Sometimes we all need an extra hand around the house. Enter the Butler, a versatile step-ladder designed by Shane Schneck for HAY, whose clever design and thoughtful features make it an ideal household tool for numerous contexts. Crafted in solid oak with contemporary detailing, its larger lower step enables it to be used a side table, stool, or even a bedside bench.
We chatted with Shane Schneck about why he sees this handy domestic helper as perfectly suiting today’s modern urban lifestyle.
How did your idea for the design of Butler come about?
We wanted to create a very practical product that could be used in any room of the house for multiple functions. First and foremost, Butler is a well-crafted step ladder. But thereafter it is up to the user to decide.
Reaching 50cm tall, it is a comfortable height for a dining or office stool, and is well suited for a junior member of the family. The deep step also makes it convenient to use as a small bedside shelf, or to park it near the sofa as a coffee table.
How do you use your own Butler?
Our eldest daughter has it placed next to her bed, and she pulls it out now and then to reach the top of her bookshelves. The Butler downstairs sits at the dining table. But it also works at the piano for the youngest member of our family, since at 50 cm high it stands 5 cm taller than most chairs, which provides a nice height advantage.
What inspired the name for this product?
The typology in many ways is a servant of domestic use, which led us to the name. A silent, useful and reserved character as I imagined it, that is always around when you need them.
Can you tell us a bit about the function and the history of a hybrid everyday household product like this?
A chair, in fact, is the original multipurpose domestic object, as it can be used as step ladder, bedside table, or a coat hanger. In addition to its functional use, the chair is a cultural symbol projecting economic class and a social ideology about the owner.
There are other typologies such as baskets, bowls, and benches that are used in both functional and decorative manners.
How does your design for Butler relate to your overall design aesthetic and your other products for HAY?
We are not guided by aesthetics per se but by intuition, materiality, and economy. Our aim was to find a unique expression and hopefully create something useful. Some time ago, we designed a set of safety matches for HAY called Strike. It is a product mostly used for commercial purposes, but is still a good way to start a fire. In fact, the safety match was a Swedish innovation, and all over the country you find match boxes peppered around homes.
One might think there is nothing new to say with this kind of product, but by simply flipping the position of the strike area and exaggerating the phosphorus patterns, something new happened.
I hope with Butler we in some small way encourage a new dialog between the user and a step ladder.