INSTANT FURNITURE – Introduction to self-design

Saper Fare [Home Edition]


Introduction to self-design

by Jacopo Menzani for mòno and Canificio

Finding one’s bearings in the world of ‘design’ may not be easy, but whether we like it or not, every time we enter that famous Swedish department store, or a flea market, or a designer furniture store, we make choices that not only have economic implications, but environmental and social consequences as well.


This subject has been debated for over a century — practically since the birth of mass production — and this article is not the place to delve further into such a nuanced topic. We will, however, briefly review four 20th-century designers’ analyses.

Enzo Mari

Enzo Mari is the most eminent voice on the subject at hand. His entire research is dedicated to the social aspect of design.

He developed a series of furniture designed to be made using ‘poor’ materials, such as a hammer, wood, and nails. By constructing the objects ourselves, we come to understand more deeply how these pieces are made and what the process implies.

The book Autoprogettazione? by Enzo Mari (Ed. Corraini, 2002) is an absolute must-read: Mari illustrates his theory and provides detailed explanations of how to assemble objects he designed.


Video instructions for the assembly of "Chair 1" featuring Enzo Mari himself.


A leading exponent of the De Stijl movement, Rietveld designed the ‘Crate’ chair and coffee table in 1935, perhaps the first official example of a design project using recycled materials in history.

How to construct Rietveld furniture by Peter Drijver and Johannes Niemeijer (Ed. Uitgeverij Thoth, 2001) is an extremely detailed (and at times, very technical) book containing instructions for building many of Rietveld’s most iconic projects.

How to construct Rietveld furniture

Transforming a discarded IKEA shelf into Rietveld's famous "Crate" chair


Sensitive to the ecological and social issues related to industrial design since the beginning of his career, Papanek connects them to a critique of consumerism.


Nomadic furniture: D-I-Y Projects that are Lightweight & Light on the Environment by James Hennessey and Victor Papanek (Ed. Schiffer, 2008) is a text which holds a mirror to our times. The two authors provide instructions for building practically anything using low-cost and recycled materials.

Nomadic furniture:

James Hennessey discusses the social and political context in which he and Papanek developed the contents of Nomadic Furniture.


As a young, New York-based architect, Stamberg designed a wide range of furniture. The volume which collects these pieces along with projects by many other famous designers has become the bible of self-construction.


Instant furniture by Peter S. Stamberg (Ed. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1976) is a compilation of projects of many designers and contains precise instructions on the necessary materials and assembly of each object.

Instant furniture

A recollection of the young Stamberg who, while hitchhiking in Italy, wound up going to Paris with Dino Gavina and meeting Man Ray.

Leggi Stamberg