Title:
MODULAR CHAIR
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
In one embodiment of the present invention, a chair assembly kit comprises at least two end pieces, at least two middle pieces including a first middle piece as a chair back and a second middle piece as a chair seat, and at least four locking pieces. The middle pieces each include at least two tabs, one tab each on two opposing sides and each tab defining a hole. The end pieces each include at least two slots configured to receive the tabs on the middle pieces. The locking pieces each include at least two posts each having a detent mechanism, the posts being received in the holes in the middle pieces. The middle pieces selectively couple to the end pieces, and the locking pieces selectively lock the middle pieces to the end pieces via the detent mechanisms, to form a chair.



Inventors:
Buhrman, Gary R. (Town & Country, MO, US)
Application Number:
11/553189
Publication Date:
05/10/2007
Filing Date:
10/26/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C7/00
View Patent Images:
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20080203779Lifting and lowering structure of a long-legged chairAugust, 2008Cheng
20040195880Infant holderOctober, 2004Gardner et al.
20030085597Aircraft seatMay, 2003Ludeke et al.



Primary Examiner:
NELSON JR, MILTON
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WOODARD, EMHARDT, HENRY, REEVES & WAGNER, LLP (INDIANAPOLIS, IN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A chair assembly, comprising: at least two end pieces including a first end piece and a second end piece, each end piece including at least one slot, said end pieces being interchangeable; and at least one middle piece, at least two opposing sides of said middle piece each including at least one tab defining a hole, wherein said tabs on said middle piece are configured to be received in said slots in said end pieces to selectively couple said middle piece to said end pieces to form a chair; and at least two locking pieces to selectively lock said middle piece to said end pieces, each of said locking pieces including at least one post having a detent mechanism, wherein said selective locking includes said posts and detent mechanisms received through said holes and said detent mechanisms resiliently flexing and reverting upon insertion of said posts in said holes to prevent disengagement of said tabs from said slots.

2. The chair assembly of claim 1, wherein each of said end pieces includes a plurality of slots to allow for positioning of said middle piece at selected height levels.

3. The chair assembly of claim 1, comprising at least two of said middle pieces including a first middle piece and a second middle piece, wherein said first middle piece is positionable as a chair back and said second middle piece is positionable as a chair seat.

4. The chair assembly of claim 3, wherein said first and second middle pieces each include at least four tabs, each middle piece having two tabs on each of two opposing sides.

5. The chair assembly of claim 4, wherein each of said end pieces includes at least four slots, said four slots receiving two of said tabs of each of said middle pieces.

6. The chair assembly of claim 4, comprising at least four of said locking pieces, each of said locking pieces including two of said posts having a detent mechanism, wherein each of said locking pieces operates to lock two of said tabs on one of said opposing sides of one of said middle pieces in said corresponding slots in one of said end pieces substantially simultaneously.

7. The chair assembly of claim 1, wherein said middle piece includes at least four tabs, with two tabs on each of said two opposing sides including a first larger tab and a second smaller tab, wherein each of said end pieces includes at least two slots including a first larger slot corresponding to said first larger tab and a second smaller slot corresponding to said second smaller tab.

8. A chair assembly, comprising: at least two interchangeable end pieces including a first end piece and a second end piece, each end piece including at least four slots; and at least two middle pieces including a first middle piece positionable as a chair back and a second middle piece positionable as a chair seat, wherein each of said middle pieces includes at least four tabs each defining a hole, two of said tabs each on two opposing sides, wherein said middle pieces selectively couple to said end pieces, said selective coupling including two tabs on a first side of said first middle piece and two tabs on a first side of said second middle piece received through said slots of said first end piece, and two tabs on a second side of said first middle piece and two tabs on a second side of said second middle piece received through said slots of said second end piece; at least four locking pieces each having at least two posts configured to be received through two of said holes to selectively lock said middle pieces to said end pieces, each of said posts including a detent mechanism, wherein said detent mechanisms are configured to resiliently flex during insertion of said posts in said holes and resiliently revert upon complete insertion to engage the tab and to prevent disengagement of said tabs from said slots.

9. The chair assembly of claim 8, wherein each of said end pieces includes multiple slots to allow for different height positioning of said middle pieces.

10. The chair assembly of claim 8, wherein said detent mechanisms each include an angled introductory surface to assist in said resilient flexing.

11. The chair assembly of claim 8, wherein said locking pieces are configured such that said posts are substantially concealed after said selective locking.

12. The chair assembly of claim 8, wherein when the chair assembly is arranged, said locking pieces are positioned substantially flush against said end pieces.

13. The chair assembly of claim 12, wherein the substantially flush arrangement of said locking pieces to said end pieces is configured to eliminate gaps therebetween and prevent insertion of a child's finger between said locking pieces and said end pieces.

14. The chair assembly of claim 8, wherein said middle pieces are interchangeable.

15. A kit, consisting essentially of: at least two end pieces of a chair assembly, each end piece including at least four slots; at least two middle pieces of a chair assembly including a first middle piece positionable as a chair back and a second middle piece positionable as a chair seat, each of said middle pieces including at least one set of tabs, each tab defining a hole, wherein said set of tabs includes a first tab on a first opposing side of each of said middle pieces and a second tab on a second opposing side of each of said middle pieces; and a plurality of locking pieces each including at least one post having a detent mechanism, wherein said plurality of locking pieces collectively includes a number of posts corresponding to the number of tabs on said middle pieces; wherein said middle pieces selectively couple to said end pieces and said locking pieces to form a chair, said coupling including said first tabs on said first opposing sides of said first and second middle pieces received through said slots of said first end piece, and said second tabs on said second opposing sides of said first and second middle pieces received through said slots of said second end piece, said coupling including said posts received through said holes in said middle pieces such that said detent mechanisms engage said tabs to lock said tabs in said slots.

16. The kit of claim 15, wherein each of said end pieces includes a plurality of slots to allow different height positioning of each of said middle pieces.

17. The kit of claim 15, wherein said end pieces are interchangeable.

18. The kit of claim 15, wherein said middle pieces include contoured surfaces.

19. The kit of claim 15, wherein said detent mechanisms are configured to resiliently flex during insertion of said posts in said holes and resiliently revert to prevent disengagement of said tabs in said slots.

20. The kit of claim 15, wherein when the chair assembly is arranged, said locking pieces are positioned substantially flush against said end pieces to prevent insertion of a child's finger between said locking pieces and said end pieces.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. Ser. No. 11/266,986, filed Nov. 4, 2005 and priority and the benefit of Ser. No. 11/266,986 is claimed in the present application to the extent the subject matter of this application is found in that previously filed application. The content of that application is incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to furniture and in particular to an improved modular chair.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Modular furniture is a popular method of furnishing in places such as schools. Standard pieces of modular furniture include various components, some of which are similar, if not identical, that assemble together to form a piece of furniture, such as a chair. In the traditional arrangement, furniture, and even modular furniture, is bulky and takes up considerable space during transport, including shipment, and is thus costly to transport. Attempts to remedy this problem sometimes involve furniture kit assemblies that are difficult to assemble, often requiring one or more tools. Additionally, previous pieces often lacked the options of height adjustability and locking connecting mechanisms. There is a need for an improved modular chair assembly. Certain embodiments of the present invention address these and other needs.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one preferred embodiment of the present invention, a chair assembly comprises at least two interchangeable end pieces and at least a first middle piece, the middle piece selectively coupling to the end pieces to form a chair. Each end piece includes at least one slot. Two opposing sides of each middle piece include at least one self-locking tab. The self-locking tabs are received in the slots and lock to prevent disengagement of the middle pieces from the end pieces.

In another preferred embodiment of the present invention, a chair assembly comprises a first end piece, a second end piece, a first middle piece, and a second middle piece. Each end piece preferably includes at least four slots. The first middle piece is positionable as a chair back and the second middle piece is positionable as a chair seat. Additionally, each of the middle pieces includes at least four self-locking tabs, two self-locking tabs each on two opposing sides of each middle piece. The middle pieces selectively couple to the end pieces to form a chair. The coupling preferably includes the two self-locking tabs on the first side of the first middle piece and the two self-locking tabs on the first side of the second middle piece being received in the four slots of the first end piece. Additionally, the coupling preferably includes the two self-locking tabs on the second side of the first middle piece and the two self-locking tabs on the second side of the second middle piece being received in the four slots of the second end piece. In certain preferred embodiments, the middle pieces are interchangeable and the end pieces are interchangeable. In certain preferred embodiments, the end pieces and the middle pieces are plastic. In certain preferred embodiments, the end pieces include multiple slots to allow for height adjustability of the middle pieces.

In yet another preferred embodiment of the present invention, a chair assembly kit comprises at least two end pieces and at least two middle pieces. The kit includes a first middle piece positionable as a chair back and a second middle piece positionable as a chair seat. Each end piece includes slots for receiving self-locking tabs positioned on the middle pieces. Each middle piece includes at least two self-locking tabs, one tab each on opposing first and second sides. The middle pieces selectively couple to the end pieces to form a chair, the coupling including the self-locking tabs received in the slots to selectively lock the middle pieces to the end pieces.

In another preferred embodiment of the present invention, a chair assembly comprises at least two interchangeable end pieces, at least one middle piece, and at least two locking pieces. The middle piece selectively coupling to the end pieces, and the locking pieces selectively lock the middle piece to the end pieces, to form a chair. Each end piece includes at least one slot and two opposing sides of each middle piece include at least one tab defining a hole. Additionally, each locking piece includes at least one post having a detent mechanism. The tabs are received in the slots and the posts are received in the holes such that the detent mechanisms selectively lock the middle piece to the end pieces by preventing disengagement of the tabs from the slots.

In yet another preferred embodiment of the present invention, a chair assembly comprises at least two interchangeable end pieces including a first end piece and a second end piece, at least two middle pieces including a first middle piece positionable as a chair back and a second middle piece positionable as a chair seat, and at least four locking pieces each having at least two posts with detent mechanisms. Each end piece includes at least four slots and each middle piece includes at least four tabs defining a hole, two of the tabs each on two opposing sides. The middle pieces selectively couple to the end pieces via two tabs on a first side of the first middle piece and two tabs on a first side of the second middle piece received through the slots of the first end piece, and two tabs on a second side of the first middle piece and two tabs on a second side of the second middle piece received through the slots of the second end piece. Additionally, the locking pieces selectively lock the middle pieces to the end pieces via the posts received through the holes such that the detent mechanisms resiliently flex and revert to prevent disengagement of the tabs in the slots.

In even another preferred embodiment of the present invention, a chair assembly kit consists essentially of at least two end pieces, at least two middle pieces including a chair seat and a chair back, and at least four locking pieces, interconnecting to form a chair. Each end piece includes at least four slots and each middle piece includes at least four tabs, each tab defining a hole and two of the tabs each on first and second opposing sides of the middle pieces. Additionally, each locking piece includes at least two posts each with a detent mechanism. The middle pieces selectively couple to the end pieces and the locking pieces to form a chair. The selective coupling includes two tabs on a first side of the first middle piece and two tabs on a first side of the second middle piece received through the slots of the first end piece, and two tabs on a second side of the first middle piece and two tabs on a second side of the second middle piece received through the slots of the second end piece. Additionally, the selective coupling includes the posts received through the holes in the middle pieces such that the detent mechanisms lock the tabs in the slots.

It is an object of certain embodiments of the present invention to provide an improved chair assembly.

Further objects, features and advantages of the present invention shall become apparent from the detailed drawings and descriptions provided herein.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a front view of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3A is a top view of a component of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3B is a side view of a portion of the component illustrated in FIG. 3A.

FIG. 3C is a side view of a portion of the component illustrated in FIGS. 3A and 3B.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a component of another preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of another preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a front view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a side view of a component of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is a top view of a component of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 6.

FIG. 9 is a front view of the component illustrated in FIG. 8.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a component of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 6.

FIG. 11 is a bottom view of the component illustrated in FIG. 10.

FIG. 12A is a partial cross-sectional, side view of a portion of the components illustrated in FIG. 6 at a first position.

FIG. 12B is a partial cross-sectional, side view of a portion of the components illustrated in FIG. 6 at a second position.

FIG. 12C is a partial cross-sectional, side view of a portion of the components illustrated in FIG. 6 at a third position.

FIG. 13 is a perspective view of yet another preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 14 is an exploded perspective view of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 13.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

While the present invention may be embodied in many different forms, for the purpose of promoting an understanding of the principles of the invention, reference will now be made to the embodiments illustrated in the drawings and specific language will be used to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is thereby intended. Any alterations and further modifications in the described embodiments, and any further applications of the principles of the invention as described herein are contemplated as would normally occur to one skilled in the art to which the invention relates.

Illustrated in the accompanying figures is a modular chair assembly including connecting mechanisms. In certain embodiments, the chair assembly is a kit which can be easily shipped and assembled. In certain embodiments, the kit includes four pieces, two interchangeable end pieces and two interchangeable middle pieces, one middle piece for a chair seat and one middle piece for a chair back. The connecting mechanisms are tab and slot arrangements allowing for assembly or adjustment of the chair without the use of tools. The assembly provides for easier shipping, storage, assembly and disassembly of the chair.

In one embodiment of the present invention, a chair assembly comprises at least two end pieces and at least one middle piece. The middle pieces selectively couple via connecting mechanisms to the end pieces. In certain preferred embodiments, the connecting mechanisms are tab and slot arrangements. The middle pieces each include at least two tabs, with at least two sides of each middle piece having at least one tab. The end pieces each include at least two slots configured to receive the tabs on the middle pieces. In such embodiments, the middle pieces selectively couple to the end pieces, with the tabs being received in the slots to selectively lock the middle pieces to the end pieces. In certain embodiments, the modular chair is sized and configured to accommodate children.

FIG. 1 illustrates a modular chair 10 including middle pieces 12 connected to end pieces 14. In the illustrated embodiment, there are two middle pieces and two end pieces. The middle pieces consist of a chair seat 12a and a chair back 12b. The middle pieces are configured to selectively couple with two end pieces 14a and 14b to form the modular chair. The middle pieces are connected to the end pieces through tab and slot arrangements 20. The tab and slot arrangements connect the middle pieces to the end pieces to form the modular chair. Each arrangement 20 includes a tab 22 received in a slot 24. In certain embodiments, the tabs are configured to lock, preventing disengagement of the middle pieces from the end pieces.

FIG. 2 is a front view of modular chair 10, including two middle pieces 12 and two end pieces 14. As illustrated, the chair seat and the chair back are generally perpendicular to the end pieces and generally perpendicular to each other, with chair seat 12a positioned generally horizontal and chair back 12b positioned generally vertical when the modular chair is in an upright position. In certain embodiments, chair seat 12a and chair back 12b are slightly contoured to make the modular chair more comfortable. Additionally, the end pieces 14 are positioned generally vertical when the modular chair is in an upright position. As illustrated, tabs 22 extend through slots 24 in the end pieces to connect the middle pieces to the end pieces to form the modular chair. In certain embodiments, the tabs lock to prevent disengagement of the middle pieces from the end pieces.

FIG. 3A illustrates an example middle piece 12. In preferred embodiments, the middle pieces are interchangeable and identical, with the illustrated middle piece being positionable as either the chair seat or the chair back. In certain embodiments, the middle pieces are substantially similar in configuration. In less preferred embodiments, the middle pieces are different in shape and configuration.

In the illustrated embodiment, the middle piece includes two opposite sides, each having two tabs. However, it should be appreciated that the tabs can be positioned differently on the middle piece as would generally occur to one skilled in the art. In the illustrated embodiments, the middle pieces are generally rectangular in shape with curved or rounded corners. Additionally, the middle pieces are preferably of generally uniform thickness. However, it is contemplated that the middle pieces can be shaped differently as would occur to one skilled in the art.

In preferred embodiments, middle piece 12 includes two opposing sides 42 and 44, with two tabs 22 positioned on each side 42 and 44. Tabs 22 can number more or less than four per middle piece. The more tabs 22 per side of middle piece 12 and/or depending on tab spacing, generally the more stable the connection will be between the middle pieces and the end pieces. In some embodiments, the two remaining opposite sides 46 and 48 are slightly curved, as illustrated. Opposing sides 46 and 48 form a front and rear of a seat, or a top and bottom of a back, although the pieces may be reversible. In some embodiments, the curvature of sides 46 and 48 is for decorative and/or comfort purposes.

In certain embodiments, middle piece 12 includes extension portions 40 positioned between the tabs with one extension portion 40 on each side 42 and 44. In such embodiments, the extension portions encourage a flush or gap-free fit with the end pieces. In some embodiments, the tabs are permanently integrated with the middle pieces. In other embodiments, the tabs can be selectively attached to the middle pieces in a manner as would generally occur to one skilled in the art.

FIG. 3B illustrates a side view of a tab 22 received in a slot 24. In preferred embodiments, the outer dimension of each tab is substantially equal to or slightly smaller than the dimensions of the corresponding slot to permit insertion of the tabs in the slots. Further, in preferred embodiments, the tabs extend through the thickness of the end pieces when inserted in the slots. The tabs and slots are preferably rectangular in cross-sectional shape.

In preferred embodiments, tabs 22 are self-locking tabs, each including a base piece portion 28, an extended flap piece 32, and a hinge 35 positioned therebetween. The base piece portion preferably includes an opening 30 and the extended flap piece preferably includes a tang 34 to be at least partially received in opening 30. The extended flap piece is configured to fold over onto the base piece portion, as illustrated in FIG. 3C, and to lock to the tab to prevent disengagement of the middle piece from the end piece. Alternately, a flap piece can fold under. In certain preferred embodiments, the tang is friction fit and/or biased and/or resilient in a manner such that the tang is encouraged to lock into a position in the opening. In certain embodiments, the tang hooks into the opening to lock the tab. In some embodiments, the tang snap fits into the opening. The flap piece can be separate; however, it is contemplated that for ease of use the extended flap piece is connected with the base piece portion.

When the flap piece is folded over to contact the base piece portion, the tab is locked and thus prevented from backing out of the slot, and thus configured to prevent disengagement of the middle piece from the end piece. In certain preferred embodiments, a cross-sectional dimension of the tab, for example the height, when the flap piece is folded over, is larger than a corresponding cross-sectional dimension of the slot. In alternative embodiments, a flap piece folds sideways to increase the width of the tab to prevent backout of the tab from the slot.

FIG. 4 illustrates an end piece 140 similar in shape and function to end pieces 14. End pieces 14 and 140 can share common characteristics such as dimensions, including width and height, shape, and material composition, to name a few examples. In some embodiments, end pieces 14 and 140 both have a generally uniform thickness.

End piece 140 includes an outer side 140a and an inner side 140b labeled here for convenience. In certain preferred embodiments, outer side 140a is identical to inner side 140b. In the illustrated embodiment (FIG. 5), the inner sides are contacting the middle pieces. End piece 140 includes an upper portion 142, a middle portion 144, and a lower portion 146. In certain embodiments, the upper portion is elongated and the lower portion includes an arcuate shape. The lower portion is preferably configured to provide support to the end piece. Slots 124 in end pieces 140 are configured to receive tabs, such as tabs 22, to connect the middle pieces, such as middle pieces 12 discussed above, to end pieces 140.

In certain preferred embodiments, slots 124 collectively include an upper slot group 124a, a middle slot group 124b, and a lower slot group 124c. Upper slot group 124a is positioned on upper portion 142, middle slot group 124b is positioned on middle portion 144, and lower group 124c is positioned on lower portion 146. Upper slot group 124a receives tabs on a middle portion positioned as a chair back 12b. Middle slot group 124b receives tabs on a middle portion positioned as a chair seat 12a. Lower slot group 124c can optionally receive tabs from a chair accessory or other such optional component.

In the illustrated embodiment, the upper slot group includes three slots, which allows for optional positioning of the chair back at two different positions. In the illustrated embodiment, the middle slot group includes six slots, which allows for optional positioning of the chair seat at three different positions. However, it should be appreciated that the slots can number more or less than the quantity illustrated, providing varying levels of adjustability of the middle pieces.

In certain embodiments, slots 124 include reinforcing flanges 126 extending from end pieces 140 on the interior and/or exterior sides. The flange areas can be a result of formation of the end pieces using molded plastic techniques. The flanges generally provide greater support to the end pieces and stability at the joints between the end pieces and the middle pieces. The flanges cooperate with extension portions 40 of middle pieces 12, preferably forming a flush fit between the middle pieces and the end pieces. In preferred embodiments, the flanges extend into a space between the extension portions and the tabs when the middle pieces connect to the end pieces to form a modular chair.

Slots 124 are designed to receive tabs to selectively couple the middle pieces to the end pieces. The slots are generally rectangular in shape, corresponding to the generally rectangular shape of the tabs. It is contemplated that slots and tabs of other shapes, dimensions, and configurations are possible.

FIG. 5 illustrates a modular chair 100 including middle pieces 12 and end pieces 140. Slots 124 in end pieces 140 cooperate with tabs on the middle portions to create tab and slot arrangements 120. Arrangements 120 are operable to selectively lock the middle pieces to the end pieces to form modular chair 100. Modular chair 100 is similar in shape, configuration and function to modular chair 10. Additionally, arrangement 120 is similar in configuration and function to tab and slot arrangement 20 previously described.

The end pieces are positioned such that the inner sides of the end pieces face the middle pieces, as illustrated. In certain embodiments, outer sides 140a and inner sides 140b are identical. The end pieces of modular chair 100 include multiple slots to allow for height adjustment of the middle pieces. In the illustrated embodiment, the chair seat can be positioned at three different height levels in conjunction with the six slots in the middle slot group, and the chair back can be positioned at two different height levels according to the three slots in the upper slot group.

In preferred embodiments, the components of the modular chairs are formed in blow-molded or injected molded plastic. In other embodiments, the components can be made from metal, rubber or other types of plastic. In less preferred embodiments, the components can be made from wood. However, it should be appreciated that other materials can be used as would generally occur to one skilled in the art. In certain preferred embodiments, the edges of the components of the modular chairs are generally rounded to protect users of the modular chairs, which can include children.

Referring general to FIGS. 1-5, the assembly of chairs 10 and 100 is described hereafter. In one preferred embodiment, a modular chair assembly is provided as a kit containing four pieces, two end pieces and two middle pieces. Alternatively, the chair assembly is provided as kit containing three pieces, two end pieces and one middle piece. The modular chair assembly provides for easier and more cost-effective shipment for example in a substantially flat package, and easier assembly of the chair, preferably without tools. In certain embodiments, the components of the modular chair assembly kit are sized to accommodate a child as a user of the chair.

The four piece kit can be assembled to form a modular chair. To assemble a modular chair such as chair 10 and chair 100, tabs disposed on the middle pieces are inserted into slots in the end pieces. In preferred embodiments, the extended flap pieces of the tabs are folded over onto the base piece portions so that the tangs connect with the openings in the base piece portions, thereby locking the tabs. Locking the tabs prevents disengagement of the tabs from the slots, such as the tabs sliding out of the slots and/or the tabs rotating within the slots. However, it should be appreciated that other appropriate mechanisms could be used to prevent backout of the tabs from the slots.

The tab and slot arrangements connect the middle pieces to the end pieces forming a modular chair without the use of tools to assemble the chair. In preferred embodiments, the arrangements are configured to lock the middle pieces to the end pieces. As previously described, the two end pieces are positioned generally vertical and parallel to each other. The chair seat is positioned generally horizontal and perpendicular to the chair back, which is positioned generally vertical. In embodiments having multiple slots, the chair seat and the chair back can be positioned at desired heights using the multiple slots.

In alternative embodiments, the middle pieces include one tab each on two opposing sides to be received in slots in the end pieces. The single tabs per side can be similar in size to the illustrated tabs 22, or smaller or wider as would occur to one skilled in the art. In alternative embodiments, the end pieces and the middle pieces are connectable to other end pieces and middle pieces to form various other types of modular furniture, including tables, desks, bookcases, and other such furniture pieces. In alternative embodiments, a kit includes three end pieces and four middle pieces, to form a piece of furniture having two chairs sharing a common end piece. In alternative embodiments, the middle pieces are wider than the illustrated middle pieces 12, to form a bench when assembled together with two end pieces.

In another embodiment of the present invention, a chair assembly comprises at least two end pieces, at least one middle piece, and at least two locking pieces. The middle pieces selectively couple to the end pieces, and the locking pieces selectively lock the middle pieces to the end pieces, to form a chair. In certain preferred embodiments, the middle pieces and the end pieces connect via tab and slot arrangements. The middle pieces each include at least two tabs, with at least two sides of each middle piece having at least one tab. The end pieces each include at least two slots configured to receive the tabs on the middle pieces. In such embodiments, the middle pieces selectively couple to the end pieces, with the tabs being received in the slots to selectively connect the middle pieces to the end pieces. Additionally, the locking pieces include posts with detent mechanisms configured to be received in holes defined in the tabs of the middle pieces to thereby selectively lock the middle pieces to the end pieces. In certain embodiments, the modular chair is sized and configured to accommodate children.

FIG. 6 illustrates a modular chair 200 including middle pieces 220 connected to end pieces 240. In the illustrated embodiment, there are two middle pieces and two end pieces. The middle pieces include a chair seat 220a and a chair back 220b. The middle pieces are configured to selectively couple with two end pieces 240a and 240b to form the modular chair. Additionally, in the illustrated embodiment, there are four locking pieces 260 to selectively lock the middle pieces to the end pieces, with locking pieces 260a and 260b connecting to middle piece 220b, and locking pieces 260c and 260d connecting to middle piece 220a. The middle pieces are coupled with the end pieces through tab and slot arrangements, and the locking pieces are coupled with the middle pieces through post and hole arrangements. The arrangements, as will be discussed below, selectively connect and lock the pieces together to form the modular chair.

As illustrated, the chair seat and the chair back are generally perpendicular to the end pieces and generally perpendicular to each other, with chair seat 220a positioned generally horizontal and chair back 220b positioned generally vertical when the modular chair is in an upright position. Additionally, end pieces 240 are positioned generally vertical when the modular chair is in an upright position.

FIG. 7 illustrates an end piece 240 similar in shape and function to end pieces 14 and 140. End pieces 14, 140 and 240 can share common characteristics such as dimensions, including width and height, shape, and material composition, to name a few examples. In some embodiments, end pieces 240 have a generally uniform thickness, similar to end pieces 14 and 140.

End piece 240 includes an outer side 240a and an inner side 240b labeled here for convenience. In certain preferred embodiments, outer side 240a is identical to inner side 240b. In the illustrated embodiment (FIG. 6), the inner sides are contacting the middle pieces. End piece 240 includes an upper portion 242, a middle portion 244, and a lower portion 246. In certain embodiments, the upper portion is elongated and the lower portion includes an arcuate shape. The lower portion is preferably configured to provide support to the end piece. Slots 248 in end pieces 240 are configured to receive middle piece tabs (see FIG. 8) to selectively couple the middle pieces to the end pieces.

In certain preferred embodiments, slots 248 collectively include an upper slot group 248a and a middle slot group 248b. Upper slot group 248a is positioned on upper portion 242 and middle slot group 248b is positioned on middle portion 244. Upper slot group 248a receives tabs on a middle piece positioned as a chair back. Middle slot group 248b receives tabs on a middle piece positioned as a chair seat. In certain embodiments, end pieces 240 can optionally include a lower slot group (not shown) positioned on lower portion 246 to optionally receive tabs from a chair accessory or other such component.

In certain embodiments, slots 248 can be positioned in end pieces 240 in sets of two, including a larger slot 248c adjacent a smaller slot 248d, as illustrated. In such embodiments, the smaller and larger slots receive corresponding smaller and larger tabs on the middle pieces to properly position the middle pieces in desired orientations relative to the end pieces. However, it should be appreciated that the slots can be grouped and/or shaped and sized differently as would occur to one skilled in the art.

In the illustrated embodiment, the upper slot group includes four slots, which allows for optional positioning of the chair back at two different height positions. Additionally, in the illustrated embodiment, the middle slot group includes six slots, which allows for optional positioning of the chair seat at three different height positions. However, it should be appreciated that the slots can number more or less than the quantity illustrated, providing varying levels of adjustability of the middle pieces. The slots are generally rectangular in shape, corresponding to the generally rectangular shape of the tabs (see FIGS. 8 and 9). It is contemplated that slots and tabs of other shapes, dimensions, and configurations are possible.

In certain embodiments, the slots can include reinforcing flanges (not shown) extending from the end pieces on the inner and/or outer sides. The flange areas can be a result of formation of the end pieces using molded plastic techniques. The flanges generally provide greater support to the end pieces and stability at the joints between the end pieces and the middle pieces.

FIG. 8 illustrates an example middle piece 220. In preferred embodiments, middle pieces 220 are interchangeable and identical, with the illustrated middle piece being positionable as either the chair seat or the chair back. In certain embodiments, middle pieces 220 are substantially similar in configuration. In less preferred embodiments, middle pieces 220 are different in shape and configuration.

In preferred embodiments, middle piece 220 includes a central portion with an interior surface 222 and an exterior surface 224, and two opposing edges or sides 252 and 254, with two tabs 250 positioned on each side 252 and 254. Tabs 250 can number more or less than four per middle piece. The more tabs 250 per side of middle piece 220 and/or depending on tab spacing, generally the more stable the connection will be between the middle pieces and the end pieces. Additionally, it should be appreciated that the tabs can be positioned at different locations on the middle piece as would generally occur to one skilled in the art. In some embodiments, the tabs are permanently integrated with the middle pieces. In other embodiments, the tabs can be selectively attached to the middle pieces in a manner as would generally occur to one skilled in the art. In the illustrated embodiment, the two remaining opposite edges or sides 256 and 258 are slightly curved. In some embodiments, the curvature of sides 256 and 258 is for decorative and/or comfort purposes.

In the illustrated embodiment, tabs 250 include larger tabs 250a and smaller tabs 250b, corresponding to larger slots 248c and smaller slots 248d, respectively. As illustrated, each side 252 and 254 of middle piece 220 can include one larger tab and one smaller tab to correspond to the sets of one larger slot and one smaller slot in the end pieces. In certain embodiments, tabs 250 each define a hole 251. In the illustrated embodiment, holes 251 are generally oval in shape and approximately centered in tabs 250. However, it should be appreciated that holes 251 can be shaped, sized, and positioned differently as would occur to one skilled in the art.

The proper connection of larger tabs within larger slots and smaller tabs within larger slots ensures the proper positioning of the middle piece at the desired orientation relative to the end pieces. In such embodiments, side 256 is the rear of a chair seat and the bottom of a chair back, side 258 is the front of a chair seat or the top of a chair back, and interior surface 222 faces toward the chair's seating area and exterior surface 224 faces outside the chair's seating area. Middle piece 220 includes a width W1 at side 256 and a width W2 at side 258. In the illustrated embodiment, middle piece 220 includes a decreasing width such that width W1 is greater than width W2 and includes curved or rounded corners. Additionally, the middle pieces are preferably of generally uniform thickness. It is contemplated that the middle pieces can be shaped differently as would occur to one skilled in the art, such as generally rectangular in shape. In certain embodiments, when the modular chair is assembled the end pieces can be positioned such that they are angled toward each other when they are positioned flush against sides 252 and 254, corresponding to the decreasing width of the illustrated middle piece. In certain other embodiments, when the modular chair is assembled the end pieces and/or middle pieces can be configured such that the end pieces are positioned generally parallel to each other despite the decreasing width of the illustrated middle piece.

FIG. 9 illustrates a front view of a middle piece 220. In certain embodiments, middle pieces 220 are slightly contoured to make the modular chair more comfortable. As illustrated, interior surface 222 can include a generally concave configuration and exterior surface 224 can include a corresponding generally convex configuration. The contour of the middle pieces can provide comfort to an individual seated in modular chair 200.

Tabs 250 can extend through slots 248 in end pieces 240 to connect middle pieces 220 to end pieces 240 to form modular chair 200. In certain embodiments, larger tabs 250a are configured to be received in larger slots 248c and smaller tabs 250b are configured to be received in smaller slots 248d. When assembled, the tab holes are arranged on the opposite side of the respective end piece from the middle piece central portion. Thereafter, locking pieces 260 can be used to selectively lock tabs 250 in slots 248, to thereby selectively lock the middle pieces to the end pieces.

FIG. 10 illustrates an example locking piece 260 having an exterior side 262, an interior side 264, a top side 266, and bottom side 268. In the illustrated embodiment, the exterior and top sides are generally closed and the interior and bottom sides are generally open. Additionally, in the illustrated embodiment, the interior sides are configured to be positioned adjacent the outer sides of the end pieces. In the illustrated embodiment, top side 266 includes access holes 272 for accessing the posts and detent mechanisms (FIG. 11) within locking pieces 260. It should be appreciated that access holes 272 can number more or less than two, be absent, and/or be shaped, sized and positioned differently as would occur to one skilled in the art. As illustrated, the locking pieces include a generally rectangular configuration; however, it is contemplated that the locking pieces can be shaped and sized differently as would occur to one skilled in the art. Additionally, in certain embodiments, locking piece 260 can include rounded edges or corners, such as rounded corners 270.

FIG. 11 is a view of bottom side 268 of locking piece 260, illustrating posts 280 having detent mechanisms 282. Posts 280, along with detent mechanisms 282, are configured to be inserted in holes 251 of middle pieces 220 to selectively lock the middle pieces to the end pieces. However, it should be appreciated that other appropriate selective locking mechanisms could be used to prevent backout of the idle piece tabs from the end piece slots. In certain embodiments, locking piece 260 operates to lock two tabs on one opposing side of a middle piece in two adjacent slots in an end piece substantially simultaneously. Detent mechanisms 282 can include angled or slanted introductory surfaces 282a to assist in the insertion of posts 280 in holes 251. FIG. 11 illustrates two posts on one locking piece, however it should be appreciated that the posts can number more or less than two as would occur to one skilled in the art. Additionally, it is contemplated that one locking piece can be used per middle piece tab, such that each locking piece includes one post having a detent mechanism. For example, for a middle piece having four total tabs, two on each opposing side, four locking pieces could be used to secure the middle piece to end pieces.

In certain embodiments, locking pieces 260 are configured such that when modular chair 200 is assembled, an edge of top side 266 meets flush with outer sides 240a of end pieces 240. In such embodiments, posts 280 having detent mechanisms 282 are substantially concealed such that a child cannot easily access the posts and/or unlock the posts from the holes in the middle pieces to disassemble the chair. Additionally, the arrangement of the locking pieces substantially flush with outer sides of the end pieces eliminates gaps for a child's fingers to be inserted, possible resulting in injury to the child's fingers.

FIGS. 12A-12C illustrate steps to selectively lock a tab 250 of a middle piece 220 in a slot 248 of an end piece 240 with a locking piece 260. Additionally, FIGS. 12A-12C illustrate an example tab 280 having an example detent mechanism 282. Detent mechanism 282 can include introductory surface 282a and top surface 282b. In FIG. 12A, detent mechanism 282 is in a neutral position. In FIG. 12B, post 280 is passing through hole 251 and detent mechanism 282 is in a compressed position such that detent mechanism is resiliently flexing toward post 280. During insertion of tab 280 into slot 251, detent mechanism 282 is configured to resiliently bend or compress, as shown in FIG. 12B, inward into post 280. In certain embodiments, introductory surface 282a is angled or slanted to assist in the insertion of post 280 in hole 251 and assist in the flexing of detent mechanism 282 toward post 280. As illustrated in FIG. 12C, once post 280 has been inserted a sufficient distance into hole 251, detent mechanism 282 resiliently reverts to its neutral position. In such a position, top surface 282b is configured to contact and engage a lower surface of tab 250 to selectively lock tab 250 in slot 248. In certain embodiments, top surface 282b is generally flat to prevent disengagement of the post from the hole and thereby prevent disengagement of the tab from the slot.

Referring generally to FIGS. 6-12B, the assembly of chair 200 is described hereafter. In one preferred embodiment, a modular chair assembly is provided as a kit containing eight total pieces, two end pieces, two middle pieces and four locking pieces. Alternatively, the chair assembly is provided as a kit containing at least five total pieces, two end pieces, one middle piece and two locking pieces. A second middle piece and corresponding locking pieces can optionally be added. Similar to chairs 10 and 100, the assembly for modular chair 200 provides for easier and more cost-effective shipment for example in a substantially flat package, and easier assembly of the chair, preferably without tools. In certain embodiments, the components of the assembly kit for modular chair 200 are sized to accommodate a child as a user of the chair.

As one example, the eight piece kit can be assembled to form a modular chair, such as chair 200. Tabs disposed on the middle pieces are inserted into slots in the end pieces. In preferred embodiments, the locking pieces are advanced adjacent the outer sides of the end pieces, such that the posts of the locking pieces are inserted through the holes defined in the tabs on the middle pieces. During insertion, the detent mechanisms resiliently flex to assist in the passage of the posts in the holes. Once the posts of the locking pieces are sufficiently inserted, the detent mechanisms resiliently revert to selectively lock the posts in the corresponding holes, thereby locking the middle pieces to the end pieces. The posts with detent mechanisms prevent disengagement of the tabs of the middle pieces from the slots of the end pieces, such as the tabs sliding out of the slots and/or the tabs rotating within the slots.

The tab and slot arrangements and post in hole arrangements selectively connect and lock the middle pieces to the end pieces forming a modular chair without the use of tools to assemble the chair. In embodiments having multiple slots, the chair seat and the chair back can be positioned at desired heights using the multiple slots. In alternative embodiments, the middle pieces include one tab each on two opposing sides to be received in slots in the end pieces. In alternative embodiments, the end pieces, middle pieces and locking pieces (described herein as forming modular chair 200) are connectable to other end pieces, middle pieces and locking pieces to form various other types of modular furniture, including benches, tables, desks, bookcases, and other such furniture pieces.

In another embodiment of the present invention, a modular chair 300 includes middle pieces, such as a chair back 320 and a chair seat 322, connected to end pieces 340. The chair back and chair seat are configured to selectively couple with two end pieces 240a and 240b to form the modular chair. Additionally, in the illustrated embodiment, there are four locking pieces 260 to selectively lock the chair back and char seat to the end pieces, with locking pieces 260a and 260b connecting to chair back 320, and locking pieces 260c and 260d connecting to chair seat 322. The chair back and chair seat are coupled with the end pieces through tab and slot arrangements, and the locking pieces are coupled with the chair back and chair seat through post and hole arrangements. The arrangements, as will be discussed below, selectively connect and lock the pieces together to form the modular chair.

As illustrated, the chair seat and the chair back are generally perpendicular to the end pieces and generally perpendicular to each other, with chair seat 322 positioned generally horizontal and chair back 320 positioned generally vertical when the modular chair is in an upright position. Additionally, end pieces 340 are positioned generally vertical when the modular chair is in an upright position.

FIG. 13 is an exploded view of modular chair 300, illustrating the various components of the modular chair assembly. For example, FIG. 13 illustrates end pieces 340 similar in shape and function to end pieces 14, 140 and 240. End pieces 14, 140, 240 and 340 can share common characteristics such as dimensions, including width and height, shape, and material composition, to name a few examples. In some embodiments, end pieces 340 have a generally uniform thickness, similar to end pieces 14, 140 and 240. Additionally, end pieces 340 includes slots 348 configured to receive tabs on the chair seat and chair back to selectively couple the chair seat and chair back to the end pieces.

In certain preferred embodiments, slots 348 collectively include an upper slot group 348a and a middle slot group 348b. Upper slot group 348a receives tabs on chair back 320. Middle slot group 348b receives tabs on chair seat 322. In certain embodiments, end pieces 240 can optionally include a lower slot group (not shown) to optionally receive tabs from a chair accessory or other such component. In the illustrated embodiment, slots 348 are of identical size and shape. However, it should be appreciated that the slots can be grouped and/or shaped and sized differently as would occur to one skilled in the art.

In the illustrated embodiment, the upper slot group includes three slots, which allows for optional positioning of the chair back at two different height positions. Additionally, in the illustrated embodiment, the middle slot group includes four slots, which allows for optional positioning of the chair seat at two different height positions. However, it should be appreciated that the slots can number more or less than the quantity illustrated, providing varying levels of adjustability of the chair back and chair seat. The slots are generally rectangular in shape, corresponding to the generally rectangular shape of the tabs. It is contemplated that slots and tabs of other shapes, dimensions, and configurations are possible.

In certain embodiments, the slots can include reinforcing flanges (not shown) extending from the end pieces on the inner and/or outer sides. The flange areas can be a result of formation of the end pieces using molded plastic techniques. The flanges generally provide greater support to the end pieces and stability at the joints between the end pieces and the chair seat and chair back.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 13 and 14, each of chair back 320 and chair seat 322 two tabs 350 positioned on each side of the component, with four total tabs per each of the chair back and chair seat. It is contemplated that tabs 350 can number more or less than four. Additionally, it should be appreciated that the tabs can be positioned at different locations on the chair seat and chair back as would generally occur to one skilled in the art. In some embodiments, the tabs are permanently integrated with the chair seat and chair back. In other embodiments, the tabs can be selectively attached to the middle pieces in a manner as would generally occur to one skilled in the art. In certain embodiments, tabs 350 each define a hole 351. In the illustrated embodiment, holes 351 are generally oval in shape and approximately centered in tabs 350. However, it should be appreciated that holes 351 can be shaped, sized, and positioned differently as would occur to one skilled in the art.

As illustrated in FIGS. 13 and 14, chair back 320 and chair seat 322 are different in shape and configuration. More specifically, chair back 320 is larger than chair seat 322 and further includes a tapered width. Chair back 320 includes opposing side surfaces 352 and 354, top surface 356 having a width W1 and bottom surface 358 having a width W2. In the illustrated embodiment, chair back 320 includes an increasing width such that width W1 is less than width W2 and includes curved or rounded corners. Additionally, the chair seat and chair back are preferably of generally uniform thickness. It is contemplated that the chair seat and chair back can be shaped differently as would occur to one skilled in the art. In certain embodiments, when the modular chair is assembled the end pieces can be positioned such that they are angled toward each other when they are positioned flush against sides 352 and 354, corresponding to the increasing width of the illustrated chair back. In certain other embodiments, when the modular chair is assembled the end pieces and/or chair back and chair seat can be configured such that the end pieces are positioned generally parallel to each other despite the decreasing width of the illustrated chair back. Additionally, in the illustrated embodiment, chair seat 322 is slightly contoured to make the modular chair more comfortable. In certain embodiments, chair back 320 is also slightly contoured. The contour of the chair back and chair seat can provide comfort to an individual seated in modular chair 300.

Tabs 350 can extend through slots 348 in end pieces 340 to connect chair back 320 and chair seat 322 to end pieces 340 to form modular chair 300. When assembled, the tab holes are arranged on the opposite side of the respective end piece from the central portions of the chair back and chair seat. Thereafter, similar to assembly of modular chair 200, locking pieces 260 can be used to selectively lock tabs 350 in slots 348, to thereby selectively lock the chair back and chair seat to the end pieces, in a manner as described above in connection with modular chair 200. As described above, each locking piece 260 includes at least two posts having detent mechanisms to be inserted into holes 351 to selectively lock the chair back and chair seat to the end pieces. However, it should be appreciated that other appropriate selective locking mechanisms could be used to prevent backout of the tabs on the chair back and chair seat from the slots in the end pieces. In certain embodiments, locking piece 260 operates to lock two tabs on one opposing side of a chair back or chair seat in two adjacent slots in an end piece substantially simultaneously.

In certain embodiments, locking pieces 260 are configured such that when modular chair 300 is assembled, an edge of the top side of the locking piece meets flush with outer sides of the end pieces. In such embodiments, the posts having detent mechanisms are substantially concealed such that a child cannot easily access the posts and/or unlock the posts from the holes in the chair back and chair seat to disassemble the chair. Additionally, the arrangement of the locking pieces substantially flush with outer sides of the end pieces eliminates gaps for a child's fingers to be inserted, possible resulting in injury to the child's fingers.

Referring generally to FIGS. 13 and 14, the assembly of chair 300 is described hereafter. In one preferred embodiment, a modular chair assembly is provided as a kit containing eight total pieces, two end pieces, a chair back, a chair seat, and four locking pieces. Alternatively, the chair assembly is provided as a kit containing at least five total pieces, two end pieces, a chair seat and two locking pieces. A chair back and corresponding locking pieces can optionally be added. Similar to chairs 10, 100 and 200, the assembly for modular chair 300 provides for easier and more cost-effective shipment for example in a substantially flat package, and easier assembly of the chair, preferably without tools. In certain embodiments, the components of the assembly kit for modular chair 300 are sized to accommodate a child as a user of the chair.

As one example, the eight piece kit can be assembled to form a modular chair, such as chair 300. Tabs disposed on the chair back and chair seat are inserted into slots in the end pieces. In preferred embodiments, the locking pieces are advanced adjacent the outer sides of the end pieces, such that the posts of the locking pieces are inserted through the holes defined in the tabs on the chair back and chair seat. During insertion, the detent mechanisms resiliently flex to assist in the passage of the posts in the holes. Once the posts of the locking pieces are sufficiently inserted, the detent mechanisms resiliently revert to selectively lock the posts in the corresponding holes, thereby locking the chair back and chair seat to the end pieces. The posts with detent mechanisms prevent disengagement of the tabs from the slots, such as the tabs sliding out of the slots and/or the tabs rotating within the slots.

The tab and slot arrangements and post in hole arrangements selectively connect and lock the chair back and chair seat to the end pieces forming a modular chair without the use of tools to assemble the chair. In embodiments having multiple slots, the chair seat and the chair back can be positioned at desired heights using the multiple slots. In alternative embodiments, the chair seat and chair back can each include one tab each on two opposing sides to be received in slots in the end pieces. In alternative embodiments, the end pieces, the chair back, the chair seat and locking pieces (described herein as forming modular chair 300) are connectable to other end pieces, chair backs, chair seats and locking pieces to form various other types of modular furniture, including benches, tables, desks, bookcases, and other such furniture pieces.

While the invention has been illustrated and described in detail in the drawings and foregoing description, the same is to be considered as illustrative and not restrictive in character, it being understood that only the preferred embodiment has been shown and described and that all changes and modifications that come within the spirit of the invention are desired to be protected.