Title:
Connector for arranging modular seats in a non-linear array
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A wedge-shaped connector for arranging and connecting seat modules in a predetermined spaced and angled relationship to form a non-linear modular seating array. The connector includes substantially planar sidewalls configured for supporting seat modules and a substantially planar rear panel positioned between the sidewalls adjacent backs of the sidewalls. A back side of the connector has a width greater than a width of its front side so as to define an acute angle between the sidewalls. In this manner, first and second modular seats may be arranged in a predetermined spaced and angled relationship by abutting first and second seat modules against first and second sidewalls, respectively, of a connector. The shape of the non-linear array can be varied by varying the degree of angle formed by the sidewalls by varying widths of front and/or rear panels, and/or installing the connector in various orientations.



Inventors:
Berkowicz, Michael (New York, NY, US)
Application Number:
10/274849
Publication Date:
08/21/2003
Filing Date:
10/21/2002
Assignee:
BERKOWICZ MICHAEL
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
297/248
International Classes:
A47C1/124; A47C7/58; A47C13/00; (IPC1-7): E04H3/12; A47C15/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
GREEN, CHRISTY MARIE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FOX ROTHSCHILD LLP (Lawrenceville, NJ, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A connector for connecting first and second seat modules, said connector having a front side and a back side, said connector comprising: a substantially planar first sidewall configured for supporting a first seat module, said first sidewall having a front, back, top and bottom; a substantially planar second sidewall configured for supporting a second seat module, said second sidewall having a front, back, top and bottom; a substantially planar rear panel positioned between said first and second sidewalls adjacent said backs of said first and second sidewalls, said back side of said connector having a width greater than a width of said front side of said connector so as to define an acute angle A between said first and second sidewalls; and whereby the first and second seat modules may be arranged in a predetermined spaced and angled relationship by abutting the first and second seat modules against the first and second sidewalls, respectively.

2. The connector of claim 1, further comprising a cap mounted on the top of said first and second sidewalls.

3. The connector of claim 2, wherein said cap forms an arm rest.

4. The connector of claim 1, further comprising a substantially planar front panel positioned between said first and second sidewalls adjacent said front side of said connector, said rear panel having a width greater than a width of said front panel.

5. The connector of claim 1, wherein each of said first and second sidewalls comprises a longitudinal notch adjacent said backs, said rear panel having opposed side edges positioned in said notches.

6. The connector of claim 1, further comprising: a decorative trim member joined to each of said fronts of said first and second sidewalls.

7. The connector of claim 7, wherein said first and second sidewalls comprise plywood and said decorative trim member comprises solid wood.

8. The connector of claim 7, further comprising: an additional decorative trim member joined to each of said backs of said first and second sidewalls.

9. The connector of claim 1, further comprising: a decorative trim member joined to each of said backs of said first and second sidewalls.

10. The connector of claim 9, wherein said first and second sidewalls comprise plywood and said decorative trim member comprises solid wood.

11. The connector of claim 1, wherein said first and second sidewalls are secured to one another to support said rear panel therebetween by a selectively releasable mechanical fastener positioned between the fronts and rears of said first and second sidewalls for drawing together said first and second sidewalls and retaining said rear panel therebetween.

12. The connector of claim 11, wherein said first sidewall abuts said second sidewall adjacent said fronts.

13. The connector of claim 1, wherein each of said first and second sidewalls defines a plurality of openings positioned to receive mechanical fasteners for joining said sidewalls to a seat module.

14. A modular seating array comprising: at least two seat modules, each of said seat modules having a back support member, a seat member for use as a seat when said module is in an upright position, and a pair of end supports spaced from one another and supporting said seat member and said back support member in between said pair of end supports; and at least one connector positioned between said two seat modules and joined to at least one of said pair of end supports of each of said seat modules, said connector thereby interconnecting said seat modules in a predetermined spaced and angled relationship to form the modular seating array.

15. The modular seating array of claim 14, wherein each of said pair of end supports comprises a respective sidewall of said connector.

16. The modular seating array of claim 14, wherein said seat member is pivotally movable relative to said back support member for movement between an upright position for seating and a folded position for storage.

17. A modular seating array comprising: at least two seat modules, each of said seat modules having a back support member and a seat member for use as a seat when said seat module is in an upright position; and a connector having a first sidewall and a second sidewall, said first and second sidewalls secured to one another in a fixed spaced relationship to define an acute angle therebetween, said first sidewall being joined to and supporting said back support member and said seat member of one of said at least two seat modules, said second sidewall being,joined to and supporting said back support member and said seat member of another of said at least two seat modules, said connector thereby interconnecting said seat modules in a predetermined spaced and angled relationship to form the modular seating array.

18. The modular seating array of claim 17, said connector further comprising a cap mounted on a top of said first and second sidewalls.

19. The modular seating array of claim 17, said connector further comprising a substantially planar rear panel positioned between said first and second sidewalls.

20. The modular seating array of claim 19, wherein each of said first and second sidewalls comprises a longitudinal notch, said rear panel having opposed side edges positioned in said notches.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/342,928 filed Oct. 19, 2001, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates generally to furniture, and more particularly to arrays of seating.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Modular seating units or seat modules are well-known in the art. For example, seat modules are frequently used in theaters, auditoriums, classrooms, and stadiums. Each seat module may provide one or more seats, each seat including a back support member and a seat member. The seat module may include a stationary back and a flip-down seat similar to a type commonly found in movie theaters. Multiple seat modules are typically arranged in a straight row and fixed to a floor surface.

[0004] In some arrangements, it is desirable to position individual seats and/or individual seat modules in a generally curved, i.e. non-linear, array. For example, the array may be radiused, faceted, curved (e.g. in a C, S or other shape), or angled. The array may include one or more adjacent modular seating units, each modular seating unit including one or more seats. When a curved array is desired, the modular seating units are typically spaced at an angle relative to one another to form the generally curved array. This leaves an unattractive gap between adjacent modular seating units and requires considerable effort to ensure the proper positioning of each modular seating unit to provide a uniform spaced relationship among multiple modular seating units in the array.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] The present invention provides a wedge-shaped connector for connecting seat modules in a predetermined spaced and angled relationship to form a non-linear modular seating array. The connector includes substantially planar sidewalls configured for supporting modular seats and a substantially planar rear panel positioned between the sidewalls adjacent backs of the sidewalls. A back side of the connector has a width greater than a width of its front side so as to define an acute angle between the first and second sidewalls. In this manner, first and second seat modules may be arranged in a predetermined spaced and angled relationship by abutting the first and second seat modules against the first and second sidewalls, respectively. The shape of the non-linear array can be varied by varying the degree of angle formed by the wedge-shaped connector by varying widths of front and/or rear panels, and/or installing the connector in various orientations.

[0006] The connector may provide sides of a seat module, or may be abutted against a seat module including sides.

[0007] A method for configuring an array of modular seating using the connector is provided.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0008] FIG. 1 is a rear perspective view of a connector according to a first embodiment of the present invention.

[0009] FIG. 2 is a side perspective view of the connector of FIG. 1, shown with an attached armrest cap.

[0010] FIG. 3 is a front perspective view of the connector of FIG. 2.

[0011] FIGS. 4-6 are perspective views of a connector according to FIG. 1, including a rear panel wider than that shown in FIG. 1.

[0012] FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the connector of FIGS. 4-6, shown with an attached armrest cap.

[0013] FIG. 7A is a top view of the connector of FIG. 6.

[0014] FIG. 7B is a top view of the connector and armrest cap of FIG. 7.

[0015] FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a seating array including connectors of FIG. 7.

[0016] FIG. 9 is a top view of a connector according to an alternate embodiment of the present invention.

[0017] FIG. 10 is a top view of an exemplary seat module unit typical of the prior art.

[0018] FIG. 11 is a top view of an exemplary modular seating array including connectors according to FIG. 7 and seat modules according to FIG. 10.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0019] The present invention provides a wedge-shaped connector 10 for connecting two seat modules in a predetermined spaced and angled relationship. The connector may include a cap usable as an armrest for an adjacent seat module. Seat modules may be are arranged in the predetermined spaced and angled relationship by abutting seat modules against the connector, or by assembling seat modules using sidewalls of the connector as sides of the seat module. The shape of an array of seat modules can be varied by providing connectors defining appropriate acute angles, and/or installing the connectors in a prescribed orientation.

[0020] FIGS. 1 to 7B show wedge-shaped connectors 10 in accordance with the present invention. FIGS. 8 and 11 show modular seating arrays 100 including connectors 10 in accordance with the present invention.

[0021] Referring now to FIGS. 1-3, the connector 10 has a front side 6 and a back side 8. The connector 10 also has substantially planar sidewalls 11, 12, each having a front 11 a, 12a, back 11b, 12b, top 11c, 12c and bottom 11d, 12d. The connector 10 further has a substantially planar rear panel 18 positioned between the first and second sidewalls 11, 12 adjacent the back side 8 of the connector. In this manner, the back side 8 of the connector 10 has a width greater than a width of the front side 6 of the connector 10 so as to define an acute angle A between the first and second sidewalls 11, 12.

[0022] In particular, the width W of the rear panel 18 is selected to provide an appropriate angle A for the desired degree of curvature of the modular seating array as discussed further below. Calculation of the width W required to provide a desired degree of curvature (in view of the dimension of the side panels) is relatively straightforward, as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art. FIGS. 1-3 show a connector 10 having a rear panel 18 of a relatively narrow width. FIGS. 4-7B show a connector 10 having a rear panel 18 of a relatively wider width to provide a relatively greater angle A. For example, rear panels 18 having widths of approximately 1 inch to approximately 6 inches, and sidewalls 11, 12 having widths of approximately 18-30 inches and heights of approximately 20-30 inches have been found to provide a range of angles providing suitable degrees of curvature for many seating configurations. However, any suitable sized panels may be used.

[0023] Accordingly, in the connectors of FIGS. 1-7B, the wedge shape of the connector 10 is achieved by inserting a rear panel 18 between the sidewalls 11, 12 the back side 8 of the connector 10 and abutting opposite the sidewalls 11, 12 adjacent the front side 6 of the connector 6.

[0024] It should be noted that any suitable configuration may be used to provide a connector having sidewalls 11, 12 fixed in a spaced and angled relationship so as to form an acute angle A relative to one another, and that some such configurations may not include a rear panel, but rather may include an internal support between the front and back sides 6, 8 of the connector.

[0025] An alternative embodiment is shown in FIG. 9. In such an embodiment, a substantially planar front panel 19 is positioned between sidewalls 11, 12 adjacent the front side 6 of the connector. As shown in FIG. 9, the front panel 19 is relatively narrower in width than the rear panel 18 to provide a generally trapezoidal-shaped connector 10, rather than the generally triangular-shaped connector, as in FIGS. 1-7B.

[0026] The sidewalls 11, 12, rear panel 18, and optional front panel 19, are mechanically or otherwise attached to form a substantially rigid connector 10. In the example of FIGS. 1-7B and 9, the sidewalls 11, 12 are secured to one another to support the rear panel 18 therebetween by a selectively releasable mechanical fastener 21, 22 positioned between the fronts and rears of the first and second sidewalls. For example, such fasteners 21, 22 may include through bolts and T-nuts, which may extend through holes in the sidewalls or be otherwise attached as well known in the art. The fasteners draw together the first and second sidewalls 11, 12 to retain the rear panel 18 therebetween.

[0027] In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the sidewalls 11, 12 are routed, dadoed, rabbeted or otherwise provided with longitudinal notches 23, 24 adjacent the backs 11b, 12b of the sidewalls 11, 12 for registering with the rear panel 18 and enhancing the mechanical interlocking of the sidewalls 11, 12 with the rear panel 18. The opposing side edges 18a, 18b of the rear panel 9 are positioned in the notches 23, 24.

[0028] As shown in FIGS. 2, 3, 7 and 7B, the connector 10 may include a cap 30 mechanically or otherwise fastened, e.g. by nails, screws, dowels, adhesive, etc., to the tops 11c, 12c of the sidewalls 11,12 and/or the rear and front panels 18, 19. The cap 30 may be used as an armrest when positioned adjacent a seat module, as discussed further below with respect to FIGS. 8 and 11. As shown in FIGS. 2 and 7, the cap 30 may includes optional notches 31, 32 for receiving a back support member of a seat module.

[0029] The external (visible) surfaces of the sidewalls 11, 12, and the rear and front panels 18,19 are preferably lacquered, varnished, painted or otherwise finished to provide an aesthetically pleasing appearance. Optionally, edges of the side panels may be similarly finished. Alternatively, decorative trim members 25, 26, 27, 28 may be joined to the front 11a, 12a and back 11b, 12b of the sidewalls 11, 12, as best shown in FIG. 7A. The trim members may be joined in any suitable manner, such as by adhesive, nails, screws, etc. For example, this is particularly advantageous to apply a trim member of a decorative solid wood, such as cherry, oak, maple etc. when a relatively inexpensive yet unattractive material, such as plywood or particle board, etc. is used for the sidewalls 11, 12. In this manner, the most visible portions of the connector 10, namely trim members 25, 26, 27, 28 and rear panel 18 and sidewalls 11, 12 of the connector 10 present an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

[0030] When a front panel 19 is provided, its visible (exterior) surface may be similarly finished and/or adorned with ornamentation to provide an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

[0031] It should be noted that the degree of curvature of a modular seating array may be varied by varying the width W of the rear panel 18 and/or front panel 19. For example, FIGS. 4-7B show a connector 10 including a relatively wide rear panel 18. Accordingly, the wedge-shaped connector 10 of FIGS. 4-7B, will provide a greater degree of curvature for an array of modular seating due to the magnitude of angle A than will the connector 10 of the relatively narrow rear panel 18 shown in FIGS. 1-3. Additionally, adjustments may be made in the field to vary the degree of curvature by trimming or substituting one rear panel for another to provide the desired degree of curvature. Alternatively, the curvature may be varied by using multiple connectors adjacent one another, multiple seat modules adjacent one another, and/or changing the orientation of a connector 10, e.g. to place the back side of the connector between the front edges of adjacent seat modules. Accordingly, radiused, faceted, curved (e.g. in a C, S or other shape), or angled modular seating arrays may be achieved.

[0032] Wedge-shaped connectors according to the present invention may be used with a wide variety of different seat modules. Each side panel may be easily adapted in the field or otherwise, to accommodate any given seat module, e.g. by arranging appropriately positioned holes on the side panels of the connector to align with corresponding fastener placement on the associated modular seat. Alternatively, the seat module may be fastened directly to the side panels wherever appropriate, e.g. by screws, bolts, etc.

[0033] Referring now to FIGS. 8 and 11, a curved modular seating array 100 is shown. In the example of FIG. 8, the array includes three (3) wedge-shaped connectors 10a, 10b, 10c in accordance with the present invention. Each seat module 40 (see FIG. 10) includes at least a back member 102 and a seat 104, e.g., a flip-down seat pivotably supported on a support beam 106. In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 8, each seat module 40 is supported by side panels, which may include either a sidewall of a connector or an end panel. For example, back member 102a and seat member 104a is supported by end panel 15 and connector 10a's sidewall 13a. In turn, back member 102b and seat member 104b is supported by sidewall 14a of connector 10a and sidewall 13b of connector 10b, etc. In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 8, the seat module components, namely a back member 102a, 102b, 102c, 102d, a seat member 104a, 104b, 104c, 104d and a beam 106a, 106b, 106c, 106d are assembled directly to sidewalls of an adjacent connector 10a, 10b, 10c (except for the end panels 15, 17 of the array 100). This requires that the seat modules be constructed with use for connectors, e.g. by incorporating connector sidewalls into the construction of the seat modules, or that the seat modules be disassembled and reassembled with the side panels of the modular seating unit, or that the seat modules exclude side panels, and that the sidewalls 11, 12 of the connector 10 each define a plurality of openings positioned to receive mechanical fasteners for joining the modular seat components to the sidewalls. For example, such openings may be pre-drilled for ease of assembly.

[0034] FIG. 11 shows an alternative embodiment of a modular seating array 100 in which connectors 10a, 10b are used between standard seat modules 40a, 40b, 40c, (see FIG. 10), each of which includes side panels 108. In such an arrangement, the side panels 108 of the seat modules 40a, 40b, 40c are simply abutted to the sidewall surfaces of the connectors 10a, 10b and optionally attached thereto by mechanical fasteners 50, e.g. by bolts, screws, etc., with the connector 10a, 10b, in between and the optional cap (not shown) positioned for use as an armrest. In this manner, there is no need to customize, special order or modify in any way the manufacture of the seat modules, and uniform or at least desired spacing between adjacent seat modules is readily achieved.

[0035] For example, typical sidewalls of various dimensions are known in the art and should be appropriately matched to a corresponding seat module. However, sidewalls of approximately 20 inches in width and approximately 24 inches in height have been found suitable. For example, rear panels in the range of approximately 1inch to approximately 6 inches in width have been found suitable.

[0036] Any suitable material may be used for constructing the connectors so that they provide sufficient structural support. For example, wood, plastic, metal and/or composite materials, e.g. Corian or other solid surfacing materials, may be used.

[0037] An array of modular seating may be configured as follows, in accordance with the present invention. First, a connector of the present invention is provided. Next, at least two seat modules are provided, each seat module having a back support member and a seat member for use as a seat when the module is in an upright position. Next, one of the seat modules is joined to a first sidewall of the connector to position the seat modules substantially parallel to the first sidewall. Next the other of the seat modules is joined to a second sidewall of the connector to position this seat modules substantially parallel to the second sidewall. In this manner, the connector interconnects the seat modules in a predetermined spaced and angled relationship to form a modular seating array.