Design

Kaoi studio designs modular Ebba chairs based on Ettore Sottsass’ Memphis movement

This modular chair collection by Thai design studio Kaoi takes cues from the 1980s Memphis Group, featuring four graphic armrests that can be mixed and matched to offer different aesthetic “personalities”.

Designed in collaboration with THINKK studio, Kaoi’s Ebba chair collection is composed of three deckchair-style seats that can be brought to life with four variations of armrests.

The two Bangkok-based studios channelled the geometric lines that defined the 1980s Memphis movement founded by Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass.

Taking their titles after typically Danish names, the armrests – Han, Somma, Franz, and Mujoel – boast bold forms in the shape of squiggles, zigzags and arcs reminiscent of the confetti-like pattern called Bacterio that Sottsass designed in 1978.

The Memphis collective was born in 1980 during a meeting at Sottsass’ Milan apartment with fellow designers Michele de Lucchi, George Sowden, Martine Bedin, Nathalie Du Pasquier, Marco Zanini and Matteo Thun.

In founding Memphis, Sottsass’ intention was to define a new approach to design that broke free of the restrictions of functionalism.

The group’s name is allegedly taken from the 1966 Bob Dylan track titled Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, which was played throughout the group’s meeting.

“Each of the different styles was designed to portray a variety of personalities,” explained Kaoi studio. “From gentle, simple lines to super playful and fun curves.”

These shapes are paired with vibrant hues including buttercup yellow, midnight indigo, olive green and shiny chromium.

The designers found colour inspiration in a Philippe Starck quote: “You create your own decoration. You choose your colour, you choose your mood. If you are depressed, you put some bright yellow and suddenly you are happy.”

Each of the different components of the chair – its armrests, seat and pillow – can be mixed and matched according to the user’s personal taste.

“We wanted to create a design that would allow the customer to freely mix and match and recreate their own chair based on their individual personality, because we believe that design defines you better than you define yourself,” the studio told Dezeen.

This is the first time Kaoi, which was founded at the beginning of January 2020, has worked with Bangkok-based THINKK studio.

The Ebba chair collection was showcased as part of the THINKK Together exhibition that was held during Bangkok Design Week 2020, which tasked 21 designers with answering the question “Why do we need another chair?”.

THINKK studio has previously created a contemporary furniture collection called Made In Thailand, which is designed to “present an unorthodox overview of contemporary Thai design and manufacturing”.

Each of the nine furniture and homeware items boasts a modern and minimal aesthetic while still incorporating traditional manufacturing techniques and materials like bamboo and wicker.

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