Vertical living style

By Janette Corcoran

Our apartment layouts might be uniform, but our interiors need not be! 

Advice abounds about how we, vertical villagers, can decorate our small spaces. 

We are advised to delineate areas, go vertical with storage, choose a light colour palette (or alternatively) go bold, add layers for depth – and most important of all – invest in appropriate furniture.   

But just what is appropriate for our space-challenged apartments? 

Scanning the many guidelines offered by small space stylists, current advice cautions us not to take the “dollhouse approach”, meaning that we should not simply shrink our furnishing and outfit our abodes with tiny furniture. 

According to course director of interior architecture at Swinburne University Kirsten Day, the best types of furniture to use in small spaces are simple open-framed chairs and tables, furniture with light frames, steel or timber, and open backs.  She further advises that fitted living room furniture with built-in side tables that hug the wall is better than large single units and isolated tables.  And Kirsten is also an advocate for flexible space (i.e. multi-purpose arrangements). 

To date, flexible space in Australia has focused on transforming furniture – sofas which turn into beds, coffee tables which change into dining tables, etc.  The more radical options, such as moving robotic walls, were the stuff of futuristic design fairs. 

But things are about to change

Swedish furniture giant IKEA is teaming up with US start-up, Ori, to create such a robotic furniture product.  

Ori’s current collection includes a “pocket closet” (an expanding and concealable wardrobe) and in conjunction with IKEA, Ori is developing the ROGNAN solution which enables a bedroom to transform into a living and working space. 

“More IKEA …” I hear you sigh. 

And it is a common lament that in being one of the few retailers that offer reasonably priced furniture suited to our space, that many small apartments can look like a page from an IKEA catalogue. 

Enter the IKEA hack  

As many know, IKEA hacking has been growing in popularity for some time with entire sites now dedicated to sharing tips. Early on, the Swedish retailer “disliked” this idea but they have changed their tune, even offering ideas themselves. 

IKEA hacking started with the
re-engineering of IKEA pieces to serve another purpose but increasingly, these hacks focus on customising the appearance of the skandi furniture – the decorative hack.

In recognising this desire to customise one’s IKEA, the past few years have seen several start-ups emerge which offer different ways of doing this. Among these are Norse Interiors, Reform, Panyl, Hølte and even our own Australian LUX.

At Norse Interiors (USA), they offer “luxurious, custom-made replacement pieces to turn IKEA furniture storage into bespoke works of art.” Customers choose the colour and design of pieces which fit over existing IKEA furniture.  

Reform’s offer is more a swap-out of kitchen fronts and countertops which they promise are easy to combine with IKEA’s basic and popular modules. 

Hølte, a London-based studio, provides a high-end version of this aftermarket alteration service, offering an array of coloured handles, countertop surfaces and hand-finished cabinet fronts. 

Deviating from this refit approach, Panyl and our own LUX offer more accessible ways of customising – no screw drivers needed!

Panyl is a do-it-yourself furniture wrap which comes in multiple colours and wood grain textures. 

Meanwhile LUX offers a range of overlay panels along with a selection of handles, legs and feet which can be combined for a “designer look on a flat-pack budget”.  LUX’s products are Australian designed and made, and LUX is Australian owned and operated – which could mark the beginning of an interesting OZ-scandi fusion!

So, before you send your IKEA unit to landfill, think about “hacking out” a second life. 

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