Plywood tends to be associated with unfinished building construction, so it’s easy to forget that several modernist designers, from the 1920s onward, were obsessed with it as a furniture medium.
See, for example, Alvar Aalto’s Paimio chair (1939) and Charles and Ray Eames’ classic LCW or Lounge Chair Wood (1945). Now the versatile, inexpensive material – comprised of thin sheets of wood veneer (with grains layered in alternating directions for added strength) – has become a mainstay in contemporary, eco-friendly interiors, seen in everything from wall panels to bookcases to bed frames.
Several furniture makers are taking plywood to new places, but Los Angeles-based designer Shin Okuda, whose furniture line is called Waka Waka, takes a particularly ingenious approach. His geometric, spare, utilitarian pieces – desks, chairs, benches, shelves and so on, much of it made on commission – reference Bauhaus, Japanese and modern California design but have a personality and presence all their own.
One of the best examples is the cylinder chaise lounge composed of sturdy Baltic Birch plywood. It’s a piece of furniture historically associated with luxury – we think of upholstered Rococo Revival versions from the early 19th century – that has been given a sculptural, minimal feel. It’s comfortable, too! If you’re not quite ready for bare plywood furniture, the Waka Waka chaise lounge would look great covered with a sheepskin throw.