To divide without separating, to distinguish without isolating. Smart working and gaming will enable us to live in homes with raft rooms and multifunctional objects

In the ebb and flow of interior design, today work areas and recreation spaces, especially for gamers, have leapt to the top of the list of new domestic desires. The lockdown has shed light on the need for spaces in our homes set aside for smart working – video calls exploded in March, but their popularity will last much longer: our kingdom for a backdrop. And alongside the needs of work, there are also those of entertainment: spaces in which to play, alone or in company, indulging in gaming in the widest sense of the term. Which means interactive experiences that require ample space or remarkable design acumen.

Our kingdom for a backdrop"

Two unprecedented emergencies? Yes and no. “If we analyze the phenomenon in a historical perspective, we realize that the desire for one more room has been shared by clients for some time. We have always been asked to create an additional space, whatever the size of the home,” say Adelaide Testa e Andrea Marcante, interior designers with a focus on interpretation of the needs of contemporary living in refined solutions. “Today it is about space for work, yesterday other needs were seen as priorities. We can say that the lockdown has shed light on certain values, but it is no discovery to realize that a functional home has to be properly designed.” The solution, according to the two architects, begins with architecture, even before reaching the level of design. “The answers have to arrive from the space, from how it is thought out and distributed. About 70% of interior design is architecture, while the rest is decorating and furnishings.”

Ebbs and flows of interior design, we were saying. So it should come as no surprise Marcante and Testa find many of today’s needs in the Progetto Domestico with which Cini Boeri, in 1986, set up in Triennale a response to the brief of the curator Mario Bellini, calling for ways of giving form to a dimension of contemporary living. This was a project conceived for a couple, where to use the words of the architect-designer, “the human dimensions of habitation are understood as psychological in nature.” In other words, “they seek to interpret the changes that have led to the exclusion of the traditional concept of ‘fusion’ in favor of greater independence of the components of the couple. The spatial layout, within a single habitat cell, separates private moments of each component and shared moments. This separation reflects the need to grant each of them a personal space, thus generating the free choice, rather than the necessity, of living together in shared spaces.”

To divide without separating, to distinguish without isolating: many of the responses to the needs that have emerged during lockdown are effectively here, in these words from 34 years ago. “Cini Boeri thought about space as relation, which is the real demand today. A room is a commitment: to meet or not to meet, depending on the situation. Those were the 1980s, but the Progetto Domestico is still timely. In the middle there was the open space, which perhaps is the real loser these days.”

The studio Archiplan, based in Mantua, also looks to outdoor spaces to meet these needs: “There is a critical point connected with small apartments, that can be approached by building pavilions of 20 square meters to place in gardens and parks in the city, in which to have temporary experiences of work or recreation. For example, we live in a small city with a good supply of outdoor spaces, which would lend itself very well to this idea. Also in private spaces, like apartment houses, it is possible to set up shared balconies and terraces for exercise.” And inside? The key word for architects and designers is shared by both: multifunctionalism. In the middle of the lockdown, the Secondome gallery launched an open call with great success, having an indicative title – Multifunctional – with the aim of unleashing creative talents with a short, very clear brief: to invent multifunctional objects no larger than one cubic meter. “Less space, more functions” says Claudia Pignatale, owner of the gallery. Smart working, gaming and sports turned out to be the central concerns of the designers, given the fact that 30% of the proposals focused on these themes, including reconfigurable desks, table-workstations and lamp-iPad stands useful for video calls, but also for watching films. Alessandro Gorla, with Studio Algoritmo , also took new acoustic and aesthetic needs into account, adding three sound-absorbing cloths to a workbench, also to serve as a backdrop for video calls. “And the furniture, when not in use for work, becomes a counter, a rack, a seat,” he explains.

“If I think about seating,” says Diego Cisi of Archiplan, “I imagine something that can become an island on which to work, to rest, to eat or watch TV. Elements with internal technology to connect various devices, in a sort of self-sufficient family raft. Italian companies have always paid close attention to intercept new needs of contemporary living. We’re optimistic: there will soon be responses with innovative products on the market, above all in the case of small and medium companies, which generally have a slimmer, more flexible structure with which to investigate new developments. The big brands will follow, perfecting the work of the other companies, also in terms of form and construction.”


Photo cover by Henry Wall (@wallcache), a student and street photographer based in London. He believes that photography is intrinsically nostalgic, so in his work he explores the power of colours and tones to evoke this nostalgia through peaceful and calm images.

Photo in the text from Home Futures, Design Museum, London, November 7, 2018 - March 24, 2019.