Jennifer Sheahan: See-through furniture maximises tiny spaces

Transparent tables and chairs make the smallest homes look enormous, says Home of the Year 2021 winner Jennifer Sheahan 
Jennifer Sheahan: See-through furniture maximises tiny spaces

The Kave Burano glass coffee table. 

 

My house is small. Just under 60 square meters. So, one of my main criteria when renovating and decorating was: How do I make this place seem not-so-tiny?

There are plenty of wonderful tricks out there to fool us into thinking a small space is bigger than it really is. 

A Ghost chair in Jennifer's home. Picture: Moya Nolan
A Ghost chair in Jennifer's home. Picture: Moya Nolan

One of my favourites is making use of transparent materials. Transparency tricks the eye into thinking the piece isn’t really taking up any space at all. Visually, it’s barely there! And yet we have all the utilisation of the item available to us. For small spaces, this is a win-win. Aesthetically it can be divisive, so if you love it read on and if not, let me try to change your mind!

THE GHOST CHAIR 

One of the most famous and popular pieces of transparent furniture is Philippe Starck’s Ghost Chair. Starck first designed the Louis Ghost — a shape inspired by the classic Louis XVI armchair, popular during the king’s reign. The Louis Ghost has been manufactured by 2002 by Kartell, and is quite a feat of engineering. 

The polycarbonate chair is made from a single mold, meaning the entire chair is one solid piece. The design is exceptional — anyone would think that sitting on a piece of plastic wouldn’t be in the least bit comfortable, and yet the opposite is true for the Ghost chair. 

Jennifer's dining area with Ghost furniture. Picture:  Moya Nolan
Jennifer's dining area with Ghost furniture. Picture:  Moya Nolan

Perhaps I wouldn’t spend hours lounging in it for a full Netflix marathon, however it is a perfectly comfortable armchair for occasional use. This makes it an excellent choice for a smaller living room where perhaps you need additional seating, but don’t want to add anything to make the space look cluttered. I also love these chairs in bedrooms or dressing rooms.

The popularity of the Louis Ghost inspired Starck’s next design, the Victoria Ghost. Again, this polycarbonate chair is manufactured using one single mould, but is made in a baroque style and doesn’t have arms. This makes it an excellent choice for dining chairs, and this is the style I went with for my own dining area. 

The original Victoria Ghost is available from Kartell for around €550 for two chairs, however given I was on a budget I opted for replicas available from S Alternative Furniture in Dublin for €85 each. I adore these chairs. They are surprisingly comfortable, they don’t clutter the room visually, they can be used indoors and outdoors, and I love how they look.

You can now also get transparent bar stools and counter stools — a great option for adding seating to a kitchen island without visually disturbing the space. If you like transparency but are looking for a little something extra, the Ghost chairs also come in a range of colours too.

THE BUBBLE CHAIR 

 One of the earliest pieces of transparent furniture, the Bubble Chair is a hanging chair designed by Finnish designer Eero Aarnio in the 1960s. Aarnio envisioned being cocooned in a bubble and the advancement of acrylic molding allowed him to create just that. 

Hanging chairs are consistently popular. While you do need to allow space for the swinging action of the chair, visually they take up less room than an armchair — because they don’t touch the floor, they trick the eye into appearing to take up less floor space. 

This makes them a good choice for small spaces, and this is doubly true for the transparent Bubble Chair which visually takes up even less space. The Bubble Chair is not cheap — around €3,500 — but it is a design classic which I desperately covet.

The Illusion table by Essey. 
The Illusion table by Essey. 

TABLES AND DESKS 

Another excellent use for transparent furniture in a small space is as a coffee table or a side table. If you have a smaller living room, adding a coffee table might overwhelm the space by the time you’ve fit in all your seating. If so, acrylic tables are an excellent way to provide surface area without dominating the room. 

Kave Home has a range of larger glass single coffee tables or smaller nests of side tables for around the €200-€250 range; and Ikea has a nest of three acrylic tables called the Jäppling, for just under €140. 

The Kave Burano glass coffee table. 
The Kave Burano glass coffee table. 

Just to note, although acrylic is quite durable and long-lasting, it can be prone to scratching so be careful with sharp objects.

While transparent tables are excellent for visually decluttering a space, they also provide the perfect blank canvas if your goal is to do the opposite! I’m a huge fan of maximalist design, and if this is your flavour then consider transparent tables or even bookcases as the perfect backdrop to allow you to go even more overboard with fabulous objects, or to show off your favourite throws and cushions.

Saving the best for last, the Illusion Table is a beautiful design created by Danish design firm Essey. The Illusion table looks like a floating tablecloth: It is made from a single piece of acrylic glass and appears to have no legs, instead resting on the tips of the “tablecloth”. The Illusion tables are available in two sizes and range in price from €200-€300. If minimalism is your style, I think this table is the perfect way to subtly bring something a little different into your home without clutter.

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