An Elegant, Ultra-Lightweight Redesign Of The Standard Stacking Chair

3-D veneer technology is giving chair designers a way to reinvent the classics.

Stackable chairs drudge up memories of cafeterias, or maybe events held in high school gyms. They’re typically clunkier, heavier, and more orange than they need to be. The Buzz chair, which made its debut at the Milan Furniture Fair, has none of those problems. Netherlands-based Studio Bertjan Pot designed the Buzz, for Dutch furniture brand, Arco to be as lightweight possible, ditching dense plastic for a paper-light seat made of wooden veneer.


Until recently, opting for the style and warmth of a real wood chair meant choosing seriously heavy furniture. By the same hand, wooden veneer has suffered a longstanding reputation for cheapness. Now, 3-D veneer technology means that more precise forms can be crafted from all-natural materials, like beech or oak (seen here, on the Buzz). “Normal veneer only curves in one direction at a time,” Bertjan Pot tells Co.Design. This veneer, “is more flexible and can curve in two directions at the same time and is more ‘3D.'” The technology works like this: Rather than mold an entire sheet of wooden veneer into the proper seat shape–it would crack under the pressure–the material is sliced into spaghetti-thin strips during manufacturing. The strips are meticulously pieced back together in production so that the grain matches. It looks the same to the naked eye, but the composite structure means that the seat has a new found flexibility, and can take on a more bodacious bend. For the Buzz, that means a snug and economical fit around its aluminum chair legs.

Bertjan Pot isn’t the first studio to use 3-D veneer technology: Last year, Herman Miller introduced the iconic Eames Molded Chair in a wooden veneer. Half a century ago, the deep cradle of that classic was especially difficult to draft in a wooden expression. Thanks to the new technology it worked, and the trend is taking off. Which is good news for high-school graduations everywhere.

About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.