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The Ultimate Furniture For Tiny Apartments And Nomadic Living

French designer Gilles Belley makes furnishings that pull double—and sometimes triple—duty in small spaces.


The perpetual conundrum of apartment dwellers is how to shoehorn furniture into tiny spaces. But maybe we’re all doing it wrong—perhaps it’s about thinking of furniture as a space in and of itself, rather than something we put into a space. That’s the proposition of Parisian designer Gilles Belley.

VIA, a French organization that promotes local design, awarded Belley with a grant to research and develop pieces that would reflect the way people live today. (Past award winners read like a who’s-who list of French practitioners—the Bouroullecs, Matali Crasset, Inga Sempé, Mathieu Lehanneur, et al.) The resultant trio of furnishings—which Belley calls “Rooms”—seek to offer more flexibility in how we inhabit our domestic domains.

The U.S. Census estimates that people move 11 times over a lifetime, and chances are none of those spaces are completely perfect. Rather than trying to mold furniture to a given space, why can’t furniture act more like architecture? That’s the simple logic behind Belley’s Rooms, which are free-standing structures that are not only adaptable, but moveable.

For example, instead of an expensive renovation to add an extra room, how about getting a temporary room divider that accomplishes the same? Wall is a screen that’s outfitted with reconfigurable shelves, some of which are deep enough to become a desk. Voila—near-instant office.

Then there’s Block, which looks like a cabinet from one angle but actually holds up a narrow bed up top. The sleeping space is accessible via a staircase-cum-ladder on one side and a writing desk on another, all in a footprint that appears to be slightly larger than your run-of-the-mill entertainment unit. Moving to a much larger scale—better suited to an open loft than a compact apartment—there’s Area, a small workspace or reading area that’s enclosed with bookshelves.

“The idea is to condense the scale of furnishing to incorporate modes of function that overlap from one room to several rooms—putting living space into the furniture,” Belley says. Clever indeed.

All Photos: Colombe Clier via Gilles Belley


Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.


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