Deceptive Design: Experiments in Furniture

Deceptive Design_LogoLast year around this time, I was swayed by a poster to go to the Chicago Cultural Center. It was fall break, I had never been there before, and it was free. What did I have to lose? Turns out, I loved every minute of my visit. From the Tiffany glass dome to the Halloween decorations, to the exhibits, everything was compelling (I really mean everything, I spent hours there).

The display I remember the most was called Deceptive Design [Oct. 10th, 2008 – Jan. 4th, 2009]. It featured novel furnishings whose purpose was to alter our standard perceptions of furniture around us. There was something “deceptive” about each piece whether it was in the mechanics, materials, or visual presentation. I will introduce three of my favorites.

Riveli by Mark Kinsley

Definitely a piece I would have on my wall is Riveli, a shelving component designed by Mark Kinsley. I find it clever, practical, and versatile. Combining artwork with shelving, Riveli adapts to the user’s needs. Parts flip down to hold your possessions and the sections that are not needed remain up to display custom art. I wonder if the artwork is put on panels that can be changed as well? Either way it’s brilliant. Mark Kinsley is an industrial designer living in Chicago that works not only with furniture, but with lighting as well.

Coil Lamp

What drew me to this next piece was the beguiling construction and the simplicity of the materials. It is made from a really long extension cord, Plexiglas, and a light bulb. Coil Lamp ComponentsSimple? Yes. Boorish? Not even close. The Coil Lamp designed by Craighton Berman “elevates the status of the humble, everyday extension cord to the realm of high design.”

This lamp is actually now available for purchase. You can buy the limited edition Handmade Coil Lamp that comes fully assembled or you can get the Do-It-Yourself Kit in which you purchase the extension cord and the bulb.

As a matter of fact, that’s what I thought when I first saw it, “I can make this.” Of course that was when I had access to a laser cutter. Kudos to Craighton Berman for creating such an innovation. He is an industrial designer, professor, and creative director based in Chicago.

Deceptive GardenLast, but not least, is the Deceptive Garden by Chris Brandel. The goal is to make the most out of the small outdoor space that is the typical Chicago balcony. It stylishly provides the means for the user to grow various plants like flowers and herbs, and provides storage for supplies. It then can be converted into a handy work table or a mellow dining area for two. Perfect for the city dweller with a green thumb.

As for the creator, Chris Brandel is a product developer and designer and is currently the president at the Chicago Furniture Designers Association.

What do you think? Check out the other designs and tell me which ones you like.

Leave a comment


  1. dolores

     /  January 27, 2010


    looking thru, how is Florida? summer is kinda humid down there.
    me and my son lived in NY and out West, now back on East Coast.
    He is having a heck of a time learning the graphic art design – took regular painting
    in college and a bit of computer art (photoshop, illustration, dreamweaver) – now there
    is Flash, Maya (3D) and other programs. He is 24 and moved back in with me (temporarily)
    he has two classes to finish for his bachelor’s (art college) and won’t go back.

    Any suggestions (we have no more loan money – he owes $88,000 for the four years of college) and having hard time learning himself – let me know

    • Thanks for visiting my blog. Florida is going through a bit of a cold spell right now, so I’m looking forward to it warming up. As for your son, I’m not really sure what to tell you. If graphic design is really what he wants to do, maybe he should try applying for internships to get some real world experience and return to school later. Or he could use this off time to work on his skills at his own pace. There are tons of internet resources out there and with practice, things will become second nature. I would say encourage him to go back to school though, since he only has 2 more classes to go. Have him discuss options with his academic adviser. Maybe the classes can even be completed online.


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