Off the Lawn

strap chair 1Tim Lewis is a furniture and lighting designer with a studio in Philadelphia whose Strap Chairs & Stools were recently featured on the popular design blog Core 77.

The clean, elegant wood frame is offset by the fun colors of the nylon that creates checkered patterns for the seat and back.

Over on Apartment Therapy, Kristen points out that Tim’s beautiful, handcrafted work is not cheap ($700-$1,600), but that it looks entirely worth the price.

We caught up with Tim via email and he was kind enough to answer some questions.

Read on for Tim’s thoughts on these re-imagined lawn chairs, the Philly design scene, how we should embrace a push to “buy locally” in artisan crafts  (just like the current “buy local” trend for food & drink) and his love of the pencil.

PDB: Were the strap chairs & stools developed for a particular client? What was the inspiration behind them? Are they comfortable as well as good-looking?

The classic aluminum webbed lawn chair was not regarded as a piece of high design; however, it is something that many of us have a nostalgic relationship with. That lawn chair has become extinct, and its replacement is the molded plastic lawn chair available for a few dollars at any mega box store. These plastic chairs lack a sense of handwork that the aluminum chair had in it’s woven seat. My Strap Series is a type of a commemoration and reinterpretation of this relic.

strap chair 2The frame is now constructed from wood with visible joinery and a furniture grade finish. The seat, although webbed, has an upholstery foundation, so instead of your weight putting tension on the straps and creating a stiff surface, you are supported, and the woven top becomes a soft seat.

PDB: Is your work showcased anywhere? Where can it be purchased? Is there a good atmosphere in Philadelphia for artisans like yourself?

As of now, my work is available directly through me. My contact info and examples can be found on my website at

After growing up in nearby Mongomery County, I attended University of the Arts here in Philadelphia, and then worked for four years for one of my teachers, Philadelphia studio furniture maker Jack Larimore. In Philly there is a general respect for well-made things — which is something you won’t find in cities that don’t have such a rich history with furniture and craft as ours.

The working atmosphere for artisans in Philly (and especially in Fishtown) is tight knit. Great sources abound, from upholstery suppliers like Quaker Jobbing and Katz Foam, to pattern makers for casting and machinists — a place around the corner from me restores machine motors. Just as we have that rich history with craft we also have a history with industry.

PDB: How could the market for individual craftspeople in Philadelphia be improved?

To make the local market better for artisans like myself, we need to have more shops and places that focus on local design. There are many artisans here like me, but it’s hard for us to find the right place to sell our work. It’s not always appropriate for a gallery and many of the showrooms here focus on international designers.

We need to make it known that you can “buy locally” in the design world, just like you can at the grocery store. The benefits resonate beyond the initial maker. The local network of suppliers and fabricators also benefits: none of us are outsourcing work to China – that’s not part of the process for us!

If you buy something from a larger design firm with furniture in mass production, that’s not going to be the case. Local commissions are also often competitive on price, since we don’t have the overhead of running an international corporation.

toilet lamp

PDB: What’s your favorite tool — your go-to object that you couldn’t create without?

I couldn’t create without a pencil. Maybe it’s is a lame answer [Ed – We don’t think so!] but I am a huge advocate of drawing. It’s the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to develop your ideas.tree house

Also, I highly value variety. It’s hard to come up with new ideas when you keep asking the same question. I’m constantly switching up the way I work, from making highly finished furniture to pieces made with sticks and super glue, from large scale to small, and with varying degrees of hand work to machine work. This helps keep me loose, and from becoming too dependent on one skill.

PDB: Any forthcoming concepts or designs you can let us in on?

A chair version of my Plank Stool [inspired by another American relic: grade school furniture] will be done soon.

I’m working on the preliminary sketches for a shelving unit that has a shelf support system similar to some antique wooden clamps I have.

Another interesting design is the Iris Chandelier created with copper toilet floats. [Surprisingly attractive!]

Also I’m about finished with what you could sum up as an architectural proposal for a tree house that should never be built, called New Ground.

PDB: Sounds cool! Thanks for your time & insights.

3 thoughts on “Off the Lawn”

  1. I am a proud owner of a Tim Lewis TV stand and can attest to the beautiful design and craftsmanship.

  2. For handmade furniture, $700.00-$1600.00 is very reasonable. Tim sells his work independently and you don’t have the mark-up charged through other outlets like galleries and stores. I am an admirer of his design and craftsmanship.