Floating Coffee Table – Design Preview

As mentioned in previous posts, I will be building a coffee table base using the principle of tensegrity.  Short for ‘tensional integrity’, tensegrity is a structural principle based on suspending isolated rigid bodies within a network of tensile members. This technique, popularized in the mid twentieth century, has found its way into art, bridge design, spacecraft, and even furniture. My design for the table base relies on a very simple usage of the tensegrity principle, but I hope to explore different / more complex designs in the future.


Shown above are two examples of tensegrity designs. On the left is a sculpture called the ‘Needle Tower’, and on the right is a prototyped mobile space robot called the NASA ‘SUPERball’.


For my design, I will primarily be using square tube steel and steel cable. Hopefully, these materials will help me achieve my target aesthetics. I am trying to accomplish a sort of modern industrial feel. I think this will nicely complement and highlight the floaty / trippy aesthetic that will obviously be a focal point.


In the renderings shown above, I have assumed the use of solid walnut for the table top and bottom storage panels. I think this would be a nice combination with the blued steel. However, since I anticipate running out of time to build a whole new table top, I am building the base to fit a top that I made last year which has been lying around. This top was a sort of experiment that I did with two live edge boards of aspen and concrete. I filled the concrete in between the two live edge faces, similar to what a lot of people like to do with resin in ‘river tables’. I also might end up swapping the top out later, but I do think the polished concrete would tie in nicely with the industrial aesthetic.



This is the mostly finished aspen/concrete top that I will most likely end up using with the steel base.


This is an example of raw (unstained) walnut wood, which I would also like to use for the coffee table top if I have time.


Presentation link : https://youtu.be/Hy0BeiZYb3s


Sources :

  • Sentientfurniture.com, sentientfurniture.com/live-edge/dining-tables-with-american-walnut-oak-maple/.
  • “Tensegrity.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Mar. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tensegrity#:~:text=Tensegrity%2C%20tensional%20integrity%20or%20floating,other%20while%20the%20prestressed%20tensioned.
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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Andrew Thorson
    April 3, 2021 11:13 am

    I think that this looks like a great project. I think the combination between the concrete and the wood gives a very interesting aesthetic. One question I have is how much perpendicular force can the table support? For example if someone walked into the side of the table would it fall over or would it be fine? overall the project looks great.

    • Erik Skooglund
      April 5, 2021 10:37 am

      Hey Andrew, thanks for the response! To answer your question, the table will not be able to fall apart unless someone is able to break one of the steel cables ( 6000 lb. breaking strength). The entire table would tip over together before the top comes loose from the bottom.

  • Branden Tangney
    March 30, 2021 1:29 pm

    Hi Erik!

    This is such a cool project! I was not familiar with tensegrity or how you planned to actually make it work, however I think you are well on your way! I also think the industrial aesthetic is perfect for this project and you can coat the walnut wood to preserve the table over time. Have you done any analysis on the structural supports to ensure your project will be able to withstand the forces being applied? Anyway, I can’t wait to see your vision come to life! Awesome idea!

    • Erik Skooglund
      April 5, 2021 10:31 am

      Hi Branden, thanks for the feedback! Yes, I have done some basic deflection calculations to make sure none of my beams will move more than 0.1″ when maximum tension is applied.


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