Interiors: Finding your very own personal pod space
Do you ever feel the desire to hide away in plain sight? Eleanor Flegg has some innovative and stylish personal pods.
WHEN you're at a party, do you ever feel like finding a book and heading for a quiet corner?
Do you feel most relaxed and creative when you're alone?
If, like me, you're someone who needs to recharge their batteries in solitude, then you're probably an introvert, or so writes Susan Cain in 'Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking' (2012).
Before I read this book, I thought there was something weird about my urge to be on my own. According to Cain, there's nothing strange about it. Introverts simply need to retreat from the world in order to function in it.
Sometimes I struggle to find that quiet place at home, which is why I'd love to have one of Freyja Sewell's Hush pods, part of a new trend for ultra personal womb-like retreats.
This is an indoor tent, cut from a single piece of industrial wool felt, hand-stitched into a fluffy cave – your very own padded cell. "I used to like hiding in boxes when I was a child," says Sewell. "I wanted to create an enclosed chair that would create a private space within a busy living environment."
Because Hush is made of wool it has sound-absorbing qualities. "It's great for naps", says Sewell, "or for using your phone or tablet, but it's dark in there. I'd love to design one with lighting."
And yes, there is room for two people but they'd have to be friends. Hush, which was selected as a "Green Hero" by Kevin McCloud for Grand Designs Live, is handmade by British craftspeople – hence the price tag (€3,332 from www.freyjasewell.co.uk).
Ikea's Lömsk chair is far more cash machine friendly (€60) and has a hood that you can pull down to create a secret hiding place, but it's for kids. There's no suggestion that adults might need a secret hiding place too.
Currently, the idea of a "restorative niche" is big news in commercial interiors. Google's London headquarters, designed by Penson, features little hobbit hole seating areas where the employees can retreat to be creative. Personally, I think that Google's commercial interiors look like they're designed for a cult.
That said, the cubby holes are really cool and would work well at home.
Innovative design ideas often emerge in the workplace before they're adapted for the home, so I expect we'll be seeing similar designs in domestic interiors before too long.
Here's another example from the world of commercial interiors. The Ear chair was designed by Jurgen Bey for the Dutch brand Prooff to create a "room within a room", a private and almost sound-proof space within a public area.
It's based on the classic wingbacked chair, with massive ear-shaped extensions at head level so that people sitting in the chair will experience less than half the background noise than if they were standing beside it. Unless you're directly in front of the chair, you won't be able to see the face of the person sitting in it.
I would like one of these too, but it's not going to happen any time soon. The Ear chair is concept furniture – this means that a skilled designer takes the time to develop something really innovative but has to cover the cost of this research by charging top prices.
An adapted version the Ear chair will probably filter down to mainstream furniture, but it's not there yet. At the moment the Ear chair costs €3,762 from www.prooff.com.
Another consideration is that the big blocky design is a bit extreme for most living rooms.
Alternatives include the Spanish designer Jaime Hayon's Ro chair for Fritz Hansen (€2,460 from www.lostweekend.ie), a gently contemporary version of the wing chair. It's high-backed and wraps around the sitter to muffle background sound and create a sense of privacy.
Or you could source a vintage wing chair – they're not particularly fashionable which means they're relatively inexpensive – and have it upholstered in good quality fabric.
The interior designer Sarah Cruise (sarahcruisedesign @gmail.com) suggests that you can do a lot to create a quiet zone without disrupting the rest of the room.
"First choose your space. A corner is ideal because you have two walls to protect you, or locate yourself beside a window with a nice view. Then decide what you want to use it for. If you need to focus you'll want adjustable task lighting but soft lighting works better in a meditative space."
Cruise feels that instead of shutting out the rest of the household, it may be enough to indicate that this is a quiet space. "Use a little rug to delineate the area, or a room divider that can be folded back when not in use." Room dividers come in all shapes and sizes. The cream heart photo screen (€136) doubles as a photograph album with space for 27 images and the metal plant screen (€192) has space for pot plants (both from ie.nextdirect.com).
Or you could invest in another of Frejya Sewell's designs, Haven (€987), a large lampshade designed to create a sense of privacy and protection. It is a little like sitting under a mushroom that shelters, but doesn't actually enclose you.
Extreme introverts can revert to the Ostrich pillow (€80 from www.studiobanana things.com), a portable cave that you can pull over your head and hands.
This is a clear indicator that you would prefer to be left alone.