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Morse Table System: Designer Q+A with John Tree

John Tree is a London-based designer with a focus on simplicity and economy. His award-winning designs reflect a deep understanding and engagement with the manufacturing process. John’s pared-back approach often reduces pieces to their essential elements, resulting in crafted yet industrial designs with a refined function and essential simplicity that seek to drive longevity. With a background that includes working at both Sony and Jasper Morrison’s design offices, John established his own practice in 2016. His studio works with clients in the furniture, lighting, and electronics industries.

We sat down with John to learn more about the intelligent Morse Table System.

NaughtOne: How did this project come about?

John Tree: It naturally grew out of early conversations about this idea of a source table system; something very, very simple, but that does a lot. It really hooked into that idea that’s so central to NaughtOne’s ethos: absolute simplicity, infinite possibility.

NaughtOne: What was your approach to designing Morse?

John Tree: The approach was very much about trying to do as much as possible with as fewer parts as possible. The intention was to really simplify and reduce down the design. For this system, good design is about invisibility. Visual and Mechanical simplicity. It takes quite a lot of work to achieve. Working with NaughtOne’s inhouse engineering team we explored which elements could have multiple functions. Could this part, for example, also clamp onto the leg and join onto the beam? And could it support cables? The aim was to make every part work really hard, and really well.

NaughtOne: What makes Morse unique?

John Tree: The Morse Table System isn’t a family of tables; it’s a solution that can provide any type of table you want at multiple heights, in the style of your choice. Morse is designed so that you don’t have to choose between tables during the day: one table can adapt exactly to your need. It has a comforting and domestic feel, designed to be visually quiet, but there when you need it. If you clean everything off, it’s super minimal and neutral but bring your laptop, dinner or accessories and it’s there to be the anchor within the space without dictating the mood. We designed a range of accessories that require no tools to assemble; they simply drop into the channel. This empowers the user to adapt the table to their situation. If they want to have a zone to work in, they can drop a  divider in and a little power unit and they instantly have a clearly designated area. The range of tops, legs and structural elements can really cater to any situation, at any scale, and in any context – from a tiny kitchen to a huge floor in a trading office.

NaughtOne: The accessories complement the table beautifully. What was the inspiration behind them?

John Tree: The inspiration came from utility and actually thinking of what people’s needs were and trying to address them. One of those needs was cable management. And also space definition. They’re like lampposts are on a street; they’re little architectural markers that help define zones of function. We really wanted it to feel like you could simply drop a few of these accessories in and  quickly rearrange the table for a two week project. All you need to do is put up some dividers, add a couple of pin boards and some power points, and then at the end of two weeks, change it back to meeting table. The aim was to encourage the table’s users to take ownership. If they have ownership of the space and the accessories, they will feel more empowered to use it flexibly.

NaughtOne: What were some of the more challenging or technical aspects you encountered?

John Tree: We did a lot of visual tuning of the leg – changing it by a few millimetres is enough to make it seem lighter or heavier. To do that across both wood and steel was one of those key aspects of the table’s design that makes all the difference to how it looks, but it was challenging technically to get it just right, especially when you factor cable management into it; we used the legs to hide the cables. It was a challenge to keep the legs looking strong and elegant at the same time. It was a careful balance of good design and engineering.

NaughtOne: NaughtOne and yourself have a passion about designing for a sustainable future. What sustainable design solutions did you consider in the process?

John Tree: The primary consideration was to deliver longevity with this product. That’s why we gave it such visual simplicity so in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, it has the potential to be a classic. It’s highly serviceable and it’s designed to be built upon in the future. If you want to double the length of your table, you can order an extra piece and add to what you have. It never becomes  redundant. In terms of materials, we avoided plastic throughout the whole project. We went for natural materials such as wood. One of the main offerings for the table tops is a range of linoleums; a very natural material. We also took a reductive approach to the materials, using only what was needed.

Morse Table System is now available for specification into projects, and available to order from July 1st 2023. Find out more about Morse Table System here, or by contacting sales@naughtone.com.

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