Keeping your home organized, free from clutter and filled with possessions that have meaning
and bring joy is key to a happy life. A friend of mine recently co-founded and launched a
furniture startup that has those values at the core of their designs.
Meet 600sq. As the name suggests, their furniture is meant for small living spaces in urban centers where apartments are getting smaller with each new high-rise. Furniture in modern urban homes must therefore be multi-functional and high on usability. This is why 600sq’s pieces have extra storage capabilities, cable management solutions, are easy to assemble and disassemble and come in a box, flat packed.
Their first creation is a coffee table called Tea table. Its lines are clean and every curve and angle is no accident. There is a bungee cord neatly weaved under the table that provides room for books, magazines, cords or the remote control. All objects usually found on the top of a table get to be stored underneath.
They also strive to create furniture that require just a few pieces of hardware or nothing at all to
assemble. Take for example the Hon Shelf - you can put it together in less than a
minute with no tools needed! Hon, by the way, means book in Japanese and it’s a direct clue
about where these guys get their inspiration.
Their base material is plywood, which is a very sustainable. It’s made from birch which
grows quickly and stores a lot of CO2. 600sq produce their pieces locally in Vancouver. You
can check their work at www.600sq.ca.
Five Questions with Matej Rodela from 600SQ
1. How and why did you get interested in designing multifunctional furniture?
Building furniture has always been an interest of mine. As a kid I built wooden forts in tree tops and swards. I renovated old chairs and it progressed into building beds, drawers, armchairs and so on.
I started thinking about products and furniture differently when I was studying philosophy. The great German philosopher Hegel was talking about the Spirit of Times. The more a nation is advanced the more spirit it has. This is, for example, reflected in the objects it (the nation) builds. The Egyptians used a lot of material to build simple geometrical shapes - the pyramids. On the other hand, the French expressionists used way less material (just oil colours and canvases) to express far more complex shapes that evoke emotions, thoughts and offer new ways of looking at the world. This was Hegel’s proof to say the French were more advanced than the Egyptians.
I try to apply the same concept when designing furniture - how can I achieve different functionalities in furniture while using as little material as possible? It’s a concept that resonates a lot with the reality we live in today - from sustainability to functionality in small living spaces.
2. 600SQ describes itself as designing products that solve problems. What problems are you most interested in solving? Is it all about saving space?
That’s our way of saying that we are not designing furniture with the only intent to make it look beautiful, but to make living with them better. This can only be achieved by understanding how people live and use furniture. There are certain needs and challenges and if a design manages to address them, it makes the product functional and useful. Things that are not useful tend to become clutter and are in our way all the time.
This is why we are interested in coming up with solutions for cable management, extra storage, optimized surfaces and affordable prices. In a one-bedroom apartment it is very important that furniture perform different functionalities. For example: can the night stand transform into a stool when friends are coming over for drinks? Or can I quickly disassemble and store my desk in the closet when family is visiting and I need more room in my apartment? In small spaces it is all about saving space and optimizing use.
3. For people living in confined spaces, which is a lot of us in the city, do you have any suggestions for increasing efficiency in our homes?
The most important would be to get rid of the clutter and things that we don’t use. It might take a weekend of work, but after that life gets so much better. Personally I’m using the rule of new in, old out. For example, I own three pairs of shoes. When I buy a new pair, the oldest and the most worn out have to leave.
The next step would be organizing your living space in a manner that prevents it from getting messy. Having a coat hanger and some shelves at the entrance keeps keys, wallets and coats always in one place, instead of them being scattered all over the place. If there is a corner of your home that gets messy analyze which things are getting piled there, where they originally belong and then come up with solutions how to get them there after use.
4. How do you view the minimalism movement? Is it just a reaction to apartment living and high real estate prices, or is there more to it than that?
It’s a bit of everything. High prices of real estate and rising rents definitely have an impact on what we own and how much stuff we can afford. But I like to think that minimalism is also a response to the era we live in. We are finally starting to realize that the planet we live on has limited resources, while we keep living like there is no limit to how much we can consume, eat, buy and throw away. In this sense I don’t see minimalism as a stand against consumerism, but as a higher level of living. A level that is far more richer in spirit and needs less material.
5. What other products can we expect to see from 600SQ?
It’s very exciting. At the moment we are working on a shelving system based on the Hon Shelf. We are also almost ready to build a prototype for a desk we’ve been 3D modeling for a while. We have a lot of ideas about what to build, but before we start investing time and resources into those ideas we want to make sure that they fit our criteria and actually solve problems.
But as every startup we are also focusing to get the word out about our furniture and get sales going. Figuring that out takes quite a bit of our time at the moment :)