• Interview With Artist
When we have a quiet moment to ourselves, we sometimes think about the world we’ll leave behind after we’re gone. Will the world be a better or worse place when you’re no longer in it?
That’s one of the questions that drives people to consider the impact they have on the environment.
Designer William Warren created a set of bookshelves that will last you a lifetime: they can be reassembled as a coffin.
In other words, the ‘Shelves for Life’ is a piece of furniture that will follow you on your final journey.
“The wood will color, the surfaces will mark and stain, and over the years and the furniture will become a part of you,” Warren writes. “When you die, the shelves can be taken apart and reassembled as a coffin. The brass plate under the bottom shelf, that tells the story about this transformation, is then flipped over and your dates inscribed on it.”
According to Warren, people, in general, were at first surprised and then amused by his design. “It’s not everyone who sees the charm but some do. People are very pleased when they realize the designs can be downloaded for free.”
The designer admitted that there have been critics who did not enjoy his work: “I offered the design to a Japanese company when I first made it but they really didn’t like the reminder of death. Since then, some squeal and some smile.”
Warren revealed that he’s still busy working away as a designer.
Among his recent projects, he designed all the furniture and interiors in a new children’s hospital in Edinburgh and new gates for Kew Gardens in London. “I’m also teaching design at several universities and developing other music and video projects.”
The designer added that “we are all going to die” at some point and there’s no need to ignore it or try to forget it.
“If you don’t think about it in advance, you’ll be buried or burnt in a chipboard box with paper that looks like wood and plastic handles that look like brass. Your grieving family will pay £400 for this £40 piece of rubbish because nobody argues with an undertaker. Better to have something you’ve made, something solid and something that has lived with you in life and has the stains and scars to prove it.”
This is how you can convert the shelves into a coffin...
The eco-friendly shelves were first launched during the 2005 London Design Festival at the British Library and have made waves on the internet ever since.
Warren runs a furniture and product design consultancy, is a Senior Lecturer at London Metropolitan University, and also lectures at three other universities and colleges.
His design philosophy is all about creating emotional experiences, making us think about our belongings, and his designs often feature humorous conceptual twists.
The designer has his very own set of ‘Shelves for Life’ and will send you a free personal design if you send him your measurements.
According to Warren, these bookshelves will “store all your knowledge and prized possessions.”
He added that “it will be a visible part of your life and will get coffee stains and burns on it. So it will mean more when you use it as shelves and it will mean more when you are buried in it.”
Warren told the Financial Times that coffins are some of the most expensive pieces of furniture that people will ever buy while having the worst quality. “I’m happy for as many people to have mine as possible,” he said.
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Image credits: William Warren