'I was fooling around with broken objects," Winnipeg's Matthew Kroeker says, "and I had a eureka moment when I decided to do it with furniture. I liked the literal and striking form as well as the seemingly randomness of the jagged profile."
Kroeker's design, called Splinter, is so clever and simple you can't help but wonder why someone hasn't done it before. It consists of two chairs, each with a toothy uneven edge. The chairs, made of slats of plantation-grown teak, join together like a puzzle to make a single smooth bench.
"I like my furniture to tell stories," the designer says. "The chairs represent a metaphor for coupling, the constant flux between breaking apart and coming together."
Kroeker, 29, developed the concept working nights after his day job with furniture giant Palliser.
Confident that he had a winner, he quit his job and took Splinter to Toronto in 2006, where he launched it at the Interior Design Show's Prototype competition.
He snagged Metropolis magazine's Best Prototype award, which led to an invitation to the Milan furniture fair, where he showed Splinter in Global Edit, an off-site exhibit organized by Wallpaper. He was at the New Design Canada stand at this year's International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York, which got him a cover of The New York Times' Home section.
After ICFF, Kroeker made cold calls to half a dozen manufacturers he saw at the show. Jane Humzey, founder of Chicago manufacturer Jane Hamley Wells, called right back.
"I'm approached all the time with speculative designs," she says, "but I was attracted to Splinter. It's clever in its simplicity while being pleasing to look at and comfortable to sit in."
Over the next few months, two additional prototypes were made to eliminate any kinks, which turned out to be minimal.
"The dimensions and proportions are identical," Kroeker says. "It was all about the frame and the position of the frame. Rather than cast aluminum, it's stainless steel to accommodate the manufacturing in Indonesia."
Kroeker's gamble paid off. Splinter won a silver award at the recent NeoCon trade fair in Chicago.
He says it's about seizing the moment. "You've just got to make it and get it out there."
Splinter is $850 (U.S.) a chair, plus shipping, through , or $935 through HutJ in Winnipeg, .