Double-Duty Space-Saving Furniture

Open Sesame: Magical and stylish dual purpose, space saving furniture for space challenged apartments.

By Ruth J. Katz

A mirror turns into a folding dining table. The “Tip Over Mirror-Table” by Porada.


Anyone living in a space-challenged home is always in need of just one more closet, an “extra” garage, secret loft storage, or any other way to add to space. One of Murphy’s Laws accurately predicts that your “stuff” always manages to expand to fill exactly the space you have—and then some. If only we could store things in the cloud the way our electronic devices allow us to “dump” thousands of pictures in the ether. It is no wonder that furniture manufacturers sell many more sleep sofas in urban areas than in the suburbs. And it is no surprise that many urbanites buy beds that incorporate storage into their design, like this storage bed from Ikea.

Similarly, manufactures have found magical ways to transform an item to function in dual modes, miraculously serving two masters: A mirror hanging on the wall becomes a table (yes!), or a chair becomes a step ladder. Less dramatic conversions might include a bookcase that functions as a room divider, left, or a drop-leaf or gate-leg table that opens to accommodate additional guests (or yields added working surface in a cramped kitchen), or below right, a multi-functional storage bench and the like. Your home will feel more capacious and be more accommodating when you incorporate a few double-duty pieces of furniture that are not only geared toward taking up the smallest footprint possible, but also designed to morph into a “second” piece of furniture that performs an additional function. 

The most ubiquitous space-saving piece of furniture is obviously the sofa bed (and some might also favor the built-in Murphy bed), and there are many sources for all manner of sofa beds throughout the country and on line, some that specialize solely in sofa beds, and others that carry everything for the home, including a wide selection of sofa beds: Carlyle Custom Convertibles, Jennifer Furniture, Roche Bobois, Raymour and Flanigan, Pottery Barn, West Elm, Ethan Allen, Huffman Koos, Room and Board, and perhaps the largest furniture site on line, the behemoth, Wayfair. In addition, these furniture design houses/manufacturers feature many other items that you might find are the perfect space-savers for your needs.

Another popular category for resourceful design is the table: Coffee tables that pop up to become dining tables; narrow, wall-hugging drop-leaf tables with slender top surfaces, but with deep leaves, so that they can accommodate a dinner party; nesting tables that store neatly and yet offer plenty of surface area for entertaining. Some clever European companies have engineered nifty, intricately designed furnishings that provide inspired solutions that will simply razzle-dazzle you: Abracadabra! Now you don’t see it, now you do—voodoo furniture, if you will.


Ligne Roset’s Rotor coffee table expands to give more surface space for serving hors d’oeuvres, holding drinks, what-have-you. Three two-inch-thick stacking surfaces form the table, and when two of them pivot, they create more tabletop area. (No longer available, see Ligne Roset for other coffee tables.)

A company at the cutting-edge of remarkably constructed, inventive double-duty furniture is Resource Furniture, with countless wall units that reconfigure into desks, beds, and sleep sofas. One noteworthy table, Plurimo (above, available in several sizes) expands in width and length with the help of hidden, self-storing leaves. It can be assembled to seat as few as six and as many as twelve. It is available in many finishes and in three heights—standard, counter, and bar.

While it seems the trend is to go paperless these days, most of us still have not scanned all our documents into the computer to achieve that goal. Hence, the need still exists for pedestrian file cabinets. These two units, which masquerade as lovely chests, provide file storage, with built-in tracks along the interior edges. From CB2, the little sister of Crate & Barrel, they are available in a glitzy mirror-like look and a more rugged-looking wood finish. The Stainless file cabinet above left, looks like shiny mirror, and can store either letter- or legal-size documents. Finished with iron handles. The wooden Starburst file cabinet can also store docs of both sizes and is made from solid acacia wood, stained light brown, and accented with brass knobs.


Once again, the geniuses at Resource Furniture have created a neat wall unit that has hidden bunk beds—ideal for when unexpected families “drop by.” Among Resource Furniture’s most ingenious wall units that convert/flip over/deploy to transform from desks, tables, shelves, bookcases, and so on, to reveal a bed/sleep sofa is Lollisoft SD, above. Two other units, Kali Duo Board and Palazzo, below, each transforms magically into two bunk beds. All three are custom-crafted in a variety of finishes. See the Palazzo bunk bed system in action on YouTube.

Another clever table from Ligne Roset, Cineline, below, is a more sophisticated iteration of the drop-leaf table, in a classy silhouette manufactured in chic finishes. When the sides are folded down, the table measures 29″ x 39″ x 63″ and when they are lifted and the table is completely open, it enlarges to 115″ x 39.5″ x 63″; it is capable of seating six when folded and up to 12 when expanded. Available in white lacquer and fern-effect maple.


Ottomans—at least if they are thoughtfully designed—more often than not provide storage under the seat. Lounge II from Crate & Barrel, above, measures 43″ x 27″ x 17″ and is available in dozens of fabrics. What sets it apart from other ottomans is that it not only provides storage, but it also has a shelf or tray table inside, that lifts up and out (with a locking mechanism to prevent tipping). The ottoman is on casters for easy maneuverability and is constructed from kiln-dried hardwood to prevent warping.

The O-Ba adjustable table from Ligne Roset, above, is an ingenious piece of furniture that expands vertically and horizontally; it will seem twice its size when expanded—and it can actually achieve that! Its height is adjustable and it can be as low as 15″ or as high as just a hair under 30″ from the ground. The hinged top is 3/4″ thick and can open up to double its size. Available in white lacquer or black-stained oak.

Beds are available with many kinds of storage, and these two from Room and Board feature drawers under the mattress. Hudson, above top, is available in more than a half dozen tones of ash with a bark stain, and is produced in five different bed sizes. Avery, above, also features storage (and is also available in five bed sizes) and can be customized in over two dozen different canvas fabrics, including many neutral tones and some eye-popping shades, like fuchsia and turquoise.

Nesting tables are a wonderful space-saver, as are small tables that have storage chambers. These two unusual side tables from Ikea—ideal for bedside, porch, den, or anywhere, for that matter—offer deep storage in their inner compartments. Sandhaug, above top, comes in two different sizes, tall (about 23″) and squat (about 18″). It is made from peeled rattan and has a powdered epoxy top that lifts off. What makes the table so user-friendly is that there’s room inside for a power strip for chargers and you can run the cable to the outlet out of the base of the table. The PS 2014, above, is a stackable unit, approximately 18″ tall; it contains four storage chambers. Constructed from gaily colored ABS plastic.

Double-duty tables expand in size or adjust in height, but few actually offer storage. The Dualist from Ligne Roset offers hidden storage in its inner channel. The two ends of the table pull apart and inside you can handily stash serving ware or bedding for a living room sleep sofa. It is available in natural or anthracite-stained sawn oak and white lacquer.

The Cristallo table is yet another clever iteration of a table from Resource Furniture, that adjusts in height (coffee table to dining table) with two self-storing leaves to expand the length. It is available in several finishes, including glass, wood, new slate, and reclaimed pine. See the Cristallo table in action on YouTube.

The Alden storage bench is a smart take on the traditional ottoman, ideal for anywhere in the house, but especially useful at the foot of the bed. No longer available, but check Room and Board for other storage benches.

Ruth J. Katz covered service, shopping, and design for more than 20 years as an editor at Promenade, Redbook, Colonial Homes, Classic Home, The Modern Estate, and New York Home magazines; she wrote for many years for The New York Times and New York magazine and appeared weekly on Fox TV as the Home Services Editor. She is the author of five books.

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2 Responses to “Double-Duty Space-Saving Furniture”

  1. Sally Wendkos Olds Says:

    What a great article — I think I finally found the side table I have been looking for!

  2. Sally Wendkos Olds Says:

    Thanks to your article, I did buy a table that works great in my living room. This is it:

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