Like most people, I typically try to avoid thinking about the term “corn stool” as much as possible, though the funky furniture piece of my dreams is changing that. Do not underestimate this seat in the shape of a corn-on-the-cob by Third Drawer Down, an Australian home goods company. In fact, the chair, priced at a $210-250 (depending on the stockist), is constantly waitlisted, making people like myself wonder if they would do unspeakable things — such as continuing to say “corn stool” — to get their hands on one.
I love how the stool features a big bite of kernels missing, suggesting that it is almost too delicious to not purchase. With it’s 16” x 11.8” size and nub shape, the yellow stool can also function as a side table or nightstand if need be—a surprisingly versatile item.
I needed to know more about the woman behind the corn stool, so I emailed Abi Crompton, the creative director and founder of Third Drawer. She responded, saying, “I would love to chat about giant, tasty corn with you,” and I knew it was going to be a jolly good time. Though Crompton first designed the chair ten years ago, in the past year, the furniture piece has gained a new level of fanfare in the U.S., thanks to Instagram and being stocked at hip NYC design shops like Coming Soon and major chains like Urban Outfitters.
Crompton says that while corn is obviously grown in both Australia and America, the fact that it is so endemic to many parts of our food system, could contribute to its recent success here. When asked whether she knew the stool would be an instant hit, she told me, confidently, “Yes, the functionality of being a stool with the quickness of being food,” made the chair an easy sell.
The corn-shaped stool isn’t the team’s first exploration into food-themed homegoods; Third Drawer Down has turned artist Marilyn Minter’s “Food Porn” series into placements and made coasters featuring Judy Chicago’s iconic feminist “The Dinner Party,” still on display at New York City’s Brooklyn Museum.
For Crompton, this particular produce-themed product is closely entwined with art history. The oversized, cartoonish sculpture was, in part, inspired by the 1964 exhibition titled, “The American Supermarket,” held at the Upper East Side gallery, Bianchini — run by Paul Bianchini, a famed Pop Art dealer and kingmaker in the industry. It was transformed into a “mock marketplace… with everything from Andy Warhol shopping bags screen printed with Campbell’s Soup cans, to Tom Wesselman plastic turkeys to illustrate the ideals of the American consumption,” she says. Likewise, the Swedish-born American sculptor Claes Oldenburg — known for his massive, inedible soft food sculptures of items such cakes, hamburgers, or sandwiches — was a reference point. “He believed that mundane objects should receive as much attention in a physical gallery space alongside marble counterparts of ancient times. This is very much the inspiration for the food stools and why Third Drawer Down celebrates giant objects in our repertoire of products,” she tells me. “The 1960s was a strikingly food-obsessed era.”
A few years before the Bianchini Gallery show, in 1961, Oldenburg put on his own immersive installation called “The Store” on New York City’s Lower East Side, from which he sold his fake food made from painted plaster like it was a real grocery. These days, his legacy can be seen in the work of artists such as Chloe Wise and Beth Salvini, who now hold the torch as some of our epoch’s most important fake food sculpturesses. And you can acquire their humorous work — alongside Third Drawer’s corn stool for your home — to feel like you’re living in a Pop Art gallery show of your own making.
But, now, with August wrapping up, my mind swirls again to thoughts about how an ear of corn in my home could also help me savor summer for just a while longer. While corn being in season at your local farmer’s market is (unfortunately) not forever, these chairs can be an artful, humorous way to feel the sunshine at home all year long.