Compact living a la Malmstens

Students in the Furniture Design programme at Malmstens Linköping University accepted the challenge of designing the interior of a young person’s apartment measuring 23 square metres. The result is ingenious window seating, a clever rail system for wall storage and a smart room divider.

Moa Sjöberg och Anton Sanderon their window seating Moa Sjöberg and Anton Sander with their ingenious window seating. HANS ALM

The handsome grey U25 building stands out amongst the older red-brick high-rise buildings at Larsberg Centre in Lidingö, Stockholm. The building has 74 apartments plus various common areas, and is specifically for young people between 18 and 25, who can rent here for up to four years. The city of Lidingö was interested in increasing density and adding vitality to an area of large-scale 1960s and 1970s apartment blocks. The construction company John Mattson won the contract for the new building.

John Mattson has collaborated with Malmstens Linköping University for several years; the company offers the students projects that lead to real-world applications. The accommodation for young people was one such challenge.

Design for 23 square meters

In a few hours the first residents will move in. The cleaners are hard at work, after yesterday’s opening. We enter one of the building’s smallest apartments, a 23-square-metre studio, with a full kitchen, as well as bathroom with shower. The large windows that extend close to the floor make the apartment light, despite the dull weather outside.

Tobias Flodström, Hannes Åström, Moa Sjöberg and Anton Sander have designed furniture for this particular apartment. The project started in the autumn of 2018 when the second-year furniture design students, as part of the course Furniture Design 3, were assigned to furnish the interior of one of the small apartments. The students presented their work just before Christmas, and after the holidays they were told which projects the client wanted to continue with.

“We got to meet the architect and we’ve had separate meetings with the client”, says Tobias Flodström.
Tobias Flodström and his room divider in ash that can be moved around. Photo credit HANS ALMHis contribution is a room divider made of light ash, that is held between the floor and ceiling by compression, which means it can also be moved around. It can be used to hang clothes on, or for plants, shelving or a small cabinet.
“In a way it creates an extra space, while also providing welcome storage. It can be used in so many ways – the possibilities are endless”, he says.

The room divider is made by Hantverksslussen in Uppsala. Hantverksslussen is run by the Uppsala City Mission, and its aim is to give people who are far from the labour market a new chance.
“They have done an excellent job”, says Tobias Flodström.

Oak, birch and ash

Hannes Åström has developed a clever rail system for hanging up pictures, mirrors, a television or why not a small fold-out table.
“The residents will live here for up to four years, and then new ones will move in. This means they can’t nail things up on the walls. Plus, the apartments are so small that you need to get things up off the floor. This rail system solves that problem”, he says, showing some hooks close to the ceiling that can accommodate a bandy stick or yoga mat.

Hannes Åström with his clever rail system Photo credit HANS ALMHannes Åström produced the rail system himself, including the clever hooks that you hook into a slot on the back of the rail. It is made of oak, with details in lighter birch.
“I’m studying furniture design, but I also enjoy carpentry”, he says.

The third piece is an ingeniously constructed window sill, created by Moa Sjöberg and Anton Sander out of oak laminate. When folded in, it forms a deep sill below the apartment’s only low-set window. It provides seating for a couple of people, and storage underneath, and when folded out it seats at least five.

“We got the idea from the carpenter’s rule, the type you fold out. We have all lived in small spaces, and know how important it is to be able to have friends over”, says Anton Sander.

“You can’t have chairs on the floor in such a small apartment, you’ll just trip over them”, Moa Sjöberg adds.

For the production of the bench they engaged some Malmsten alumni, with their own workshop.

Professional advice

The three projects had a budget to stay within, and through John Mattson they got advice on how to write tenders and invoices.

“They have really been generous, because even though they also benefit from the collaboration, it’s the students who benefit the most. The important thing was that we got the client’s point of view and the user’s requirements”, says Hannes Åström.

Based on their budget, they contacted the workshops that were able to deliver the furniture in time. The presentation was scheduled for 1 October and move-in the following day.

“It had to be finished quickly, but it was really fun to have the presentation and to show my furniture, before handing it over”, says Moa Sjöberg.

Is it sad, being separated from the furniture you worked on for so long?
“No, it motivates me to finish; I look forward to getting started on the next project. It’s our last course in furniture design, and again, it’s a real-world project with an assignment from a business. Which business, we’ll find out on Monday”, says Hannes Åström.

“I want to keep working on my idea. The room divider was developed specifically for this room, but it can be adapted to many other requirements and ceiling heights”, says Tobias Flodström.

Moa Sjöberg and Anton Sandler also look forward to the next course, but perhaps even more toward meeting the first person to live in the apartment with the interior designed by the Malmsten students.

“We have envisaged how the furniture is used and how they function, but it’ll be interesting to hear how it is used in day-to-day life”, says Anton Sander.

The other three nod in agreement, and we hurry out of the apartment. It is to get a final clean-up before the first tenant arrives later in the day.

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