Atlantic Cities

How Ghana's Coffin Builders Inspired 'Zombie Furniture'

How Ghana's Coffin Builders Inspired 'Zombie Furniture'
BRC Designs

Looking for furniture that will both tie the room together and make your guests gag with fear?

BRC Designs probably has what you're looking for. The razor-sharp minds over at the design house, based in Spartanburg, South Carolina, have unleashed a terrible plague upon the world of home decor: "zombie furniture." These are seats and couches with dripping blood, raw patches that look like skin was torn off and a general appearance of getting ready to animate itself and shuffle over to eat your flesh. And the horror of this festering line doesn't end there, with its origin stretching all the way over the ocean to Ghana's famous carpenters of death.

An Xiao Mina at Core77 has the full story of how this sleep-disturbing (yet swanky!) stuff got made, but here's the short version. BRC chief Benjamin Caldwell traveled to Ghana to apprentice with the country's coffin builders, who produce unique boxes meant to reflect the lifestyle and accomplishments of the deceased. Picking up a plane and chisel, Caldwell settled in with Eric Anang, grandson of the renowned artisan Kane Kwei, whose studio has churned out coffins in the guise of red fish, flashy cars and, weirdly, a pig for the businessman who introduced swine to Accra.

Once he'd honed his skills, Caldwell then got around to creating his own monsters. His team digs holes in the dirt to create molds for wet concrete, which they pour in and then abandon in the ground for 30 days. (Some people in Ghana are buried in a soft bed of concrete, FYI.) After the month is up and the material has developed a little "character," they pry it out and use it as the base for furniture.

Here's where it gets raw, reports Mina:

To top it off, they stain the pieces with acid, itself a variable process, to create a deathly, out-from-the-grave feel. They focused on the rough patches in particular: "We stained these areas with a dull black and brown as if rotting flesh and then we dripped glossy red stain over the area creating the appearance of an oozing, rotten wound." This variance keeps with the zombie theme but also contrasts sharply with the necessary precision of coffin-making....

"The first person who saw it said 'It looks like someone died on this chair.'"

The name that Caldwell picked for his blood-soaked line? That would be "Risen in 30 Days," a riff on the furniture's resurrection from its soil jail.

While it may cause some people to curl into fetal positions, the furniture is indisputably original and kind of intriguing, like being at the scene of a gruesome murder. And to give it a positive spin, it won't leave a wet spot on your pants or dress should you sit on it, like a real rotting carcass might.

I don't see any prices listed for the "zombie chaise lounge" or "zombie sofa," so you'll want to hit him up on email if you want one of these stunners. Also available in the BRC catalog are less-abominable offerings, such as this chair made from old piano hammers and a seat called "Impractically Comfortable" containing 282 mini bottles of Southern Comfort. Arachnophobes, however, will hate the "Spider" line of furniture, with its multiple spindly legs and black hairlike backing.

All photos courtesy of BRC Designs.

Keywords: Furniture, Africa, Art, Death

John Metcalfe is a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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