Top of a glass dining table with six white carbon fiber chairs with Tattoo designs on them.

The LessThanFive Tattoo: Inspiration through Personal Customization

In the world of design, one size does not fit all. To give designers the flexibility they need, we continue to explore new avenues of making customization easier and more accessible. When thinking of ways we could enable customers to personalize their products, our Coalesse Design Group got to thinking about the various ways people express themselves. Everything a person wears says something about who they are: their clothing, their hairstyle, their jewelry, even what’s on their skin. Since tattoos are such a popular form of personal expression, our designers came up with the idea of “tattooing” the LessThanFive Chair.

Our LessThanFive Chairs are made of carbon fiber, making them a natural canvas for customization. Not only can they be painted any color imaginable, their surface is also very receptive to appliqués. If a solid-colored chair isn’t what you’re looking for, you can “tattoo” it by creating your own one-of-a-kind pattern for it.

Woman with a small tattoo on each foot standing on a white carbon fiber chair.

The History

Applying the concept of tattooing to our LessThanFive Chair is really a reflection of the local culture surrounding our design studio. San Francisco is known for being a city that celebrates creativity and personal expression, and tattooing is one of the most popular forms of self-expression in the area.

Two photos side by side, with a man with a tattoo armed sitting and holding a plain white chair.

San Francisco’s reputation as a tattoo-friendly city started over a century ago, thanks to the sailors and servicemen who would get tattoos there to commemorate their own personal experiences and battles. When Janis Joplin talked about getting tattooed at Lyle Tuttle’s shop in San Francisco, she popularized tattooing among followers of the 1960s counterculture movement. Ed Hardy revolutionized the world of tattooing when he started doing custom tattoos at his San Francisco shop in the 1970s. Patrons were no longer limited by the flash designs on the wall; they were able to get a tattoo that was truly their own – something nobody else in the world had.

While tattoos were originally associated with people who live outside of societal norms, they’ve become an increasingly mainstream and accepted form of self-expression over time, and tattoo shops remain a fixture in San Francisco.

Man in grey shirt and red plaid hat with a black and red tattoo on his arm holding a white chair behind him.

The Process

With all the exposure our designers have to tattoo culture, it was only natural for them to feel inspired by it. They wanted to do for the LessThanFive Chair what Ed Hardy did for tattoos: make them more personal through custom design.

A person in a navy shirt, with a flower tattoo on the left arm sitting in a white carbon fiber chair.

To test out the process of “tattooing” the LessThanFive Chair, our designers worked together to create their own unique design inspired by traditional American tattoo artwork and the artwork of legendary tattoo artists like Sailor Jerry. The bold lines, distinct graphic style, and limited color palette associated with these styles made them ideal for creating repetitive patterns. The designers then partnered with Joe’s Carbon Solutions and Bicycle Painting in Watsonville, California, to apply their design to a LessThanFive Chair.

The end result looks very much like a series of flash designs that you’ll find adorning the wall of any tattoo shop in the world. But this experiment was more about the process than the actual design. The fact that the design was a collaborative effort means the final product wasn’t about any one designer’s work. Our goal was to allow our customers to truly personalize their chairs and we successfully found a way to make it happen.

Long glass top table with metal black legs and five white dining chairs with tattoo art covering them.

Now we invite you to participate in the creation process. Inspired by the way people have been able to order customized bikes through simple web applications, we decided to bring that type of technology to the LessThanFive Chair. With our LessThanFive Customizer web application, a personalized chair is just a few clicks away. Select your color, choose your finish, upload your artwork. It’s as simple as that.

One more thing: These tattooed LessThanFive Chairs are now on display in our Chicago showroom, so if you’ll be visiting, be sure to stop by the Merchandise Mart and take a close look at them. Our designers incorporated some of their own personal tattoo artwork into the design they created for the chairs. How many of our designers’ tattoos can you find?

White background with multiple black outline drawings of tattoo art.

Photo Credits: Cody Perhamus @

Published On: August 17, 2016

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