Call it the most elegant DIY project in recent memory. KEM Studio, a Kansas City-based architecture and industrial design studio, has won the 2016 Eames Good Design Challenge, an annual competition in which a Mid-Century Modern design classic by Charles and Ray Eames is given a novel makeover. Sponsored by Herman Miller and the John A. Marshall Company, the contest, which ultimately benefits a charity (the winning design was auctioned off to benefit the Ronald McDonald House), presents an opportunity for designers to use their ingenuity to breathe new life into one of the most recognized chairs of the last half century—and to do it in a way that expresses both style and comfort.
KEM Studio’s winning design was was brilliant for its simplicity and grace. For Jonathon Kemnitzer, KEM Studio co-founder and principal, the solution was as simple as drilling holes into the chair’s one-piece body, and threading strands of wool felt through them, creating a latticework of cushioning that acts as both decoration and upholstery. Easier said than done, of course. Cheap knockoffs had to be sacrificed during the experimentation process, until the desired hole size and exact pattern of weaving were arrived upon. “The hardest part was working with such a classic chair,” Kemnitzer says. “We didn’t want to screw it up.” Not a chance.