Architecture & Design, Manufacturing, and Technology

Comfort Research launches ‘innovative’ seating option

Grand Rapids-based seating maker uses automotive technology to make lightweight chair.

February 24, 2017
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Comfort Research
Comfort Research’s new platform makes use of molded expanded polystyrene to create furniture that is sturdy but still lightweight. Courtesy Comfort Research

A Grand Rapids seating maker is eager for you to take a seat.

Comfort Research, which manufactures affordable seating options, is celebrating the debut of its newest product platform, Orahh, a new technology developed and patented by the company.

Matt Jung, co-founder of Comfort Research, said he’s excited about the new platform, which he described as “different from anything that’s been done before.”

Jung said the Orahh platform uses molded expanded polystyrene (EPS), which is used in the automotive and construction industries but not widely in the consumer products industry.

He said EPS is a conventional material for making beanbag chairs and similar furniture, but it is usually a loose fill, known as beans, that goes into the product.

Comfort Research asked the question, “What if we took the concept of Styrofoam cup and Styrofoam cooler and exploded out the technology?” which he said meant molding EPS into a furniture frame.

“That is the platform we’ve really created, using EPS and other expanded plastics to create consumer product pieces,” Jung said.

He said the technology has the potential to be a game-changer for the affordable furniture industry, because of the speed at which it can be manufactured and the limitless design potential.

“It’s not about the chair, nor is it about any given shape, per se. It’s the fact that we’re using a technology from the automotive industry and applying it in an innovative, new way to the furniture industry for the first time,” he said. “In doing so, we believe we’ll open entirely new possibilities for furniture buyers, designers and consumers.”

Jung said Comfort Research debuted its first line of Orahh products in January, which includes an armed rocking chair and modular outdoor sofa pieces — an armless chair, corner chair and an ottoman.

He said the modular sofa pieces can be used in numerous configurations to achieve a number of seating options.

Jung also said though its first Orahh line is for outdoor seating, it also could be used indoors, and the company plans to make additional furniture products using the platform.

“Because there are no extra parts, no wood, screws or metal, it can go indoors, as well,” he said. “And the average piece weighs about 15 pounds, making it very mobile.”

Orahh products will be available this spring under Comfort Research’s existing Big Joe and Lux by Big Joe brands, which sell at retailers including Meijer, Target, Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club and Amazon.

Jung said in addition to Orahh, Comfort Research also has its Fuf and UltimaX beans platforms, and the company will continue using all three of the platforms in support of its different products.

“Orahh makes up about 5 percent (of our business), and it’s growing rapidly — 80 percent is beanbags and the remaining is our Fuf products,” Jung said.

Comfort Research launched in 1997. The company was conceived in 1996, while Jung and co-founder Chip George were attending Hope College and started experimenting with how to create a better beanbag chair.

The Fuf platform, which uses shredded foam, was born out of that effort and quickly gained prominence in dorm rooms across the country.

Twenty years later, Comfort Research still operates its headquarters in Grand Rapids, where the majority of its 250 employees are housed. It also has a facility in Lewisburg, Tennessee, and is opening another facility just outside Salt Lake City, Utah.

Jung said Comfort Research has been working to expand capacity and reduce freight costs by opening the additional facilities.

“Taking out miles is more efficient in freight costs,” he said.

He said with Orahh, he thinks the company has the opportunity to grow to 10 times its current size.

“Because of the different capabilities and opportunities we have with this platform we’ve invented,” he said.

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