Functional furniture: Sobro coffee and side tables

We’ve talked about multi-purpose functional furniture in several other posts. The most recent piece I’ve seen is the Sobro Coffee Table. It has a refrigerated drawer perfect for keeping cool beverages handy. It has built-in Bluetooth speakers, LED lighting, and outlets to charge your devices. It has two other drawers where you can stash all of your charging cables and the remote controls for your television. Plus, it’s sleek modern design will make you think you’re on a live-action movie set for The Jetsons!

The Sobro Side Table is currently in development. It has many of the same features as the coffee table — fridge drawer, charging station, and built-in Bluetooth speakers. However, the LED light can be set to automatically turn on when you walk past so you can use it as a nightlight. The non-refrigerated drawer is lockable which is ideal for dorm rooms or shared living spaces.

Both of these pieces are rather expensive but in urban centres like Vancouver and New York City where living space is at a premium, multi-functional furniture is more a necessity than a luxury.

Multifunctional children’s furniture

Now that my son has outgrown his Jumperoo, my husband and I have been on the lookout for a child-size chair. Like most toddlers, my 15-month-old son is insistent upon asserting his independence, and so he wants his own chair. If you try to sit on the same chair or couch he’s on, he’ll go to great lengths to get you to sit somewhere other than his piece of furniture.

We considered getting the Kapsule Chair because it is cute, inexpensive ($49), and doubles as toy storage. Ultimately, we didn’t buy it because when our son outgrows it in a couple years, the chair becomes another thing cluttering up the house.

In the end, we decided to get the Candu Chair, which can also be transformed into a playtable/desk, bedside table, easel, step stool, rocking chair, and magazine/book rack:

It’s 21″ x 18″ x 18″ and weighs 16 lbs. It’s certainly more expensive than the Kapsule — the Candu Chair is $125 on Amazon — but it’s a piece that should have utility for at least the next 17 years. For families like ours that live in small spaces, the more multi-functional the furniture, the better.

Multi-purpose furniture

When you live in a small home, having multi-purpose furniture is essential. Most people are familiar with sofa beds as multi-functional pieces however, many are uncomfortable as beds and not very stylish as sofas.

Vancouver company, Expand Furniture aims to change the way we look at multi-purpose items by providing high quality, stylish furniture that saves space and puts the fun back in functional.

My favourite unit is the Compatto, a three-in-one; queen-sized wall bed, revolving bookcase, and table (probably because it makes me think that this would be something that Batgirl used in the 1960s TV show Batman). This is a real space-saving versatile package. The attached dining table would comfortably fit 4-6 people and a 6-inch deep, queen-sized mattress would allow guests to have a good night’s sleep. Watch the video to see how easily this piece converts from one layout to another.

I also like the Trojan console dining table with four hidden chairs. This item would be great if you lived alone and only needed a larger dining table some of the time. It would also be useful in a small office. You could wheel it out only on those occasions when you needed a large work surface or had meetings with several people. The rest of the time, it would be out of the way leaving more room in the office. The video shows how quickly this console becomes a table.


If you have a small space but occasionally have overnight guests, for example your grandchildren, the Murphy Bunk Bed system would be ideal. It includes two mattresses and the rail ladder. It is well-built and sturdy enough for adults to sleep in yet easy enough for young people to set-up and fold away. Also, the top bunk tilts downwards so you don’t have to climb over the mattress to make the bed. When collapsed, the bunks only stick out about ten inches from the wall. The video demonstrates all the features of this Murphy bed system.

Ask Unclutterer: If something is multifunctional is it always uncluttered?

Reader Bethany emailed this morning, and although it’s not a traditional Ask Unclutterer question I thought it made for a great discussion:

I’m a reader of the Swiss-Miss blog and like her style. In her Friday Link Pack today, she had an item for “It’s a desk. It’s a bed.” When I saw it I thought it was the opposite of a Unitasker and wanted to make sure you saw it. I think it’s a horrible idea, but wondered what you thought of it since it’s a multitasker?

Live-Work Desk images from StudioNL

Oh my word, that is depressing, Bethany! You’re right that it is multifunctional, certainly not a unitasker, but it’s also one of the saddest pieces of furniture I’ve ever seen.

I like the general concept of one piece of furniture having many functions. And, to be fair, this does appear to be a well-made piece of multifunctioning furniture. It has nice lines. But, I don’t like the idea of literally sleeping in your desk. I think there should be a clear division between sleeping and work. Maybe — and this is a really weak maybe — I could see a medical resident who is on call having a need for a desk like this since he or she has to stay at the hospital for ridiculous hours on a regular basis. But for the rest of us normal folks, this feels dismal.

I believe that people should be productive when at work not so they can transform themselves into robotic corporate drones, but so they can really relax when they’re not at work. Work happens between set hours and work stays at work. When not at work, one’s mind should be free to dwell on things other than to-do items and projects that need to be completed at the office. You get more done at the office to enjoy non-work time more fully. This desk doesn’t provide for that at all — it promotes an end to non-work time. We’re humans, not worker bees.

What do the rest of you think about this Live-Work Desk? Are Bethany and I off base thinking it’s a dreary addition to an office? Share your reactions in the comments. And, thank you, Bethany, for inadvertently submitting your question to our Ask Unclutterer column.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

Creative, space-saving furniture for almost any room

When you live in a small space, you typically need to keep only the items that you use the most and that have high sentimental value. Of course, you can use hooks, glide out shelves, and other ease-of-use items to help you keep things stored well. Though you might think that you’ll lose out on style in a small home, you can find functional furniture that is both compact and aesthetically pleasing.

This desk by designer, Yoon-Zee Kim, can also be also used as a bookshelf. Depending on your needs, you might choose to use it as seating. It appears to be a concept design but you may be able to create something similar.

Image source: Yanko Design

Using vertical space to store items usually means that you’re making use of walls and doors to mount items. Doing this reduces footprint of those items so that you have more floor space to walk. Furniture that is raised off the floor can help you achieve similar results.

Boxetti, a transformable furniture series by Lativan desinger, Rolands Landsbergs, starts out looking like a cube but doubles as a table (when not in use) and couch. The Boxetti Lounge also integrates several elements needed in a living room, including a three-seat sofa and side tables.

Image source: Boxetti

This coffee table by Resource Furniture lifts up to reveal a small storage area. Once raised, it can be used as a desk or eating area in front of a couch or chair.

Image source: Resource Furniture

Many companies, including La-Z-Boy, now make similar lift-style tables.

Multipurpose furniture can help you maximize your small space

As someone with a particular way of doing (and organizing) things, I can appreciate an uncluttered and (almost) object-free space. I tend to like clear surfaces, especially in the kitchen. If it were up to me, there would be no appliances on the counters (well, maybe the coffee maker). I like the look of walls with no paintings or art work mounted. The more of the floor I can see, the more comfortable a room feels to me. I’m not a minimalist, but I certainly have an appreciation for minimalism. If I could push a button and hide my furniture until I needed it, I would.

It turns out that there are people who instead of just dreaming about this style are actually living out the idea “disappearing design” in their homes. Everything, including outlets, light switches, and even exhaust fans are subtly hidden and bleed into the rest of the environment. So much so, that the most of a home’s necessary components are virtually invisible. In fact, architects who design these homes consider anything that protrudes from walls to be an intrusion, a form of clutter.

In a recent New York Times article, disappearing design was described as:

…meant to both maximize one’s ground plan (particularly in small urban apartments) and minimize the “visual noise” created by things like bulky knobs, dust-prone vents and the ancient albatross of many decorators: the wide-screen TV.

How do you make a television vanish? Create one that doubles as a mirror when not in use. Clever, yes? While most of us probably wouldn’t take issue with TVs, we would likely appreciate the ability to increase the functionality of an item that is normally used for just one purpose.

When you live in a small space, having multipurpose furniture (or rooms) can help you get the function you need without sacrificing living space. If you’re having overnight guests, a sofa that turns into as a bunk bed means you can still have company over without needing an extra bedroom. No room for a dining or work table? Flooring with folding panels can be transformed into a table, or almost any kind of furniture you need.

Those are very unique multi-purpose pieces, but there are others that don’t require hydraulics and that you can make yourself. This coffee table from was created with KNUFF magazine holders and a stool. When fully assembled, you’ll get a table and storage for your magazines, books, pens (in the center of the table), or even the remote.

Photo of coffee table taken from IKEAHackers

What about using a bookcase for more than just books? Another great find on IKEAHackers is the Billy bookcase that has been enhanced with compartments and a hinged door for hidden storage. The site suggests using it to store bar and drink accessories, but it could be used for office supplies (or anything that you use often). And, if you like the idea but prefer not to make it yourself, Parts of Sweden (IKEAHackers partner that offers free shipping) can do it for you.

Photo of bookcase taken from IKEAHackers

The Paperpedic Bed profiled by the website Inhabitat is fully recyclable, includes storage, and is very easy to assemble. No tools are required — simply fold the paper panels to create a single, queen, or king-sized bed. This is a great option for small homes and would be easy to pack up for a move.

Photo of bed taken from manufacturer, Karton

When you live in a small home, look for multi-tasking furniture pieces that can help you maximize your space. You’ll need less furniture (which means more room to move about) and keep your home uncluttered.

Workspace of the Week: Beauty and functionality in a shared, multi-use space

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Ichirorabbit’s shared home office and music room:

There isn’t much to say about this office that the images don’t say themselves. Using furniture from Ikea, Ichirorabbit has created an amazingly well organized and highly functional shared office. I also love the creative use of the floating shelves. This office is impressive on numerous levels. Thank you, Icirorabbit, for sharing your workspace with us.

Want to have your own workspace featured in Workspace of the Week? Submit a picture to the Unclutterer flickr pool. Check it out because we have a nice little community brewing there. Also, don’t forget that workspaces aren’t just desks. If you’re a cook, it’s a kitchen; if you’re a carpenter, it’s your workbench.

Furniture solution for music practice space

Often when I’m practicing on one of my instruments I wish that my music stand was better suited for organizing and storing all the things I use when engaged in that activity:

In looking for a good solution, I came across an interesting organizational solution for the problem. It’s called the Musician’s Center and it’s built by Innovative Music Furniture, L.L.C.

It appears to be very well constructed and it seems to keep everything needed well organized and easily accessible. The build quality probably justifies the $2000 price, but it would also be easy enough to go the Ikeahacker route and convert a small bookshelf or nightstand by attaching the top of a music stand.

The multifunctional Trey chair

The Trey chair has an interesting design that lends itself to becoming more than just an office chair. If you live in a small apartment and you need a multitasking office chair, this might be what you are looking for. Gamers may also find the Trey useful for their gaming needs.

The Trey is first and foremost an office chair, but it also “transforms into a rocker with an extra seat for a friend, foot stool, laptop desk, or side table.” Multitasking furniture saves space and it also saves you from having to purchase extra furniture. The design of this chair looks solid and versatile. The price is a bit steep at $239 for standard fabric and $269 for faux leather, but other office chairs you could pay $200 for aren’t multifunctional like the Trey.

Generation Z

generation zMy Generation Z children are home from college for the holidays. We’ve had some good conversations about life when I was in college compared to their life now. Many things have changed. While they are lamenting the slow Wi-Fi on campus, I told them how I bought a 40MB internal hard drive for my 286 computer to run the statistics program for my thesis.

Next year will be a busy year for our family. My husband and I will be moving wherever the military sends us. The oldest will be finishing college and moving to wherever a new job takes her. The youngest will be moving out of the dorm and into her own small apartment. While talking about all of these moves, we got into a discussion about stuff, uncluttering, and what the Generation Z wants and doesn’t want.

Here are highlights of our conversations.

Home-ownership may not be a goal. The 3,000 square foot home with a 30-year mortgage may be a ball-and-chain for some Gen-Zers. Many want small, low-maintenance apartments or condos and would rather spend money on travel and adventure experiences. These kids have seen their parents spend holidays and weekends doing home renovations and believe that mowing the lawn is a “soul-crushing timesuck.”

Make it digital. Gen-Zers have no use for DVDs and CDs. They use streaming services like Amazon Video. They might want hard copies of select reference books or storybooks they read as children, but they would rather use a Kindle e-reader for everything else. An ideal holiday/birthday/wedding gift would be digital copies of home movies and family photos.

Less housework is better. Dusting and polishing silver takes effort, but Gen-Zers will do the work if they value and can use the items. They have no use for the figurines and silver-plated coin-banks I received for them at baby showers. Nor are they interested in Grandma’s good china that is neither microwave nor dishwasher-safe. However, they would value one or two serving pieces like the sugar bowl/creamer set, the gravy boat, or serving platters.

Only ‘my’ memorabilia. Gen-Zers have no use for the lobster trap their parents brought home from New England or the sequined sombreros from Mexico. They will keep items that are significant to them or that have important family history such as military medals, specific jewellery pieces, and artwork.

Functional furniture. Large antique dressers with drawers that don’t open easily and oversized sectionals do not fit into the Gen-Zers lifestyle. They want smaller-scale, furniture that can serve more than one purpose such as end tables with storage and ottomans that double as filing cabinets.

What does this all mean for the parents of Generation Z? Keep things because you love them and want them. If you are not enjoying certain things, ask your children if they want them now or will want them in the future (assuming they are old enough to make those decisions). If the children are able to take the items now, let them go. If not, make sure your final wishes are clear to avoid family disputes.

If you are in the Generation Z cohort or have Generation Z children, chime in with your opinions in the comments.