Kem Studio Skateboard bench

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Kem Studio’s Skate Bench No. 1

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

There comes a time in every rebellious skateboarder's life—let's call it his 30s—when his knees won't let him go grinding down guardrails at the mall parking lot like he used to. But that doesn't mean he can't keep a sweet-looking deck in his life in a safer way. Witness Skate Bench No. 1 Kansas City-based Kem Studio, a design firm fusing architecture and industrial design, a skateboard-inspired bench influenced by the mixture of skateboard culture and midcentury modern furniture. Made in the USA, it incorporates a continuously bent stainless steel or powder coated frame with integrated hardware and a skateboard deck with custom graphics. It was even featured at the Tony Hawk Foundation’s recent Stand Up for Skateparks benefit in Beverly Hills. We talk with Kem Studio principal Jonathon Kemnitzer about the inspiration behind it.

DB: What inspired you to create Skate Bench No. 1? Are you a long-time fan of skateboarding, or did the idea come from a completely different scenario/experience?
Jonathon Kemnitzer: All of us are into board sports (skating, snowboarding, and surfing) and are huge fans of Charles and Ray Eames' furniture. Skate Bench No.1 came out of our love of those two.

DB: Skateboarding culture and mid-century design seem like they have pretty disparate styles. How did you distill both cultures to make a cohesive design for the bench?
JK: If it wasn’t for the Eames' explorations with veneered wood, starting with their leg splint for the Navy in World War II, I would argue that veneered skateboards decks wouldn’t be around. I think it’s a perfect union.

DB: Who designed the skateboards themselves? 
JK: We collaborated with Hammerpress on the skateboard graphics. We wanted to create a pattern that referenced the base, but we also wanted it to be all Hammerpress. I love those decks. I have one at home on a frame and ride the other. 

DB: Can people customize their benches with their own decks? If so, can they assemble the benches themselves? 
JK: Absolutely. Really that’s the whole point. We want people to make it their own by putting their own deck on it or choosing one that they think is really cool. And you can mount it either right side up or upside down. If you purchase a frame we include the hardware, so attaching a deck is easy. 

DB: At what point did Tony Hawk and Mike V take notice? Did they have any say in the bench’s design? 
JK: We were almost done with our Kickstarter campaign when Tony and his foundation found out about it. We ended up donating one to his foundation event (Stand Up For Skateparks), went to the event, and met Tony, Mike V, and a ton of other great people. That was surreal.

DB: What has been your favorite aspect of the project to date? 
JK: We love seeing how people own it! One guy hand painted all of the places he and his wife have travelled on a blank skateboard deck and gave it to her as an anniversary present. We’ve received similar photos/stories from people all over the world... these connections have been awesome!


Skate Bench No.1 is available in several options. Complete benches range from $250 to $300. The skateboard decks are $50 and frames range from $200 to $250, so you can mix and match. All are available at Better Design Better Living

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