This is the future of furniture

In spring last year, artist Krista Kim designed and sold a house for $0.5 million. In other news, graphic designer Andrés Reisinger garnered $450,000 in less than 10 minutes by selling a limited-edition furniture collection around the same time. The catch was that neither the house nor the furniture existed in reality.

Artwork from ‘The Shipping’ by Andrés Reisinger

In fact, Krista’s ‘Mars House’ and Andrés’s ‘Impossible Objects’ collections are digital creations, which can be owned and auctioned off without being touched. But isn’t furniture made for human interaction, you ask? It sure is, or at least, we thought it was, as the idea of digital designs selling for prices that are similar to those of their tangible counterparts seemed unimaginable a few years ago.

‘Mars House’ by Krista Kim Studio, the world’s first digital home to be sold on the NFT marketplace.

Fast forward to today and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are in the headlines across all sectors. NFTs effectively act as authenticity certificates that are associated with virtual designs and recorded on blockchain to confirm their origin and ownership, similar to a cryptocurrency transaction.

Artwork from ‘The Shipping’ by Andrés Reisinger

Krista was the first creative to sell a digital house and, Andrés, the first to sell digital furniture. A plethora of designers has followed suit. The metaverse (a series of immersive, 3D-rendered online worlds) offers new grounds for creative experimentation in architectural and product design in the digital space. The technology is making it possible for spatial renderings as well as art and fashion that only exist in the digital world to be collected and traded, generating a flurry of high-profile auctions.

“The mandate is to elevate the space by creating photorealistic immersive realms and experiences led by artists and designers,” says Krista. She explains that the aim is to provide greater opportunities for engagement and interaction, in addition to endorsing digital design and liberating the act of creation from the limitations of physical form. The owner of an NFT property, like the ethereal ‘Mars House’, can visit the space in augmented or virtual reality. Someone with NFT furniture like Andrés’s can flaunt their digital decoratives in the metaverse.

‘Mars House’ by Krista Kim Studio, the world’s first digital home to be sold on the NFT marketplace

Andrés went viral for an Instagram post in 2018 that featured his ‘Hortensia’ chair, a voluminous pink armchair covered in 30,000 polyester petals, inspired by the hydrangea flower (also known as hortensia). He was flooded with requests to bring the chair to life and after a year of design, a proto- type was created and acquired by the Design Museum of Gent.

Artwork from ‘The Shipping’ by Andrés Reisinger

The physical edition garnered so much success that the Dutch design house Moooi collaborated with him to pro- duce it in larger quantities. “It was interesting to witness, especially from a sustainability standpoint, that ‘Hortensia’ created digital demand before physical supply without having implications such as tangible waste of resources,” notes Andrés. “The digital realm has taught me a lot more about what the physical world is capable of.”

Other than digitally native designers leading the metaverse, visionary sculptor Misha Kahn, whose ‘Furniture Unhinged’ collection paved the way for Christie’s first foray into the sale of design NFTs, has reimagined the creative process and adopted a digital-first approach. Initially known for crafting bold and fantastical furniture, he shift- ed his focus to works in the online sphere, creating his own series of NFTs and then converting it into physical furniture. His creations can be incorporated into video games, movies, or any place where an avatar exists. Alter- natively, they can be physically created.

‘Furniture Unhinged’ by Misha Kahn

The nascent world of ‘phygital’ design (a hybrid experience of the physical and digital) is gaining more popularity as users connect their living spaces with objects that exist in the real and virtual worlds simultaneously. So, a dematerialised object is acquired instead of just buying an image.

Artwork from ‘The Shipping’ by Andrés Reisinger

Andrés’s latest artwork Sun/Leaf, which was showcased at Art Dubai 2022, illustrates this trend. The exhibit com- prised a digital creation (Sun) and its physical counterpart (Leaf) placed within the outdoor area of Gallery Collec- tional. The work features a 90-second audio-visual loop piece, displaying a subtly animated landscape that’s projected onto an LED wall and placed at the edge of a water feature. It’s paired with the physical artwork, a chromed metal armchair that’s positioned in a pond before the LED screen. The installation has been conceived as one piece with its digital and physical halves. The idea is to keep them tied forever, so whoever buys it will acquire both elements.

Artwork from ‘The Shipping’ by Andrés Reisinger

This hybrid era of extended reality is rewriting the rules of engagement in which art and design are free of spatial and temporal constraints. As Andrés says, “We create the world we want to live in and sometimes the boundaries of the physical reality need to be pushed to achieve that world.”
Follow @Krista.kim, @Reisingerandres and @Mishakahn on Instagram.