Small-Space Design Tips From Polish Designer Jakub Szczęsny

folding table with concealed kitchen We're suckers for modular, multipurpose furniture and interior design. When we saw architect and designer Jakub Szczęsny's take on a table for his apartment, we knew we had to speak with him. In the middle of his living room, Szczęsny built what appears to be a white-painted closet. But, when the door swings open, a bright purple kitchenette is exposed. An area of the door ingeniously swivels to become a table with seating for four.

RentedSpaces: Do you currently live in (or have once lived in) a small space or apartment? If so, how has this experience influenced your design work?
Jakub Szczęsny: Yes, most of my childhood during communist '80s in Poland was about social-standard, small apartments. Most Poles did their best to pump-up surfaces of their apartments after the fall of the Iron Curtain. I live in a 21.5-square-meter (231-square-foot) apartment 3 to 4 days a week, the apartment was designed to serve as post-divorce bachelor spot for me and my son. The rest of the week I live with my girlfriend in a 32-square-meter (344-square-foot) apartment, also designed by me, in a different part of Warsaw.

RS: How did you come up with the idea for this table?
JS: The table was vaguely inspired by folding tables from old-school Polish trains (that still operate), by mechanical objects of Diller & Scofidio and by the simplicity of Victor Papanek designs.

RS: Do your other designs also conceal certain elements in a small space?
JS: Currently I'm working on three dramatically narrow buildings, out of which the most radical is Etgar Keret's Ermitage, a 17-square-meter (182-square-foot) nano-studio inserted in a gap between two buildings in Warsaw's Wola district (former Jewish District). Israeli short-stories writer will spend two to three weeks a year treating the place as a runaway shelter; the rest of the time it will serve young artists and intellectuals from all over the world. All furniture will be adaptable and custom designed to fit the space varying from 93 centimeters to 133 centimeters.

RS: What are some tips for people interested in buying dual-purpose furniture?
JS: Most dual or multiple purpose designs work badly. When buying a two-in-one object we have to think what is it's primary function to make it work according to our needs. Most multiple-purpose pieces come from some limitation, like small space, need for low weight, etc., to provide the best service in some restricted condition. If we don't live [with] restricted conditions, a multiple-purpose [space] might be just ridiculous. Thus there are immortal [design] classics coming even from lush bourgeois background, like stools with storage compartment.

RS: What are some basic tips for people trying to design a dual purpose space?
JS: Have a closer look at your own lifestyle; many appealing "smart" ideas might not work if they don't come from [attentive] observation and severe conclusions on who we are and how we live. Remember [that the] most adaptable or animated designs require extra budget to ensure the quality and longevity of mechanical solutions. If you are not constructing the design yourself, make sure to cooperate with a smart mechanical designer or cabinet-maker or ironsmith that is able to work on atypical objects, otherwise it will be a nightmare of cooperation.

RS: "Nightmare of cooperation" --I like that. Maybe that's why DIY solutions are so popular. Thanks, Jakub!
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