How We Built A Modern Sustainable Dining Table Affordably In America

Simbly Dining Table Family

Dining tables are where we gather, share, laugh, argue, throw food, burn our tongues, and grow closer to each other. They are central to the rhythms and patterns of daily life.

When we set out to develop our modern dining table we asked: could we create a timeless and inviting table where people would not only want to eat but linger? Could it also be affordable, environmentally sustainable, and made in America?

In surveying the marketplace for other dining tables that deliver on not just one or two of these values but all of them, we knew the prospect would be challenging.

For starters, could we identify the right design? Find U.S. manufacturers willing to work with a young, unproven company? Source sustainable materials that meet our quality standards? Streamline logistics across our supply chain to minimize carbon emissions, reduce costs, and deliver on the promise of affordability.

Our first break came when we reconnected with award-winning, multi-disciplinary designer Christopher Douglas. In the early-2000s, Christopher introduced the Knock-Down, Drag-Out furniture collection for his own company, Material Furniture. Christopher wanted to bring a freshness and utility to modern design. So he made flat-pack furniture that was stripped to its essentials, designed to be taken apart, yet playful in its interweaving of clean lines and gracefully proportioned curves. His products evoked Scandinavian furniture designs and the midcentury modern furniture movement, yet still felt entirely new and of the moment. A dining table anchored the collection (image below).

Acclaim came quickly within the modern design world. In 2006, The Cooper Hewitt selected Christopher and Material Furniture for inclusion in its highly influential and prestigious National Design Triennial, featuring the dining table and other notable furniture items.

Christopher Douglas, National Design Triennial

The accolades continued the following year when Christopher was named to Time Magazine's Style & Design 100.

Christopher Douglas Time Style and Design 100

When Christopher signed on with Simbly to have us reintroduce the dining table to design enthusiasts (and consumers who just need a really good table), we knew we'd found the right product to anchor our first capsule furniture collection. The table’s modern flat-pack design feels as fresh, relevant, and useful as ever (our Simbly Dining Table below).

The original dining table was made using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood, which we've also selected for the Simbly Dining Table. FSC is the gold standard for wood certification - ensuring that the material we use has been sustainably harvested and sourced from forests where responsible forestry management practices are in place that support ecosystem sustainability, biodiversity and long-term environmental, social and economic benefit.

Also honoring the original design, we chose to make the dining table using Appleply, a premium, hardwood plywood that’s been made exclusively in Eugene, Oregon since first introduced in the 1980s. It's the highest quality, furniture-grade plywood in the industry. We affectionately think of Appeply as the Roger Federer of plywoods - a peerless combination of style, strength, longevity, and grace-under-pressure (details of Appeply's exposed edge, a design feature, and lustrous wood texture below).

We also saw an opportunity to innovate the hidden fastening mechanisms built into the table that ensure simple assembly and dis-assembly. This is a key design feature because, once assembled, nothing about the dining table's design and finish gives away that it actually requires assembly.

Assembly itself requires no screws, no hardware, and no wasted weekends trying to figure out how to put the darn thing together or pull it apart. All you need - and all it arrives with - is a small Allen wrench. A few twists to tighten and you’re all set (see how assembly works in the video below).

 

The final piece of the equation was determining where we'd make it. Our hope was that by living in Asheville, NC and being located in a region once proudly known as the furniture-making capital of the world, we might identify a local manufacturer willing to work with us.

Many things make Asheville unique. From a business perspective, with a population of 90,000 people and a rich tradition of craftsmanship across numerous manufacturing industries, Asheville is big enough to grow and attract companies of all sizes and small enough for everyone to know each other. It actually didn't take long to find a family-owned factory in Hendersonville, NC - about 20 minutes from Asheville - where an entrepreneurially-minded father-son leadership team was really enthusiastic about the project (making Simbly furniture at our factory in Hendersonville, below).

Simbly Made in North Carolina

When you buy a table the most important thing you care about is the actual table. But when we make a table, what we deeply care about is making sure it arrives at your doorstep in perfect condition. Here too we were able to localize our supply chain by identifying a furniture box and packaging manufacturer located just ten minutes from the furniture factory.   

All the pieces were then in place for us to implement our direct-to-consumer business model that would help us minimize costs and price our dining table affordably. This means we ship our dining table directly from the Hendersonville factory to our customers. In so doing, we’ve cut out multiple layers of distribution, wholesale, and logistics costs that conspire to make most premium-made furniture expensive.

Personally, I’ve loved the dining table for over a decade. It was the focal point of my Greenpoint apartment in Brooklyn years ago (when that apartment also did double-duty as a showroom for my first sustainable furniture company, Vivavi). Working with Christopher to reintroduce the dining table through Simbly creates a new opportunity to showcase how design and sustainability can merge to create delight and elevate our lifestyles.


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