How to Design a Modern Classic

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Investing in contemporary furniture can be daunting, especially if you’re used to more traditional styles. Once in a while though, a new design emerges that instantly becomes a modern classic. That’s exactly what happened with the ‘Willow’ chair from British furniture collective Joined + Jointed. We asked its designer – Sean Yoo – to explain his inspiration.


First things first – how did you get into design?

Design is my second career. I used to work as a city planner, but I was bored! One day I visited the Noguchi Museum in New York and decided I wanted to do what Isamu Noguchi did instead. I sold everything I had, bought a pickup truck, a cowboy hat and went back to school to study design.

How did your style develop?

From my crazy background, I suppose. I was born in Seoul, raised in Los Angeles, started my career in Milan, and was based in Mexico City for a while. I’ve learned to mix and match freely, borrow from here and there and make it my own.

What inspires you?                

Everything: the city, nature, people.

What do you find most difficult to design?

Chairs. They’re the most intimate object you can design.

So tell us about the ‘Willow’ chair you designed for Joined + Jointed. What inspired that?

The mid-century chairs we now associate with Scandinavian design were actually originally inspired by classical Chinese chairs. I looked at the whole history, and especially Hans Wegner’s ‘The Chair’, with the aim of designing a chair with a similar visual vocabulary but with an energetic, youthful personality. I did this by creating a single fluid line from the front legs through the arms and to the back rest. I extended the rear legs beyond the back rest to protect it from damage and to give better stability and visual balance.

How would you define success?

When I see people buying, using and enjoying products I have designed.

By your definition, ‘Willow’ has been incredibly successful. Why do you think that is?

There is so much noise in modern design in terms of quick, throwaway trends. I work slowly, methodically and quietly to create what I hope are timeless designs, and I think that’s what ‘Willow’ is. The other winning  factor is, of course, how ‘Willow’ is produced: it’s completely handmade out of solid oak and walnut, and the quality is out of this world – something that Joined + Jointed have managed to do at an accessible price.

What’s the best thing about being a designer?

I get to be a perpetual kid – always drawing, making a mess and getting into trouble.

What is your aim for the future?

Vico Magistretti (the feted Italian designer and architect) told me once, “Sean, design is not a 100-metre race. It’s a marathon. Just keep on designing.”

joined and jointed logo

Joined + Jointed, 1 New King’s Road, Fulham, London, SW6 4SB


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