Save on All Home and Office Furniture for a Limited Time. Learn More >
Elevating the Form, Function, and Versatility of the Coffee Table
Before developing a new product, the BDI design team spends countless hours considering the fundamental needs of consumers today. We research what's currently available in the market, where BDI can offer an innovative, forward-thinking approach, and we ask a lot of questions about function and form.
This was the case with the lift-top motion designs of the Cloud 9 and Reveal coffee tables. With these collections, BDI envisioned improved functionality over the "standard" coffee table: something that can help you get work done comfortably while also being there for you when you're ready to relax.
We saw this as especially essential with today's changing work landscape, with more than 45% of the U.S. workforce continuing to work from home. For those without a dedicated home office, their workspace often doubles as a living space when they're ready to clock out for the day. For this reason, developing a functional and adaptable coffee table design that could offer a second workspace with convenient storage was a design priority.
Lift-top coffee tables are certainly not new, as similar tables have been around for the better part of the past decade. But we weren't satisfied with what was already available in the marketplace, especially for today's work-from-home crowd.
Many of the existing designs weren't visually appealing or entirely functional. For example, some of them didn't come up past your knee or otherwise lift high enough to make sense for work purposes. Many of them also had a surface area that was too small to get work done effectively.
BDI's Associate Design Director Matthew Weatherly wanted to create a lift coffee table that had a work surface area that was functional as any workspace. He also wanted to incorporate features like a cantilevered design that could hide the lift top feature and reveal hidden storage. The idea was solid, but the technology wasn't quite there yet. In this case, some innovative components and requirements were needed to make it work.
An Innovative Approach
Ultimately, the design team found their solution in collaboration outside the furniture industry, finding the mechanisms that could deliver the performance they needed to bring these ideas to life.
The team worked with a German manufacturer that offered a pneumatic cylinder mechanism that fit the bill. Originally designed for the automotive market, this mechanism wasn’t traditionally used in the furniture space but instead was designed to work in multi-use spaces like mobile homes.
We wanted something sturdy enough to support—and smoothly and effortlessly lift—a large work surface to a height that made sense for working, eating, and relaxing.
Test, Then Test Some More
Adding a pneumatic lift to a coffee table meant that the team needed extensive usability testing, especially since this would be a daily use piece.
The pneumatic gas cylinders utilize oil and air in combination to increase force during operation. The gas pressure through the cylinder controls the speed of its operation. It also helps control motion dampening, essential for smooth opening and closing. The team tested the lift on both wood and glass surfaces. We carefully considered the geometry of height changes, force, and projection toward the user. We wanted the function to make sense while the design concealed the inner workings.
Using gas springs, we tried dozens of combinations to determine the precise amount of force needed to lift the tabletop easily and control the closing mechanism to prevent slamming. The gas springs were tested for repeated opening and closing to simulate a lifetime of use.
We also tested different methods of mounting the pneumatic springs to see how much it needed to extend within the cylinder to assist with opening and closing.
Adjusting for Design
The overall shape and design were an important part of the consideration and needed to work well with the lift mechanisms while still reflecting BDI’s design standards.
However, we found during testing that our initial table design models were larger than the mechanism could comfortably support. That meant increased force on the cylinder and adjustments to the design to compensate. We also reinforced the mounting to support the increased force.
Fine-Tuning for Everyday Use
To ensure the designs are as functional as they are attractive, we put the tables through a series of tests that would make certain the designs could stand up to the test of time—and everyday use.
For both designs, we made the tabletop strong enough to withstand up to 100 lbs. when closed and 30 lbs. when open without risk of tipping or breakage. Because they are so well-balanced, you can also stop the lift tops at any point in their extension.
Versatile Designs for Any Space
But beyond the mechanics, at BDI design comes first.
Cloud 9 boasts an organic, rounded shape that makes it at once modern but also easily adaptable in any room. The table's surface is high-grade Italian porcelain that is beautifully smooth and durable. Available in three finishes (Cirrus White, Alto Grey, Black Nimbus), the gorgeous tabletops balance nicely against the black steel base. The lined storage area is accessible from the sofa side when the table is closed, allowing easy access to frequently used items. Cloud 9 measures 16” H x 52” W x 31” D with a height that reaches 24” when opened. WATCH THE VIDEO
Reveal was designed to coordinate with other BDI collections but also makes a statement on its own. The rectangular shape includes side storage compartments that provide space for easy-to-access items like remote controls when the table is closed. The table is available in BDI’s most popular wood finishes (Chocolate Stained Walnut, Natural Walnut, Charcoal Stained Ash). The tabletop carries BDI’s signature satin-etched glass surface for a durable, easy to clean, and scratch-resistant surface. Reveal measures 15.5” H x 48” W x 27” D and raises to a height of 23.5” to reveal a hidden compartment for storage. WATCH THE VIDEO