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Ebb and Flow

A log found along the shoreline at low tide served as the inspiration for Ebb, a new bench series developed by designer Mark Gabbertas and Leland International.

By Janet Wiens

A log found along the shoreline at low tide served as the inspiration for Ebb, a new bench series developed by designer Mark Gabbertas and Leland International.

One of my favorite books is Sea Gifts, written by George Shannon and illustrated by Mary Azarian. In this simple, beautiful story, we learn of a man who trades gifts with the sea, finding treasures along its shore that others might miss. Collecting wood is part of his daily routine—some to mend his home, some to fuel his fire and some to be transformed. “Silent and still he studies each piece, looking to see what waits to be freed,” Shannon writes.

After hearing the story behind Ebb, an elegant benching series by Leland International, the connection with Shannon’s tale is immediate. It was designer Mark Gabbertas’ chance encounter with a log as he walked along the beach at low tide that served as the inspiration for the new product line.

The partnership between Gabbertas and Leland International turned out to be equally fortuitous, according to president, Tim Korzon. “One of our products had been specified by Gensler for Terminal 2 at the San Francisco International Airport,” he recalls. “We were well into the process when the airport staff determined that they wanted to take the seating in a new direction. About the same time, I met Mark and viewed some of his recent concepts, which included the Ebb bench. I knew this was what we were looking for to replace the bench that was originally specified for the terminal. From there it was a very quick turnaround to final design and production.”

Korzon realized that the design made perfect sense not only for the airport project but also as an addition to the company’s catalog. “The design fulfilled the main criteria for our product statement of line, which is to be feature and option rich. We believed that the design could be trimmed out and offered in many possibilities, and we loved the attention to detail that Mark had put into his work.”

Korzon and other officials at Leland, including Vice President of Sales Shanna Anderson, believed that Ebb’s style and sensibilities would be perfect for many settings. “Mark felt that the hollow log provided a natural place to sit or straddle,” she says. “We believed that adding hub units to the single bench would provide additional opportunities to use the product in a range of public spaces such as airports, hospitality, universities, libraries and healthcare settings.”

The hub concept was inspired by a molecular structure and provides the ability to link the straight Ebb benches to create an extensive seating network. Free-standing straight sections are offered in 4-, 6-, 8- and 10-foot lengths, while the hubs are available in a variety of configurations. The straight components are trimmed in a white oak veneer exterior surface with a melamine interior; straight units are also offered in a fully upholstered version. The hub is 60 inches deep and has one, two or three linking ends.

For his part, Gabbertas says that sometimes the best designs are the most simple. “The log lying on the beach was such a powerful and rather sophisticated solution to a typology of seating that it really cannot be better,” he says. “An individual can sit on the bench from either side or it can be straddled, which easily facilitates interaction and exchange. Ebb allows for different ‘shades’ of space to be created, whereby people can simply sit while waiting, hold informal meetings or even find a little personal space.”

Gabbertas says that the design team worked hard to refine the precise shape and profile of the bench. The idea of keeping it hollow was integral to the design as a way of emphasizing its lightness, while the hub concept emerged as an island, off of which a number of different benches could exist. According to Gabbertas, a designer can create molecular-like configurations to maximize Ebb’s impact and effect within a space.

He also believes that the line’s soft and hard surface materials and color choices can be used to “change the temperature” of a space, and officials at Leland agree. “The white oak veneer is beautiful when specified in a natural finish, and designers may also create their own sophisticated look by specifying one of five other finishes, which include cherry, mahogany and black,” Anderson says. “The legs come in nine powder-coated colors to further create individual designs. Customers also have the option of selecting one of the fabrics provided by our seven fabric partners; we will also work with custom fabrics. We believe that in every aspect we have given designers the ability to choose from a number of different color palettes to create the most appropriate look for their projects. The options for crafting unique designs are extensive.”

The response to Ebb has been very positive since its launch at NeoCon this year, where it won a Best of NeoCon Silver award. Gabbertas and Leland’s design team are already discussing how the line can be expanded and modified to meet custom requests; options in the works include a backrest for the hub unit to allow for a longer sit. Stand-alone hubs and other options will also be considered based on market response. Visit for more information.