I recently came across a website called Yanko Design that includes new, interesting, or innovative designs for everyday objects. It included everything from a salt and pepper shaker made from legos to adaptable modular lighting fixtures. The design that piqued my interest, however, was a pair of chairs, very innocent in appearance. They look very sleek and modern, but did not look like they'd be too comfortable to sit in for any length of time because of their straight lines, 90 degree angles, and lack of curves. What makes these chairs unique can be seen by scrolling down to the next photo which shows that the chairs are not only meant for sitting. When tipped forward and interlocked, they can be converted into a table of the appropriate size for holding magazines and coffee. The website doesn't give much explanation for the origin of the chairs other than giving their designer's name: Joel Hesselgren.
There is a particular reason why I chose to focus on this particular design of all the ones I viewed while browsing the website. The chairs/table are very modern and contemporary in appearance, but they are not actually using an innovative or new concept. The idea of creating convertible furniture has been around for decades. Convertible furniture can be as simple as that hide-a-bed your aunt has you sleep on when you visit, or the futon your college buddy had in his living room. Many people have done something as simple as re-purpose an old trunk or luggage as a coffee table or end table.
Furniture that is more than what it seems can also take the form of a true "murphy bed," A bed that is hidden in upright form as part of a wall. There are of course ones that look like they appeared magically out of a solid wall or set of bookshelves, but murphy beds also exist as pieces of antique furniture. My parents, in fact, have always had one. It looks like a fancy cabinet (pictured below), but has false drawer-fronts that allow you to pull the entire front panel forward. The gingerbread-like wood detailing that appears to be simply for decoration swings outward to become the legs for the foot of the bed. It may not be the most comfortable bed (because of the age of the mattress), but it proves that modern Americans are not the first to try to save space and get the most out of their furniture. My grandparents have even more examples of the piece-is-not-what-it-seems concept. Their home is full of antiques including a tall door-ed cabinet and a table that both convert into beds, though they're rarely used as such.
Clearly people have always been trying to make the best use of their space (and maybe accommodate unannounced guests on short notice). It takes a little creativity, but it can be fun to find new ways to use the things that surround us. If you have one item that does two jobs or even just saves some space, maybe it will help clear some of the clutter.