Creating a Clever Cube

When Clay Pendergrast visited a law firm office he had recently designed to direct a photo shoot, his eye was immediately drawn to the cubic table in the reception area.

A pile of books and magazines now cluttered the stylish piece, diminishing its simple elegance.

As he removed the items to prepare the space to be photographed, Pendergrast wished he could design a cubic table that didn’t inevitably become a platform for stacking items.

“Naturally, people are going to want to stack things on an open table,” says the senior vice president and director of interior design for HOK’s Los Angeles office. “I just thought it would be convenient to create a cubic table that you could store things in, close the door and keep everybody happy, including the designer who specified it in the first place.” 

Pendergrast enlisted the design visualization expertise of an HOK interiors colleague, Ziya Cetik, to help him develop the idea further.

Though both men had previously designed custom furniture for individual projects, this was their first experience creating pieces for mass production.

They collaborated with furniture manufacturer David Edward to bring the QB line of modular wooden tables to life. Blending the simplicity of a cube form with the functionality of a file cabinet, QB suits a range of interior environments, including corporate, education, healthcare and residential spaces.

“The form is so simple and flexible that it can find itself in any kind of environment – from conservative to wild,” Cetik says. “It all depends on the color and finish.”

Highly adaptable, the QB table can be stacked, placed on top of conventional file cabinets or positioned side-by-side along a wall.

“The simple form repeated 50 times on a wall could just be fantastic and look much better than a row of file cabinets or sliding metal storage cabinets,” Pendergrast says.

Refining the Cube

The team’s greatest challenge involved designing and fabricating a functional door that wasn’t noticeable.

“We spent a lot of time working with the manufacturer to hide the hinge so it didn’t look like it was a door,” Pendergrast says. “This was a tour de force for David Edward because they are skilled millworkers.”

To broaden the marketability of the QB, David Edward encouraged Pendergrast and Cetik to design an accompanying coffee table to help other designers easily coordinate pieces within an interior space. The manufacturer also suggested creating an elevated version with a metal base to appeal to various design preferences.

“We enjoyed their challenging us to make the product do more things,” Pendergrast says. “They would bring us a problem and we would come back with a way to solve it.”

The QB name, which Pendergrast conceived as a clever depiction of the product’s cube form, helped the team stay focused on maintaining the purity of the original concept.

“Having the QB name was helpful to remind everyone that at its core, the piece is a cube,” says Pendergrast. “I find the naming of products almost as fun as the design of them.”

Cetik also enjoyed the collaborative product design process.
“When the right idea and the right manufacturer come together at the right time, great things can happen,” he says.

The diverse backgrounds of Cetik, an Istanbul native who’s designed projects throughout Europe, and Pendergrast, a senior designer who has worked with dozens of corporate clients, helped shape an extremely practical, flexible product. 

“We’re not product designers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but we’re designing spaces that people use and we know the practical program requirements that clients challenge us with,” Pendergrast says.

For him, the process of bringing the product to market is more meaningful than how many units are ultimately sold.

“I have no control over sales,” Pendergrast says. “I hope people like it, but the process of designing and naming it was huge fun.”

And the experience has inspired Cetik to continue looking for potential opportunities to design another product.

“I’m spending time on a daily basis thinking, sketching or drawing inspiration for potential future product opportunities,” he says. “It was a great process.”