Introduction: Design a Memphis Style Bench

About: I'm an Italian freelance structural engineer, graphic designer and photographer, now I'm teaching physics in Waldorf high-schools. I always investigate electronics, robotics and science in general, I'm a passi…

Some friends of mine asked me to build a bench for their coffee bar. To be in balance with the rest of the place the bench had to be in Memphis style. I didn't know much about this art but I took the opportunity at once, and now you can read about the designing and building process.

Step 1: Project and References

To determine what a Memphis style is, just type it on google search, and look at the images. So I discovered also that Memphis architecture group was founded in my hometown.

After that try to imagine a bench, with needed dimensions, made by geometric asymmetrical shapes. It's the way as this project was born. Then someone asked to me to add a pair of backrests, which are not in the drawings, although you can see them in the pictures.

Step 2: Material and Dimension

As material I used what I had, which was a long wood board, some pieces of plywood, and I bought screws and four metal plates to connect backrests.

Look at the image to see all pieces with exact dimensions. Notice that nothing is wasted, indeed the four pieces advanced from the disc cut are used to make a rounded corner and to reinforce the structure at the same time.

Step 3: Assemble Structure

First I glued parts together, then I drilled holes in wood boards and i added screws to help glue drying and to improve rigidity.

As you can see from the picture, bench is still much raw, but it's beginning to assume a shape.

Step 4: Add Reinforcements

Now you need some reinforcements hidden below the seat. Two triangles on the back side help to avoid horizontal movements, and a bar on the full length helps to avoid flexibility of the seat board.

Glue these parts, then drill and add screws. Pay attention to insert screws deep enough so that everything is flat.

Step 5: Add Round Corner

The round corner is more a stylish feature, but it also helps to improve bench stability.

Glue all four pieces together, add a pair of screws, and with a rasp try to make uniform surfaces.

Step 6: Add Geometric Shapes

These two shapes are actually only for appearance. I decided to fill the area below the seat with a colored circle and a rectangle. You can fasten them to bench boards with a pair of small wood blocks and directly to reinforcement bar. Again use glue and screws.

Step 7: Building Tips

If you want to use clamps to keep gluing pieces together, remember to insert a small wood plate between clamps and your piece, so to avoid scratches and damages on the surface. This is quite important if you need a flat surface to paint. You have also to use some plaster to cover screws heads and splits, let it dry and then sand it with a piece of sandpaper wrapped on a wood block.

Step 8: Putty and Base Paint

After puttying all ruined parts it's time to apply a base paint. I used an almost white paint, actually a bit pinkish but you can use anything you have which is light enough.

Step 9: Add Optional Backrest

Here you can see the optional backrests. They're not identical, to respect the asymmetrical feature of the architectural current, but they are high enough to sustain a person spine. To avoid that the weight of a person could brake the connection edge, I decided to use metal plates, two for each backrest, as you will see in next steps. With this type of connection, the backrests can bend to reach the glass of the window, where they lay on.

Step 10: Paint

I prefer a roller more than a brush, and I used it to apply two layers of acrylic paint. Use adhesive tape to define colored areas. The day after I sprayed a protective transparent paint, which also avoid that sunlight uv rays discolor the bench.

Step 11: Screw Backrest

When everything is dry you can screw backrest supports and admire your completed work.