Designing a Modern-style Chess Set

I love a good game of chess, even better a series of games with a friend.  We will talk about the issues of the day, our families, and perhaps in the cross talk and banter, we’ll provide a glimpse into our strategy and approach to the game.  And of course, if I’m having a bad day and getting the squeeze put on me where I’m loosing ground and in perpetual check, well it’s just my character and being a good sport that I’m working on that day.

About 25 years ago I decided to create a design for a chess set.  I was hoping for something with clean lines and a refined aesthetic that would work in a modern-style home. 


I was also wanting to create something that allowed even novices to understand the nuances and could help bring new players to the game. I designed a chess set with a simple set of markings that denotes the hierarchy of the pieces and prescribed moves allowed by the piece.

  1. King, tallest with a red square and rectangle at the base (only one space at a time in any direction)
  2. Queen, second tallest with a red circle and a quarter circle on the base (can move in any direction as many spaces as she wants)
  3. Rook, one red circle and a square at the base (can move horizontally or vertically as many spaces as he wishes)
  4. Knight, two red circles and a quarter circle at the base (can move in the shape of an “L” either first vertically or horizontally)
  5. Bishop, three red circles and a triangle at the base (can only move diagonally)
  6. Pawn, one large hole and a half circle at the base (can only move one space at a time).

I was recently talking with my colleague Chris about the chess set.  While it’s been a long time since I originally designed the set, it has come up in conversation often over the years.  Chris is avid Chess player… he’s a much better player than I am.  So when we were recently discussing the game and the design for the board I’d created, Chris volunteered to model the chess set using the Virtual Reality technique we use in our home designs.  It still impresses me every time that you can take an idea, a sketch, and turn it into near-to-true-life reality!

Chess set, modern style, designed by Peter Twohy of 2e Architects

Original design sketch from 1995






We have decided that for future projects we are going to insert the chess set in the Virtual Reality house videos we create.  It will be a fun, “Where’s Waldo” moment for clients to see who can spot the board.  After you’ve watched the video one time, take another look and see if you can spot the reflection of the chess set in the wine glass.  This is not an easy technique to curve the reflection of the set on the glass.  We learned a new skill in Virtual Reality to accomplish this–all to the better of the next home design project!