How To Live A More Adaptable Life [Future Of Home Living]

How To Live A More Adaptable Life [Future Of Home Living]

Designer and founder of Treehugger discusses how reconfigurable spaces are delivering greater functionality in less space.

  • 11 august 2013

As part of our Future of Home Living Series, PSFK Labs reached out to experts to get their take on the changes we’ve identified that are driving the evolution of the home. We recently caught up with Graham Hill, Designer and founder of Treehugger. Read our chat with Graham below to learn more about how reconfigurable spaces are delivering greater functionality in less space.

We’re interested in the idea of adaptability as it applies to urban lifestyles. How can reconfigurable and flat pack design be used to accommodate a wider range of living styles? What are the key challenges/considerations?

I think the idea of both modular–i.e. adaptable–and portable design such as flat-pack presents a number of benefits. Most people are far more mobile than they once were. One out of six Americans will move once a year. In places like NYC, this high degree of mobility is very common. With that in mind, having products that easily adapt to myriad configurations as well as move easily, makes a lot of sense.

I think one of the big challenges for both modular and flat packing design is quality. Modular to many means milk crates or some variation on that theme. The idea of high quality, long lasting modular design that doesn’t look like some sort of milk crate is not popular just yet. The same goes for flat-packing, which is sometimes associated with IKEA. While I think IKEA puts out some good stuff, much of it is pretty disposable. So the challenge I see is how to make high quality flat pack furniture, that’s worthy of going from one living situation to another.

How can technology and digitalization enable greater flexibility within our living spaces?

Let me give a personal example. I use Spotify to listen to my music, which gives me access to 20 million songs. Let’s say there are 10 tracks per CD. That’s 2 million CDs, which is a whole lot of volume. While I only use a fraction of their library, all forms of digital media, either streamed or stored in the cloud, free up interior living space that was once used by books, documents, DVDs, etc. This freedom gives us more flexibility with design as we’re not trying to shoehorn books and CDs into our homes. It also gets rid of a lot of clutter.

I think we also need to think about non-electronics as technology. The moving wall in my apartment transforms a studio into a two bedroom apartment. My Resource Furniture Goliath table telescopes from 17” to 115”, allowing seating for 12. We tend to think of things like walls and tables as low-tech, but when we put a fraction of the innovation into those things that we normally reserve for electronics, that view changes.

What do you see as the next big trend(s) urban living and why is this important?

I think smarter sharing systems are the next big thing. We’ve made great strides in sharing big, expensive stuff like cars and hotel rooms (i.e. Zipcar and Airbnb). But I think we’re not quite there in terms of sharing everyday stuff. It’s still easier to go to Home Depot and buy a $30 power drill than it is borrow it from our neighbor or collectively own one. I think technological advances, where nearly instantaneous access to whatever we need becomes available, is not far off. This sharing tech not only has environmental and organizational ramifications, it has social ones. Humans are designed to live interdependently. In a strange way, this tech might help us get back to our roots.

What are three things you’d put in your perfect home or apartment?

  1. I’m very partial to hiding beds such as my Resource Furniture Swing sofa/couch. A queen size bed is around 36 sq ft–this is 36 sq ft that is only used when we’re asleep. Hiding beds liberate that precious space, allow us to use it productively in our waking hours. Also, by having a couch on the frontside, my living room and bedroom are the same space and that room is used around the clock, saving money and reducing my carbon footprint because I’m not heating and cooling some unused space.

  2. At home, I use a Mac Mini connected to an upgraded internet signal. With it I can do so much. Skype and Google Voice make it my phone. Spotify and Airfoil (which sends audio to my receiver) make it my music command center. Netflix and iTunes make it my multimedia player. It’s also my web browser, photo editor, presentation maker, spreadsheet whiz, document maker, fax, etc.

  3. I love Molskine notebooks. I’m not sure if that counts, but the truth is that for all of my fondness for new tech, the immediacy and tactile nature of pen to paper is still my preferred way of keeping track of my life and ideas.


Check out more of Graham’s innovative spaces over at LifeEdited, and sign up for the newsletter.

Thanks Graham!

PSFK has announced the latest in a series of trend reports. Following studies into retailsocial mediagamingwork and mobile, the PSFK Labs consulting team have generated the Future of Home Living report. That report manifests as a free summary presentation, an in-depth downloadable PDF and an exhibition in New York City that runs to August 16.

RSVP below to take a tour of the exhibition at 101W15th.


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