A key part of that strategy comes down to, of course, the furniture you use, and when it comes to furnishing an itty bitty space, it’s all about function.
Enter Square Inch, a brand spanking new company specialising in making the very most out of the smallest of living spaces and the brainchild of Susan Frear.
Square Inch says they’re “on a mission to improve the standard of urban living” so Idealog sat down with Susan (a self-confessed “serial open homes viewer “) to find out just what it takes to enjoy macro-style and comfort in an increasingly micro-world.
Q. Where did the inspiration for Square Inch come from? Was there a particular problem you were trying to solve?
A. Last winter snuggled up in front of [TV show] George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. We [my husband and I] loved the creativity and sheer cleverness of the solutions he showcased. During our OE in London we lived in a tiny studio apartment squeezed into the mansard roof of a building. It was tiny yet perfectly formed and was all we needed, in a great central location, and it even worked for the endless stream of kiwi visitors who passed through. So we knew that small doesn’t have to cramp your lifestyle if you have thoughtful spatial design and multifunctional furniture.
When you combine those thoughts with soaring house prices, looking around at the growing skyline in Auckland we thought there are lots of people out there who need access to clever solutions that give spaces versatility and added function. Even for those of us who have space, we generally have underutilized space. For example, the spare bedroom that would be more useful as a separate lounge with a sofa bed for the few times it is needed. So we started looking for solutions that solved the hassles of the cramped – those being no storage, no style and no comfort.
Susan Frear, Square Inch director
Q. Where does Square Inch stuff come from?
A. We search for designers who share our philosophy and who design products that not only look fantastic, but are super-functional, good quality and will last the distance both in terms of durability and styling. So form and function are important in the pieces we choose; quality and design that lasts and pieces that work together to help you live a richer life – no matter how small your space may be.
Our first product range is from a New York designer and is manufactured in Turkey - a centre of quality furniture craftsmanship. We also look at design out of areas that are known for high density living such as Scandinavia and Japan.
Q. What’s the Square Inch philosophy? Why is a business like this needed now?
A. Our philosophy is twofold. Firstly, from the tiny house movement, which for us is about the freedom you get when living lightly and wisely with your resources. At times it feels that we lose sight of what is important and seem to not have a good regulating mechanism when it comes to knowing when enough is enough.
Secondly, we believe in improving urban living and think you can get a lot more function and enjoyment out of space that has well-designed multifunctional pieces. When we started looking for solutions, we noticed that they are usually hard to find, they are scattered or they are really expensive.
We believe there is a need for good quality, well priced, functional solutions that help everyone live large in whatever space they have available. Small space dwellers generally can’t afford either the bespoke option or some of those ultra-space-age convertible designs you see from Italy. There needs to be another option.
Q. What’s your business model?
A. We are primarily an online furniture retailer, as many of our target market are already living a very connected online life. This helps to keep our overheads lower. We also offer packages to investors who furnish and trade apartments offering them a point of difference by creating ‘liveable’ spaces that work so well for people that they don’t move on and they look after the property as if it was their own. We are about finding solutions that fill an unmet need – not simply selling products that look good or have a big name attached to them.
Q. What goes into starting a business like this? How much is planning and how much is faith?
A. Good question. We have spent the last 12 months researching and planning for this. We started with the Hatchery Programme run through The Icehouse. It was invaluable in terms of focusing us on what we should be looking at and testing our assumptions. Having a mentor to give objective feedback and then presenting the idea to a panel of experts gave us the confidence to take the next step. But you still never know until the market says “Yes, we agree and here’s our money”.
Q. What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome to get to this point?
A. Self-belief is always a challenge when you are creating something new. When those moments of self-doubt creep in, I look to my supporters to shut out that nagging voice. I also like to try some mindfulness to stay in the moment and not dwell on what’s gone or what might be.
Q. You’re a very new business – how have you been received by the market?
A. We are very new – the product is arriving this week. During validation we received lots of promising feedback based on the need that is out there. People are looking for another option for multifunctional and stylish furniture solutions, so we are excited about what the future holds.
Q. What advice do you offer people struggling to live comfortably in their miniature urban dwellings?
A. Declutter and think about what you want to do in a space. Then choose your possessions with care. Think about how you might use one space in two or more ways with simple conversions – like a work desk that vanishes when you want to relax or have someone over. Also think ahead – can this piece of furniture be used in a different way if I move or my lifestyle changes?
Q. What’s next for Square Inch? What are the next challenges you’re looking to face?
A. We’re now looking at the next range of products that meet our home entertainment needs and work-from-home requirements. Now we know the process of sourcing & importing, we can streamline bringing on new suppliers and know exactly what to look for in terms of product functionality, quality and the organisation behind the supplier to make sure it works for the New Zealand context.
For more information visit Square Inch.