Convertible Library Carrel

for Milder Furniture



Milder Furniture designed study carrels that transformed into flat tables for the MIT Stratton Reading Room several years before I joined the studio (see process images). They were well received but had stability issues and could feel shaky. 

Design Brief

There was a fair amount of interest in a product with this functionality, especially from libraries, so we resolved to create a new design with better stability. Primarily these would be used in multifunction rooms. The carrels would lay flat for group activities or presentations, and open to allow privacy for individual work such as test taking. 


In the original design, the table top in the “closed” position became the back of the carrel in the “open” position and a new top swung up from underneath. This provided very little opportunity for lateral connections between the sides, causing the stability issues. For the new design we quickly resolved to have two tops, a lower static top to allow for more connection points, and an upper top that could be raised to become the carrel back. Many different rotary dampers, linear dampers and gas springs, as well as off-the-shelf and custom designed latches were experimented with for lift assistance, holding the privacy panels in place in the “open” position, and providing dampening to keep the carrel assembly from slamming shut when closing.


We ultimately found gas-springs made by Bansbach with built-in dampening on the down stroke. Working with their engineers, we were able to fine-tune both the push force and dampening to eliminate the need for a latch. After lifting the upper top a few inches the gas springs would take over and fully open the carrel. Likewise, closing the carrel was as simple as pulling on the back and letting the dampened springs smoothly drop the upper top into place. We added a small notch to the underside of the upper top (inspired by MacBooks) to indicate where a user could lift to open. 

Previous Design for MIT Stratton Reading Room

Previous Design for MIT Stratton Reading Room

Prototype Drawing

Prototype Parts / Shop Drawing

Double-Carrel Model

Patent Illustration (Patent Pending)