Dutch Design Week, What if Lab and Seoul Design Festival paired up to prompt the creation of domestic workspace innovations among six designers.

Our posture has suffered. Our eyesight has weakened. Our sleep schedules have been altered. Working from home has brought many positive aspects along with it; on the other hand, the challenges are numerous, too. While at first the work shift seemed to be temporary, the effects have been far-reaching, and for many a return to a central office is still not in sight. With these challenges in mind, how can we prepare for a new, housebound era? It’s a question that drove Dutch Design Week and Seoul Design Festival to collaborate in a What if Lab.

The result of that pairing – a cross-cultural design programme – focuses on the future of living and working from home. Both organizations scouted designers to take on the challenge of creating solutions for this work style; three Korean and three Dutch designers paired up online to do so. The works focus on three themes: workplace, public/private and phygital. A furniture system, curtain system and concentrated space present tools people can use to optimize their domestic work area. 

Tilt / Switch / Flip by Studio Pesi and Studio Jeroen van Veluw.

Tidal Space by Hyunjung Kim and Cream on Chrome.

Studio Pesi and Studio Jeroen van Veluw came together to conceive Tilt / Switch / Flip, a collection of three essential products that make it easy for users to transition between ‘work’ mode and ‘home’ mode. ‘By literally tilting your desk, stool or light, you can be at home in no time and enjoying the comfort of home,’ explain the designers. And the next morning, you'll be back at the office in the blink of an eye.’ Each piece is a foundation block for a modular, routine-proof set-up, answering to the increasing need for flexibility.

Investigating the role of curtains as ‘spatial moderators’, Hyunjung Kim and Cream on Chrome developed Tidal Space, a situation-adaptive façade tool. The curtains – triggered by screen activity – provide varying levels of privacy depending on the circumstances. For example, focused work warrants soundproofing, while after-school supervision begs translucent viewpoints for parents to easily check on kids. It’s a system that rises to the needs of working parents and the relevance of phygital interfaces in the now-multifunctional home space.

Sensorial Sanctuary by Dayoung Hwang and Studio Kontou.

Wellbeing was key to the concept of Dayoung Hwang and Studio Kontou, entitled Sensorial Sanctuary. ‘The space is based on the idea that our bodies require different stimuli at different times of the day,’ they say. Six curtains with a range of acoustic and sensory qualities, an organically shaped desk and activity-enhancing scent programming characterize the work-live sanctuary. Biophilic design principles and the Attention Restoration Theory guided the project, which was made possible by Kvadrat and Mokoh Meubelarij.

As the partnership between these designers have shown, cross-collaborative creating will be fundamental as we continue to navigate what it entails to work from home on a long-term basis. Doing so in the post-COVID environment requires new ways of thinking, tools and methods, to ensure that workers can truly maintain a healthy balance between living and working at home.