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One Cool Coffee Table Wins UC Alum International Recognition

Young UC alum James Cornetet has designed one very cool coffee table. It recently won an international design award and is short listed in another prestigious, international competition.

Date: 8/7/2011
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: James Cornetet

James Cornetet,  a young architecture graduate from the University of Cincinnati, has designed one cool coffee table – one that makes almost impossible to spill that hot cup of coffee on your books, work materials or laptop.
James Cornetet coffee table design.
James Cornetet's coffee table design.

The table is so cool that Cornetet, a 2006 graduate of UC’s top-ranked School of Architecture and Interior Design, has just entered the design into an additional international competition – even beyond the design’s recent win in the international A’Design Award & Competition in Como, Italy.

Cornetet, 29, originally of Anderson Township but now living and working in Orlando, Fla., where he is about to open his own architecture firm with another young architect,  credits UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) for helping him to learn to ask questions.

“This design came out of questions about what I like and don’t like about the general coffee table. And after that, there’s always more question. At DAAP, I learned that once you know the limits of the design process, question them. So, for instance, once I questioned that the coffee table had to be flat, that opened up a world of ideas. My time at UC really changed the way I think,” said Cornetet.

His design for the “get your feet off my coffee table!” coffee table started with a simple dislike and a few questions about coffee tables. “What I don’t like is when people put their feet on a coffee table, specifically my coffee table,” he admitted, adding, “Feet don’t go on chairs. Why do they go on coffee tables?”

Then, he began asking questions about this piece of furniture that is the centerpiece of most living rooms. And while it’s a piece of furniture designed to hold objects, no one’s ever really questions its routinely flat surface: “The current design for a coffee table treats all the objects it holds as equal. There are large objects meant to be on display, but there are others – keys, wallets, remotes – that aren’t.”

And that’s where the vertical ribs of Cornetet’s design come into play. It, in effect, creates two table tops. The lower surface conceals everyday objects like keys, cups, remote controls and cell phones. Thus, shielding clutter from view and preserving the pristine aesthetic of table and room.
James Cornetet

The close proximity of the vertical ribs also creates an upper surface that can hold large objects like books and laptops placed horizontally upon them. But, importantly in Cornetet’s eyes, the dimensions of the vertical ribs have been designed to make it uncomfortable to rest your feet on the table.

Cornetet has already built several of the coffee tables. One he uses in his own home, and several others have been purchased by business professionals who have ordered the tables.

“The business clients like the table because you can place a cup of coffee on the lower surface but be working on a laptop that is resting on the upper surface. Most of them are people who, while working at traditional coffee tables, have actually spilled their coffee and ruined a laptop or two. They don’t want that to ever happen again,” explained Cornetet.

In addition to winning in the Furniture and Homeware Design category of the international A’Design Award & Competition, Cornetet’s design has been short listed in this year’s Red Dot Design Award contest.

He states, “The best part of the contest recognition is getting the work out there. Any designer wants to create excellent work, to have it be used and appreciated.”
James Cornetet

And the attention his design is earning is a confidence booster as Cornetet and a partner are set to open their own architecture firm, Process Architecture, in Orlando.

“I always intended to open my own firm, and UC’s co-op program provided me with a lot of good experience to that end. Co-op prepared me well because I got to go into and work at different architecture offices and see how the different firms organized their business sides. How they ran their operations. I could pick and choose from these operations in terms of how I wanted to operate my firm,” he recalled.

Co-op or cooperative education is the practice of alternation quarters or semesters in the classroom with quarters or semesters of professionally paid work. UC is the global founder of co-op, having begun the practice in 1906 and today houses the nation’s largest co-op program at a public university. UC co-op is ranked in the nation’s top ten by U.S. News & World Report.