Matt Woods has set himself a challenge to create a chair that is as sustainable and cost effective to produce as it is beautiful.
Woods is not a designer who talks about sustainability, he is one who delivers sustainable design. “My clients want beautiful interiors and beautiful spaces and I want to give them that but there has to be a point where people step back and think. We just can’t keep giving people what they want or we are going to run out of stuff” says Woods. “I just don’t give people options with sustainable design and I’ve had the conversation about sustainability more in the last 12 months than in the last 10 years”.
One creation from Killing Matt Woods that exemplifies this mindset is what he has called his ‘Million Dollar Chair’. It’s a journey to design a piece of furniture that is as sustainable as possible but also affordable. His initial idea was to use straight runs of timber and even offcuts, joined by a custom coupling system “Almost working out how shop waste could be used to form a chair” he says of his start point. “When you have curvaceous forms there is so much waste and I wanted to examine the process and find out ways to minimise wastage whilst maintaining shape”.
The chair is an evolution of this first thought. The coupling system he had in mind has been replaced with a simple joint structure that makes the timber look almost moulded. The outcome is a chair that looks and feels completely different from other timber creations. The simple fluidity is accentuated by the grain of the American white oak that Woods selected for this design. It has been left raw and unfinished which is Woods’ preferred approach to timber in design. White oak is one of the most abundant in the US forests and, such is the responsible management and processing of this vast resource, when American white oak lumber arrives on Australian shores it is usually carbon negative. The Million Dollar chair was hand made by Jonathan West, which undoubtedly contributes in a significant way to minimising the carbon footprint of the piece.
Woods is now in conversation with the American Hardwood Export Council to conduct an environmental life cycle analysis of the design to quantify its environmental impact – could this chair be better than carbon neutral?
The Million Dollar Chair was created for Woods’ recent project, a renovation of a home on the central coast. He is currently refining the design and in the process of prototyping another. “It’s been great to learn about the challenges, how can we design it better to allow for less waste, to reduce the environmental impact but also make it more streamlined and cost effective. Who knows, maybe it will be just a one off and I’ll sell it for a million dollars”.