Designer David Graas doesn’t quite know how many configurations there are for his modular furniture system, "Everything but the Manual." He never thought he had to work them all out. Fair enough: That’s the job of the user.
His project promises that Everything has “the potential to be anything,” which is a lot of ambition packed into a wood block comprised of 260 thin oak pegs. The stick-like modules are riddled with holes on all sides and can be secured to one another with bolt and wing-nut connections.
The module’s dimensions--415 mm long and 26x26 mm wide--were determined by human proportions. Graas says he also factored in the standard sizing of everyday objects like laptops, books, and magazines, ensuring that whatever form the blocks take, the user will end up with a functional piece of furniture and not just a zany sculpture.
But a touch of the decorative isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Graas has produced a handful of building suggestions. Some of the forms the system can take don’t seem particularly functional, like the “lamp" that’s a towering heap of wood post-rationalized by the light bulb threaded through it. The “cuckoo clock” proves similarly artful as an elaborate pedestal for an antique objet.
Still, “dressing table” demonstrates how the jumble of wood can be coaxed into more purposeful configurations. Just as easily formed are a monitor stand, a basket, stools, and different sets of tables. For Graas, that kind of flexibility leaves a lot of room for personal interpretation, exactly what he thinks design should enable.
“Often I see designs where it’s pretty much the designer’s opinion what the perfect shape should be,” he tells Co.Design. “And you can’t really argue with that.”
Conversely, with Everything he says he “wanted to see how far I could step back” to let the user get behind the wheel. “When you’re giving shape to your own furniture, you’re actually taking control over your environment,” he says. By designing only the framework, Graas feels that he’s “leaving most of the decision-making to the people that will be using the objects.”
It’s an anti-Ikea message, where rather than the mass standardization practiced by the Swedish giant, Graas pushes for customization, where anyone with a few basic tools can actually design their own furniture--rather than finding themselves at a loss to assemble it.