Modular Furniture System (UC Capstone Project)

Hello everyone.

I’m currently completing my final semester at the University of Cincinnati, and would love to receive some feedback on my Capstone project.

I’m designing a modular furniture system that is able to adjust and grow with the owner’s lifestyle and needs. Below you will find renders of my current design, along with some more information about the concept. I envision that the parts will be offered in a multitude of colors and finishes (the renders show just one color/finish combination).

I’m seeking feedback on the following topics:

  1. Do you see a space in the market for this system?
  2. Without actually being able to try out the system, do you feel that it will be easy to re-configure?
  3. Aesthetically, do you feel that the system is cohesive and resolved?

    Thank you!

I think the look is cohesive - quite utilitarian.

However, the main problem I see is the modularity aspect. Why do the parts need to be interchangeable? Tables need coffee table, dining table and bar heights where as the chairs need a standard chair height and possibly a bar stool height. The only overlap I see is with the dining table legs that might be the right height for a bar stool.

Otherwise, I think the modularity, especially with the system envisioned would drive the cost up astronomically and would probably not be used much. I think there is a place for a furniture set with a cohesive look that is easy to disassemble but I’m not sure modularity is needed. I’m also not too keen on the system used to attach the legs to the supports.

Also, why did you choose cork for the seats? It seems like it wouldn’t allow you to slide on the seat and possibly get quite hot.

Sorry for the negativity. Maybe having more background on your process would help us understand where you’re going with this.

Functionally this seems very sound. A few questions to get you thinking:

  1. Time. If this growth of the user happens over a period of years, will this brand, or this exact line still be in production? What if they move in with someone and they have their own stuff?

  2. Style. The project doesn’t take into account how someone’s sense of style evolves over time. I’m 38 now. I don’t like a lot of the same stuff from when I was 28. My tastes have refined.

  3. Materials. Over the past 20 years I’ve lived in East Coast side hall colonial walk ups, to a new spec home in the burbs, to a catholic school converted into loft condos in Cambridge, to a an urban apartment in SF, to a modest home in SoCal. While my variance is probably wider than the average. The materials my furniture was on has varied so greatly, in some cases it called for new furniture. All of our places had wood floors for example until now. Until now we compensated for the wood floors with very sleek, Modern (capital M) furniture. Chrome, metal, leather… now that we live in a modern place with concrete floors, lots of windows… that furniture just made the place look like a museum. Utterly uninviting. We’ve switched over to a mode mid-century Eames/Danish modern look.

Technology: how does it integrate with TV’s and other entertainment equipment (Blueray player, Apple TV, maybe some really nice Polk speakers :slight_smile: ) and also future proof around changes here.

First world problems indeed, but things to think about.

Overall it is a nice project, but it seems very safe. Not adventurous enough for a capstone in my opinion. Push beyond the expected.


Thank you for the feedback.

My whole project is based on the idea of modularity. The idea is that your furniture can change and grow, you don’t need to get rid of it if your needs change. If you move into a new apartment and no longer have room for your old coffee table, you can use it’s parts to create something else. Do you feel that this idea doesn’t hold any weight as a concept?

I understand that people may not actually use the system to it’s full potential. My goal is to make it incredibly easy to configure, with the hope of promoting use.

Do you have any suggestions for attaching the legs? I’m working on a new lock mechanism that is similar to the one shown, but the internals are different.

I chose cork for its natural, soft, inviting properties. I don’t think it would inhibit sliding any more than, say, an upholstered fabric or suede seat cushion. I feel that it’s underutilized as a seating material, although there have been a few nice examples (Lars Beller for Discipline, Ilse Crawford for IKEA).


Thanks for your reply.

The idea isn’t that you would furnish your entire living space with my system. I’ve tried to make it appealing without being overpowering, so that it will mesh well with existing furniture in a space (or your partner’s space, as you mentioned).

Long-term, I see this as a system that can be expanded upon with additional parts. New LEGO pieces work with pieces made 30 years ago, but there are way more pieces now than there were 30 years ago. What I have shown is the initial design, but I see room for new parts down the road that could still work with parts that I have shown. I’ve thought about developing a whishbone seat back for dining, alternative table shapes, etc.

I hope that by offering additional parts down the road, and a multitude of colors and finishes, this system could appeal to varying or changing tastes.

The whole concept to me is a great one. But it doesn’t seem that your really exploring what Modular means.

Sure a few different legs heights is cool. But I can go to Ikea and buy different size legs and bolt them to a surface to get a dining table, coffee table, or a bench.

You really need to push it more. Your seat back attachment it the only truly modular piece. Everything else is just too basic to hold much weight. Sure you’ll offer different colors and materials. But thats a given.

Cork is cool, but that could be any other material and it would be the same. What about cork makes it unique to this concept? Does it add anything other than visual appeal?

What about other pieces of Furniture. Lamps, Entertainment, Storage, Lounges, Sofas?

This to me is a clever modular piece.

Your concept is much how they tackle Corporate furniture systems right now. But much much more basic. Maybe explore those areas and see how it could be downscaled for the home.


I’ve thought about developing a whishbone seat back for dining, alternative table shapes, etc.

I hope that by offering additional parts down the road, and a multitude of colors and finishes, this system could appeal to varying or changing tastes.

I’ve thought, I hope, down the road…This is your capstone. 5 years of blood, sweat and tears. Don’t hold anything back now.

I would suggest taking a look at why so many similar proposed systems have failed in the past. This idea of reconfigurable furniture made from basic elements is proposed frequently, always gets a lot of attention on blogs or kickstarter, and yet has never done anything in the marketplace. Why?

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You’ve obviously spent more time thinking about this modularity than me, having a few use cases would be interesting. It’s not obvious to me how much overlap there is between the parts.

I guess my skepticism comes mainly from the lock mechanism. I’m not very familiar with quarter-turn lock mechanism but have you looked if it could be secure enough for a table and not require too much torque when installing? But my main problem is the cost. You have large casted aluminium parts that are machined to a tight tolerance for the quarter-turn lock to work and is then welded on each leg. Right now, it seems to me like a stark furniture set that’s also very functional. At least for home use, I’d imagine the demand for it might be in a lower price range. Maybe something a bit more inline with the Corner module Sain posted.

I’ve looked up the cork examples, it does seem better than I imagined. I had a cork pin board in front of me when I wrote my initial response and it didn’t see to inviting :laughing: . Have you looked at lacquered cork like the type used for flooring? It might be a bit more durable.

Any updates?

Hello everyone,

Thanks again for your feedback and interest in my project.

It’s been a while since I’ve logged on here, but I just wanted to give an update on how everything turned out.

I ended up calling it GRO, and you can view the finished project on my site: