DUAL ROLE

Creating spaces that are flexible and adaptable is a positive step towards sustainable living

We live in an age of sustainability where the desire to reduce our environmental footprint is felt both by corporations and individuals. There are many ways this can be achieved — through recycling, using less energy and fewer resources, using bikes and public transport instead of cars and buying organic foods and local produce.

Another perhaps less obvious way of having a long-term, positive impact on the planet is through the habitation of smaller spaces by corporations, families and individuals; occupying businesses and homes that are more flexible and adaptable, have a smaller physical footprint and are able to perform a variety of uses depending on needs. New homes can be designed with their orientation, climate and scale in mind, and existing building stock can usually be renovated to suit the needs of the occupant at the same time as being considerate to the environment.

Tonka Andjelkovic, an interior designer in Sydney, recently renovated her own 75 square metre two-bedroom home in Sydney. Located in the inner city, the apartment faces south-east and was built in the 1950s, when scale (small) took priority and orientation and climate were rarely considered. As Tonka lives and works from home, the renovation was done to address both her professional and social needs, providing a space that is suitable as both home and office. Some simple design devices have been used to create a space that can be adapted for both work and play, and rather than needing a space that is twice the size, Tonka is able to live and work efficiently.

The aesthetic of her home profiles what Tonka can achieve for her clients and embodies her own personal style. Furniture is modular and has a dual purpose — the dining table doubles as a meeting table, where drawings can be laid out and plans discussed with clients. The kitchen and bathrooms have modern features, designed with a classic palette that includes ageless and enduring Carrara marble. The kitchen joinery houses a compact and efficient laundry area, and appliances have been selected for their quality and energy efficiency.

While none of these ideas are groundbreaking on their own, when combined this collection of practical and sensible space-saving solutions come together to make one highly efficient living and working environment that ‘works hard’ to serve its owner’s personal and professional requirements.

Furniture designers and manufacturers have also started to consider how pieces can have a dual purpose and be designed for a range of functions.

In the early part of this century, one trend for furniture design was for overscaled chairs and sofas designed for warehouse and spacious loft living. Recently, we have seen a number of designers, particularly from Denmark and Italy, produce a range of pieces with quality and efficiency in mind. These include Cassina’s La Barca console that folds out into a dining table, the Poltrona Frau Sofa Bed that is a cut above the standard, and the Cassina Dodo recliner that folds up to a smaller chair.

Many Danish designers are adept at designing for compact scale and dual purpose. Kasper Saalto’s ‘My Little Friend’ for Fritz Hansen was one of the first height-adjustable laptop tables on the market. Other Danish designers, such as Hay, also produce a range of screens that can be used for storage and as room dividers, as they don’t have a back or front, and side/laptop/coffee tables that can be easily moved, depending on what the room or space is being used for.

Locally, in Australia, many young designers are working with a vision for a more adaptable, flexible and sustainable future in mind. One of these is Brisbane designer Matt Seddon. Matt owns product design company, Said and Done, and it is his passion to «be the change» he wants to see in the world. Like many of Generation Y, sustainability is high on his list of priorities. Even though he is just starting out, Matt is already designing with ideas of longevity and flexibility in mind. «I want designs that are clever,» Matt says. «I want designs that people look at and go ‘hey, neat!’. I want designs that happen to be beautiful, but really are just downright useful and enduring, so the prospect of disposal with the next fashion trend does not even enter the mind.» His goal is to have his pieces deliver something extra and that includes duality of purpose. His Beach Box Bench Seat is also a storage piece, and the Cube Nested Table clicks and stacks together to perform a variety of functions and aesthetics.

So, as the population grows and housing becomes denser, and as sustainable living in all its forms becomes of greater importance, it is even more critical that the spaces we inhabit are environmentally and spatially harder-working. This can be achieved through clever, practical design and the use of a series of simple tools. Rooms can have dual functions and be easily changed from day to night, particularly to enable the spaces to be used for both working and living (as the boundaries between home and office become even more blurred). Compact spaces can be made ‘larger’ through the installation of furniture that can reconfigure, serve a double purpose and even become something else entirely. As we look towards a future that considers sustainable resources, energy, transport and food, we cannot ignore the flexibility and adaptability of the living environments we inhabit.

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