Build a Chair in 3 Minutes

What if heirloom furniture came in a box smaller than a flatscreen TV?

By Bob Parks

Photographs by Caroline Tompkins

April 11, 2016

Brad Sewell is a mechanical engineer who left Honda for Apple, where he looked after the alloy cases for iPads and iPhones, before enrolling at Harvard for an MBA. The flaws of modern dorm furniture gave him an idea that couldn’t wait for graduation, so he quit to found Campaign.

The FedEx box on the doormat is a welcome hit of dopamine, but its limits are strict: Length plus girth (a line measured around the center) can’t add up to more than 165 inches, which rules out most home furnishings. A startup called Campaign took this as its central challenge: Could it cram a full three-cushion sofa in just two such slender boxes? Curiously, the entrepreneur who took this on wasn’t a furniture designer. Brad Sewell is a skinny, 29-year-old left-brain-type auto engineer from Ohio.

Sewell started Campaign in June 2014 with a crew of engineers with backgrounds in everything from kayaks to consumer gadgets. They quickly settled on California-milled steel as the best material by weight and price, instead of the fiberboard used in typical “knockdown furniture.” The skeleton of the couch is fastened with a clever wingnut with folding flanges that give the assembler extra torque when hand-tightening. Then they employed their moms as product testers.

The first three pieces—a chair, a love seat, and the sofa—will be available online in June at $495, $745, and $1,000, respectively. A YouTube video reveals how, with no tools and a little elbow grease, a customer can whip together the flop-friendly midcentury modern couch. Bloomberg Businessweek staffers tried the single-seater.

(Corrects the number of cushions in the Campaign sofa in the second paragraph.)