It’s the most efficient shape for storage. Right angles fit together neatly, making it easy to fit a rectangular volume in a closet or prop it against a wall with a minimum of wasted air space. While IKEA has appropriated the flat-pack concept for shipping its furniture economically, small-house dwellers may be more interested in assembled furniture that easily reverts to a flat-pack state. The folding chair may be the poster child of fold-flat furniture, but there’s a lot of innovation out there.
The folding shelf (shown is a design by the company Cut & Fold, but savvy DIYers can make their own with a slab of wood and a couple of hinges) finds use in a multipurpose room, perhaps as a place to drop keys and change at the entry. I’ve seen a lot of tiny houses that expand this concept to a table that folds up or down from the wall, providing a place to eat or work when needed and freeing the space when not. There are many other incarnations of a fold-flat table – the most stunning one I’ve seen is an accordion-style masterpiece by Robert van Embricqs. (Not clear if it’s for sale.)
From here designs grow more ambitious. In the living room, front porch, or any sitting area, the Reflex Portable Couch turns any flat space into a comfortable place to recline. And for a cramped bathroom? Maybe the foldable bathboard by Silwia Ulicka Rivera can help. Apparently this bathtub changes shape based on the weight inside, although I think I’d never shake the fear of breaking it.
A different approach is to build furniture out of puzzle pieces that come apart easily. The Cardboard Guys ran a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign last year for a corrugated table and chair that are quick to assemble and disassemble. Designed for kids, these pieces have the extra advantage of very inexpensive, recycled, recyclable material – so the users can draw all over them, and when they outgrow them it’s the easiest thing in the world to throw them out.