“It’s tough to come up with a chair that’s different,” says Richard Munao, founder and director of leading furniture, lighting and accessories brand Cult Design. “But when I saw the SIA chair I thought to myself, it does the same job as other chairs but it’s unique in its visual aesthetic and function.”
The SIA, designed by Sydney industrial designer Tom Fereday, is the striking winning entry in the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Design Award. Munao was one of the judges for the award and says the SIA stood out for its adjustable backrest: “That’s one of the unique selling propositions from our perspective, apart from its visual beauty. The function doesn’t affect the visual.”
Made from solid timber and a metal frame, Fereday’s chair features a unique bearing mechanism in the back to give it adjustability. “The brief I set myself was a compact, low profile chair that can fit into anyone’s home,” says Fereday. “But it doesn’t lose a sense of luxury.”
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz Design Award called for a design to enhance the dining experience at home, inside or out. The winner received mentorship from four Australian leaders in design, a trip to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany for inspiration, and the opportunity to have their design produced and brought to market as part of Cult’s premium NAU collection. Munao and Fereday have since been working together to produce the SIA.
Munao says the production process has been about expanding on Fereday’s raw prototype. “Going through development we’ve been talking to Tom quite a bit about the potential of the product, and how we could take it beyond how it was initially presented,” says Munao. “It’s exactly the same product, but now with different finishes.”
Fereday’s original design for the chair was solid ash stained black Japanese timber with a black stainless-steel frame. But it will now be offered to the public via Cult in an expanded range. “The core materials in the NAU collection are American timbers: walnut, oak, ash and black stain ash, then the frame will be offered in black or white,” says Fereday. There will also be an outdoor version with modified smoked oak wood on a stainless steel frame.
For Munao, the SIA chair will fit perfectly within the existing Cult family. “If you look at the Australian offerings we have, you’ve got the Strand Chair from Adam Cornish which has a metal frame with a plywood timber seat and back all-in-one,” he says. “Then we’ve got Adam Goodrum’s Molloy Chair, which is all in solid timber. The beauty of [the SIA chair] is it’s something in-between the two. It doesn’t take away from either of the current products we have in the Australian collection.”
Fereday’s winning Mercedes-Benz Design Award design is set to make waves beyond the Cult showrooms. From May 20–23 it will feature in Cult Design’s ICFF stand in New York, and in April will be showcased as part of the Local Milan collaboration at Milan Design Week, where it will appear in a limited edition series of five pieces with a cast aluminium seat and back.
The budding collaboration may yet prove further fruitful. “Tom’s a very talented designer and I think this is probably the pinnacle of his work [so far],” says Munao. “I can see the SIA becoming a barstool. I can see the family growing. Hopefully we can help him to push [his forthcoming design] boundaries like he has on this chair.”
25 of the first editions of the SIA chair go on sale from March 26 from Cult Design in a combination of American timbers: oak, ash, walnut, and black stain ash, with a black steel frame. Each piece will be packaged in a drawstring bag and fitted with a custom first edition plaque. Samples will be available to view in Cult’s Sydney and Melbourne showrooms.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with the Mercedes-Benz Design Award. The SIA chair is on sale March 26 as part of Cult Design’s NAU collection.
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