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Seven easy pieces

May 08, 2003|David A. Keeps | Special to The Times

In recognition of the cold, hard fact that not all handymen are created equal, designers have begun to produce stylish, functional pieces that are easier to put together than most children's toys.

These smartly designed, idiot-proof furnishings don't require a single tool: They simply slide, snap, pop, click into shape. In just about the same amount of time it takes to watch a sitcom, you can make all seven of them.

Best of all, they look great: Each is a beautiful piece regardless of its almost absurd simplicity. Instead of the generic, sometimes cut-rate look of decor-in-a-box, these are sophisticated designs with whimsical references to Bauhaus, Pop and Op Art.

"Building furniture should be more like fun than work," says self-confessed "Rubik's Cube nerd" Chris Baisa, whose Gridloc table looks so outrageously intricate in its finished state, it's hard to imagine you don't have to know even the first thing about furniture building to make it.

Nor do you have to know origami to fold into shape Benza's Zago cardboard trash cans or Blu Dot's colorful powder-coated steel CD rack, or lamp-making to set up the Jasmine 24, a swinging '60s, artichoke-styled lighting fixture constructed from pre-cut pieces.

Just two simple slotted pieces form the base of Josh Owen's XOX side table with a two-tone flip top and Todd St. John's magazine rack for HunterGatherer, so winning a design it was selected to be in the current Cooper-Hewitt National Design Triennial exhibition in New York.

So was the Neo Amish chair created by SuperHappyBunny, a collective started by five graduates of Pasadena's Art Center College.

Their avowed goal to take routine activities and brighten them up is clearly evidenced in the "tool" that comes with the chair kit: Just insert a soup can in the center of a wooden paddle and pound away.

With stopwatch in hand, we assembled all seven pieces and never had a frustrating moment.

How could we, in just 31 minutes, 13 seconds?

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