more than meets the eye

Exciting news at The Caboose (a.k.a pint-sized house)! We have a transforming coffee/dining table! No more eating on trays while sitting on the couch. We’ve been lucky to have some good enough weather to use our balcony in the meantime, but boy is it nice to have a place to put things when we sit inside now.

We commissioned our friend and designer, Dave Myers to build us a custom convertible coffee/dining table a few weeks ago. It’s our very own little transformer (except that it’s manual, not automatic.) This proved to be an ambitious project, since nothing had been done quite like it before. Inspiration was drawn from a few designs that we’d come across while researching, but all in all it is definitely one-of-a-kind.

Since the space between the couch and the ‘traffic path’ to and from the stairs  is quite narrow, we needed something that would fit in nicely when coffee table height, but be able to expand to be wider for dining with friends when raised.

The result fits in perfectly with our decor and space. The image below shows it at both coffee table and dining height:

table

To lift the table, it’s easiest with two people. Each person lifts an end and the legs swing out on hinges from the folded position on the ground shown in the top photo, to the longer upside-down L-shaped extension you see in the bottom photo.

Dave used solid alder for the legs to match the other wood in our cabinetry, and beech plywood for the top, which we decided to paint white to match the walls, and break up the wood tones in the room a little bit.  He also created custom hardware  including metal gusset plates for the legs, and 2 custom tabletop lifts mechanisms, one for each draw leaf. The leaves can be opened independently, and the legs move with them to provide a larger footprint for more stability. It’s pretty clever! We’re really happy to have such a unique item in our small abode.

I’m going to be buying some foam to make a cushion that’s level with the top of the couch seat, and covering it with left over upholstery fabric from the couch and throw pillows pictured so we can put it on top of the table (secured with Velcro on the underside of the table top) and use it as more of an ottoman sometimes, or even push it up against the edge of the couch to extend the seat to be more lounge-y.

Well, that is our creative way of dealing with a multi-use area in our small space. Thanks to Dave for all his work and problem solving during the process! If you’re looking for someone to make you cool stuff like this, give me a shout and I’ll put you in touch!

That’s all for now – next time expect a report on our past week of harvesting and processing 30 Ibs of U-Pick strawberries! Mmmm.

strawberries

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itsy bitsy teeny weeny – furniture for small living

Over the last few months I’ve spent a few too many hours doing research on small space furniture and efficient use of space. Being a designer at heart it’s been interesting though, and I can see there’s still a great need for options that don’t cost an arm and a leg, or don’t look like something out of  Star Trek.  Don’t get me wrong – that stuff is really cool.  I just can’t picture living with it for more than a year or two before getting tired of looking at it. However I will say this idea is pretty darn rad:

We already live in a reasonably small place of about 800 square feet, but the laneway house will reduce that by almost 200.  As a result, much of our current living space furniture is not going to work in our new pint-sized house.

The main concern is our eating area. We thought of a couple of options: making a kitchen island useable as a dining table, or get a convertible height table that works in the living room, with either a corner couch that’s high enough for dining, or folding/stacking chairs we can store elsewhere and take out for meals. I mentioned this in a previous blog entry but wanted to share more examples of interesting small space dining options.

  

This design, available at Resource Furniture, is pretty classy considering it’s functionality.  I comes with a pretty big price tag (around $1600+) too, but that’s to be expected for innovative Italian design. The neat thing about this one is you can store things underneath the table top, like place-mats and other table setting accessories.

A slightly more budget option (about $900) which is unfortunately not available outside of the UK is this very simple and timeless design by Lee Sinclar. It even has a third function as an artist’s easel (not shown).

Since it’s not available here, we’re considering using it as inspiration to make our own version. It’s simple enough to imitate and customize to our aesthetic preferences, and we can match the wood to our cabinets in the kitchen. Before I found this design, I was imagining a design that uses an ironing board stand’s function as inspiration. This is sort of similar and makes me more confident that I can design my own. We’ll see how it goes! I’ll keep you posted. Maybe we’ll go into production and help fill the niche for inexpensive options!

Some other creative options for multi-use furniture:

Tom Rossau's answer to small space dining.

Japanese Designer Akemi Tanaka's convertable table

Ivy Design makes art functional

We're hoping to do a smaller version of this in our stairs, on the side that isn't used by our entertainment wall unit. Great way to use otherwise dead space, especially for a shoe collection.

Need a spare bed? This Bo Concept ottoman might help

And last but certainly not least, the stow-away bed and couch combo for small space dwellers able to afford a $13,000+ price tag. Again, from the cutting edge Resource Furniture store. At first we were considering this so we could have our bedroom as a living room during the day, but the combination of the cost and layout of the top floor made us decide to move the living area downstairs. That’s when we started looking at convertible table options.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll leave it at that for now, but there are still some other really cool things I’ve come across that I’ll save for another time.  Small space living may not be appealing to some, but I think there are a lot of really creative design opportunities and it can be just as comfortable, perhaps even more cozy, than living in a large dwelling with lots of room. We can’t all keep living in massive homes, and the laneway house is a progressive way of decreasing one’s Ecological footprint. If you look around your own space, you might realize how much you don’t actually need.  The process of cleaning out old things and unnecessary possessions is always liberating, and it’s been a great experience for me so far.  I’m looking forward to living small!