This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com
The doors, lawn furniture, and toilet seats in our homes haven't diverged much from their basic designs and utility - until recently.
It wasn't long ago when it would have been inconceivable for a co-inventor of the iPod to focus on innovating the thermostat. That was before Nest, which had robust sales and was recentlyby Google for US$3.2 billion. You read that correctly: thermostats can be a multi-billion dollar business.
That's not to say that every new design is going to ascend to similar heights, but it puts a new lens on our view of household staples. Could a door work differently? Do folding chairs have to all work the same way? Can toilet seats be more functional than a lid? Those are all questions that designers have answered.
Austrian designer Klemens Torggler has conceived doors that are rotating movable panels. His Web site details how the panels assemble together to close and function as a regular door. Designs include several configuration options ranging from systems with rods, systems with triangles, systems that glide on a track, 8 panel doors that close from both sides of the entryway, and screens that temporarily close off spaces.
Here's video on how they work:
Wealthy apartment dwellers might be interested in learning about a company called Folditure, which has created a set of tables and chairs that fold like origami. Avant-garde design comes at a cost: the chairs are priced between $590 to $940 and a table will run nearly $1700. The set folds up and hangs on a custom rack. There are less pricey options available in the foldable category; tinyliving.net is a good resource.
Lastly, Kohler has squeezed more utility out of toilet seats by adding an LED nightlight. Its Cachet Q3 and Reveal Q3 models illuminate bathrooms from underneath the deal. It's programmable and runs on standard AA battery power for 7 hours every night. I'll continue to use my light switch and avoid the blue light, which can interfere with how well we sleep. Medical research suggests using dim red lights instead.
Only time will tell whether or not any of these ideas catch on or are even practical, but they are excellent examples of how everyday objects are being reinvented.