In major UK cities it is becoming ever harder to buy a home of your own. As it is with our European cousins, renting is now quite typical, with private renters in London having risen from 9% of the population at the turn of the Millennium to over 30% today. What does this all mean for the way we live? Are we consigned to a transient lifestyle with low-cost throwaway furniture? Well, no we aren't actually.
In recent years there has been a quiet revolution in how furniture has been designed that takes into account the places in which we live today. This new style goes beyond flat-packed of old, it's about transformable designs that adapt to our constantly changing spatial and functional requirements.
The 'Stacked' modular shelving system from Muuto is a perfect example of maximising adaptability. Stacked is a collection of 3 compatible box sizes in 4 colour tones. How you arrange the boxes and what you use them for is up to you; a bookshelf, shoe cabinet, room divider, TV console, bedside table are just a few of the possible options. When you move home it's quite likely that you will find pieces of your furniture with no natural location in their new abode. If your stacked system doesn't fit you can simply add units or take them away until it does, or reconfigure them into something completely different.
Logistically sofas can be the most troublesome product for the urban dweller; a typical problem being navigating them up a tight staircase or round a narrow corridor. The solution is pretty simple - break down the sofa into pieces or even to individual component parts. The Connect Sofa from Muuto is built, as the name suggests, from individual connecting parts. With a choice of 11 component parts in varying sizes it's possible to come up with your own sofa design to fit perfectly into pretty much any space. The boxes for each part, although still large, are small enough to be manoeuvred in very tight access spaces. With the Can Sofa, designed by the Bouroullec Brothers for Hay, the concept is taken further still, creating a new standard of premium flat-pack products. The Sofa is constructed from 3 basic elements - frame, cover and cushions, each interchangeable to give a total of 84 different variants. This 'off the shelf' product has all the advantages of a bespoke made-to-order product with none of the waiting times.
New flat-pack products also address the issue of lengthy, complex assembly. Highly crafted joining techniques allow for super-quick construction and subsequent deconstruction. The Wooden Shelf designed by carpenter Lucien Gumy for HAY illustrates how it is possible to build a shelving system without using a single fixing. Gumy developed a type of dovetail joint that uses the simple premise of gravity to join solid oak uprights with shelves. Not only is the system incredibly strong but the simplicity of the product also means that it can be offered to the consumer at a very competitive retail price.
Premium flat-pack products have ushered in a new era of flexible living. Buying the right furniture for now and the future used to be like piecing together a difficult puzzle. Today furniture can fit around your life and adapt with you as your needs change.