The Urban modular seating system is a response to the "folding" furniture new trend. It offers a new consumer experience with the ability to change and adapt seating arrangements to different small living spaces.

The global folding furniture market is expected to generate $13 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 6.8% from 2016 to 2022. The folding furniture growth is supplemented by rapid urbanization and need for efficient use of the available space. These furniture are multifunctional and space saving. For residential or commercial complexes, lacking space or requiring space for multitude of different uses, folding furniture offer the much needed solution.


Furniture design is a long process, from the inner structure to the outer design.

I worked as an Industrial Designer and I believe that a good design is a combination of an appealing visual form and an underlying practical purpose. This philosophy combines business, people and technology in generating an innovative and functional solution.

  • Team of Industrial Designers:
    Tina Kao and Sheila Tse (self-directed)

  • Products:
    Sofa platform
    Ottoman/chaise platform
    Petit cork surface
    Large, petit, and lumbar pillows
    Seat cushion
    Back/side panel

  • Materials:
    Metal base frame and legs, steel rods, wooden boards, high densisty foam, feathers, cork, polyester and cotton fibre fabric.

  • Software Tools: Adobe Illustrator, AutoCAD LT, and Softimage

  • Date: 2010

Understand and Observe

City living

In the last 50 years, the proportion of one-person households has increased from 6.0% of the population in 1941 to 26.8% of the population in 2006. Homes in urban areas are costly and relatively small. Young professionals are one of the primary market segments driving the residential revitalizations of downtowns. The professionals choose downtowns as a place of residence and typically live in an apartment or condominium.

How much would you spend on a sofa?

Users Cost
Student: cheap $999 and under
Professional: affordable $1,000 to $2,500
Upper professional: deluxe $2,500 to $5,000
High-end $5,000+

The problem

  • Hard time moving large sofas in to small living homes.
  • Uncomfortable to sit, lounge, and sleep on.
  • Sofas are stationary and are not modular.
  • The challenge

    The seating system must be able to accomodate the fundamental activities in the living room. It is a practical solution that solves the initial problem - increasing the functionality and quality of a modern sofa while considering the cost. Our challenge is to design for the young professionals who have a limited budget and limited space in their homes.


The average sofa lifetime is 8 years

Actions Month Year Lifetime
Spilt wine/tea/dinner 2/3/6 24/36/72 196/288/576
TV dinners/watch a film 13/8 156/96 1,248/768
Been a bed/visitors 5/8 60/96 480/768

Jenny, age 25
Downtown Vancouver, BC

Wants to live in a modern apartment, equipped with designer pieces. Her style is simple and casual. She likes to relax and read in her living space.

Ben, age 28
Downtown Vancouver, BC

Wants a bright room in which he can socialize together with friends. The living room is characterized by a professional mix of modern design furniture.

The Design Process

Visualize, evaluate, refine, and implement.

User trials, sketches, small to full scale wooden prototypes, and ergonomics were initiated to test the functionality and usability of the product. odels were refined to get the best proportions needed. Prototype details include inner construction of seat cushions, details of stitchings, zippers, corner radius, and fabric options. We had a chance to work with a manufacturing company, Hong Kong Royal Furniture, where the final design was produced in a larger scale production.

Urban Sofa is ultimately a platform with three separate backrests that can be moved around to shape and create personalized furniture that adapts to a person’s lifestyle. Each backrest panels has two metal rods that slot in to holes on the seating platform to help customize the seating configuration. The back panels can also be inserted to the sides of the sofa or to an ottoman. This will transforms it in to a sofa chair.

The Outcome

Creating a better everyday living experience for people with affordable and efficient home furniture.

We have decreased the size of the sofa for shipping and ease of home moving. We have resolved that by creating a new way to construct the seating system, offering a new consumer experience and the ability to change and adapt to different living spaces.

Manufacturer in Hong Kong Cost (CAD)
Production $270
Whole sale $385
Retail $700 to $800


Customize configuration
Simply configure your ideal sofa by adding back panels, seat cushions, armrests, or ottoman.

Ability to change
All components are modular and can be rearranged for different scenarios and needs.

Easy to maintain
All fabric covers can be removed for cleaning, insuring that your sofa can be used multiple times in many situations.

Flat-packed sofa
Can be shipped as one package, ready-to-assemble (RTA) on site.

Component Specifications