Far from going out of favour, the humble coffee table is experiencing its day in the sun, says Vancouver-bred, Toronto-based industrial designer Tom Chung, who launches his new Plank collection at design show IDS Toronto this weekend.
The collection is designed in collaboration with modern furniture company EQ3.
Chung’s first thought, when asked to create a large coffee table with enclosed storage, was to avoid the big bulky coffee table in the middle of the living room scenario.
“They can often be very clunky,” he says. “And if you have a coffee table in a room with a media console, you don’t want to be overwhelmed with blocks of furniture.”
Chung says coffee tables are being used more than ever, particularly in small spaces, where people don’t have the luxury of large dining tables and are spending more time in their common living areas.
“Living in a small apartment in Toronto, it’s actually the most important piece of furniture I own,” he says. “We don’t even use our dining table any more; we just eat on our coffee table. I think everything’s become more casual and so coffee tables are more important than they were previously.”
Chung followed a specific design brief in creating the Plank collection, he says, which was to design a “collection of closed storage”. It includes a media console, a coffee table in three different sizes and a side table.
He says all the pieces have a “universal door size”, so people can customize their orders. The doors, for example, can be ordered in a range of fun upholstered colours, which EQ3 is known for, or with slats, and are available in oak or walnut.
“We really wanted the collection to have a universal appeal,” Chung says. “The version that has slats is perhaps a bit more traditional, but then also having the opportunity to add more contemporary colours with the fabrics and things like that.”
“When I was building the model and doing the rendering, the oak is what I saw it in, although the walnut is also nice, and suits a different customer.”
On first glance, the collection seems to have a slight Japanese esthetic and lightness about it. Chung says he was reading a Japanese book on colour combinations and colour blocking early on in his design process, “and that sort of became how you see the panels in the doors, especially with two sets, you can mix and match colours if you want to.”
Ultimately, though, he says he “wanted to make something really architectural that was an open platform for people to hide stuff away, but also display certain stuff, and be able to fade into the back of a room”.
“Especially when furniture becomes that large,” he says, “you don’t want it to be imposing a certain style; you kind of want it to be in the background.”
Chung graduated from Emily Carr University of Art + Design in 2012, and moved to Toronto that same year to take up a job at home design and manufacturing company Umbra. He designs lighting, furniture, interiors and exhibitions, currently doing an “experimental ceramics” creative residency at Banff Centre for the Arts + Creativity.
Added to this, Chung has also designed a lamp for Scandinavian company Muuto, which was launched in September and will be available in North America in the next few weeks, and a lighting collection for Danish company Menu with fellow designer Jordan Murphy that also launches this month.
When asked what he’d most like to achieve in the year ahead, the busy designer replied:
“I hope to do more independent projects.”