Small Living

Small Living with Yesul Jang

When Yesul Jang found herself living in a tiny apartment in Switzerland she was dismayed by the lack of furniture tailored to meet her needs. So she made some.

Yesul is not long out of university but is representative of a generation of young designers optimistic about the role of design in addressing global societal and social challenges. Her design work is influenced by a keen interest in sustainability and small footprint living and informed by her own lived experience and that of the people around her. 

We recently had the pleasure of connecting with Yesul to learn more about her ‘TINY HOME BED’ and how good design can produce practical (and joyful) solutions to complex problems. 

Yesul Jang’s TINY HOME BED. Photo credit: Johannes Breuer.

NTS: Please introduce yourself: who are you, what do you do and how long have you been doing it?

Yesul: I’m Yesul, an industrial designer from Seoul, South Korea. Currently, I am working for a lifestyle brand in Seoul, mostly designing bags. It has been about 1.5 years since I started work in this industry after finishing my master’s study in product design in Lausanne, Switzerland.

NTS: Tell us about ‘TINY HOME BED’…

Yesul: TINY HOME BED is my graduation project for the master’s program at ÉCAL [University of Art and Design Lausanne] in 2018 which is designed for people who are living in a small space. 

Today, the number of people living in small dwellings is increasing. I have focused my project on the development of a bed for compact living which was not only practical but also aesthetically attractive. 

The bed’s storage cavity with a fabric curtain allows the user to hide the storage space and access it from any position. 

Through the market research of current space saving furniture and storage beds, I have realised most of them have a massive and complicated structure which is not suitable for the young generation who move more often than other generations before them.”

So I was focusing on making the storage bed lighter and simple through the use of a frame based structure. 

The fabric curtain of Yesul Jang’s TINY HOME BED. Photo credit: Johannes Breuer.

NTS: What inspired you to design it?

Yesul: The project was started with my personal experience. When I studied in Switzerland, a furnished small room in a shared flat was the only possible option with my budget. It reminded me of Goshiwons, one of the types of small housing in Korea and ‘coffin homes’ in other Asian countries. At that time, I realised the issue: a lack of houses and high rent in big cities is also common on the other side of the world. 

From that experience, I decided to research tiny homes and develop solutions to adapt to live better in this circumstance by designing suitable furniture. My hope is that people can utilise their own space to express their personality, not just to put massive furniture.

NTS: What is the common thread in your designs? What inspires you in your designs?

Yesul: I try to create something useful for ordinary people including me. Thus the starting point is mostly what me and my family and friends experience. It may seem to be very small and personal to concentrate on these stories, however, the stories always reflect current or potential social issues and phenomena.

NTS: How would you describe contemporary design culture in Seoul and South Korea?   

Yesul: I think now in Seoul, we are in the midst of an independent design studios’ era. A few years ago, major design agencies took most of the big projects from big companies. However, these days, lots of people including big companies need fresh perspectives from young and small groups. Also, independent brands run by designers are increasing. So you never get bored with Korean design these days. 

One thing I’m worried about is that we are creating too fast and so many things with less consideration of sustainability for the future. A positive signal is movements to use recycled materials are ongoing in many industries.”

NTS: What role do you see design playing in the increasing density of our cities?

Yesul: It is hard for designers to change the whole social system and the economic situation immediately. However, I believe designers can provide practical solutions to help people adapt to the given situation and enjoy it in better ways.

Yesul Jang and her TINY HOME BED. Photo credit: Johannes Breuer.

NTS: Do you see yourself designing more objects to address these challenges?

Yesul: I would like to. These days, my interest in minimal living and environmental issues has been growing. These are also related to small footprint living. As a part of a similar project, I have studied about bar soaps since using soap instead of a liquid types of soap can be a solution to minimise your toiletries. I also have an idea of applying the curtain storage system of TINY HOME BED to other kinds of furniture like storage chairs, tables, etc.

NTS: Where do you see your design career taking you into the future?

I have no idea yet because I don’t want to limit myself as a designer of specific items like furniture designer or bag designer. One thing I am sure of is that sustainability will be a much more important thing in my design work. It is not just about environmental issues, also about lifestyle and systems.

NTS: Are there any spaces (or details within spaces) that have been featured on Never Too Small that excite or inspire you?

The UKO co-living space was impressive since the idea of utilising the space underneath of the mattress is very similar to my initial idea for my TINY HOME BED project. I love the idea that you can customise your living room depending on purpose with movable furniture.

Yesul’s tips for small footprint living:

1. Have an acquisition filter

From my experience, keeping only essential items is very helpful. If I want to buy something new, I always ask two questions; why I need it and do I use it for more than five years? 

2. Be organised

A well organised room with only essentials makes your space look and feel more spacious.

3. Consider multiuse and compact items 

Multipurpose and compact size products are quite useful to downsize my belongings (although I still have a lot of stuff). 

4. Enjoy the benefits

I try to think about the benefits you can earn by living in a small space such as a convenient and nice neighbourhood to enjoy city life, saving money, making less environmental effects, etc. 

5. Make your space greener

Growing plants is always an easy way to bring freshness to the tiny rooms!