A few years ago, McKinsey consultant-turned-entrepreneur Assaf Wand identified the hole in the market for elegant, de-stigmatized products for an aging population. He started Sabi, and has since launched two lines of products: the Thrive pill-taking apparatuses, and the Roam walking canes. Now, at ICFF in New York, he’s showing his third round of wares: Sabi Space, a 13-piece line of storage and organization solutions for the bathroom.
The aging baby boomer populace—a reported 25% of Americans—presents an enormous market opportunity to designers: as this group of 70 or so million people get older, they’ll need new products to suit their health care and lifestyle needs. But this group spends their money differently than their parents' generation, with consumer tastes that prioritize organic and tasteful products over value. Their parents may have grown up with rations and the Great Depression, but baby boomers now buy their groceries from Whole Foods.
For the Sabi Space project, Wand tapped the U.K.-based consultancy MAP—known for redesigning Virgin Airline’s meal trays—and produced all the basic trappings you’d find in any bathroom: towel racks, toilet paper rolls, hooks, mirrors, and so on.
To give the MAP some direction, Wand planned Sabi Space around two major insights: the first is that unlike living rooms, where furniture is purchased piecemeal, people outfit their bathrooms all at once, by buying a range of products. To respond to that, MAP built the Space system around a common unit: a simple peg. The other pieces simply need to twist, or click via a magnet, onto the pegs. It's a visual cue for consumers (and perhaps their house guests) that the system goes together, but it also allows for easy expansion later, since the basic pieces will always match.
Wand’s second insight centers around a realization that sprung from his first line of pill boxes: Sabi excels because refined, easy-to-use products appeal to everyone. Since the pill boxes hit the market, he's heard from younger users who use them to take daily vitamins, instead of medications like older users. For that reason, one of Wand’s goals for Sabi Space was to make it equally easy and usable for a 60-year-old woman with no tools to install, functional enough for young apartment renters. (A special adhesive from 3M nixes the need for any drilling.)
Each box comes with a true-to-size graphic of the piece, so buyers can map out their new pieces on the wall before committing to an arrangement. That’s crucial for Wand, who wants to expand on Sabi Space after its official launch in September, with products for other spaces, like kitchens and closets.
That commitment to accessibility hasn't tempered Sabi's approach to aging. One of the new pieces Wand is showing is a grab bar, which is traditionally a clinical-looking bathroom add-on that screams "old person!" Instead, Sabi's version is round, coated in a no-slip silicone rubber, and comes in a few cheery colors. "It should look good because maybe it’s the husband who’s hurt, but not the wife," Wand tells Co.Design. "And kids can use these too."
Sabi Space may not launch until September, but until then, check out the rest of the Sabi line here.