April 1, 2013

Next stop: Smartville

Furniture builder and carmaker join forces to design a product line for urbanites.


Form following function is a guiding architectural principle rooted in the 20th century, and one that has migrated to many applications of design. In particular, automobiles and furniture designers have embraced the notion that the shape of their products should be primarily based upon the intended functions. So it’s little surprise that a carmaker and a furniture maker have joined forces to create a vehicle and a furniture/accessory collection infused with design influences from their respective brands.

The smartville collection is the result of the unique collaboration between German microcar builder Smart Automobiles and Danish furniture design house and retailer BoConcept. “This is the first time that this has happened for both our business and the automotive industry,” smartville collection director Claus Ditlev Jensen said. “It has been fantastic for both design teams to learn about our differences and common interests for design, colours, shapes, functionality and quality.”

The fortwo BoConcept signature style smart car was unveiled last month by smart parent company Daimler during a world tour that started in Europe, while the furniture/accessory collection arrived in BoConcept stores in Canada on April 1 (including the Vancouver outlet, at 1275 West Sixth Avenue). The main elements of BoConcept’s smartville collection include seats and tables. The smartville armchair combines the design features of the company’s iconic Schelly armchair with the smart car seat, while the smartville sofa conveys a classic, masculine feel with its volume and boxy shape, and its main module’s length is exactly as long as the smart fortwo (2.69 metres).

Other highlights from the collection include a wood replica of the smart car clock; colourful wooden candle holders that mimic the gear shift knob; a black/white “tiretrack” rug and ceramic plates, espresso cups and mugs. As to the smart car, home interior trends abound. A matte white base exterior – taboo in the automotive world up until now – offset with bright matte yellow accents provides a daring look. Inside, there’s real oak trim – common in home furnishings but rare in motorcars – to go with the warm tobacco-brown leather and fluffy grey fabric used on the seats. The car can be ordered at any smart dealership, with price available on request.

“The car shows the bipolarity of both brands with a radical exterior and cosy interior,” smart designer Adriana Balko says of the collaboration. BoConcept’s Jensen agrees about that bipolar aspect of the design partnership, and says despite the differences in big picture design parameters between a furniture maker and a carmaker, there was common ground. Specifically, their customers. “BoConcept and smart have the same target group: the urban minded dweller,” Jensen explained. “Many of these people live in big cities where space is limited.” He noted both company’s designers are very focused on solving this challenge in an intelligent way: “In other words, to live smart.”

Quality and comfort are also key elements both companies seek to impart in their products. “The car embraces you with its cosiness in the interior just like the armchair with its round shape and the sofa with soft corners and edges,” said Jensen, adding that neither design team, in the long run, is satisfied with a great design if it isn’t functional and comfortable at the same time. Asked what the biggest challenge of the partnership was, Jensen said it was based on the disparate sizes of the companies.

“Daimler group is a huge organization, and in a busy global company where everybody travels, it can often be a challenge to meet and make decisions in order to act fast,” he explained. “In this specific case, we at BoConcept are more flexible.” Apart from making one another’s products better and more interesting by the collaborative design process, Jensen said his team came to appreciate how furniture making and car making differ.

“There is a difference in the investment of new material, a new colour or modification on design. One little adjustment [in the auto industry] has a high investment cost which makes the process more complex and time consuming than we are used to in our industry.”

For more information, visit boconcept.ca and thesmart.ca



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