Dwell: How did MAP start working with Sabi?
Jon Marshall: I think Assaf was attracted to the fact that we have the furniture studios, as you know, and MAP, which is very much research-driven industrial design, and then we’ve got Universal Design Studio, which is an architecture practice. So I think he quite liked the fact that there are architects around because he wanted to do a range for the home, which is very different from his first range [of well-designed pill cases]. We started off by doing some in-depth research into aging in place. So we spoke to a few people, spent time in their homes, talked about what it’s like growing old and what kind of products they like, what kind of things they don’t like, which is very much again out of this core demographic for the original pill container range.
Dwell: Who comprised the sample set who spoke to you about universal design?
Marshall: First there were some experts in the field, then we selected five people and visited them in their homes. They were from different segments—someone in their early 50s, late 50s, early 60s, and so on—and our design team spent a whole day with them in their homes. It was in the United Kingdom, but with American citizens.
Assaf Wand: This was one of my biggest fears, that there was difference between the US and UK market, so we actually did a mixture of some US citizens that live in the UK and we spread them by age, by needs, and that kind of stuff. It was really insightful.
Marshall: In a way, where it’s ended up is it’s got notes of products that are directly for mobility, for older users. But in general by looking at that demographic, we’ve created great products for everyone. So easy to install…
Wand: And the thing about universal design is [that it] takes the shame out of stuff. It’s not going to be associated for anybody with a certain age.
Dwell: "Universal" implies that it should be appealing to anyone.
Wand: Although the American definition of "universal" is a lot less appealing than the Europe perception of that. So the grab bar is probably the most overt universal design. Instead of looking like a grab bar and being shameful, it’s an architecture piece that it’s not clear what it is, but it's round, and people are invited to use it in a different manner.
[For everything in the collection] I wanted a 60-year-old woman to be able to install it in a bathroom, which can be complicated since a bathroom involves ceramics, marble, concrete. So MAP came up with a foot system based on the pegs. And the pegs are pretty much interchangeable. They have like the same back but the front can change. And 3M developed the adhesive backing, so you use a drill if you’re a professional builder, or you can actually stick it on a wall. It's moisture resistant which is really important as well.
We realized it’s good for anybody who’s doing just a casual renovation in the bathroom. And with the instructions, you want a person to pick it up and know exactly what to do. So on the back, you get this template.
Dwell: What specific requests did your sample set have about living at home that could use some improvement? And not just in the bathroom.
Marshall: A lot of that was about breaking preconceptions. When you look at older people, you think it’s going to be about mobility and reaching and so on. Actually the thing we found from talking to them is that they just want… they exist in a world we’re they’ve actually got plenty of money, but they find products pretty frustrating to use. You’ve got products that are difficult to install. You can’t really curate your space. They’re just as impatient as young people. Particularly in the bathroom, particularly where you’ve got tiled walls, they wanted to renovate the bathrooms at a stage when they start spending more time there, but are still very interested in how the bathroom looks.
Dwell: What drove the material decisions for this line? Since most bathroom accessories are polished metal.
Marshall: You know, there’s actually no reason we couldn’t do them polished metal. A lot of pieces are made of metal. But again, the specific demographic we were originally looking at, there’s not much material innovation in the bathroom. There’s not much color, there’s not much use of alternative materials. So we wanted to a kind of stand back range that feels forward-looking and backward-looking. It’s also an area in the home that’s kind of not tied to a general aesthetic. And most people aspire to a modern bathroom: use of color, use of metal but in a matter form, and use of interesting materials. Everybody’s seeing these kind of squeaky metal hoops that crash against the wall and when they swing they squeak. So it’s just about using a softer material.
Wand: And it doesn’t chip. What we found out for this one is that after several months there’s basically always a chip in the ceramic behind that. This is silicone so there’s no problem.
Dwell: If the adhesive is so strong, how would you take them off if you wanted to move them?
Wand: You use a bit of alcohol and then you peel it off. It’s not the nicest and easiest thing, but if you think about it, at the end of the day it’s about staying put. You put other stuff in the bathroom that you drill in and then you drill out and then you have all of these wholes all over the bathroom. But either way, you're not shifting it around every week.
Marshall: With the template you should stick it on the wall beforehand. Then you reposition this where you think it’s best. That’s significantly more flexibility than any other range.
Dwell: Any future plans to expand this to a different room of the house?
Wand: We definitely plan to expand, but first we want to go deeper into the bathroom. We’ve got more things in the pipeline.
Marshall: People do love the shelf, and you can put a shelf anywhere: bedroom, bathroom, hallway.
Check out Sabi, and other brilliant easy-mount storage solutions, in Dwell's November 2014 story about kitchen tips for renters.
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