This Modern Chair is Made from a Whopping 220 Feet of Rope

This Modern Chair is Made from a Whopping 220 Feet of Rope

By Diana Budds
The Harbor Chair from Oregon-basedPhloem Studio is a collaboration between Ben Klebba and his father. Made with 220 feet of polypropylene rope, which is often found in sailing or climbing gear, it has an intricately woven seat and a sturdy wood frame. Read other American design stories in our May 2015 issue, on newsstands now.

What was it like working with your father on this project? 

Designer Ben Klebba worked with his father, a former furniture maker, on the design of the Harbor Chair.

I love working with dad. Dad actually works for me part time—he and my mom moved out to Hood River, Oregon, from Michigan a few years back. He taught construction trades at a technical center for high school kids for 20 years, built the house I grew up in, had a furniture business when I was a little kid, and built wooden sailboats. He's responsible for so much that's happened with Phloem.

"I grew up sailing on Lake Huron in boats my dad built," Klebba says. "The rope evokes that memory for me. It's polypropylene, the same kind of rope they use for sailing line—it's so strong. The use of a clean, modern, contemporary rope is very much an aesthetic decision as well."

I've wanted to make a woven-rope seat for a while now—I love the size and the tactile nature of it. It feels good, too—it's soft, but firm. It seemed like a natural jump from mid-century seats woven in Danish cord or Shaker furniture woven with cotton tape—but the rope we use has a much more contemporary look and feel than either of those mediums. 

It takes approximately four hours of handiwork to weave the chair's seat.

Dad made loads of Shaker-inspired furniture when I was a kid. When we talked about using rope, the weave pattern came to him quickly from having a lot of cane-weaving experience. The chair has this simplicity that makes me remember the type of furniture Dad built when I was a kid. This chair has that memory of home for me.

A version of the chair with a wraparound armrest, called the Captains Chair, will debut at ICFF 2015.

How did your father's work influence your own career? 

Dad used to make quite a bit of Shaker-inspired furniture and also some classic Windsor chair reproductions. I grew up sweeping his woodshop floor, and sanding and making Adirondack deck chairs in the summer for extra cash, but I didn't really take to it as a kid. It wasn't until my late 20s that it made sense as a career. We were a very creative family. We were always taught to appreciate beautiful handcrafted things and the work and effort involved to make something right and make it last for a long time.  

The engineering abilities in his brain definitely take over when he sees a weak chair joint. It's important for him (and me) to go that extra distance to get it right. We've scrapped fully completed chair prototypes and started from scratch because we both didn't like the back angle. He stresses the importance of keeping things simple in all ways.  


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