Prefabricated “tiny houses” and “micro-apartments” continue to be touted by architects, developers, and enthusiasts as solutions in growing cities faced with shrinking housing space – but how can an off-the-shelf mini-anything respond to the diverse needs of a dynamic urban population?
Designer and architect Yo Shimada is interested in user-friendly responses to constrained
living spaces that encourage inhabitants’ active engagement in the creation of their homes. His Kobe-based studio, Tato Architects, is known for highly functional, personalized
domestic environments that use simple materials and minimal machinery to blend furniture and infrastructure – think staircases emerging from worktops – and maximize space with multi-purpose and communal zones. Now, Shimada’s Utsuri Table puts this philosophy of adaptability and accessibility directly in the hands of the owner.
In a traditional Japanese home, the collapsible chabudai table is the functional daytime
centerpiece of the multipurpose tatami room, where it folds away easily at night to make room for a futon. The Utsuri Table, initiated in collaboration with the German DIY warehouse retailer Hornbach, takes inspiration from the flexible chabudai, the position of which defines the function of the room as a place of work or entertainment, of socializing or solitude. Shimada’s update is composed of rotatable interconnecting elements, so it can be adjusted to fit not only the function, but the form of the space it occupies. The piece also adapts to the outside environment: its neon spray-painted undersides reflect onto the staggered white surfaces layered below, for electric hues that change according to the light. The designer’s signature approach to hardware is evident in the table’s exclusive use of easily acquired DIY store materials – the twist being that consumers are expected to acquire and assemble them themselves.
Those interested in this creative solution to navigating small spaces – without the depersonalization that comes with mass-produced home solutions – can download instructions for free via HORNBRACH (hornbach.de/werkstueck-edition). For a little extra help, an elegantly designed book including templates for woodcutting, a full list of materials, and a product backstory, is also available.