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Eric Tong and Juan Mercado win "One Good Chair" competition
Jan 31, 2011

Two designers won awards last week during the third annual “One Good Chair” competition sponsored by World Market Center Las Vegas and the Sustainable Furnishings Council. Eric Tong’s Zpine chair received the grand prize and Juan Mercado’s RE_Flex chair won in the People’s Choice category. The winners were selected from a group of 360 total submissions and five finalists.
Minimum|maximim was this year’s theme, and designers from around the world were invited to create a chair that managed to preserve natural resources while also amplifying human delight. The goals of the competition revolved around minimizing material, production, shipping and assembly while maximizing comfort, utility, durability and beauty.
Sustainable Furnishings Council members including The Phillips Collection and Handy Living, created prototypes of some of the finalists’ designs.
Lance Hosey, president and CEO of GreenBlue, moderated the ceremony and introduced the judges and finalists. “The competition asks a deceptively simple question: ‘How little material can you use to make the most of a chair?’” said Hosey. “It’s counterintuitive to think you can make more with less, but the most compelling designs manage to do so very elegantly.”

The grand prize winner, Tong, who hails from London, England, created the winning Zpine chair using a honeycomb core (also known as “cellular structure”). The piece converts seamlessly between a chair and a chaise, collapsing with ease. Tong said he chose honeycomb for its magnificent strength-to-weight ratio and because it’s inexpensive, sustainable and biodegradable. He received a $4,500 cash prize that he says he will apply towards the manufacturing and marketing of the chair.
In his acceptance speech, Tong said that he chose the material for his chair after seeing it for the first time in a factory in China. He loved it for its economical value, but also its aesthetic. “It’s such a beautiful material,” he said. Manufacturers approached Tong immediately following the competition awards program to discuss manufacturing his winning chair.
Joaquin said that Tong truly embraced the mission of the contest. “Often a piece like this is more elegant in concept than reality. This was a rare exception. It is also incredibly comfortable."

Juan Mercado of Jackson, Michigan won the People’s Choice award by more than a 30 percent margin. Mercado received more than 400 votes out of nearly 1,200 online. Mercado created the RE_Flex chair from a standard 4-by-8-inch wood sheet. The chair can be used as a sleek modern desk chair or a comfortable reading/rocking chair, depending on the owner’s mood. Its design is simple yet sophisticated, and requires minimal packaging and space for shipping.
“The Phillips Collection did a great job furnishing the prototype,” he said. He added that manufacturers have approached him and he looks forward to the next step, whatever it may be.
Susan Inglis, executive director of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, said she was delighted with all of the entries and is currently researching creative ways of promoting the winners. “The caliber of the winners’ designs says a lot about design talent, and the competition itself,” said Inglis. She congratulated them on their hard work.
She also praised the other finalists, as well as the judges. “The discussion and comments from the judges were rich,” said Inglis. “They encouraged the finalists and winners and provided guidance.”
Inglis added that the strength and creativity of the entries defied her own expectations. “This is an injection of new design talent,” she said.
Hosey said that he, too, was impressed with what he saw. “The finalists all show a remarkable range of possibilities for such a narrowly defined challenge,” said Hosey. “Each of the frontrunners addresses this challenge in its own unique way, using different materials, different shapes, different ideas. That’s exciting to see.”
The Winter 2011 Las Vegas Market took place January 24-28.

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