By 2050, an estimated 70% of the world's population will be living in urban centers. More city folk means smaller apartments and compact living spaces—but rather than retreat into dollhouse-size furniture, designers and consumers are responding with alacrity. "People are moving toward modular pieces for flexibility," says Brooke Stoddard, creative director of website Project Decor, which is like a commerce-ready Pinterest for furniture that lets her track buying trends in real time. "The design of hotel, business, and spa spaces is informing how people think about their homes," she says. "Consumers want options. These pieces let you adapt." And prepare for new neighbors.
1 T.Shelf by J1
Jae Won Cho—known as J1—builds pieces that fall between utility and sculpture. This plywood shelf needs only zip ties to form myriad shapes. ($400, j1studio.com)
2 ABC bookshelves by Saporiti
Italian designers Eva Alessandrini and Roberto Saporiti created an ultra-meta set of bookshelves, available in all 26 letters of the alphabet. ($300 each, saporiti.net)
3 Keer by Reinier de Jong
Lightweight polyethylene was used for this three-piece seat, which, when flipped, works three ways: as a lounge, a stool, and a side chair. ($190, reinierdejong.com)
4 Boxer by Matter
Designed for New Yorkers by New Yorkers, this cabinet lets owners choose from two to eight patchwork triangle-spangled units. (Price upon request, mattermatters.com)
A version of this article appeared in the September 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.