Final Project Part 1: Folding Coffee Table

From the beginning I wanted to make something useful and aesthetically appealing. I wanted to make a folding coffee table that that stands at different heights and compresses to be put away. Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing policies, I was unable to access the appropriate tools to build my artifact or purchase the necessary materials. Nevertheless, I used my 3D modeling skills with Rhino and made my table a digital reality.


Originally, I wanted the coffee table to have four individual legs that bent inward. The table would be sleek and the body of the main piece of wood was to resemble the shape of a snowboard. The four individual legs were to be made of copper and the table would only be used as a standard, low coffee table.


Since this concept did not feel sufficiently interesting, I wanted to develop my idea into a height varying coffee table. The concept of ironing boards is the best way to explain it because their height is adjustable and they can be flattened completely for storage.


Given that the pairs of legs will cross each other, I chose to change the shape of the top from the snowboard body back to an oval. It will keep the table from looking too busy with an oddly shaped top and it will still have a clean classic look with the copper legs.

There were two ways for me to implement a folding mechanism. The first way was to place one T-shaped leg on one side that goes in between two legs on the opposite side like in figure [2]. The main difference in my design is my use of pipes rather than wood, allowing me to put a pin that locks at the intersection of the three tubes to set the table to differing heights. The second way, like in figure [3], was to create four legs that go along the edge of the table and locks with its pair. I can loosen the legs to adjust and lock them at the desired height. For the 3D model, I decided on the second option. When I make the table in real life I may want to reconsider this decision in case method one turns out to be stronger and more stable than method two.



I thought that by having an obscurely oval table top, copper legs, and a clean finish to my coffee table, that I would be incorporating an organic, steampunk, minimalist aesthetic into my design. In turn, after doing more research and speaking to people, my folding coffee table falls under the minimalist aesthetic. Even though it incorporates copper, it does not have enough ornaments to qualify as steampunk. Also, whether or not I would have chosen to keep the table top as an obscurely shaped piece of wood, the final piece would still be minimalist and not organic.

At the end of the day, the table is simple and literal. It has a straightforward purpose with a basic mechanism. It has no embellishments or bright colors, and it is stripped away to a simple geometric form.  The use of copper does not strip the design from it’s minimalist aesthetic since, as you can see below, there are plenty of minimalist furniture examples that incorporate copper or rose gold into their forms. In fact, minimal sculptures can be made of materials like fiberglass, sheet metal, aluminum, or plastic. Ultimately, the juxtaposition of the piece of wood with the copper and the muted steel hinges and thumb screws, allow the table to visually stand on its own, unexpressive, and non-referential.

[4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13]


Originally, my top five constraints were finding the right piece of wood, staying within my $200 budget, expanding my woodworking knowledge, finding enough time to finish the project, and staying within my aesthetic. Since the pandemic changed all of my plans, so did my constraints. All of a sudden I no longer had to find a piece of wood, I no longer had to spend any money, and I gained time! Unfortunately, I was not challenged to learn more about wood working, but when I decide to build the table I will face the challenges that would have otherwise slowed me down. Staying within my aesthetic was no longer too big of a challenge since the possibility of damaging my materials and sacrificing a smooth, clean, minimalist finish was digitized.

Despite my 3D modeling knowledge on Rhino 6, a constraint that I did not foresee was the amount of time it would take to create renderings on Autodesk Fusion 360. I spent about three days worth of trial and error to create presentable renderings of the table in contextual space. Ultimately, I re-learned to use the software and was able to work it out.






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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Benjamin Robles
    April 27, 2020 9:05 am

    Hey Nicole!

    Sorry you were able to make the table but your rendering look great! I hope you get a chance to build the table this summer. Best of luck!

    Ben Robles

  • Hi Nicole, I think you did a really great job of rendering your table and room! I have tried rendering before and I am terrible at it, so props to you. Otherwise, have you thought of using a non-wood alternative for the tabletop? I personally think you could get a modern aesthetic with clear acrylic for the tabletop, but it’s definitely a different vibe than what you currently have.

  • Daniel Straub
    April 22, 2020 11:27 am

    Nicole, your renderings look great. What program did you use? I really like how the legs sit flush with the table when it is folded. What are the rough dimensions of the table? I would consider adding rubber feet. I think this will help distribute the load a little better and help prevent the legs from fanning out and failing. Are you going to build the table once quarantine is over?


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