Meet Self, the American brand that invites you to create your own furniture

At New York Design Week, founder Marvell Lahens invites visitors to discover Self (20 and 21 May 2023), a new generative design brand that allows users to create their own furniture

Self design brand table examples
(Image credit: Courtesy Self)

Design entrepreneur Marvell Lahens started generative design brand Self to offer users a more accessible approach to furniture design. The Chicago-based brand, he explains, ‘sprang from my own introduction into furniture design, and the sense that the barriers to entry in the space (be it lack of training or credentials, not being an expert in joinery or the use of hand tools, etc) meant that I needed to approach it from a more accessible starting point.’ 

Self: a generative design brand

Self design brand table examples

(Image credit: Courtesy Self)

Now launched in its beta version, Self  is an experimental brand offering custom, made-to-order furniture designed by the consumer. The project was inspired by the book Shape Grammars by Jannis Maroscheck, ‘an exploration of algorithmically defined shape paradigms and the resulting permutations’, explains Lahens. 

‘The moment of epiphany struck when I realised that similar rule sets, which are really just constraints, could theoretically be used by anyone (designers and non-designers). If given an easy-to-use layer on top of those rule sets (say, a configurator), I made the jump to the possibility that anyone could manipulate the resulting shapes. And if anyone could manipulate the resulting shapes, they could immerse themselves in some level of a design process. This idea, that I could invite and enable people of all backgrounds (not just creatives) to become co-designers and full participants in designing something that they are the end users of (first with furniture), became my pursuit, and Self is the manifestation of that.’

 Self at NYCXDesign 2023

Self design brand table examples

(Image credit: Courtesy Self)

For two days during New York Design Week 2023, Self invites visitors to experiment with the possibilities of generative furniture design, and explore works by designers Norman Teague and Max Davis, who were invited to experiment with the tool’s functionality.

The brand’s launch features a coffee table top that can be shaped through a vector poly-line, or by using two predefined shapes (organic or geometric) and then adjusting parameters such as points and radius. ‘Even within the algorithmically defined constraints, the shape possibilities are innumerable, and as more grammars are added, a customer will have a wider range of starting points and possibilities on Self,’ adds Lahens. Further customisation includes the legs of the table, the material (with a choice of plywood and steel), and colour for the steel version. 

The collaboration with Norman Teague ‘is an extension of Self’s design approach, and represents the beginning of a series of collaborations and co-designed starting points for consumers to use and manipulate themselves’, says Lahens.

‘Norman is a brilliant designer whose work already contained interesting shape types that naturally lend themselves to being permutable. For the set of tables Norman and I co-designed, he wanted to pull a thread from his existing body of work, through to this new approach. The resulting pieces are just four of the innumerable possibilities that can be derived from his grammar.’

Self is on view on 20 and 21 May 2023 (11am – 5pm) 

Sommwhere on Ludlow
48 Ludlow Street
New York
NY 10002


Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.