Welcome to the Fold: is flexible furniture just one solution for future sustainable homes

oliver Furniture, General

I have always been a great fan of gadgets and my furniture collection has been dominated by a selection of ingenious folding, rotating and collapsible pieces, mostly of a utilitarian persuasion. One of my favourites being a World War II folding army chair (like the one below) that’s still in daily use in our home. The delight being that from a small intricate package comes comfort, practicality and even, dare I say it, civilisation.



As our homes become ever smaller but more densely packed with function, so our need for space saving, functional but ingenious design grows. So, I wanted to share with you a selection of brilliant, beautiful and even ridiculous examples of folding design.


One of the most impressive examples is Folditure’s Ultra-Thin Leaf Chair. With the release of a button the chair folds up to be a miniscule ¾ of an inch thick. That means you can store four chairs in the same space taken up by a thick winter coat. And rest assured that nothing has been sacrificed aesthetically. Combining high-tech components with age-old artisan craftsmanship, this is art that works.



Designed by Tom Schouten and Douwe Jacobs, the Flux chair is another stunning piece of fold up design. It’s manufactured from a single piece of recyclable polypropylene and can be stored as a flat self-contained envelope. But in just ten seconds it transforms into really great piece of designer furniture. And incredibly 77 chairs stacked up will only be one metre high. This might just be the most versatile space saving chair ever designed.



It’s been a while since my days as a student but I definitely would have wanted one of these. Student accommodation tends to be a little bit on the cramped side, so it’s not surprising that the recently released Study bed has proved to be a hit. The really great thing about the Study Bed is that there is enough clearance that you don’t have to tidy the desk before you fold out the bed. Great for students who, let’s be honest, aren’t renowned for their tidying abilities. Although i find the design bulky and a little unsophisticated it is a good option for any room that doubles up as a study and extra bedroom.





The Loftbox 101 promises to be a folding apartment in a box (and feels more than a bit sci- fi). Just how is that possible you might well ask. When closed it’s a mobile platform but open it and it turns into a seating area and work surface. It was designed by Rainer Graff of Atelier Graff for those who love minimalism but only have really small spaces to work with.



Similarly, designed for use in small spaces is this Land Peel Furniture from Japanese industrial design student Shin Yamashita. Chairs, tables or rests are literally peeled from the floor panels to provide temporary furniture, the panels are simply replaced when not in use. It’s a new take on a traditional Japanese way of life, and actually looks really fun – my kids would love this!



Folding tables might not be new. Every church hall in the country probably has a stack of them. This folding dining room table works on exactly the same premise but can be easily stored on the wall and erected in three easy steps. The hanging brackets even work as coat hooks when the table is in use.





Now, I promised you something a little ridiculous so here it is. It’s a folding sauna for your house. Yep, you read that right. A folding sauna. And it’s brilliantly (or perhaps ridiculously!!!) called the Iron Man. So, if you swear by a bit of hot air to clear your head or boost your fitness regime, then this might just be for you. It folds to a quarter of the size when not in use and even includes a CD/radio sound system. It can accommodate 2 people (or is that iron people?!) and is ready to use straight out of the box.



And finally, this Habitaflex foldable house might not be the prettiest (or have the catchiest name) but watching it being folded up after use is pretty incredible (just look out for the tap that they leave running in the kitchen as the hosue slowly closes around it!) . It only takes a couple of hours for two people to set up and take down and because you can tow it with a car, it’s completely portable. It even has fully integrated plumbing and electricity installed. What the promo video doesn’t say is how you transport the beds. Still, it’s a nice idea.



So, there you go – from chairs to entire houses – the possibilities of folding just keep getting bigger and bigger. Perhaps folding multi functional design is just one solution to the ever increasing functionality and ever decreasing availability of space that we have to live in?