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Behind The Scenes: Chicago Furniture Brand Stars in Divergent

Furniture from the sleek Chicago studio gets a closeup in the hit movie Divergent.
Strand Design in Divergent

Strand provided everything from dining room tables, benches, storage cabinets, stools and kitchen shelves to the window screens found on homes in the Abnegation village.

Divergent, the movie adaption of the young adult novel that dominated the box office this past weekend, is set in a dystopian Chicago where society is split into personality types. While that cheery setup may not necessarily scream high design, the filmmakers, which shot the movie in the Windy City last spring and summer, gave furniture from Strand, a celebrated local product design studio, a starring role.

Strand Design was approached by the filmmakers, who liked their aesthetic and wanted to feature their Tripod Stool. After seeing the piece and hearing about the studio's full capabilities, producers started asking Strand for more furniture, until the local studio was providing custom dining room tables, benches, storage cabinets, stools and kitchen shelves. You can see Strand-made window screens in many scenes within the film, and when the heroine, Tris, cuts her hair, you can see the company’s Tripod Stool in the background.

Considering the post-apocalyptic world of Divergent, where citizens are struggling to survive and don’t waste a thing, Strand’s wood sourcing made them a fitting choice. The company uses local ash from Horigan Urban Forest Products, much of which has been repurposed after the trees have been affected by the emerald ash borer.

“The idea of making use with what people have is a theme in the book,” says Strand co-owner and principal Sharon Burdett.

How did the company fell about being the furniture of choice for a society after the collapse, particularly the selfless Abnegation house? It’s actually a pretty fitting compliment, says Burdett, since that situation would call for a return to pieces made with solid, timeless design in mind.

“It’s like Shaker and Amish furniture, how it’s done just right,” she says. “It’s furniture built to last for a long time, that keeps enduring, that celebrate the richness of the grain and the surface finish.”

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