Jay Stoughtenger gained his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Boston Architectural College but there is no doubt that his passion for design runs deep in his blood. Hailing from a family of former marina operators, Jay’s father builds boats. His dad’s workshop physically set the parameters for the design of some of Jay’s projects, as the space’s limited resources presented its own restrictions. Given these conditions, Jay set upon the idea of designing a chair, a relatively smallish object, which then evolved to become self-assembly and tool-less! We were intrigued to try it for ourselves, and to find out more about the man behind the chair called Sahm.
New York-born Jay Stoughtenger has been living and breathing Kuwait for seven years now, working with Cambridge Seven Associates Architects. Initially here to contribute to the early design of the Kuwait Ministry of Education Headquarters, as Lead Architect, he is now helping to realize the creation of what will be an iconic landmark. His vast technical knowledge neatly juxtaposes an appreciation of aesthetics, function and form working together, one not being considered over the other.
At once full of information and yet at the same time wanting to express things as simply as possible, it takes a moment for Jay to warm up to his subject. It’s almost as if he is stemming the inevitable flow of enthusiasm for everything, that he eventually shows us. The language he uses is so steeped in the lexicon of architecture, art and design that you must really listen to understand his point, as simply as he wishes it to be conveyed.
This is very much a metaphor for the chair he’s designed. The chair looks Spartan and pure, how Jay wants you to see it. However, there are hidden intricacies to Sahm, indicative of the sheer brain power and forethought of its designer. The joints, the dovetails, the angles of the plane for stability, the details as he explains all the reasons why these things have to exist…it’s a wonder that something that looks so simple could be so very complicated from the outset.
But it isn’t complicated for the user. Luckily the slot system means the chair is beyond easy to put together. Once you set the keel (the base of the chair) with the chair’s back, you can walk away from it without the structure falling down. This gives you two hands to easily slot the seat of the chair into the keel supported back. Although it’s only the half-size version, three of bazaar staff’s members (all with very different body types) venture to sit on the chair, nervously at first. Upon sitting there’s this euphoric confidence that rises to the surface, as you can feel how sturdy the structure is and surprisingly comfortable! “It’s tilted at 19 degrees for an ergonomic alert position”, says Jay. Then he shows us that the chair can be lifted and moved from place to place in the room without it disassembling, often the truest test of a self-assembly piece of furniture.
Jay jokes that he didn’t want to have to use screws or bolts, as he himself fails to read instructions, while his wife is the one who always takes a more analytical approach and reads leaflet directions. This may lead to tense moments when assembling flat-pack Swedish furniture, but an argument is certainly not going to be the outcome for anything Jay designs.
Sahm comes from the Korean word sam meaning three, and after his wife’s family suggested it, an “h” was thrown in there to make it a phonetic spelling of the word. The chair is finished in two easy moves, having only 3 pieces, and can be disassembled for easy storage with the keel and seat fitting neatly on top of the back, to slide under a couch or bed.
The fabrication possibilities seem endless for Sahm, but Jay stresses bamboo as an option. “It grows so fast, like a weed, so it’s sustainable,” he says enthusiastically. It’s no wonder to bazaar that he has made this consideration, as much as he loves his wife and daughter, it’s his affection for humanity that allows him to think into the future.
Jay’s dream is to have Sahm go into mass production and bazaar can see why it should happen. We only saw the half-size version and are trying to convince him to produce that too!