Pulling Double Duty: Taking a closer look at the growing market for multi-purpose furnishings

By Michael Cochrane

We have long been fascinated at the idea of designing duel functionality into utilities and accessories that shape our lives. Really, in this day in age, who among us would tolerate a cell phone which began and ended with a dial tone and offered nothing else? The problem however, at least in terms of double duty home furnishings, is that many consumers are skeptical of the comfort and attractiveness of anything that rotates, expands, collapses or folds out. That said, diminishing floor space in condos, and the quickening pace at which developers are embracing the “micro living concept” means manufacturers and retailers alike are rushing to establish a solid reputation behind comfortable and design conscious double duty furniture.

What has begun to emerge from this particular design revolution has been impressive to say the least. Take a few minutes for a quick online search and you will no doubt find yourself inundated with alternatives that will have you questioning old prejudice against dual purpose, and storage friendly furnishings. The medium itself is an exciting one to be involved with at present as designers are showing a “no holds barred” attitude towards what can be brought to the table. Whether you are looking for clever dual purpose furnishings from a reliable retailer and manufacturer, fully mobile, kitchen/workspace units, or a unique way to conceptualise “stair storage”, it seems there is a small army of individuals out there looking to stake a lasting claim on the business of “Small Spaces”.

Fast developing companies such as Vancouver’s own are working hard to bring quality and an innovative portfolio to a marketplace ever on the lookout for major space saving alternatives. Products in their catalogue including the Box Coffee to Dining Table offer amazing versatility for their compact size, while their Italian Wall Bed Revolving Book Case allows trebled functionality and the potential to turn the smallest of spaces into a multi room living space.

Above: Italian Wall Bed Revolving Book Case (taken from
Below: Box Coffee to Dining Table (taken from

Box coffee to dining table in seconds!

Although cities like New York and San Francisco seem to represent the real-estate bar at which North American developers have begun modelling their floorplans, Europeans have been at the game of “micro living” for decades already. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that companies like KMZERO, A Sardinian design group, have been striving towards modular and mobile alternatives for practical living spaces. While their Cucina Leggera (self-contained DIY kitchen workstation kit) may seem a little “raw” in its design, it raises an interesting question of whether we should expect to be seeing entire “modular rooms” in the not too distant future.

Below: Cucina Leggera (Image taken from:

DIY Kitchen Workstation Kit

Hidden space saving stairs As floor space is on the decline in new builds, it’s up to buyers and renters to capitalize on available “air space”. For that reason, “Stair Storage” is becoming vogue once again, and designers in the industry are taking notice of those pushing the boundaries and offering alternatives for loft and split level floorplans. One such individual is Japanese architect Kotaro Anzai whose Fukushima staircase project has won great acclaim globally and brings to the table a new standard by which we can measure not just the height of our staircase, but its capacity for duel functionality as well.

(Architect Kotaro Anzai’s Fukushima staircase project: image taken from: Or

At the end of the day, it comes down to the expectations we hold for our living spaces. Everyone has unique needs, along with the desire to personalise their homes. Double duty furnishings may have been around for decades, but it’s only the recent necessity for increased space consciousness that truly exciting designs have begun to emerge. As there is no indication that developers are suddenly going to revert back to large floorplans in new condos, it is likely we will begin to see more unique designs and personal touches on dual purpose furniture. It’s safe to say that this industry is not going to be a passing trend but instead a freight train that is just now beginning to pick up steam.

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