The 1970s was a golden era for DIY furniture manuals. One of the best is Nomadic Furniture, a 1973 book by designers Victor Papanek and James Hennessy.
Papanek and Hennessy are gifted designers. Nomadic Furniture contains instructions for cardboard seats, bookshelves, lamps made from milk jugs, hexagonal dining sets as well as a two page hymn to the waterbed (ok, not sure about that thoughtstyling). The subtitle of the book sums it up, “how to build and where to buy lightweight furniture that folds, inflates, knocks down, stacks, or is disposable and can be recycled.” You can see more of their work thanks to a recent retrospective of their work in Vienna.
My favorite project in the book is the series of “knock-down living cubes” made from 2 x Douglas fir and plywood. There’s one for kids, one for work, another for entertaining (which features quadraphonic speakers!) and, my favorite, the relaxation cube.
To decorate our 1920s bungalow with furniture this kind of groovy furniture would be like taking grandma shopping at American Apparel–cool in a cognitive dissonance sort of way, but a bit too edgy to wrap my head around. A set of hexagonal stools, on the other hand, might make a nice addition to my new hexagonal garden beds.
Many thanks to Kendra for giving me a copy of this book. I should also note that there is a Nomadic Furniture 2 and 3. And you can watch a lecture by Hennessy: