The Giraffe Chair is an ambiguous chair for uncertain times. It's more than a place to sit.

A living room scene showing the giraffe chair in a sunny corner.


The Giraffe Chair is a simple, lightweight piece for the nomadic urbanite. I built this chair using both traditional hand tools and high-tech power tools under the tutelage of Mark Maček at the University of Texas at Austin. It is a place to sit, of course, but it's so much more than that.

The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture
16 weeks
The Team
Solo Project
My Focus
Design Fabrication Photography

My Role


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How might I build a simple, easy-to-move furniture piece that does it all?


Understanding the Users

Defining the Problem

I move around all the time.

Moving across town is hard enough, but moving cross-country is a logistical nightmare. To a different country? Forget about it. I decided to make the process easier by paring my belongings down to the bare minimum.

A collage of maps with dots and lines connecting them to represent movement.
I've lived in five cities and twice as many apartments over the past few years.

If you’re a minimalist, the few things you have have to fill many roles.

I discovered that I enjoyed not owning much furniture. My spartan spaces felt clean and peaceful.

Because I don’t own many things, it means the things I do have have to fill many roles. I need a place to sit, but I also need something to stand on to dust my ceiling fan. I also need a bedside table for my out-of-town guest sleeping on the air mattress.

sketches showing how the giraffe chair might be used around the home

No fingers were lost during the construction of this chair.

I’m deathly afraid of losing a finger to the big whirring machines in the wood shop. So I built this chair using traditional hand tools and techniques. OK, and a fancy German-engineered Domino mortise and tenon joiner, too.

A diptych showing a medieval illustration of a man using a shaving horse next to a contemporary photo of the same.
I used a drawknife and a shaving horse like these—a technique dating back to Roman times—to give the chair legs their distinctive "peeled carrot" texture. Looking back on it, these ancient tools are probably much more dangerous than the machines I feared 🤷.

Design Solutions

Bulletproof, basically.

Here are the key design features that make the Giraffe Chair work:

  1. A handy handle makes the chair easy to carry without bending down to pick it up.
  2. Borrowed from 18th-century Windsor chair design, the wedged tenon is a mechanical joint that holds the join together even after the glue has failed.
  3. A flat surface makes the chair useful as a stepstool or side table.
  4. The tripod design makes the chair stable on uneven floors.

It's made from only five components.

I devised the Giraffe Chair as a small and simple project that could realistically be finished in one academic semester by someone who had no prior experience in woodworking (that’s me!). The design is simple, but it incorporates many unique learning opportunities. For example, three distinct joinery techniques and a crash course in 18th-century chairmaking.

Architecture students in Mark's Wood Design class are famously overambitious. Not me and my humble Giraffe Chair! It was the only piece of furniture from class that was completely finished in time for final review. My chair and I presented to critics first on final review day—a great honor in Architecture School.

A line drawing showing the chair's five components.

It looks great.

But that's a matter of personal taste.





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