In 2019 in New York City, three designers at the School of Visual Arts, Products of Design MFA endeavored to create furniture for their highly mobile hard-working community.
Just a year earlier, these three students—Anna Chau, Seona Joung, and Theodore Scoufis—found themselves together in New York City having each completed a common pilgrimage—moving to a large metropolis in pursuit of education, employment, and inspiration. Anna hailed from Canada, Seona from South Korea via Virginia, and Theodore: the US Army. Everyone's lives at this point had been pruned and stuffed into suitcases.
A year later, in apartments outfitted with disposable, chipboard-veneered flat pack furniture they pondered: why doesn't today's furniture match today's lifestyle? We are a generation of global nomads. Young people traveling for educational and professional opportunities know that they're not putting down permanent roots for many years, at least. They move from city to city, country to country, setting themselves up in temporary housing from dorm rooms to apartment shares. But this rootlessness can feel unsettling. Where is home when we're constantly on the move?
From that notion Ollie was conceived. Ollie is a pronouncement of the values of people like Anna, Seona, and Theodore—today's students, professionals, adventurers, and everyone in between: liberation, adaptability, and sustainability.
Ollie is a rugged mobile modular storage cabinet that moves with its owners, adapts to their homes, and stays in homes and out of the landfills. Let's face it, while we're designing this with intentional nomads in mind, we also know that there is a global migrant crisis. Millions of people on the move, all the time, uprooted and without a stable place to settle. While Ollie serves as an object of joyful adventure for some, it could also serve as a life-support system for many.
When an Ollie is brought home, moving to a new city changes from a leap of faith to an ollie as if popping over a curb on a skateboard.
Ollie is a mobile modular storage cabinet for the home. This is a new category of furniture—furniture made for modern life where moving happens often. Traditionally, people who frequently move furnish their apartment with cheap furniture and then discard it when it's time to move—dumpsters on every college campus at the end of the semester are full of flimsy chipboard furniture. This furniture lifecycle is harmful not just to the environment but to the user who must spend more time and money furnishing their next home. Instead, Ollie helps people furnish their life as a piece of furniture that moves along with them from dorm room to downtown loft.
Composed at home yet poised to take off—such are Ollie owners; as will be Ollie.
Ollie embodies pragmatic elegance. It combines the rugged features of cases and luggage that furnish expeditions—such as a powder coated aluminum body and structural reinforcements—with an understated form that allows it to fit within a contemporary home.
Ollie has a number of features that allow it to be transportable. First, it has two extruded aluminum rails that surround the carcass of the cabinet. The rails serve several functions: they are the cabinet's feet; they are handles for transportation; and they are protective bumpers. Second, Ollie is sized to function as a cabinet and still be able to be carried by one person. At 14"x14", the depth and width are just larger than a milk crate, and at 28" tall, the top handles are about waste high making it easy to lift.
Ollie can be customized to suit its owner's needs—outside and in. An Ollie functions on its own or can be combined to create larger pieces of furniture. One Ollie is a night stand; two Ollies supports a desk; placed side-by-side they become a dresser; and stacked they become a bookshelf. Push-button pins make it simple to assemble and disassemble. Within Ollie, keyhole slots allow shelves and drawers to be easily added, removed and adjusted. Ollie can be used as open or closed storage thanks to its removable door. Using Ollie as open shelves is as easy as remove the door from the front keyhole slots on the front and placing it on the back in corresponding keyhole slots. By keeping the door with Ollie it won't get lost or add to clutter. Using Ollie as closed cabinet is as simple as leaving the door in place.
Ollie is made for a lifetime of use. It does this by using durable materials and being easily adapted to new uses—the Ollies that were once nightstands are joined to become a changing table for the new child. This serves two functions. First, this means that buying an Ollie becomes more valuable than more inferior products. Second, when an object stays in your home it stays out of the landfill. We support Ollie owners in keeping their Ollies functioning and when it is time to retire them, help them recycle them.
When an Ollie is in your home, moving to a new apartment, neighborhood, or city changes from a leap of faith to an ollie as if popping over a curb on a skateboard. This is because an Ollie is composed in the home yet poised to take off: Then when the winds blow, once again, close your Ollies' doors, load them into the van and head off to your next next home.
W 14" x D 14" x H 28"
Ollie began with an investigation of the needs of an emerging demographic that was underserved my the market. Ollie was created for the young mobile students and professionals who are enduring the bloated urban housing costs while pursuing education, work, and inspiration. Essentially, Ollie is born out of the urban housing crisis. Urban populations are growing. Since 2013, urban populations have grown 13%. This has driven up the cost of housing in urban areas dramatically. In 1975 it would take someone nine years earning a median annual income to afford a median-priced home. Today, for a median earner, it would take 40 years in San Fransisco and 36 years in New York City. Because of this fewer people are able to purchase homes. Moreover, people are more transient—most people in America have been in their homes for less than two years. In New York City, 40% of people moved in the last five years.
In addition, furniture was has increased—6.5 million tons in 2000 to 9.7 million tons in 2017.
This lead to our key insight and design principles. First, a market analysis showed that there were no products that incorporated mobility as a key feature. Therefore, for furniture to serve this demographic, it needed to address users' mobile lifestyles.
In light of this and the current climate crisis, we needed to ensure that we would take a new angle for furniture. Our furniture would be sustainable by staying in use and out of landfills. To do this we chose a neutral but elegant form and color schemes that strive to stay relevant amidst changing trends. Additionally, we needed Ollie to adapt to new uses as its owner's needs changed. Ollie also had to be built to survive a life of use while being easy to move. And finally, it needed to be repairable.
From this, we developed three concepts that Ollie must be: liberating, adaptive, sustainable, and joyful
Ollies Three Principles: liberating, adaptive, sustainable, and joyful
While we love the ritual of pizza for friends who lend a hand while moving, Ollie liberates you from the chore of moving heavy furniture. Ollie is modular and light and therefore easy to move—aluminum components keep the weight down; removable pins allow multiple Ollies to separate; handles make it easy to carry; a door keeps contents secure; and it fits easily in a trunk. When its time to pull up stakes and head to the next way point, close Ollie's door and Ollie carries securely the part of your life you placed inside.
Everyone will ask something different of Ollie and Ollie is happy to oblige. Ollies bridges the needs transient students and established professionals alike. Its modular design means you can use Ollie however you want. Assembly & disassembly is intuitive making Ollie easy to transport, simple to repair, and a breeze to customize. As your needs grow, build your collection to make new pieces of furniture. An Ollie's life may start as a storage solution for an odd shaped studio apartment, but it may grow to be a collection of six that form a bookshelf in a home office.
We approach sustainability through a couple two principal lenses.
First, we believe that the longer a product is in your home the longer it is out of the landfill. Therefore we build Ollie to adapt to new needs and endure your journeys. Our hope is that your collection of Ollies will be a reflection of you. Scuffs, scrapes, dings give character to Ollie like campaign furniture or a guitar case. In fact, because Ollie is intended to be used. Its value actually increases as it travels with you from coast to coast; undergrad to grad; internship to job; single to family.
Second, when its time, we will refurbish your Ollie, and if we cannot, we help you to dispose of it more responsibly. That is why we use aluminum which is a material that can be continuously recycled.
Ollie makes a home wherever you are. Essential to the creating a restful home is the feeling of joy. Ollie's form, colors, and reflection of your experience illuminates your home with joy—wherever you home may be.
Brand and Website
Ollie is not just a piece of furniture, but also a branded service (or a service brand). As a direct-to-consumer company that focuses on transparency and customer satisfaction, the Ollie website customer can customize, purchase, and schedule their Ollie to be refurbished on the site. We like to believe that Ollie owners will become a community as it becomes an emblem of their shared experience. Then when we sell refurbished Ollie's they are actually ebbed with this cultural context like a well used guitar case.