New York's annual design festival, NYCxDesign, brings together architects, designers, and makers from around the world to showcase their latest designs. At this year's festival, we found a surplus of clever ideas and innovative fixes that aim to solve a long-time problem afflicting urban centers: limited living space.
These space-saving designs couldn't come at a more opportune time, with New York City's first micro-dwelling apartment building opening up in December. The Tiny Housing movement is in full swing, and more people are simply deciding to live simpler and downsize. Below, check out some of best designs for small living spaces we came across.
Based in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Casa Kids has sold design-savvy kids bunk beds since it opened in 1992. In February, in response to the opening of the first micro-apartment building in New York, the custom furniture company launched its first line of lofted beds for adults under its sister company, Casa Collection. The Urbana loft is a king-sized bed with stairs that double as drawers, a walk-in closet below, and a roll-out trundle bed for guests, while the Arca loft makes up a queen-sized bed with a bench and desk underneath. According to designer Roberto Gil, all you need is high ceilings—10.5 feet for the Urbana and 8.5 feet for the Arca—and a room wide enough for the desired bed size and two side tables. Think of it as a high-design version of your college dorm setup. Read more here.
No room for a coffee table? The Folded Vessel, designed by Brookyn-based designers Chen Chen + Kai Williams, is a geometric container perfect for holding books, magazines, and other items otherwise strewn across your living room. Made of powder-coated steel and available in three different colorways—as well as mirrored—the piece keeps order while still displaying its contents. In August, the 19.5- inch-by-17-inch-by-14.5-inch Folded Vessel will be available from Good Thing for $150 ($250 for the mirrored version).
Madrid-based architect and designer Ana Arana designed the Gali kitchen system to address the needs of people living solo in small urban apartments. Contained within one mobile kitchen island, the Gali includes a table, sink, stove top, cabinets, drawers, and refrigerator that can each be folded back into the piece when not in use. Selected for the IFCC studio competition sponsored by Bernhardt Design, the Gali is still pure prototype, though Arana says she's in the market for a manufacturer.
Balancing a plank of wood over two sawhorses has long been the desk solution for, as industrial design student India Hillis puts it, "twenty-somethings with taste but no money." Designed as part of an assignment at Art Center College of Design in L.A., her Hyperion desk gives the ad hoc design an official upgrade with sleeker, custom-made sawhorses for legs and a metal clamp that connects to the desktop for more stability. Another ICFF studio pick, Hillis's design is still in the prototype stage, but we're betting not for long. It's a simple yet solid idea, and beautifully executed.
Adult spaces aren't the only ones getting redesigned this year. To tackle space shortage in kids' play spaces, South Dakota University interior design students created Flexnest, a set of nesting seats and drawers that can be used both as furniture and for play. The set includes two seats, three drawers, and five planks that can be used to build with, sit on, or teach physics concepts like gravity and symmetry. When not in use, they fit snuggly inside one another and come with a detachable caster base for ease of moving around the room. Flexnest was an in-classroom project, though, so it's not yet for sale.
The Stockholm-based architects TAF created a cabinet specifically for narrow entrance hallways, a project for the Taiwanese design studio and retailer Nak Nak. Simple and unobtrusive, the steel cabinets come in a variety of pastels and are ideal for organizing the loose gloves, scarves, boots, and purses that otherwise get left in a pile at the front door. Organization doesn't come cheap, though—the cabinet and base are available for $929 on Nak Nak's website.
Created for Umbra Shift—the contemporary design arm of the global housewares company Umbra—French product designer Ferréol Babin created a handsome freestanding shelf that can be used by itself or arranged together to form a larger structure. Made of Douglas fir plywood and powder-coated steel, the Triplet Shelf is both durable and light—easy for moving between rooms or various homes. It will hit stores August 2016 and will sell for $400.
Ope, the brainchild of Norwegian designers Lars Urheim and Eirik Høvik Helgesen, is a modular storage system that can be mounted on a wall or stacked on the ground, and added to or reconfigured on a whim. It's made of panels that can be arranged into boxes and brackets that snap into place without the need for tools. Line them up beside each other or stack them for easy-to-assemble shelving units. Ope is currently only available in Norway but has patents out in the U.S. and Europe.
We covered Canadian designers Knauf & Brown's handsome folding chair three years ago, back when it was just a prototype. Now, the steel and wood Profile Chair, which folds on a single axis into a slender profile, is being produced and distributed through Brooklyn-based manufacturer Souda. The final design is simple, clean, and sturdy—nice enough to leave out, yet light enough to fold up and lean against the wall when you need extra room. Available in both black and white for $525 this August.
New York-based design studio Visibility's Champ stool, part of Matter-Made's 2016 collection, is a stackable stool perfect for small, shared studios and workspaces. In homage to Alvar Aalto's Artek Stool 60, the Champ has three legs that arch elegantly into a wooden base. Made of bent steel and available in five different colors, the stool won the ICFF Editor's award for best portable design and is available now—though it will put you back $450 a piece. Much like tiny apartments themselves, space-saving methods don't always come cheap.