Enzo Mari, Model 1123XD Table

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Project by vipond33 posted 679 days ago 5563 views 20 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch




In 1974, the now noted Italian architect and designer Enzo Mari published a small book of furniture designs, some 19 pieces in all, and gave it away for free – to anyone around the world – just by sending him a S.S.A.E. The pamphlet was titled “Proposta per un’autoprogettazione” (a proposal for self design). Still available as a reprint in Italian and English, it was made to encourage people to build furniture for themselves with whatever modifications they wished.

From a later interview with him he stated “In 1974 I thought that if people were encouraged to build a table with their own hands, for example, they would be able to understand the thinking behind it. This is why I published ‘Proposta per un’autoprogettazione.” and later added “these objects are not intended as alternatives to industrial ones, their creation is intended as a sort of critical exercise on design, and this is the reason why this experiment was called home design, not home production. The user, in repeating the operation, which can never be a slavish repetition…the designs have no measurements and while you are making them you can make changes, variations… when making the object the user becomes aware of the structural reasoning behind the object itself, therefore, subsequently he improves his own ability to assess the object on the market with a more critical eye”.

All of these furniture pieces would have appealed at that time and beyond to young couples starting out or to students with a free afternoon, for they were simple designs (almost rustic) and involved no joinery to speak of. All elements of the build could be made with cheap dimensional lumber from the big box store and very simple tools (read hand saw & hammer).
Some are more refined than others though.

This is the “F” or “effe” table. All overlay joinery.

I liked everything I saw about the pictures and plans of my table, but having left my younger days well, well behind, having now a few skills and more than a free day available I built something a little more upscale. I translated his design for a dining room table into a coffee table sized one, verbatim (and credit to him as I managed to do so without altering the proportions), but I did seriously alter the surface materials and maybe altered its longevity compared to those very lighthearted and enthusiastic first efforts. Maybe not.



My construction is ebony veneer over BB plywood with colour matched solid mahogany edging buried underneath and used for the inlay and end caps. The leg frame assemblies are fully glued together but in a nod to the simplicity of the original construction I have only screwed together the support structure.

The finishing schedule for this was a bit of a departure for me. T&T oil (2) for colour and penetration, sanding sealer (2) for hardness and smooth surface sealing (heavily cut back) and T&T (2) very light for luster and colour renewal. Watco Liquid Satin wax (Natural). This was a bear of handwork because of the interior surfaces but it does show real promise.

I owe the inspiration for this project to a fellow LJ, JAcker, who started a web-log on this design some five months ago but hasn’t been seen since. Pity, I was waiting for him to do the heavy lifting on a sketch-up plan and solve any build problems. But I guess now I can return the favour.

Oh yeah, the first picture is my idea for a new girlfriend for Wall-E. A bit skinny compared to Eva, but who knows what robots like. The wide set eyes?

18” x 20” x 52”
About 42 hrs.
Build on LJ’s.

Many beautiful images of his work and their plans.
A delightful documentary video of an older Mr. Mari talking about his design approach interspersed with sections of him actually building his iconic chair.

(Fixed, with subtitles in English)


-- gene@toronto.ontario.canada : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

24 comments so far

View JL7's profile


6871 posts in 1551 days

#1 posted 679 days ago

This is quite stunning Gene…..Ebony veneer….wow! Great story…..amazing really…We are surrounded by greatness and often have no idea.

Thanks – good stuff.

-- Jeff - I have not failed. I've just found 10,002 ways that won't work.

View Millo's profile


543 posts in 1635 days

#2 posted 679 days ago

Very, very cool. Thanks for sharing!

T&T? Tried and True? Was the Oil/Varnish, Danish oil, or “Wood Finish” w beeswax? Thanks

View UncleStumpy's profile


360 posts in 898 days

#3 posted 679 days ago

You did him proud. I agree, it’s stunning. Wow.

-- "They don't want it perfect - they want it SPECIAL"

View Kookaburra's profile


745 posts in 810 days

#4 posted 679 days ago

Oh Gene – this is beautiful – the idea, the design and the execution. I love the story and I am so glad you brought it to life in your own way.

I am speechless. I love it. I have to go to bed but I shall be dreaming about this tonight – the lines are taking flight in my imagination already. I’ll be back for another look in the morning, maybe with a new dream of my own.

Thank you.

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

View rance's profile


4125 posts in 1746 days

#5 posted 679 days ago

Wall-E was exactly what I was thinking too. That’s funny(no, eerie). Again, a wonderful build. Lots of ideas from this one. Thanks for the links/video. I’ll be looking into his work. And searching for one of those pamphlets. Thanks again Gene.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View shipwright's profile


4807 posts in 1384 days

#6 posted 679 days ago

That’s a nice piece and a great homage to a man of vision and inspiration.

You have done him proud.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees.

View Puupaja's profile


307 posts in 1686 days

#7 posted 678 days ago

Hey Gene table look really great,nice figured veneer matches very well for this model.
One of my customer also wanted his designed chair, it was´t hard to do but its classic..


View jaykaypur's profile


3226 posts in 994 days

#8 posted 678 days ago

A great project and story. Thanks.

-- Use it up, Wear it out --------------- Make it do, Or do without!

View balidoug's profile


363 posts in 1064 days

#9 posted 678 days ago

Great stuff, Gene. You keep the rest of us humble.

-- From such crooked wood as that which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned. Immanuel Kant

View Roger's profile


13960 posts in 1390 days

#10 posted 678 days ago

Very good, very interesting. Thnx

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1368 posts in 947 days

#11 posted 678 days ago

A mildly interesting experiment in design and construction, but methinks it doesn’t befit your exceptional attention to material and finish detail. It’s ugly in SPF or ebony.

-- Clint Searl.............We deserve what we tolerate

View SPalm's profile


4705 posts in 2468 days

#12 posted 678 days ago

Nice work and nice tribute Gene.
Love the wood choice and treatment. Excellent workmanship and style points. You inspire.

The first pic is a riot. You had me going…

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View ShaneA's profile


5208 posts in 1184 days

#13 posted 678 days ago

Another winner Gene. Great project and story.

View DocSavage45's profile


4683 posts in 1428 days

#14 posted 678 days ago


Thank you! A creative input for my morning. Clean lines and function. The first thoughts were how did he get the legs to work that way? LOL! It appears that he was a creative mentor for you. And you have created some great color and lines.

Wall-e would be tempted. :-)

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View DocSavage45's profile


4683 posts in 1428 days

#15 posted 678 days ago

I believe you have built the most graceful of his functional pieces..checked out the webb page for his pieces…and added your craftsmanship and artistry to the piece. the bed reminds me of a wooden version of a butterfly chair.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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