair 2016

Cork Lounge Chair 2016


To give more structure to the cork I laminated 2 layers of canvas to keep the cork from tearing. The flexibility of the cork and canvas allow for there to be added flexibility in the seat.


Each leg was cut into 1/3's, glued back together, turned, bent, and then glued back together creating a splayed split leg look.

A selection of environment design where it was all about the immersive space.


Wine Cellar

This was a design build wine cellar, chandelier, and oak feasting table complete with hidden bookcase door. This was about creating a space to enhance the flavor of the wine. From first pulling the book and stepping down onto the brick floor, to sitting at the large oak table with a glass of cabernet under flickering candle light you are transported.  The chandelier is has over 50 electric flickering candles that increasingly "light" as you bring up the dimmer switch. 

Chapel copy.jpg
Chapel_Night - Copy.jpg

Outdoor wedding chapel

He wanted an outdoor wedding, she wanted a church wedding. 3 months in the making, the ground was leveled and grass was planted to make room for this intimate little chapel. It accommodated 200 guests and used fabric to catch light and define the space. 


A selection of spaces


CNC Plywood "frid" stool

1/2" plywood, 1/2" bit, no screws, no glue. Can a CNC be enough to create an entire project? Maybe. The designed was based off Studio Furniture maker Tage Frid's Iconic 3 legged stool. It was a little tounge and cheek replicating a craft object using an industrial process, Frid would have hated it I'm sure. 


Turned Bench

Part musical instrument, part technique, part experimentation, part getting out of my head and making. The biggest success with this bench are the groves are just big enough for your fingertips and is very satisfying to touch.


CNC Stool  

This was a collaboration where we were trying to match a feel appropriate for the store Anthropologie. 


Works in progress 

The following represent ideas in the works in various different stages including failed works and things that maybe weren't such a good idea but made anyway as sometimes god ideas come from bad ideas.


sponge chair

This chair would be made of many layers of compressed cellulose that when wet would expand into full size. It could then dry out and become stiff, maybe stiff enough for sitting? This is exploring flat pack, biodegradability, the joy and instant gratification that would come from "making" the chair. I also think there is potential in this as a material and making an object would be interesting.  


Sun ruler

This object is to help people find where the sun will be throughout the year. This could be for architectural site planning, gardening, solar panel assessment, etc. Many CAD tools have integrated sun charts or rendering animations but I wanted a way to bring the sun into the conversation earlier during the sketching process. 

SunRuler 2016-06-26.png

Textile exploration

This was about exploring form and the loose interpretation of "textile". Using 3d printed parts, elastic, magnets, Rhino, and a lot of experimentation I explore creating volumes that self assembled. It can lay flat and will snap into a final form. 


Easy Chocolate Cake

Baking a cake a little bit easier. Preloaded ingredients, dump, mix, pour, bake.