Director of Product Design


Increasingly dated

Inevitable Design

During the summer of 2015 my wife and I slept on a mattress on the floor for three or four months. The veneer of our previous bed, an IKEA monstrosity, was chipped and warping, so one day I ordered a Casper mattress and threw everything else out the moment it arrived.

Harkening back to the William Morris quote about only bringing into your home that which you know to be useful and feel to be beautiful, it's truly surprising just how hard it is to find those two properties in one piece of furniture. Most furniture is at best ‘variant on a theme’, at worst insensitive and utterly compromised.

I'll spare the details of our prolonged search, but suffice it to say that it took hundreds of bed frames to find a simple walnut frame well above our price level.

After a couple of months of indecision on the floor it became clear that there was in reality no choice at all. And so we bought our new bed.

Our bed, although regrettably not our bedroom

Our bed, although regrettably not our bedroom

Our new bed is amazing. It's essentially a plate of wood, beveled inwards underneath to yield the illusion of it being thinner, with six brass-capped legs (two along the center, out of sight).

In the foot-end a ledge runs the breadth of the frame holding the mattress in place. The mattress otherwise lays on the frame making access effortless, and at the head-end three curved pieces of metal hold in-place a simple round-edged headboard.

It's clear just from looking at the frame itself that the materials are great, but it's the design itself that is the price; what Jony Ive might call “inevitable”.

Having spent time perusing bed frames, I couldn't help but wonder—since beds have always been around—why are the vast majority so utterly ‘evitable‘?

Here it is clear. The inevitable design requires great materials. Not just because it makes the bed look better, but because the materials dictate what's possible.

Great materials, with the strength to pull together this design, are expensive, therefore most designs are instead forced to construct their way towards the strength needed to support the human body, which causes the inevitable to be obscured by assemblage, insipid wide-edged sides and a morass of compromises.

There's a parable about software design in there somewhere, but everything can't be a goddamn thinkpiece so leave it alone.

Michael Heilemann