Designer and founder of Duffy London Chris Duffy started making furniture to trick the eye with the Shadow Chair, cantilevered over a dark base to look as if it is balancing on two legs, and the Balloon Table, where a glass surface seemingly rests, hovering, on helium balloons. “It’s only supposed to fool you for a fraction of a second, just to catch your attention. Then you look at it, you investigate it, and then you know, ‘Oh yeah, that’s how it’s done,’ ” Chris says.
The Impossible Table is different. The more you look at it, the more confounding it becomes. A polished steel block sits above a matte black base, held by the finest of points. It doesn’t wobble when you touch it and can hold the weight of a human, yet to the eye the shiny metallic top appears to be practically levitating.
“It’s very big and boxy, so inside those boxes there’s a lot of space for the engineering and strength, the cantilevers and everything else to be in there to make it work and make it absolutely solid,” Chris says.
This simple illusion and the engineering behind it were the beginning of the Impossible Table, and are, in fact, entirely possible. The mechanics of the table worked from the very first prototype, so the difficulty lay in exaggerating the illusion through precision and contrast.
“The challenge is taking away material so it doesn’t have to be such a heavy object and so it can go together much more precisely,” Chris says. “With this design, the illusion is in the contrast of huge heavy blocks being held together at a very, very fine point. If it’s not absolutely precise in the way it’s put together and manufactured, then you lose a lot of the illusion.” Still, only about six weeks passed between the first few sketches in Chris’ diary to the table coming into reality.
The Impossible Table’s play with gravity and visual trickery is common in the Duffy London team’s work, as are themes of geography and depth. Whether making a gravity-defying console table or one that resembles an Oceanic abyss, Chris seeks to create new and eye-catching works that you can’t help but look at twice—or more. “I want to run a small R&D-based design company with a small team creating constantly,” Chris says. “By doing these more bespoke pieces with these themes, we get to create very unique pieces, and lots of them.”