I work from home at an Ercol dining table. I would like a set of drawers on wheels that can fit under the table but do not scream office. Do you have any suggestions for this and other usefully portable furniture?
A very interesting question. If you worked in an office, you might not be so fussed about your drawers and in-trays and waste-paper baskets — in that setting these are purely functional items, and they’re not coming home for dinner with you. Working from home as you do, you’ll still need these bits and pieces, but nobody wants ugly plastic things kicking around, screaming, as you say, “office”.
We want to find the right balance, we want pieces of furniture and accessories that won’t look out of place at home. In fact, let’s aim higher. Let’s hunt for beauty! After all, utilitarian furniture can be handsome as well as useful, and shouldn’t always need to be hidden away.
It’s going to be about finding good inspiration. Sarah Watson, founder of Balineum, a London-based company that specialises in bathroom and kitchen furniture and furnishings, has spent the past year or so revamping a set of rooms in Hampstead with help from the interior design company Studio Noam. The end result is a Balineum showroom of great beauty.
The space was previously a residential flat and while its bones do help to give it a certain domestic, cosy feeling, Watson treads the line between home and office brilliantly. Although this is strictly a workspace (Watson lives in a flat with the same layout upstairs), there is, among the tile samples and gleaming basins, a very charming kitchen, and I spot several fireplaces.
There is also a packing room that I can imagine not getting much actual packing done in, so inviting and homely does this space look. Kudos to Watson and Studio Noam for choosing some brilliant bits of furniture, several of which I see are on wheels.
Now, where to look? I recommend checking out Twentytwentyone, a retailer founded in 1996 that sells a mix of 20th-century and contemporary designs. It has a good range of sets of drawers on wheels: the 360 Container, designed by Konstantin Grcic and manufactured by Magis, for example, is a lovely thing, and comes in great colours and two heights, with either five drawers or 10.
The Barboy, designed by Verner Panton and produced by Verpan, is even more fun. Designed in 1963, it’s a timeless piece that would work just as well in a dressing room, say, as it would in a home office. (I’d go for the orange.)
I’m actually on the lookout for something on wheels, which I can load up with paints and brushes and move about when I’m working on paintings. What I want is a trolley. Not a bar cart or anything as glamorous and faintly ridiculous as that. No, I need a solid thing, made of chrome and glass, ideally. German, possibly. Vinterior is a good source for pieces such as this — indeed, while researching, I came across on the site a good Bauhaus trolley from the 1940s, which would be just the ticket.
What else? Mustard makes colourful, practical things for homes and workspaces. The company’s metal cabinets come in a variety of shapes and sizes and a rainbow of colours. There are no wheels present, but the pieces are light enough to be relatively portable. The Shorty (Mustard’s smallest cabinet, more of a locker) would park very neatly next to a desk.
One of my favourite ranges of furniture is the USM Haller system, designed by Fritz Haller for USM Modular Furniture. A design classic, the range sits in the permanent collection of MoMA in New York. This doesn’t stop it from being highly complex to comprehend, but herein lies its particular beauty and flexibility: it’s all highly customisable and comprises sideboards, tables, trolleys, shelving units . . . The list goes on.
The Haller Serving Trolley is a thing of simple elegance: all clean lines and pleasing angles. Again, it comes in a bunch of excellent colours. I can imagine one of these looking beautiful in an office space, but it would look just as good littered with champagne coupes or plants in old terracotta pots. The USM system is the best example I can find to show how contemporary utilitarian (“office!”) furniture can be just as exquisite as any old Georgian piece. Might be too good for my paint palettes, though.
Last but not least, Ikea does a brilliant small set of drawers on wheels: its Idåsen drawer comes in a very appealing golden yellow colour and costs £129. Really, what more could you want?
If you have a question for Luke about design and stylish living, email him at [email protected]. Follow him on Instagram @lukeedwardhall
Find out about our latest stories first — follow @FTProperty on Twitter or @ft_houseandhome on Instagram