Perennial Wood™ gives furniture design students new medium, more exposure

Three university students competed at the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta last weekend.

Senior industrial design majors Eugene Duclos, James Ellis and Austin Richards were among other designers competing nationwide for a $12,000 grand prize.

Duclos got best in show for his “Wright Bench,” and Ellis got first in the accent and side table category with his “Twisted Table.”

“With…the success at the Design Emphasis competition at IWF, this has been one of the best experiences a student could have and has definitely resulted in a great addition to my portfolio and resume,” Duclos said.

But the process leading up to Atlanta’s contest has been a long time coming.

In January 2012 the Perennial Wood Appalachian State Design Studio was launched, sponsored by the Eastman Innovation Lab Design Firm, a branch of Eastman Chemical Company.

But the company took their investment at Appalachian a bit further than that – the company also provided the university with its newest product Perennial Wood.

Design students then took the wood to create outdoor furniture for showcases and competitions.

“The scope of the studio would be for us to be introduced to the product before its commercial launch, play with it, learn how it worked and then design around its characteristics of dimensional stability in outdoor conditions,” Senior industrial design major Derek Elliot said.

Perennial Wood is natural wood that had its cell walls transformed through technology to be resistant to water. It is fortified with TruLast Technology to be about three times more resistant to shrinking and swelling than regular, unmodified wood.

Eastman’s goal was to take the products, initially designed for decks, and bring it to a new consumer market.

“They wanted to open it up to furniture manufacturers,” Industrial design professor Richard Prisco said. “The logical choice is to go to outdoor furniture.”

The studio took furniture to the High Point Furniture Market first to unveil the new products.
Two of the furniture design students were recognized for their pieces at the High Point Market.

Michael DeMarco, senior industrial design major, was awarded the Grand Prize for his furniture piece titled the Strangler Floor Lamp and Derek Elliott was awarded the People’s Choice Award for his piece entitled Patio Chaise.

Elliot’s piece earned the most attention on social media sites Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

“The other little perk of winning People’s Choice was the chance to be in an Eastman Innovation Lab video,” Elliot said. “The film crew came out to our little town called Boone from England with all their fancy cameras and we spent most of a day filming for that, it was way cool.”

Story: EMMA SPECKMAN, Intern A&E Reporter