Can Your Chairs Be Practical And Attractive?

Can Your Chairs Be Practical And Attractive?
Cutting-edge furniture design looks great, but can you design a great-looking chair that does more than just let you sit on it? Lifehacker hits the Rigg Contemporary Design Awards to find out.

At Lifehacker, we’re very much about the practical, but that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate good design as well. Many of our featured workspaces make the cut because they manage to combine efficiency and attractiveness. However, a quick wander through any swanky furniture store often leaves the impression that modern designers are often more concerned with making a “statement” than with designing something useful.

With that conundrum in mind, I recently visited the Cicely and Colin Rigg Contemporary Design Award exhibition in Melbourne, which this year is themed around “seat furniture design” (translation: chairs and lounges). The exhibition runs in Melbourne at the National Gallery of Victoria until the end of August, or you can check out a virtual panorama online.

All the featured “seat furniture” looks great, but a handful of items also had particular practical possibilities for Lifehacker-style office revamps. Buying a designer piece like this is quite probably out of your budget, but you might pick up a few ideas that you can apply using cheaper pieces and a little ingenuity. Here’s a few of the designs and some thoughts around them.

Flow Lounge

Chris Connell’s Flow Lounge looks like the ideal complement for a workspace designed around the typically Apple white/minimalist aesthetic. My inner pragmatist can’t help wondering how long before that shiny surface would get scratched in use, but then that applies to shiny notebooks too.


Like Lego, Joseph Keenan’s Vertibrat can slot together in a number of ways: in the picture, it’s been turned into a lounge, but you can also pull it apart to make chairs or stack it to make work surfaces. The same logic underlies most cube-style furniture arrangements, though it’s not always straightforward to keep them locked together if you’re trying to build a desk.

Y Knot Chair

I’m in two minds about Jacqueline Ying Jun Lin’s Y Knot. On the one hand, all that string suggests intriguing cable management possibilities, and you could stack magazines in the back. On the other hand, I can’t help wondering if it could take my weight. (Visitors to the NGV are not encouraged to sit on the chairs, I might add.)


If Vertibrat is evocative of Lego, Lucas Chirnside’s Polytopia puts me in mind of nothing so much as a monochrome version of Rubik’s snake. The same basic principle applies to both designs: you can rearrange them in a number of ways, which is a sensible and practical option for spaces like lounge home offices (though Chirnside’s design statement is hysterically over the top).

And finally . . .

Yes, this is a striking-looking lounge. But all I keep thinking is “how are you supposed to keep all those crevices clean?”

Cicely and Colin Rigg Contemporary Design Award

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