Wood is a truly amazing material which lends itself to a wide variety of manufacturing processes within architecture and design. It is strong, flexible, bendable, carvable, and so many other blank-ables that exceed my knowledge of the material. Wood can be recycled, reused, upcycled into variations on its original form to create sustainable pieces that are limited only by the designer’s imagination. Tom Raffield’s steam bent wood furniture has rekindled my crush on wood as a malleable, delicate material.
The Chaise Longue. Designed by Tom Raffield.
For anyone who’s ever steam bent wood, the capacity for wood to be bent and formed into surprisingly steep curves is impressive. I remember making snowshoes for an art project in elementary school in my garage with my dad; we soaked branches in hot water and slowly bent and secured them until they held their shape. Tom Raffield is a highly skilled wood steamer who spent years developing a process that allows him to create elegant, mind-bending furniture pieces from FSC certified wood. The Chaise Longue is the focus of this article for its delicate, sloth-like limbs that allow a person to drape themselves comfortably on a minimal amount of material.
“The Chaise Longue is my signature piece. It has proved to be an immense success over the years and has been sold to clients internationally. The Chaise Longue is as much a piece of art as it is a functional seat. It becomes a true showpiece in any environment, which demonstrates how wood can be used to make such complex yet beautiful 3D forms.”
Steam bending is environmentally friendly for its low-energy usage, hand-made manufacturing process, and low waste production. Tom Raffield uses no “nasty” glues or finishes, and designs with longevity of the piece in mind. The sustainability of a piece is as much related to its life span as to its material make-up, and the Chaise Longue is definitely a piece I would want to keep around for the long haul.