As parts of the world go into another coronavirus lockdown and others learn to spend more time at home, we shine the spotlight on five living concepts that are dynamic and repurposable. From modular sofas and cabinets to entire compact homes, these units and spaces showcase a minimal and exceptional design aesthetic and offer their users a flexible living experience.
Zabuton Sofa by Umé Studio
California-based design firm Umé Studio has conceptualised a modular sofa comprising traditional Japanese Zabuton cushions, which are usually placed on woven-straw mats known as tatami. The sofa includes a low, maple wood base with grooves, triangular-shaped dividers, Zabuton cushions and bolsters. The wooden partitions can be placed in the grooves in a variety of arrangements, resulting in different configurations such as a bed-like platform or a couch with two seats. Furthermore, a wooden divider can also be placed in the centre of the base. This central divider comes in two variations—a full-height backrest or a low table-like unit with a flat top for cups or plates. Umé Studio collaborated with Japanese furniture brand Takaokaya to make the cotton-filled Zabuton cushions for this design. The wooden frame of the sofa, with its base and dividers, is manufactured in California and coated in a water-based, clear polyurethane.
“Our Zabuton Sofa is a take on re-introducing traditional Japanese living into a modern piece of furniture. With the raised floors being popularised in the 17th century, Japanese society as a whole adopted tatami living as the driving design principle of housing design. Zabuton cushions were used to bring comfort to the seating of the nobility,” mentions the studio.
The Living Cube by Till Könneker
Swiss artist and designer Till Könneker has created a compact, freestanding cube comprising a sleeping area and modular furniture elements for small studio apartments. Titled ‘The Living Cube’, this intelligent unit was originally designed by Könneker for his own one-bedroom apartment. “My own living space had no storage space, but really high ceilings. I wanted an all-in-one solution and one sleepless night, the picture of this living cube came into my head - I made a simple sketch there and then in the dark,” mentions Könneker.
‘The Living Cube’ comprises a platform that features a queen-size bed and a room for storage or a workspace underneath. The walls have a series of compartments that can accommodate a 42-inch flat-screen TV, shelves, a fold-down desk, storage for clothes and shoes, and a minibar. These adaptable compartments can be customised depending on individual requirements. ‘The Living Cube’ units are made with three-layer spruce, stained black and finished with bio-oil.
13 Square Metre House by Studiomama
British design firm Studiomama revamped the interiors of a tiny single-storey house in London utilising customised, adaptable plywood furniture. Measuring just 13 square metres, the compact space was overhauled by the studio using a fold-out bed, a standing desk and extendable dining benches with pink cushions. “A tiny space like this has to be designed like one would design the interior of a caravan or boat. Everything had to be custom designed as there was no room for any off-the-shelf furniture, which was a great challenge. Furthermore, the use of one dominant material has made the space seamless – where floor, walls and ceiling come together as one,” states Nina Tolstrup, co-founder of Studiomama. The final cabin-like residence comprises custom-made, modular sections of plywood furniture. Each unit serves as a different space such as a bedroom, a work desk, a lounge, a kitchen, a bathroom, a closet storage and a dining area.
“We see the issues of how to live in a compact living space to be of growing importance, especially given the trends towards urbanisation and rise of megacities. We wanted to use this project to pose a question about what are the things that we really need to live comfortably,” adds Tolstrup.
3-in-1 Living by K-Thengono Design Studio
Indonesian architecture studio K-Thengono was commissioned by a young couple to transform a 16 sqm living space into a kitchen, dining and living room. The firm constructed a transformable built-in cabinet, which is adaptable for various uses throughout the day. The cabinet includes fold-out furniture pieces such as a dining table and benches, a sofa, shelves and ample storage. Dining benches and table fold out of the wall to transform the space into a dining room. A sofa is embedded in the cabinet using the Bi-Fold system to save more space. When all the panels of the cabinet are closed, an empty living space is revealed, which can be used for the residents’ home workouts and yoga practice.
“The design aesthetic is minimal with white surfaces and white carrara marble countertops, magnifying the feeling of space and light. Mirror walls are deployed in the space to create a sense of depth and add dimension to the space. In addition, functionality is key to the various design strategies, making every piece of furniture as efficient as possible for multiple uses,” claims the studio.
Domestic Transformer by EDGE Design
Award-winning, Hong Kong architect Gary Chang, founder of EDGE Design, remodeled his 344-square-foot studio apartment into a space with 24 room layouts and “endless permutations”. The core of the design involves sliding wall units that are stacked to either side of a central space. These room dividers slide inwards to expose different potential rooms that lie between them. For instance, a panel can be shifted to open out a guest room, a full bath, a walk-in closet, and a home cinema. These moving panels are in fact not only walls, but rather bookcases-cum-cabinets, facing both into and away from the central space. Every space and purpose is similarly achieved through pushing or pulling these large wall-panels that are hung from the ceiling.
“The ‘Domestic Transformer’ is an exercise into the extreme conditions of tight spaces that are now a global phenomenon. It is an experiment in putting all the essential and unexpected activities into this compact space without compromise,” concludes the design firm.