The days of McMansions may be coming to an end as the allure of small-space living is taking hold in all corners of the globe — even in North America, where sprawling homes for the middle class have become almost a way of life.

Aerial View Of Suburbia
Aerial view of suburbia. Image courtesy of Duncan Rawlinson.

Tiny houses fashioned from shipping containers, perched on top of trailers, or nestled into lanes are quickly becoming commonplace, and with them a new breed of furniture has been born.

As the size of our homes change, the characteristics of the furniture that fills them does, too. When you live in 300 square feet, you probably aren’t searching for an 8-foot couch or a king-sized bed. Suddenly quality reigns supreme over quantity, and function is once again on an equal footing with form. Furniture is no longer just something to fill space; it must be sleek, utilitarian and earn every single square inch it is allotted.

Form Meets Function

These chameleon-like designs are featured in a video (below) by Resource Furniture you have to see.

The space-saving furniture pieces seem to defy definition — because the sofa isn’t simply a sofa anymore; it’s a chaise lounge, a three-seater and a bed — all within seconds. The coffee table is a dining table with the touch of a finger, and a bookcase easily comes apart to serve as side tables. Each piece seamlessly occupies several different roles and serves several different functions.

The multitasking properties of these products don’t just mean a change in the way we live our lives; they reflect a change that millions have already embraced.

Rotary phone
Rotary phone. Image courtesy of Doug.

This new direction in how we furnish our homes is mimicking a similar recent shift in technology. Our phones — once anchored to walls with a singular purpose — are now cameras and GPS units, messaging devices and troves of entertainment. These products aren’t just good for those with limited floor space, they’re great for the environment. The same equipment that would have once filled the trunk of a car can now fit easily into your back pocket — one product now does the work of a dozen or more. And while the roles of furniture aren’t quite as limitless as modern-day smartphones, they open up a whole new world in the way we look at how much space is truly needed to support all the functions of modern-day life.

That was always the downfall of the big-box store model: The stuff was big. But even being produced in such a large scale, it still needed to be inexpensive enough to appeal to mass markets, so over time as prices fell, so did quality. As more and more people educate themselves about the drain of resources needed to support this type of consumption, we are increasingly willing to invest in a versatile piece of furniture that isn’t bigger, but better. And when one piece of furniture can do the work of three, it drastically alters the amount of space we need to support all the functions of modern life.

Smaller furniture means that smaller homes suddenly become a viable option for families, it means smaller footprints, less land being eaten up by urban sprawl, more-compact living spaces where transportation options that extend beyond cars are suddenly quite feasible — or even preferable.

In short, these products aren’t just cool, they signify a tangible difference in the way we are structuring our lives.

Not bad for a sofa.

Feature image courtesy of Resource Furniture 

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.