We used to split up orange boxes and bang them back together. So, I just remembered what I did as a kid. It was just a natural curve. Nothing else really.”
This focus on the simplicity of a solution is not idle modesty, but a central part of Williams’ design philosophy. “I hate having all this excess stuff,” he says. “In the end, it’s all rubbish. Really, it’s just mind-boggling how much stuff you see and most of it’s not worth it. I like something to last; I like things that are not too fancy. You need something that kicks off a little bit of an emotion, but is not over decorated, not calling attention to itself. There are lots of things that grab your eye, but twenty-four hours later. . .” Williams continues, “If it’s really simple, you fall in love with it, and every time you look at it, you see something a bit different about it,” he concludes.
For all its unadorned elegance, there is nothing austere about the Davos Bed. “The curve invites you to go lie on it and sit up on it,” Williams notes. “It’s got just that right angle so you need only one or two cushions to sit up. You can have a completely empty room, and it can be quite lovely. I find when you have all these accompanying pieces in a room, it’s all a bit arrogant and loud.” Another critical design element is the way the mattress snugs into the notch created by the curving backboard deviating from the base. “When you have a straight line and a curve,” Williams notes, “there is a natural place where they have to meet and it’s really quite obvious.” As would be expected, achieving the “obvious” and “simple” resolution was the result of lots of hard work. According to Williams, “We had to try to get the curve just right. We made card models, made some solid ones, nailed bits together, faked it, glued it, to get the right thing. There are industry standards, but it was mostly trial and error. We even tried some that were much shorter, but it lost its aesthetic.” Fie pauses and then, laughing, adds, “I’d get really dirty in the factory, just trying it over and over.”
Ultimately, the production is as uncomplicated as the gesture of the bed would suggest. It is made from four pieces—a back – board, two sides, and an end —held together with a chrome – plated, steel T, that runs the length of the top piece, which is then mounted on a base. Working from the original concept, Williams has designed a sofa, chaise lounge, and two tables in addition to the bed, to make a complete Davos line, available in several options of materials and finish. The wood bed is made with a solid leg that runs the full length of the front and back. “I wanted the bed to have a heavy appearance from the front view,” Williams notes, “using a solid base/leg support. I did not want to see what was under the bed. But from the side, the furniture appears very light and the curve of the wood can be easily read.”
196 DESIGN SECRETS: FURNITURE
© Top: An early sketch shows all the key elements to the Davos: the sloped headboard, the simple line of the leg, and the opening into which the mattress slides.
Credit: Theo Williams
© Another early sketch describes the mattress being held by the bed. In final versions, the supporting sidewalls are removed and the mattress is snugged into the simple notch created by the curved headboard meeting the supporting back piece. Credit: Theo Williams
© Middle: Williams took a photo of a prototype on the factory floor and then drew his corrections to the rough edges and headboard proportion directly onto the picture in order to accurately visualize the results. Credit: Theo Williams
© Bottom: An early prototype uses supports and clamps to get the angle of the headboard just right and to create a surprisingly simply means of keeping the mattress in place.
Credit: Theo Williams
There’s also a padded leather version with four, slender feet at each corner. “In the leather, we used chrome,” Williams explains. “It’s a much darker, richer material. And the chrome actually reflects the floor, so you see this perfect curve.”
Ever frugal, Williams says that the bulk of the piece is made as inexpensively as possible. “We used the cheapest wood possible underneath,” he says, “to keep the cost down. We used very economical materials. I’m quite conscious about saving money and materials. I don’t want to waste materials and money. But,” he adds, “the veneer is just perfect. It has a perfect finish.”
As for the final product, Williams reports, “It’s purely the way I wanted it. I’ve always wanted a bed like this for my room. When I’m working without a brief, I make things that I would want to live with. I try not to look at too many magazines, and not do too much research. I just want to think about what I would like. It’s very instinctive. I do the first thing that comes to mind.”
There is one other version of the Davos—the original, actually— that ironically defies the spare economy that is at the core of
Williams’ design and manufacturing principles. “In keeping with its snow-inspired beginnings, this bed was pure white,” Williams says. “It was extremely expensive. It had twenty coats of lacquer. Davos is one of the best places to go skiing in Switzerland, and when you see the white one and the name, it all clicks.” The other versions evolved when they began to consider how and where the bed would actually be used. “The white one had more interest for hotels,” Williams notes. “The leather is more for the home really. It seemed quite natural to go from something quite expensive to something much more economical, and then create something in the middle, which is the leather. Which,” he notes, “also became the most popular.”
While Williams says the white wood version is the most pure because it harkens back to the skate ramps that were the bed’s genesis, and concedes that it is “a bit odd to look at the other ones,” when asked which bed he sleeps on himself, he chuckles, clears his throat, and admits “Well, the padded leather one. It’s very rich. The room just has the bed in it.”
© A pure white Davos Chaise was inspired by snowboarding in Switzerland. It took twenty coats of lacquer to create the pure white finish.