What began as a sparsely furnished store, soon evolved into a explosion of whimsy cardboard furniture, origami art, corrugated toys, and a collection of creations made by the Chairigami community. I wanted to build a place that was inclusive and welcoming to everyone, one that was a catalyst for unique friendships and inspired curiosity for the ways things worked.
Through talking to students, parents, kids, office managers, and teachers, I discovered how furniture guided behavior- a medium to intentionally shape the culture and relationships in a space. Each piece was a living breathing work in progress, continually molded and rethought through each customer visit. Because cardboard is such a familiar and accessible medium, the Chairigami community could be included in the furniture design process, allowing them to freely share honest feedback and wacky yet brilliant suggestions, and have a sense of ownership in the product and store.
I had the opportunity to co-design with customers, building pieces that addressed their unique needs. A mother-daughter team arrived in the Chairigami store in need of a low-cost, flat packing bed for a college dorm. Together we designed a bed with a minimum number of parts that was portable and easily assembled, supporting her in the next four nomadic years of college.
A Girl Scout troupe needed a pop-up cookie stand that could draw a crowd and hold up to several seasons of cookie-selling. After a brainstorming session with the girls, we hacked the Chairigami desk to provide good storage for cookie boxes and an overhead sign that would entice customers. I also collaborated with a local student bakery start-up to customize the stand with tiered shelving for baked goods and a side table for food prep.
A local elementary school teacher, inspired by a recent field trip to a Shakespeare play, wanted to create amphitheater seating for her classroom. Together we fused two chairigami sofas to build double-decker seating that challenged typical classroom organization creating a more dynamic and intimate atmosphere for learning.
Through several iterations, the Chairigami store became a fixture in New Haven, landing articles in the New Haven Register, Hartford Currant, and CNN as well as becoming the home of a family of New Haven makers, artists, and tinkerers. The store was the foundation for the Chairigami website which has grown to offer 30 different unique, made to order, cardboard furniture designs that drop-ship from our Connecticut warehouse to anywhere in the United States. From 10 chairs a month to 200 chairs a month, the Chairigami store now caters to thousands of customers from the cloud.