What if Furniture Worked Like a Swiss Army Knife?

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By Luke Hopping / Published by Dwell
Convertible furniture by Stephen Kenn for Victorinox takes inspiration from the acme of efficiency.

Getting a pocketknife is a rite of passage few kids forget. Los Angeles designer Stephen Kenn remembers his first: "When I was twelve, my dad let me pick out a small Swiss Army Knife," he recalls. "I loved the sleek motion of the blades being pulled out, and the hidden tweezers and toothpick." Kenn reunited with those memories earlier this year when Victorinox, maker of the original little red Swiss Army Knife, invited him to do a capsule collection of furniture in the tradition of their world-famous all-in-one widget. Featuring cleverly concealed hardware, the three pieces he designed—a chair that flips into a stepladder, a height-adjustable table/desk, and a swiveling storage unit—are capable of more than their compact forms suggest. Like Victorinox’s 119-year-old knife, they’re precise, economical, and, for Kenn, a bit personal: "I enjoy the emotional response that a well-designed object receives."   

What if Furniture Worked Like a Swiss Army Knife? - Photo 1 of 3 - Agile transitions define Stephen Kenn’s new line for Victorinox. Each side of the three independently rotating cubes that make up the Storage Column has a different use: The first is a mirror, the second houses a walnut cabinet, the third contains pull-down shelving, and the forth is for posting notes. Castors make the unit mobile.

Agile transitions define Stephen Kenn’s new line for Victorinox. Each side of the three independently rotating cubes that make up the Storage Column has a different use: The first is a mirror, the second houses a walnut cabinet, the third contains pull-down shelving, and the forth is for posting notes. Castors make the unit mobile.


"I wanted the details to be transparent, yet the functionality to be discovered as the user begins to explore and play." —Stephen Kenn, designer 


What if Furniture Worked Like a Swiss Army Knife? - Photo 2 of 3 - By turning the Stepladder Chair upside down and unfastening a pair of aged leather straps, users get three solid steel steps for reaching high shelves. 

By turning the Stepladder Chair upside down and unfastening a pair of aged leather straps, users get three solid steel steps for reaching high shelves. 


What if Furniture Worked Like a Swiss Army Knife? - Photo 3 of 3 - Adjustable legs, inspired by the pocketknife’s slender housing for tookpicks and tweezers, elevate the Convertible Table from coffee table to desk height. A metal panel that rises from the walnut surfaces reveals a one-and-a-half-inch-deep compartment that acts as a drafting board.  

Adjustable legs, inspired by the pocketknife’s slender housing for tookpicks and tweezers, elevate the Convertible Table from coffee table to desk height. A metal panel that rises from the walnut surfaces reveals a one-and-a-half-inch-deep compartment that acts as a drafting board.  

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