What Nike's Flyknit technology does for your feet, Benjamin Hubert of U.K. design consultancy Layer wants to do for your butt and your back. Alongside the contemporary home furniture brand Moroso, Hubert has created a pair of attractive new chair designs that apply the same design principle behind the use of 3-D knits in high-performance footwear to the living room.
His Cradle collection was born out of Hubert's frustration with the visual heaviness of most living room furniture. "The thick, heavy blocks of foam wrapped in textiles seem like such a dated approach [to furniture design]," Hubert says. Instead, he wanted to create a living room chair with the same sort of light material efficiency as Herman Miller's Aeron chair, which uses a highly breathable technical knit stretched across a light frame to support the back.
The Cradle family comprises a high-back chair, a low-back chair, and a room-dividing screen. Each is made of a lightweight aluminum frame, stretched through a three-dimensional knitted textile. Woven using similar 3-D knitting technology used by Nike's Flyknit, the textile is both supportive and elastic. This isn't just any textile, though: When you sit in one of the chairs, apertures that are specially knitted into the pattern of the fabric open up, allowing your lower back or head to comfortably sink into those areas—while the rest of the knit offers support.
Hubert admits the focus of the collection is the chairs, but calls the room divider an "easy win." It's still quite beautiful, though. Using the same textile as the Cradle chairs, the screen is slightly transparent, and has hinges knitted into the weave of the fabric to allow the screen to fold.
Although the Cradle chairs have an undeniable aesthetic appeal, the benefit of using a 3-D knitted textile isn't just visual. Because most of the chair's surface area is made up of a thin weave stretched around a metal frame, the chairs needs only a fraction of the material of other chairs to handle the same weight and support. In addition to the material efficiency, it's also easier to clean, and costs less to manufacture.
"There's a lot of talk about smart furniture in the industry right now, but you don't need to put circuits in your furniture to make it smarter," says Hubert. "I think using less to do more is an even better way to make furniture smarter."