It looks like an ordinary chair, and can take your weight perfectly well, but pull a couple of hidden strings and it folds to just a few centimetres thick in a couple of seconds. This is the Ollie chair, the latest product from New York-based company, Rock Paper Robot. It was developed alongside the Ollie table, which is mounted vertically against a wall to be easily rolled out into a variety of lengths when needed, and folded back into the wall when it's not. For those who are stuck for space or just want to have some flexibility with their interior layouts, it works wonders - you could instantly turn a dining room into a dancefloor, for example.
Rock Paper Robot was founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate Jessica Banks, and she's used the experiences from her time at the Humanoid Robotics Group in MIT to inform her company's range of furniture. "With transformable furniture, we can influence how spaces are being used," she tells Fast Company. "Classrooms, retail spaces, pop-ups. I think it's possible that it could even help with revenue streams."
The Ollie chairs are capable of supporting up to 135 kilograms in weight thanks to their sturdy and lightweight frames, and there are several configurations to choose from, including bar stools, chaise lounges and dining chairs.
"I didn't set out to do a chair," says Banks. "There are a lot of folding chairs in the world and because of that very fact I was reluctant. However, if you have a table that folds flat against the wall, someone will ask about the chairs. Then I thought we needed some chairs that will disappear as well."
Also part of Rock Paper Robot's collection is the Float table, which appears to hang in mid-air but is supported by a series of high-tensile wires. Later this year the Ollie chairs and tables will also go on sale at an as undisclosed price, and the company has been busy showing them off at the Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City.
It's not just those who are short of room who might be interested in the Ollie set. "Even if you don't have a small place, you might want a humongous banquet table one day or a shorter one the next and for your furniture to accommodate all those situations," says Banks, and it undoubtedly helps if that furniture appears to assemble and disassemble as if by magic.