Pless Prototype Featured in Cologne Exhibit

A chaise lounge prototype by Peter Pless (Art and Design) was featured in the “Fabulous 50” exhibit at the 2008 International Furnishing Show in Cologne, Germany.

The annual week-long event showcases the work of established design stars and creative newcomers whose creations – ranging from production-ready designs to blue-sky speculative concepts – represent the “interiors of tomorrow.” Pless was one of only two Americans selected for the exhibit.

His orange “Comp Chaise Lounge” has two wedge-shaped cushions that can be stored underneath or rotated into various positions for tasks and relaxation. Each cushion can serve as a head rest, leg rest or table. Pless submitted his design for the juried exhibition via the Web.


“Once it was accepted, I had a three-month time frame to build a full-scale prototype,” Pless said. “I had a local upholstery company order the fabric and a Chicago company cut it to specifications. It was a challenge to work under that time constraint and quite an investment to develop the prototype and ship it to Germany.


“My goal wasn’t to sell pieces I would make myself, but to find a European manufacturer. I made a couple of promising contacts and I hope they follow through. The European market is very good for design. As I tell my students, you need to have the ability to craft items by hand, but as a designer you also need to be aware of the manufacturing processes so your design isn’t compromised in an effort to produce quantities in a cost-effective manner.


As outlined in the CD press kit he created – all 20 of which were snapped up by the second day – Pless abided by the eco-friendly “cradle to cradle” concept. His design is composed of materials that are all re-purposed or recycled so the chaise can be disassembled and recycled after use.


The fabric is 100 percent wool felt colored with natural dyes in a process that does not involve heavy metals. The BioFlex hybrid foam cushions are made of soybean oil-based materials that reduce the amount of petroleum required. The remaining components are aluminum legs, which are anodized for strength and durability, and a plywood support beneath the main body cushion.


Pless had visited a design showcase in Milan last year as a spectator before joining the ranks of exhibitors in Cologne. He hopes to display another piece at a New York City event in May.


“All of these experiences are valuable – not only to my own professional development, but in terms of the insight I’m able to share with my human-centered design students about the design process and the market for these items. I always find things to bring back and share in the classroom.”


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Updated: February 15, 2008

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