See how a pair of product designers makes use of every inch of their small home
Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Jess Chamberlain
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An R&D lab for living
Every piece of furniture that Makoto Mizutani and Ben Luddy create for their design company, Scout Regalia, is a product of necessity. The couple needed a place to eat but had no dining room in their tiny L.A. cottage, so they designed one for their backyard. They wanted a built-in bookcase but they’re renters, so they came up with a movable one to look the part. They pinpoint each new project, Ben says, “when we’re looking for something as customers, but can’t find it in the marketplace.”
In the process—whether they’re test-driving a pair of bedside tables (and realizing that their original design doesn’t work particularly well for stacking magazines), or watching how the wood weathers on that outdoor table—Makoto and Ben have turned both house and garden into an R&D lab for living.
“We do it all,” Ben says, “from designing the product to building it to getting it on the website, marketing it, and shipping it ourselves.” A mere 650 square feet is small for a two-person home, though, much less one that also serves as a do-it-all workspace. The couple’s secret weapon? The backyard, which is a full extra lot––almost 4,000 square feet. “It’s an ideal testing ground for new Scout Regalia projects,” says Makoto. “Especially here in Los Angeles, where we can be outdoors year-round.” Besides, she adds, their old Brooklyn apartment was just 300 square feet. “This feels like so much space.”
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Versatile living room
In the multifunction main room, a midcentury Hans Wegner daybed does triple duty: sofa, guest bed for visitors, and “conference room” seating for business meetings.
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The office desktop is made from solid-core doors atop plywood storage shelf units that Makoto and Ben designed. Corklike Homasote board covers the wall.
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This bed's backrest slides up to reveal storage. On the headboard, you push in on a hinged panel to access a similar space.
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Ben and Makoto designed their raised beds to be easy to disassemble, which lets them plant their vegetables wherever the sun shines most (sometimes atop concrete). They’ll also be able to take the beds with them to their next home.
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Plus: 5 cool home design prototypes
“Live and learn” goes the old saying––these 5 projects prove it’s true. Ben and Makoto designed these prototypes to make use of their small space, and learned how to best enhance their products through the process.
This design was so simple that Ben and Makoto turned it into a DIY project, posting instructions in a PDF on their website (scoutregalia.com). “We don’t make a cent off it, but I love the idea,” says Makoto.
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Scout Regalia outdoor dining set
This first edition was made with steel, not aluminum. “It took two people to move a bench,” says Ben. FSC-certified redwood or white oak, 210 powder-coated colors; from $2,100.
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Scout Regalia garden kits
Scout Regalia’s first retail venture, these kits include everything you need to build your own raised beds (brackets, screws, and drainage fabric) minus the wood. From $95.
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Ben cites this product-in-progress as an example of learning from one’s mistakes: The V-shaped slot in the table’s top impinges inconveniently on the space at the back of the shelf.
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Scout Regalia bookcase
Available as a one-, two-, or three-bay system with levelers on each leg. “Just because you’re a renter,” Makoto says, “doesn’t mean you can’t have nice-looking things.” From $3,000.