Good ideas don’t come with a timeline. You can’t rush creativity, it is believed, and that’s something Stellar Works CEO Yuichiro Hori and Sony Design Center Director Hirotaka Tako understand deeply. In fact, the luminaries of the design, who have been friends for a decade, after many years of conversations and exchanges, have found the right path for the furniture precursor and the technological powerhouse to collaborate. As Tako jokes, ‘Every year we would say, “In five years, what if we did [collab] next year?” Then three years later, we asked ourselves: “So we do next year?” And then finally the idea came up last year.
“Staydream”: the digital life of Sony and Stellar Works
Enter ‘Staydream – A Surreal Reality’, a prototype concept unveiled for NYCxDesign 2023 that integrates technology into the way people live (or can optimally live). As Hori says, “we want to show the lifestyle”. Stepping into the Stellar Works showroom in Manhattan, which housed the collaboration during New York Design Week, you discovered a vision of “real space environments to incorporate into your life,” says Taro.
Seven “Experience Zones” have integrated Stellar Works craftsmanship with Sony’s digital ingenuity. For example, “Beyond Wallpaper” combined Calico Wallpaper’s “Escape Collection” with an interactive series of projections from Sony that responded to the occupants of the space and moved with them. The projection moon was controlled by a cup of coffee – walk with the cup and the moon would follow. Users were able to change the scenery by flipping an hourglass-shaped “remote control.”
Perhaps the most pioneering products on display, which will (probably!) eventually land in the hospitality industry, were the ‘Byōbu’ room dividers – their name is taken from the Japanese word for ‘folding screens’. Large-scale wooden room dividers with speakers and other seamlessly integrated technologies can play music but also respond to the immediate surroundings as well as the outside world. It’s raining outside? The ‘Byōbu’ will play rain sounds. Want music for a space that isn’t floating around in another room? The ‘Byōbu’ concentrates the sound in the specific space. “This technology is trying to make your life better, more than just for convenience,” says Taro.
For example, the “Byōbu” screens were integrated into a vignette titled “Feast of Life”, where Stellar Work’s “Everyday” pendant was tied to screen technology. As visitors walked through the room, the lights turned on or off depending on their location. Meanwhile, in the “Nature’s Chorus” display, the “Everyday” pendant and “Byōbu” were synchronized with the sounds of nature outside (like birds) to create “a cave experience,” explains Taro.
And of course, there was Hori’s favorite setup: “I asked Hiro how to run a home theater in bed.” The “Byōbu Bed” has seamlessly integrated sound and projection elements into a self-contained sleeping environment covered in Kvadrat fabric. Imagine a cocoon with entertainment at its feet, sound behind its head, and everything else you might need close at hand (like a champagne rack!). “When I first sketched this one, I still couldn’t believe how it could be produced and designed,” Tako says, but working with the Stellar Works factory, the prototype was completed in just four months.
“If you don’t do these challenges, there’s no discovery, there’s no game changer,” concludes Hori.