Barbora Žilinskaite personifies furniture with her humane ‘Roommates’ collection

The young designer's anthropomorphic furniture collection, Roommates, comprises a face-shaped coffee table, a foot-shaped stool, and a hand-shaped magazine rack.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Aug 14, 2021

Is it not the function of design to let design function? What about when we decide to let that functional design emote, where pieces get personified? Where has the realm been left uncharted when it comes to attaching emotion to objects?

A delightful step in the same exploration, Roommates by 24-year-old Lithuanian designer, Barbora Žilinskaite, is a collection of “anthropomorphic furniture pieces designed to intrigue human emotions and change the way we perceive everyday objects around us.” Comprising a coral orange hand-shaped magazine rack, a berry blue stool likened to a titan’s upright foot and an eggshell white, three-legged coffee table topped with an unmoving face, the collection is named so to see these pieces as characters, to notice them and think of them as companions or 'roommates', and not just as owned objects.

  • A foot shaped stool from the Roommates collection | Roommates by Barbora Žilinskaite | STIRworld
    A foot shaped stool from the Roommates collection Image: Barbora Žilinskaite
  • One of the three brightly dyed, handmade pieces from the collection | Roommates by Barbora Žilinskaite | STIRworld
    One of the three brightly dyed, handsculpted pieces from the collection Image: Barbora Žilinskaite

The young product designer based her concept on our species' ongoing habits of over-consumption - sculpting objects more human-like would make them seem friendlier and encourage their owners to not throw them away or replace them in the long run. “I wanted people to think more about what lies behind the object they choose to curate and place around their homes and workplaces, about the whole production process, and in general, to consume more consciously. The idea to shape them after parts of a human body seemed to me a quiet solution, where each piece of furniture owns its own story, bares the material that makes it, and carries soul. This “emotional” factor might convince some to be more responsible, almost as if they had feelings,” she adds.

The hand shaped magazine rack | Roommates by Barbora Žilinskaite | STIRworld
The hand shaped magazine rack Image: Barbora Žilinskaite

What also spurred the aesthetic of the brightly dyed, figuratively expressed furniture design was to oppose the monotony of everyday experience that was brought forth by the industrialisation of production, where standardisation of design began, provoking a similarity in produced goods, and short-term consumption. “Although this was seen as an achievement, and in most ways, it was, but the emotional connect between an object and a person gradually waned off - objects were being produced fervently and being replaced often too,” explains Žilinskaite.

  • The magazine rack is rendered a bright coral orange | Roommates by Barbora Žilinskaite | STIRworld
    The magazine rack is rendered a bright coral orange Image: Barbora Žilinskaite
  • The collection is named so to see these furniture pieces as friendly characters, to notice them and think of them as companions or ‘roommates’ | Roommates by Barbora Žilinskaite | STIRworld
    The collection is named so to see these furniture pieces as friendly characters, to notice them and think of them as companions or ‘roommates’ Image: Barbora Žilinskaite

All characters of the collection sit half a metre high and are hand-sculpted by the designer out of a clay-like material consisting of sawdust, natural pigments, and PVA glue, which is then applied on plywood models, and left to dry. The sawdust is leftover material collected from different manufacturers and local carpenters employing wood. After the works are sanded and lacquered, marks of uncoloured sawdust chips appear, creating a grained, stone-like material texture.

  • Stools in other colour editions being made in Žilinskaite’s workshop | Roommates by Barbora Žilinskaite | STIRworld
    Stools in other colour editions being made in Žilinskaite’s workshop Image: Barbora Žilinskaite
  • Closeup of the berry blue stool likened to a titan’s upright foot | Roommates by Barbora Žilinskaite | STIRworld
    Closeup of the berry blue stool likened to a titan’s upright foot Image: Barbora Žilinskaite

Žilinskaite studied product design at the Vilnius Academy of Arts in Lithuania, however, her journey in art and design began a long time ago, when she was 12, and chose to attend a school of arts, where she immersed herself in lessons in academic drawing and sculpting. “After that, I pursued design because of its versatility and the possibility to combine in it, different disciplines and mediums,” she shares.

A sketch for the coffee table (L); the eggshell white coffee table with a human faced top (R)| Roommates by Barbora Žilinskaite | STIRworld
A sketch for the coffee table (L); the eggshell white coffee table with a human faced top (R) Image: Barbora Žilinskaite

She is only a year-and-half into her solo practice based in Brussels, Belgium, flitting playfully between design and art, like functional sculpture. She plans to keep experimenting with the wood-dust material and her humanistic, artistic approach to expand the series in the near future. We look forward to such fun, personified objects that mix ideas, functions and emotions in playfully crafted pieces of design.

  • The coffee table, like the rest of the Roommates collection, is made from a clay-like material consisting of sawdust, pigments, and wood glue | Roommates by Barbora Žilinskaite | STIRworld
    The coffee table, like the rest of the Roommates collection, is made from a clay-like material consisting of sawdust, pigments, and wood glue Image: Barbora Žilinskaite
  • The eggshell white, three-legged coffee table | Roommates by Barbora Žilinskaite | STIRworld
    The eggshell white, three-legged coffee table Image: Barbora Žilinskaite

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