Tuesday, August 16

Why is the Nonprofit Group Adaptive Design Creating Custom Furniture Out of Cardboard?

Furnishing your home is fun, but that fun can fade somewhat as you realize how expensive it can be. Thankfully, there are ways to save money and still get beautiful furniture for your home. You can find amazing furniture online, often at a cheaper price than you’d find in the store. Some of it will be used, but others will be brand new. You can find affordable quality furniture stores in person as well. Outlet shops and vintage shops will often have affordable solid wood furniture that you can buy. In some vintage and antique shops, you might even find Amish heirloom furniture. Depending on your personal taste, this could be the showcase of your home.

When you’re buying furniture, it is important to know both your budget and what you want to get. However, sometimes it pays to be flexible. There are amazing furniture stores that sell unique pieces. So if you spend some time exploring them, you’re likely to find things that you never expected to love. These might be the things that help make your home feel more like your own.

Adaptive Design is a small but important nonprofit organization operating out of NYC. What happens when disabled children cannot sit in normal seating arrangements in the same classroom as their peers? There are often few easy solutions for these children. At Adaptive Design, though, chairs and other items of furniture are custom-built to suit the specific needs of disabled children.

The majority of the furniture is constructed using high-grade cardboard, which can hold 1,100 pounds per square inch. Elmer’s glue, hot glue, and cardboard are the basic materials used by those working at Adaptive Design. Currently, the work is being done by volunteers and design students.

One example the nonprofit keeps in their storefront is that of a 6-year-old-girl (a doll model representation) who doesn’t have sufficient muscle tone to sit upright. Without furniture assistance, she has to be propped up with an adult, like a toddler. With a custom-built chair by Adaptive Design, the girl can sit in a legless chair on the ground like her peers do, allowing her to share in on circle story-time with everyone else.

“I think it is fantastic to see this non-profit providing a one-two punch where they’re not only helping out disabled children but in an eco-friendly way as well,” says X at Creative Wall Coverings. “Cardboard is also very cheap, which likely helps this non-profit make the most of their available resource,” said Gary Kapner at Creative Wallcoverings and Interiors.

Alex Truesdell, the group’s executive director, came up with the idea nearly 30 years ago when she discovered a green cardboard chair in a storeroom that had been crafted for an adult with asymmetrical limb lengths. Cardboard is an ideal building material because it is strong and cheap. She quickly became immersed in the world of cardboard craftsmanship, and the shop now creates several hundred pieces each year, all of which are crafted for the specific needs of disabled children.

Commenting on the designs, Truesdell explains that the furniture allows these children to participate in activities with their peers more easily, and with less adult assistance. “Having to sit with an adult is what toddlers do,” said Truesdell. “Now she can say, ‘I can sit here on my own.’ ”

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