July 1, 2006
Say Hello to My Little Friend
Kasper Salto’s table for Fritz Hansen responds to today’s mobile work habits.
With cell phones and laptops replacing traditional phone lines and unwieldy desktops, we can work from just about anywhere. But while technology (at least in theory) has liberated us from drab cubicles, furniture design has been slow to adapt to our roaming work habits. Enter the Little Friend, Kasper Salto’s space-conscious mobile workstation for Fritz Hansen (www.fritzhansen.com). “In the new IT world we are expected to be multitaskers, traveling more and taking more meetings,” Salto says. “It’s forcing us to work in airports, hotels, lounges—and, of course, at home.” Noting the steep increase in laptop sales, the Danish designer set about building a lightweight table that would accommodate a small computer and adjust to any seat height. “When you walk through an airport you see people sitting with laptops balanced on their knees or on their laps,” he says. “I don’t think we should spend those fragments of time burning our laps or hurting our backs.” Here Salto describes the features of his multifunctional table.
The table was inspired by The Helper, one of the characters in the Donald Duck cartoons, an inventive robot with a lightbulb for a head. It is meant to be a helping hand when you sit down to work, whether in a small hotel room or at home.
An air-gas mechanism allows you to adjust the height from 20 to 28 inches, which is normal table height, with only one press of a button.
The axis of the table is off center, so when you are sitting on your sofa or lounge chair you can have the tray close to your body.
The table is available in both white and black, but there are plans for other colors and materials, including perhaps molded rubber.
It took some time to perfect the mechanism inside because it should be powerful enough to lift a notebook but not too difficult to push down again.
The base is made out of injection-molded aluminum and the stand from chromed steel. The top is a compact laminate—a very hard material similar to but a little lighter and warmer than Corian.
The mobility of this lightweight table—it weighs about 11 pounds—is key, so we placed a handle in the tabletop as a visual cue.
In the early design stages I use a lot of paper, but then it becomes more technical. I have advanced 3-D software and a CNC milling machine, so I try to convince companies through prototypes rather than drawings. In the case of the Little Friend, I made four. As a trained cabinetmaker, it’s easy for me to make these models, plus it gives me a thrill to feel the materials and see the dimensions in real scale.