Functional, Flexible & Fun Furniture

An opportunity to participate on Carnegie Mellon University's Solar Decathlon (2007) team, brought about challenges in furniture design.

Per competition requirements, a self-sufficient solar house was to be designed, assembled, disassembled, shipped to Washington D.C., and reassembled for grading.


Specific criteria kept the total sq. ft. rather low. As a result, the spaces within the house, and the furniture within - were considered multi-function. Couches that turned into dinner tables, end-tables that served as battery storage, and chairs that turned into art.

The dFlat, is a multi-purpose chair: hanging as wall-art, but capable of being folded into a chair, or a chair + table combo.



Chairs are functional products, utilized for various situations. In what way can we create multi-purpose furniture without sacrificing space.


Chairs are used for sitting. Typically, as an auxiliary tool for specific tasks or occasions such as eating, working or relaxing. Traditionally, these situations require other auxiliary items, such as tables, desks, or electronics. As a result, dedicating space for seating becomes increasingly space selfish. Work areas require desks and electronics, eating areas require large tables, and relaxing areas require comfort in the form of artwork, candles, end-tables, etc.


Traditionally, furniture has its dedicated space. Mobility, however, allows for an item to be transported to different locations, thus serving its purpose in multiple areas - instead of just one.


Save space by finding ways to combine functional elements into one. Chair + Table combinations encourage constant use for various necessary tasks. Alternately, finding ways in which the chair might include desirable elements, improves spatial look and appeal.



Create a chair that saves space, rather than taking it.


Chair should be easily relocated within the home.


Find ways to incorporate necessary and desirable elements.


Create a folding chair that maintains its primary function while serving as a multi-purpose resource when in use, but easily transforms into a work of art when stored.


Joint Movement

Every joint has the can rotate 90 degrees. Flexible joints, allow for multiple configurations.



The back of the chair may fold into a table configuration, allowing for use as a dry-erase surface, paper form note-taking, reading or meal surface.


Aesthetic Appeal

Additional features include decorative panels on every face of the chair. When the chair is unfolded into a flat configuration, it may be hung as wall-art; encouraging ambiance within the space.


Storage & Function

Furniture can be unfolded into flat configuration as hanging wall-art, eliminating its entire footprint from floor space to wall space. The chair's function is improved, by including a pseudo-table space; unfortunately sacrificing comfort.


Iteration #1 was completed as a set of (5) in Carnegie Mellon University's "Plug and Play" house for the Solar Decathlon in 2007. It proved overly popular with the judges and several visitors. After gathering input, Iteration #2 eliminated all fasteners (except joint rotation bolts), and improved upon the concept overall.


Iteration #2 maintains the original concept's flexible joints. Requiring (8) sex-bolts and (16) plastic washers, the chair-back effortlessly folds into a table configuration when necessary.


Iteration #1 required each piece to be run through a planer, cut-to-size & milled before assembly began. Laser cutting & engraving each acrylic panel also added to the this (7)hr process. These concerns were addressed in Iteration #2; which replaced all pre-assembly processes with a CNC Router, eliminated all fasteners & cut-down on weight. Replacing laser engraved acrylic with custom acrylic prints also helped in cutting complete assembly time down to (35)mins/chair.


Iteration #1 & 2 retained the ability to fold completely flat. With decorative panels installed, users understood (without encouragement) the logical next step of hanging the item on the wall. Weight, was the only concern in Iteration #1, where some users noted the (22)lb chair, was heavy to lift & hang. Iteration #2 cut weight by half without sacrificing strength or structural integrity.


P. Zach Ali: Concept, Design, Images, Manufacturing, Production & Assembly.



Acrylic Panels were integrated into the frame. Each panel received a laser engraved leaf pattern. 



The primary structure of the chair can be made from any lumber product that has long-grain qualities (oak) or plywood (Russian Birch). Solid metals increase weight & (sometimes) cost. Alternately, tubular/hollow aluminum may cut weight, while increasing manufacturing cost. Plastics were ruled out strictly over materiality.



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©2017 BY P. ZACH ALI