William Warren

London based product and furniture designer
Drawing Board

Church Chair Competition

The Church of England recently released a brief to design new seating to fit in their churches. The competition stated that designers should team up with manufacturers in order to ensure the final submissions would be produceable in high numbers.

Here are the pages I submitted for the competition. I didn’t get selected for the final shortlist. This may be partially due to the fact that I ignored the notion of partnering with a manufacturer and instead chose to pursue a solution that would enable any number of small workshops to produce the same chair, local to the churches that need them. Or maybe they just thought it looked a boring chair.

Church Chairs Competition Entry


Rather than specify a single manufacturer for this chair I would like to propose a design that can be made under license by many. One of the benefits of a CNC design is that the file can be emailed to a local company with a CNC machine centre for the parts to be cut. Assembly and finishing is a relatively simple task requiring no complex jigs, tooling or demanding techniques.

It is expected that this chair could be manufactured for around £50 a unit (based on approximately £20 materials, £10 labour and £20 profit).

– repair, reorder small numbers, local economy, ‘open source’ design- customise,

CNC stands for ‘Computer Numerically Controlled’. This type of machining process operates from a digital drawing file. There are hundreds of CNC machining wood working centres in Great Britain.


The structural frame of the chair is made from a single thickness of plywood. The seat and back panels are made from natural coloured polypropylene sheet, which is a milky translucent white. As both these materials are standard sheet, they are both affordable and reliable.

It is possible to stain or paint the wooden frame to achieve a dark or light finish as desired. The seat and back panels could also be produced in black.

Decorative or Customisable Details

Because the seat and back panels of the seat are already programmed to be cut on the CNC machine, it does not add significant extra cost to decorate or customise them using the same process. As the material is a translucent milky white, engraving into the under surface will produce a ‘glowing’ visual image through the panel, referencing stained glass.

There is also a potential here to engrave the names of sponsors into each chair, providing possible future revenue streams for procurement.

It is suggested that customers are encouraged to upload new graphic design work generated to a central website, so there is a constantly growing resource of decorative panels for future customers.

Features of the Design

Stacking –      The seat can stack six high at 1.3m

Linking –        The front and back legs of the chair are parallel allowing very simple connections to form straight lines.

Storage –          There is room for books to be kept behind the backrest and kneelers fit under the seat.

Comfort –          There is no upholstery on the chair. The seat and backrest have been shaped to fit the body. This, combined with an overall sound ergonomic position, generates a very comfortable solid seat that is easily cleaned.

Decorative –     Individual designs can be developed for the chairs and added to the seat or backrest. These will be visible as light passes through the translucent material, rather like a stained glass window.

Repair –             As the chairs can be made locally to their church, repair and small number replacement becomes much easier and a                                   more personal experience. Due to the nature of the design being assembled from a kit of parts, it is a much simpler job to remake and replace damaged elements.

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