There is an undeniable beauty to utilitarian products, objects designed for their simplicity and pragmatism. Excellent design often emerges from narrowing an object’s purpose, reducing it to its essential elements and obsessing over user experience – and that’s why these five products have caught our eye.
The String System by String
Swedish architect Nils Strinning’s first String shelf collection, unveiled to the public in 1949, is a masterclass in utilitarian design. Seven decades on, the series has evolved into a system that’s seen consistent iterations and countless mutations, and it’s been used in kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, laboratories and much more.
Despite its many functions, the system is deceptively simple: it starts with metal side-panels, which can either be floor- or wall-mounted. From there, a range of shelves – which can be used as desks, cabinets, drawers, cabinets, wine cellars and so forth – are mounted to the sturdy metal exoskeleton. Dimensions, here, are limited: the shelves, for example, are available in 58 or 78 centimetre widths and 20 or 30 centimetre depths. That’s it. But lest we forget, creativity often arises from constraints – a fact further reinforced in String’s inspiration galleries.
Knuckles by Board by Design
The Knuckle, developed by Colorado design studio Board by Design, is a welded steel joint. It’s a simple design, but its aim is lofty – namely, it aims to make customized furniture more accessible. Available in 30 different colours and finishes, the Knuckle is the basis for much of the firm’s custom work, which includes tables, bed frames, chairs, benches, stools and mirrors. The company has even constructed a ping-pong table using the joint.
The bracket provides structural support for many of Board by Design’s custom work, which the studio says can last a lifetime. But it’s also built for ease of use: the components arrive flat-packed, and they allow for easy assembly and disassembly.
Hoop by Normann Copenhagen
MSDS has built an impressive portfolio of minimal, Scandi-inspired product designs, and its latest addition to the Normann Copenhagen repertoire lives up to the Toronto studio’s reputation. To the casual eye, the Hoop resembles a minimalist coatrack but it has one key difference: instead of pegs, which can only be used to hang clothing, the design consists of hollow hoops mounted to an ash wood bar.
“We wanted to make a coat rack that was functional, but without the typical jagged parts,” the studio says. “We have given Hoop a softer shape, which is more fun and inviting than the somewhat tool-like appearance of traditional coat racks.” Yet despite its handsome appearance, it actually has more utility: the rack can be used to hang clothing, of course, but it also creates additional space to organize wiring, umbrellas, scarves and hangers. With one simple tweak, MSDS has designed a better coatrack.
Wraparound by Designnobis
Wraparound, a European Product Award-winning organizer, wants to untangle the contemporary office. Designed by Hakan Gursu of Turkey’s Designnobis, the Wraparound is deceptively simple: it’s a flexible piece of silicon with corrugations that can neatly stash away charging cables, wires and even pens.
The gadget’s underside features an adhesive, which allows Wraparound to be mounted on most surfaces or, as pictured below, around the leg of a chair. Aside from reducing visual clutter, Wraparound also allows users to route wiring effectively – say, around a corner – and transport cables tangle-free. It’s a deceptively low-tech solution to a decidedly technological problem.
The Home Collection by Helinox
At ICFF earlier this year, Korean outdoor brand Helinox unveiled the Home Collection, a line that aims to bring the convenience of camping furniture outside of the woods. Featuring three types of furniture – which include multiple-sized chairs, a cot and a table – that collapse into pint-sized totes, the collection is highly suitable for urban environments, where outdoor spaces tends to carry a premium.
Thoughtful terrace furniture, Helinox suggests, can be stored underneath the sink. Yet despite its refinement, Helinox isn’t a lifestyle brand. The rugged materials used, such as DAC Aluminum poles and the Home Collection’s engineering, point to the brand’s original focus on outdoors and tactical equipment. It’s proof that residential furniture can mimic camping furniture – not the other way around.