Founded in 1984 by likeminded friends Sir Terence Conran and Sean Sutcliffe, UK-based furniture maker Benchmark is fond of describing itself as a “powerhouse of craft”. The company is led by the desire to create furniture that contributes to human health and well-being, using natural, sustainable and non-toxic materials. Staying true to this mission, the latest release from Benchmark is a thoughtful range of chairs that complements the existing OVO furniture collection.
Designed by fellow Brits, Foster + Partners architects, the three new additions to OVO take the shape of an armchair, a stackable armless version and a lounge seat. “The collection is a celebration of craftsmanship and materiality, a tactile range of furniture that is characterised by the simplicity of form,” says Mike Holland, head of industrial design at Foster + Partners. As well-being comes into sharper focus and the desire for warmer, more tactile and versatile furniture grows, the chairs offer a solution that is suited to a variety of settings, from the ‘old-school’ office to the new one at home, and more.
The OVO collection of chairs by Foster + Partners for Benchmark
“We felt there was a need to complement the existing collection with a range of seating solutions that cater to a wide variety of uses,” Mike explains. “From the exceptionally flexible stacking chair to the ease and comfort of the lounge seat, every piece has been meticulously designed and crafted to fit within the overall OVO aesthetic that serves as a compelling invitation to touch.”
The production of the stackable chair arises from a demand for beautifully designed furniture with flexibility at its core, offering easy storage after use. It’s easy to picture this light, armless version finding its way to meeting rooms, lecture halls and other multipurpose spaces. On the armchair, the tops of the armrests have a pillowed finish and softened edges that widen to form the backrest. The generous widening of the armrests creates a place to rest a cup, or even a laptop on the lounge chair.
The seat of the chairs is designed in a modular fashion so that it can be customised with either solid timber or upholstery. And this is where the deep focus on sustainability comes to the fore. The upholstery choices includes aniline leather, which has received Nordic Swan Ecolabel certification. Rather than plastic foam, the fillings of the upholstered seats contain organic lambswool, which has anti-microbial properties, is naturally breathable, and meets British fire standards without the application of toxic fire-retardant chemicals.
The range has been accredited by the International Living Future Institute as ‘LBC Red List Free’ on its Declare label; a guarantee that no toxic chemicals are used in its manufacture and that it does not emit harmful VOCs. This also means the OVO pieces meet the requirements for WELL Certified buildings.
Independently verified Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) have been published on the collection, which demonstrate the “cradle to grave” environmental performance of the pieces. “The only meaningful statements on sustainability are those that can be measured and verified,” explains Sean Sutcliffe, founder and managing director of Benchmark. He adds that all three OVO chairs, when made with a solid timber seat, are carbon neutral or better and have a negative carbon footprint. In simple terms: they store more carbon than is emitted during their manufacture, distribution and expected use.
The leather upholstered versions have a low positive carbon footprint of between 10.6kg CO2 and 14.6kg CO2. These perform favourably when compared to similar chairs listed on the International EPD System directory, which average 43.9 kg CO2 equivalent. “EPD data helps customers make informed and objective sustainable choices,” Sean adds. “I’m proud that together with Foster + Partners, we’ve developed this range of beautiful chairs that feel great to sit in, are made to last a lifetime and – most importantly – are demonstrably sustainable.”
Made in the UK by Benchmark, the OVO collection of chairs will be available in oak with a low-VOC white oil or ebonised finish, and in walnut with a clear oil finish.
I’m proud that together with Foster + Partners, we’ve developed this range of beautiful chairs that feel great to sit in, are made to last a lifetime and – most importantly – are demonstrably sustainable.