My family does a lot of walking. We don’t own a car, but we do own a stroller.
When we were expecting our second child, we knew that a flexible stroller was going to be a key component in our new lives as parents of two little ones.
We needed a bassinet for the newborn and a seat for the toddler all in one stroller. In addition, we wanted it to be functional for occasions of strolling with one child at a time. We were looking for flexibility!
Disclaimer: this blog post is not a promotional post and is not a paid partnership.
Lucky for us, we found a flexible stroller that meets our family’s needs.
Our new baby is almost 5 months old, and every single day since he was born, we have enjoyed the ability to use the stroller in a format that works for us depending on what each day brings.
As an architect, it made me wonder – can our homes give us more flexibility too?
Flexibility in architecture isn’t a new idea. Architects and designers have played with concepts and worked on design ideas for flexible spaces for decades. Over time, new products have come to market, including new construction materials and new architectural approaches. In 1952, Le Corbusier’s Unite d’Habitation introduced a sliding door between two rooms to allow them to function as playrooms, bedrooms, or offices. Revolutionary!
Our stroller is designed to adapt according to the situation; with each kid separately, or both kids riding comfortably together. Can my home do the same? Can it change from the 3-bedroom unit that it currently is, to a large studio, or a 1-bedroom unit, or to an office space?
One innovative approach to flexible architecture are walls that move!
Movable walls are typically adjustable floor to ceiling panels that can create different spaces depending on the needs of the user. For example, a design that incorporates movable walls could transform a unit from an open studio space into one-, two- and three-room configurations. This is accomplished by simply shifting wall panels into place depending on the desired setup.
In some cases, moveable walls incorporate built-in furniture. For example, they might contain storage closets, bookshelves, folding desks, or murphy beds that pull down if needed. Built-in furniture prevents the need to rearrange existing furniture in the reconfiguration process. Since the furniture is compact and unintrusive when it’s not in use, it also enhances flexibility of the space.
When I think about my own family, movable walls could allow for our unit to adapt to our evolving needs over time. Someday when my children are grown up, I will no longer need a three-bedroom unit. I might prefer to have a single larger principal bedroom, or an office and a larger dining room.
There is a common misconception that bigger is better. This is simply a myth. Function is more important than size, and less is almost always more. What is the point of having space in a home that is only used twice a year?
Smaller spaces allow us to live in higher density settings and enjoy walkable lifestyles near amenities, transit, and work opportunities. It also means that the things that we own must serve several purposes.
In a compact unit, spaces should overlap. A living room might also be a playroom, an office, and a dining space. Furniture and other items should have thoughtful storage spaces so that they can be tucked away when not in use.
Having less also forces us to go out and spend time in our community rather than staying at home. My family doesn’t have a backyard, but we have a series of favourite parks where we play and run into friends.
We have been conditioned to believe that each piece of furniture in our homes should serve a single purpose. This idea fails to maximize the potential that furniture has to serve a variety of needs in different situations.
In a small space, dining tables or desks can fold up onto a wall. This concept is similar to the idea of a murphy bed. The underside of the desk contains a framed piece of art. The top side is a clear surface. When the desk is folded onto the wall, it appears to simply be hanging artwork. When the desk is folded down, the legs pop out and it becomes an open space where the user can pull up a chair and do some work or eat a meal.
Flexibility is Key in Architecture
We need multi-functional spaces that make our homes more efficient for a variety of uses.
Moveable walls create the opportunity for existing spaces to evolve alongside us. Compact design forces us to go out and spend time in our community rather than staying at home. Multi-functional furniture makes better use of the items we own.
Architecture has the power to shape how we live our lives. Good design should give us the essentials while leaving space for the creativity that is needed to maximize what we have.
Who knew that my stroller could teach me so much about architecture?