This 22-Pound Foldable Couch Would Make Moving Apartments a Whole Lot Easier

Ikea’s design lab is toying with a sofa concept you won’t have to cajole friends into helping you carry.

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Getting a new couch is an exciting moment, until you realize you now need to figure out how to get it up three flights of stairs. Assuming you didn’t hire someone to move it for you, you also need a van or truck to get it from point A to B, and friends, however reluctant, to help you heave it. Of course, there are flat-pack versions, but those still require lifting and a set of DIY skills that can put even the most stable relationships to the test.

But soon, you might not have to send any of those awkward texts. SPACE10, the research and development design lab for Swedish furniture giant Ikea, has created a concept for an alternative to the the unwieldy sofa: a couch that collapses into a carrying case that weighs about the same as a French bulldog.

"Our goal was to make a couch that was comfortable, foldable, and light enough to carry alone," says Georgina McDonald, who’s in charge of Creative & Partnerships for the lab.

Ikea’s design lab, SPACE10, and Swiss studio Panter & Tourron developed a concept for folding couch that can be carried by one person. The firms used artificial intelligence to create the roughly 22-pound design.

Photo courtesy of SPACE10

To create the prototype, SPACE10 collaborated with Panter & Tourron, an innovation-focused Swiss design studio with clients ranging from Balenciaga to Airbnb. With AI becoming more commonplace in the design world, as Dwell has previously reported, the team wanted to see how it might serve them, even if reviews are still mixed as to what extent they can help.

"The exploration was to see how designers whom we admired, who had never used AI before in their process, could integrate these new tools into concept development," says McDonald. "We used the tool to collaborate and test, and though it didn’t drive the design, it certainly was a noisy backseat driver."

First, the team asked ChatGPT if it was possible to fit a couch in an envelope—in so many words, it said no. They then fed AI platform Midjourney a series of terms, pairing the word "couch" with things like "lightweight frame", "foldable and flat-packable", "sustainable", and "easy to move alone." They also tried "nomadic living", and "flexible", but the results skewed conventional.

Then came a breakthrough. The team removed the word "couch" entirely, replacing it with more obtuse terms like "platform", "surface", "long flexible hammock", and "conversation pit." Says McDonald, "We were suddenly getting a form that was unique, but still familiar. These forms sat somewhere in between nostalgic and futuristic."

The couch concept features a flat base and wings that can be adjusted depending on its use. The units are designed to be combined to create a larger seating space.

Rendering courtesy of SPACE10

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The concept is imagined with an aluminum frame and base, cellulose based fabrics and yarns, and mycelium foam, which would make it 100-percent recyclable.

Rendering courtesy of SPACE10

The couch would come in an envelope with a handle to make it easy for one person to carry.

Rendering courtesy of SPACE10

With something workable in hand, the teams then set out to find a balance between comfort, ease of assembly, and sustainability, characteristics that are often at odds in the sofa world, and especially so when it comes to modular furniture. "Comfort is [often] the main requirement when designing a couch, which can compromise durability and sustainability," attests Panter & Tourron cofounder Stefano Panterotto.

The couch does look comfortable, with cushions that appear soft and supportive, and adjustable wings that seem as if they’d facilitate an easy transition from a good book to a cat nap, say. But according to Panterotto, that was the easy part. "Construction and circularity were by far the biggest challenges," he explains. "Our aim with Couch in an Envelope was rethinking this from the ground up. We designed it for disassembly, reduced components and kept materials to the minimum, and created a construction that is fully separable and circular." Put into production, the couch would be made of aluminum, mycelium foam, and cellulose-based fabrics and yarns.

Shipping the folding couches poses a more environmentally friendly alternative to the same number of conventional ones.

Rendering courtesy of SPACE10

"Couches are getting larger, customized, more ‘cloud-like’ and far more expensive," says Georgina McDonald of SPACE10. "We need to look more critically at movability as a core component to the sustainability challenge, and enter a new generation of comfort."

Rendering courtesy of SPACE10

As nice at it sounds to tote seating for two down the sidewalk and into our apartments, we won’t be furnishing our homes so easily quite yet. But the prototype is currently on display in Copenhagen, Denmark, as part of an exhibition titled Design in the Age of AI, which runs until the end of November 2023.

McDonald, for one, has an idea of how we might be able to fill the time before the concept becomes a reality. "I hope this project provokes an agenda for change—at least a larger conversation across design to look at how we could challenge other outdated, materially complicated archetypes," she says. "Where it goes from here, time will tell… Now, shall we look at mattresses?"

More from SPACE10:

7 Groundbreaking Designs From Around the World That Can Help Us Build the Perfect City

How to Cook "Bug Burgers" You’ll Actually Want to Eat



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