This third part of the Reset House series introduces another space-saving strategy that buildings have employed since the classical era. The previous article on making space presented three architectural methods for creating more space. Now we’ll explore how one space can serve multiple uses.
A creative feature of the Reset House is its fold-away furniture, beginning with the Murphy bed. This is an ingenious early twentieth century invention that allows a bed to fold up against a wall to clear the floor beneath for additional habits of living. In this case, it doubles as a bench seat or futon. The word doubles is intentional—it highlights another effective increase of space for living within the same floor area.
Have a “Better” feature you think would improve the Reset House? Contact me and pass it along! The only rule is that it can’t increase Reset’s square footage. In the concluding article of the series, I’ll model and feature up to three of the best suggestions.
This concept is key to increasing usefulness. Intuitively, we know that many spaces serve more than one purpose. Sometimes, this is intentional, but often it is through the looseness of life (called clutter). But spaces can be ordered purposefully with multiple functions sharing part or all of the same volume. Furniture, screens, folding panels, and drawers adapt the space for its different purposes. Practically, these overlaps may double or triple effective use, although it is feasible for just one space to flex dynamically for all purposes1. The Reset House has a loft to accommodate more sleeping and storage, but beyond this, there is only one other distinctly separate space in the bathroom.
From the Roman Baths of Caracalla in AD 212 to churches today2, overlapping building purposes and high clerestories have been used to unify different spaces and bring in natural light. But it was modernist architects like Sullivan and Wright, Loos, Mies, and Le Corbusier that realized interconnected spaces in the design of houses. Wright is particularly notable in this regard for using both horizontal and vertically unifying volumes. Today, two story entries, living spaces, and open plans are expected3 and are directly derived out of this overlapping concept. The Reset House collects nearly all the living functions together in overlapping uses to make the most of its tiny area. The high window for the loft brings natural light down to the living level and creates an expansive view far beyond the enclosure.
While fold-away furniture certainly increases potential functionality, it must be well designed to minimize the impact of adjusting from one configuration to the other. The design in each state must also be resolved. For example, the photographic art over the seat is simply mounted to the underside of the Murphy bed to be visible when folded up. Fold away beds also create a bit of ease in making them up in the morning, too.
The ladder stair is exactly that: a combination stair and a ladder. The stair slope is identical to smaller step stools found in home stores, with the stringers larger to carry the longer span and serve as a bit of handhold. While more steep than a typical stair, it provides considerably more comfort than a true ladder to the loft despite the added expense. There is a true ladder portion on the wall above to continue handholds to the top step. The whole thing folds out of the way to hang on the wall during the day.
The dining table and two chairs, one on either side (will be clearer in the next article) fold up against the wall and down as needed. In this design these simply hang on the wall, but added with more sophisticated detailing they could fold into it, inset and flush for minimal obstruction. To continue this overlapping strategy, the table is shared by the bench seat so four people can sit together.
A great deal of development in the Reset House design ensures the proper staging and sequencing of spaces across the 24 day cycle. One example is how the kitchen sink and appliances are laid out to mostly avoid the extended stair. Only the range is blocked and it is the least likely appliance to be needed at night while the loft is in use. The sink and refrigerator (not visible around the corner to the right) are fully accessible day and night. And the Murphy bed does not obstruct access to the stair, kitchen, or toilet. (See the floor plan in the previous article to see this more clearly.)
Continue to follow the articles here and reference the tag category Reset House to see the collection. The next article will look at storage, the “office,” and the bathroom.
- The excellent PBS e2 series highlights Werner Sobek’s R129 house in a way that I haven’t found anywhere online. His concept is a small singular bubble with moving furniture rising out of the floor to adapt the space to every function of the house on demand.
- In some future article I’d like to expand this history of overlapping spaces. The Baths of Caracalla and the spectacular Basilica of Constantine in Trier (AD 310) were precursors to the cathedrals, palazzos, and churches today in profound ways.
- According to the NAHB Top 10 Features For Upscale Homes, published July 1, 2013, although numerous other surveys confirm.