Modular cork stool concept offers sustainable seating by turning into a bench

Sitting is an important part of our daily lives, so it’s not unusual to see different kinds of seating furniture around places where people stay or pass through. Unfortunately, it’s hard to predict when you’d need a single chair or a multi-person bench, so spaces tend to either put multiple chairs together or have a few benches and force people to sit together. That strategy does work, at least until the situation changes and you need to change seats, which often means buying new seats and discarding the old ones. This minimalist stool concept tries to offer a more sustainable solution that helps reduce waste by turning two stools into a single bench and back again, depending on the need.

Designers: Erika Avery, Stu Cole

The requirements for a stool, chair, or bench are pretty simple. At the very least, it needs to be stable enough to support the weight of a human person sitting on it without toppling over or collapsing. Comfort is, of course, ideal, but some designs seem to forego that in exchange for other capabilities. It’s arguable that the “unknown” stool concept is one of these designs, though its modular nature leaves that open to interpretation and implementation.

The core element of this concept is the sturdy column made of cork, a sustainable and easily acquired material. It’s a single cylinder that makes up the center of the stool, but its secret lies in a smaller circle that connects to a removable seat with a hole in its center. It’s a simple system that requires no screws, extra parts, or complex mechanisms, which means maintenance, repair, and replacement will be just as simple as well.

That seat can, in theory, be anything, though the simple shapes of a square and a circle immediately come to mind. However, that doesn’t limit it to a single symmetrical shape either, since you can have a long rectangular seat with holes on each end, forming a bench when set on top of two cork columns. In fact, the design of the actual furniture is determined by the shape of that removable seat, and it can be as simple or as complex as needed.

The concept doesn’t exactly define what the seat has to be made of, so it can use wood, metal, plastic, or any other material. It can be bare or it can have some cushioning or upholstery to add a bit of comfort. More importantly, the seats can be changed, repaired, or replaced without throwing away the cork core, or vice versa. It’s a simple yet effective design that limits the waste of fixed chairs and stools while leaving the door open for combinations that deliver what’s needed at any given time.