Maniera 04

6a architects

Dust Free Friends

Dust Free Friends is a series of designs for small pieces of domestic furniture that can be made very simply at home, in restricted spaces, with a small number of tools and without specialist skills. The lightness and simplicity of the pieces is derived from a combination of observation of the way simple plywood constructions on a construction site are adapted to become stools, tables, steps and stairs, changing quickly and without fuss as workers need them.

The designs also re-examine the long tradition of self-build that has shared the journey through modernism with industry and craft. In the early 1970’s, the Italian designer Enzo Mari launched his project and book ‘Autoprogettazione’, roughly translated ‘self design’. In direct competition with an expanding consumer market, Mari open-sourced the home furnishings industry. The book, still available today, gives instructions for building easy-to-assemble furniture. More important than the end product, although usable, is its educational value. Mari wanted to reconnect people with how things were made.

Enzo Mari used rough sawn softwood, held together only by nails. The method matched the adhocism and toolset of the time. Forty years later, affordable designer consumerism has more or less replaced old fashioned messy DIY from our homes. Apple and Ikea have replaced amateurish tinkering with pleasure and promise sealed inside immaculate capsules. Today, the new lithium batteries at the heart of our wireless world have also revolutionised what we can do. With the cordless drill and self-tapping screw in one hand and the dust-free precision of the Festool saw in the other, the world of self-made furniture has reopened with unprecedented speed and ease.

In this series, 6a architects invite everyone to make his or her own everyday furniture from plywood, always a good servant to new tools. Good quality Douglas Fur plywood is dressed with William Morris wallpaper or pre-painted and then cut and reassembled, creating new arrangements of colour and pattern with wood surfaces and neat fibrous edges. The rules are easy to follow, and even more easy to change, to make best use of the sheet of plywood with the smallest number of cuts and least wastage. Craft and colour, paper and wood, maker and user come together in a new series, which it is hoped can and will be infinitely extended with the help of our dust-free friends.

Plant or floral patterned wallpapers are the natural friends of plywood and the wallpapers by William Morris in particular resonate with re-awakening the value and pleasure of manual work in the industrial age. William Morris (1834-1896), artist, philosopher and political theorist, was one of the most outstanding and influential designers of the Arts and Crafts Movement. In 1861, with a group of friends, he started the decorating business Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co which provided beautiful, hand-crafted products for the home. This was highly controversial at the time as it denounced the ‘progress’ of the machine age by rejecting unnecessary mechanical intervention. Morris was motivated by the desire to provide affordable ‘art for all’. Driven by his boundless enthusiasm, the output of the company was prolific and encompassed all the decorative arts. He is perhaps best known for his wallpaper and fabric designs but he also designed and made embroideries, tapestries and stained-glass, reviving many of the traditional arts which had been swept away by industrialisation. Today, Morris’ legacy continues with the company Morris & Co., which still produces authentic versions of his original wallpaper designs.