Mar 1, 2014

Slat wall

Let's face it. The idea of using wooden slats as decorative elements is not new. On the contrary, they have been widely used in interior design and architecture. A good example is Eero Saarinen's (one of our favourite designers of all time) work conducted for the General Motors HQ in Detroit Michigan. Among other things, he was asked to design the office interiors of Harley Earl, who at that time was the Vice President of Design at GM. The three other examples are more contemporary, yet relatively similar visually: 23 and 4.

So very early in the process we knew we wanted to use some kind of wooden elements downstairs. First, Pekka made a slat ceiling to the laundry room. In terms of the downstairs lounge area, we were first contemplating wether to use plywood or not, but when acquiring a 1.65 m3 pile of solid teak which now lies in the underground space waiting for to be used, our minds quickly shifted from plywood to slats.

Quick prototyping with a ceiling element from laundry room

After choosing slats the question became whether approach the challenge with a horizontal or vertical pattern. Then, the thinking revolved around the dimensions of both the wood pieces and gaps in between. It is this rhythm in relation to the scale of the entire wall that matters and ultimately defines how well the slat wall will complement the entire space. 

As you can guess, these monstrous questions are driving Pekka over the edge. So during the last few weeks, he has been relentlessly working with prototypes made of pine. Via seemingly endless continuum of prototypes he has slowly started approach to the "perfect" design. It will take, however, a few more iterations and some more pine for him to find the absolute optimal rhythm. Only after that he will freeze the design and is allowed to start experimenting with his beloved teak to produce the final pieces (yes, he really goes and talks to the teak every night).

Early slat prototypes

As it is by trial and error, in order to be able to experiment with exact measurements Pekka of course made some tools to create gaps of various width.

Gap tools

Currently, thanks to Pekka's determination, we have answers to most of the questions. The slat elements will be layed vertically, from floor to ceiling. The cross sectional dimensions of the latest pine prototype is 22 x 22 mm attributable not only to the visual drivers, but also to the dimensions of the original teak pieces. So each piece would be 22 mm wide followed by a 14 mm gap. Naturally, the ratio of 22:14 is very close to the golden cut.

Testing with a ratio of 45:15

We are also planning to use teak to finalize the steps of the circular staircase. This will not only add warmth visually, but also has a more functional aspect. Without any coating, the steel steps are a bit slippery and to avoid any unwanted accidents adding wood might not be a bad idea.

Horizontal design

This will evidently lead to some design decisions as there are many ways in which the pieces could laid on a step.

Vertical design

Anyhow, back to the slat wall. In the end, we decided 22 mm is visually still a bit thick, so the next step is to experiment with 20 mm. Shall we see the day of the design freeze, before installing the slats the entire wall will be covered with acoustic panels. The slats will be installed on top of the acoustic element. Therefore, it will not only be a visually appealing end result, but the wall will also function as a sound trap. More to follow for sure!

Latest mock-up


  1. As I was designing my radiator cover, I have been going throw the same steps as you have. I don't want to make you decision any harder but have you considered that not all gaps are the same width; 5 small gaps and one double width. Also that every fifth slat is wider/narrower. It could give a little depth to a big area of slats.

    1. Thanks for your input Martin! There are many possible solutions to the given task and this is the time to evaluate all of them. Once we get the general cross section right we should, just like you kindly brought out, check out weather or not it is enough to go with the uniform pattern or if we should give it a little twist. We'll see..

  2. Wow! What a transformation. The staircase looks fantastic, and the teak wall prototype is gorgeous.

    Have you considered leather for the stair treads?

    1. Leather for the stair treads? No we haven't considered leather, but it might be an option. Originally we were thinking of some kind of rubber sheets, with the advantage of non slippery surface & black color, but now that we have quite a lot of teak it seems as an better option. Remains to be seen.