July 1, 2007
The Splinter bench was inspired by the ups and downs of romantic relationships.
Stylistic variations aside, a bench is usually just a bench. But Canadian designer Matthew Kroeker has brought new versatility and aesthetic range to the old seating standard. Called Splinter, his teak two-seater consists of two sculptural side chairs, each with a smooth and a jagged side—as if they have been broken apart, or “splintered,” from each other. When joined at their serrated ends, they fit together like puzzle pieces to form a sleek contemporary-looking bench. They can also be arranged to join along their smooth sides, creating a lounger with rough-hewn edges for an Arts and Crafts feel.
Kroeker says Splinter is not only a piece of industrial design but also an object rich in symbolism. In the bench’s versatility, he sees a figurative expression of the ebb and flow of romantic relationships. “They’re always in flux—breaking apart and coming back together,” he says. “So depending on the day, you can nestle the chairs closer or pull them to opposite ends of the room.” After winning Metropolis’s best-prototype award at Toronto’s Interior Design Show last year, Splinter is now available through Jane Hamley Wells (www.janehamleywells.com). Here Kroeker describes the key features of his design.
Splinter was the original working title, and I was surprised it stuck. It’s quite literal—when you break a stick or a piece of wood, you get splintered ends—but it also describes the visual approach to the whole design.
The original brackets for the back were cast aluminum, and very complicated and expensive to make. The manufacturer came up with a technique of fastening stainless-steel bars to the wood boards without exposed screw heads. It’s quite ingenious.
I like leaving the chairs slightly apart because the negative space between them makes the design pop. The bench version is a little more subtle and probably less practical than the side chairs.
I didn’t want anything to distract from the seat and back, so the stainless-steel legs are quite sparing. It’s the next best thing to having the bench just hover above the ground.
The proportions of the two chairs, separate and combined, were very important. Though the bench is small, it’s big enough for two people to sit comfortably apart and away from the jagged edges.
The bench is teak because it wears well outdoors, but I don’t want it to be seen only as a piece of garden furniture. The wood is responsibly harvested, either plantation-grown or from a managed forest.