IKEA has turned stuffing big things into small packages into an art form with its flat-packed, easy-to-transport furniture. But how far can the company take its obsession with deconstructing furniture? How about a couch that can be carried home from an IKEA store in an envelope?
The “Couch in an Envelope,” debuted Tuesday, would be based around a lightweight aluminium frame that could be completely recycled, while “cellulose-based fabrics and mycelium foam” could be used to make cushions and upholstery that would later be fully biodegradable. The couch’s unique design can even be assembled and disassembled without the need for any tools, screws, or other hardware — the bane of everyone who’s struggled through an IKEA furniture build.
The minimal use of lightweight materials means that all the parts can be stacked and vacuum-sealed into an envelope instead of a box which weighs in at around 10 kg, making it not only easier to pack and ship around the world, but much easier for customers to transport home after a gruelling march through IKEA’s showroom labyrinth. Its design is also modular, so multiple Couches in Envelope can be combined to create new seating arrangements with or without a backrest, or even be converted into a flat bed for sleeping.
SPACE10 is an independent research and design lab that’s entirely supported by IKEA, the goal of which is to “research and design innovative solutions to some of the major societal changes expected to affect people and our planet in the years to come.” One of those challenges is the negative effect that trash has on the environment, starting with one of the most important pieces of furniture in the home: the couch, which are usually made from materials and parts that are difficult to recycle and so often end up in landfills.
Working with another design agency, Panter&Tourron, SPACE10 wanted to redesign this particular couch from the ground up, and so turned to AI platforms like Runway and Midjourney to help expedite the brainstorming process. Unfortunately, using ‘couch’ as a prompt returned familiar shapes the designers were to trying to avoid, but they eventually found that alternate prompts, such as “platform,” “easy to move,” “lightweight,” and “sustainable,” forced the AI to come up with a new approach to how a couch could be designed, according to a press release.
So when can you head to your local IKEA to buy one? The company currently has no plans to officially put the Couch in an Envelope into production right now, or possibly ever. For the time being, it’s just the result of an experiment to see how AI systems can be leveraged as creative collaborators to come up with new and innovative ideas that could potentially be refined into new products.
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