Ikea’s design lab is trying to make a couch fit in an envelope

Working with AI and Swiss design agency Panter&Tourron, Space10 has come up with a flat-pack sofa that only weighs 10 kilos.

8 June 2023

Space10 – the research and design lab supported by Ikea – has developed a flat pack, 100-per-cent recyclable sofa that fits into an envelope. Admittedly, the envelope is quite massive, but it can still be carried by just one person, coming in at only 10 kilos.

The speculative design project Couch in an Envelope began with Space10 considering how bulky, inflexible and unsustainable furniture items like sofas might be redesigned with the help of AI. “As part of the original strategy,” Space10’s Georgina McDonald tells Fast Company, “I actually wrote into ChatGPT, ‘could a couch fit into an envelope?’ And of course the answer was ‘no, a couch could not fit in an envelope’. That really made us excited because, of course, the algorithm is fed on connotations of what is an envelope, what is a couch.”

Space10 and Panter&Tourron (design partner on the project) worked with AI to challenge the accepted shape of a sofa. “Initially, it was impossible to escape the typical shape of the couch whenever the prompt ‘couch’ was used with AI tools or platforms,” a release says. By using more experimental prompts such as ‘platform’, Space10 and Panter&Tourron were able to create a structure that looks like a sofa, but also like a lounge chair, table and conversation pit all in one.


Space10 / Panter&Tourron: Couch in an Envelope (Copyright © Space10, 2023)

Couch in an Envelope is screwless, it folds down flat for warehouse storage and can be carried by one person alone. It features fewer materials than your standard sofa – currently imagined with aluminium, cellulose based fabrics and mycelium foam – which would make it easier to produce. It’s also modular, meaning you can change it’s set up depending on your space.

Before you rush out to your nearest Ikea, the couch is only a prototype at the moment; it will be displayed at Space10’s new exhibition Design in the Age of AI. With Wang & Söderström, Space10 will explore if AI can really help us design a better, more sustainable home with the event. While AI can help us imagine new ways of designing, Panter&Tourron points out that it still carries over many of our preconceptions: “Outdated, unsustainable design archetypes embedded in large language models are problematic in algorithms, and negatively impacting the future of design. Presently, AI can only take us so far in design innovation before craft, and the human hand needs to intervene,” says co-founder Alexis Tourron.

GallerySpace10 / Panter&Tourron: Couch in an Envelope (Copyright © Space10, 2023)

Hero Header

Space10 / Panter&Tourron: Couch in an Envelope (Copyright © Space10, 2023)

Share Article

About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.