Moving Walls And Disappearing Furniture. The Future Of Small Apartment Living Is Here

Challenge breeds innovation and a number of architects and designers are creating fluid furniture configurations to tackle the issue of ever shrinking apartment sizes.

By Jeff Vasishta March 20, 2017

No you haven’t had too much to drink. The walls really are moving. It may look like something out of a science fiction movie but moving walls and disappearing furniture are cropping up in New York apartments and helping space constrained residents grapple with the lack of square feet.

A renovated Manhattan apartment, featured in by Russian architect Peter Kostelov features tucked-away furniture that pulls out to suit the needs of its user. The Uptown apartment was originally a two bedroom which had a kitchen and living room closed off from one another. The new design make the living quarters fluid.

Related: IKEA Wins Design Award For Its Innovative Refugee Shelter

“The main aim of the project is a concept of effortless transformation,” said the architect. “For example, a living room can easily be transformed into a dining room, while a working studio turns into a guest bedroom in no time.”

Although the Kostelov renovated apartment was originally a 2 bedroom the flexible furniture arrangement works best in a studio or efficiency where walls do not occur and space is severely restricted and there is a need to be multifunctional.

Architecture students Catalin Sandu and Adrian Iancu managed to make the most of such a space when designing a 420 square foot apartment in Soho. A living room is always the focal point of most apartments and so with a studio, creating one is the key to making is resemble a conventional one or two-bedroom residence. This requires the installation of a moveable wall partition. Other space saving items include a folding table for 10 and Murphy bed. The same concept was used for a 390 square foot apartment. In this case, the moveable wall has custom speakers and a 180-degree rotating TV nook. Clearly all the furniture has to work together to incorporated into the apartment which was designed by MKCA.

Related: Columbia University’s Medical Center Leads Packs In A Cluster Of NYC Design Award Winners

Of course the king of furniture for small spaces is IKEA and so it makes sense that the Swedish cheap furniture giant should take what independent architects and designers have been doing and bring it to the masses. According to a report in the Wall St Journal, the company has quietly refurbished a small apartment in the coastal city of Malmö in Sweden. They have test run it with different families staying there for two weeks at a time.

The demand for innovative furniture solutions was born from decreasing apartment  sizes — 18 percent in San Francisco, 19 percent in Seattle and 22 percent in Boston over the past decade, according to data compiled by research firm Axiometrics Inc.

Usually such furniture, though suitable for small spaces is expensive. Creating it to fall in line with IKEA’s price points has been challenging.

“It’s not as easy as it sounds,” said Mikael Ydholm, IKEA’s head of research, who led the Malmö apartment experiment in 2015. “It will be another three years of work before they appear in our catalog.”

Which means next year New York tenants will finally have some affordable options for their unaffordable housing.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.
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