As an undergraduate at Yale, Zach Rothholz began to experiment with a corrugated material called triple ply: “like regular cardboard, but 3 layers thick, like plywood, but a fifth of the weight.”
“I was a mechanical engineer so I decided to embrace like college kids have furniture that’s really, really heavy and it’s hard for them to store it and I started thinking about like, LEGO for furniture would be really really cool.” For his senior project he created a cardboard chair that could transform into a coffee table and a stacking shelf. “The idea was to create a central unit that could be reconfigurable and could be made into any of the 3 furniture parts in your college dorm.”
Today, Rothholz has an entire line of cardboard furniture that he sells out of a storefront in New Haven, Connecticut. Chairigami may be the country’s only cardboard furniture store and Rothholz has created a cardboard copy of nearly every piece in a conventional home/office: chairs, desks, tables, sofas, benches, stools, arm chairs, standing desks, and even a bunk bed and a giant hamster wheel for people.
The seventies design classic “Nomadic Furniture” inspired Rothholz to make things from his environment: “to take the materials you have around you and make functional furniture”. He hopes his own furniture will inspire people to think about design and how the things around them are constructed.
Working with cardboard gives him the freedom to continually invent and improve upon his designs (his most recent addition to his line is a standing desk). “I think it’s really important to be continually designing and iterating and making new things. If you’re like nervous about making new things and you have to send off designs to China, it kind of obstructs the design process. Cardboard it affords trial and error and design mockups.”