UTE Bench
Furniture Design
Project Overview
Designed and commissioned for a young couple who recently adopted kittens, the Ute Bench seeks to hide messy (stinky) litterboxes, and boast a multi-functioning bench. A Ute is a utility vehicle, and this bench plays the part with it's dynamic use cases.
My Contributions
Design, building and final touches were done by Natalie Schaake and I. With the helpful insight from our clients, we created a bench that didn't look like a kitty liter station.
The Problem
After building and posting pictures of the JUN Chair (check it out if you haven't already), Natalie and I received lots of commission requests for specific pieces of furniture that solve specific human issues. This is one of those pieces, a young couple reached out to us wanting a handmade piece of sustainable furniture. One that hid the mess of their incoming kittens and their liter. They wanted one place to be able to place all of their more ugly kitten supplies. Real wood was a must, and a unique design that fit liter boxes while leaving open space for the kittens to get in and out and around the bench was another big consideration.
Modeling the Bench for Our Clients
What became abundantly clear when we started work on this project, was that visuals were key to explaining our design ideas. After creating tons of mood boards and generating a direction with our clients, Natalie decided to model the entire bench to give our clients a dynamic view of the bench before it is built. This allowed us to view the bench in 3D, viewing all the angles with the clients and getting feedback. This also assisted me in building the bench, as I then had measurements to work off, with only small tweaks.
Thoughtful Touches
Because this bench is not just for the new kittens, it needs to also act as a functioning piece of furniture. And as anyone who has sat on a solid bench knows, it isn't comfortable. This is where our blanket experience came in to aid the design. The 3 large holes in the top of the bench not only allow for breathing room of the kittens, but also act as the multi-functioning benchtop that holds our custom made scrap blanket. This means you can sit on the bench with a custom blanket cushion, or hang the blanket as a place to store it. Or even, let the kittens play with the hanging ends of the blanket.
Happy Customer(s)
The two stars of the show, enjoying the bench in ways we weren't expecting. With the liter boxes below!
The UTE Bench
A multi-functioning kitty liter holder, bench, and sustainable furniture piece.
Reflecting on the project
This project was a blast, and really emphasized the importance of client/designer relationships. We had great clients, who were willing to experiment at every step of the way. We met little to not resistance, unless it regarded a design decision that impacted their user experience. This was great and goes to show that giving clients an interactive experience, greater helps their understanding.
If I were to do this again, I would strongly push for laser cutting the template that made the holes on the top of the bench. In addition, I would want to experiment with potentially using dominoes to join the piece, rather than two dowels in each joint. Lastly, I would love to experiment with other wood species, as a stronger type of wood would most likely yield a better more stable end product!