Opinion

Color-Changing Furniture Controlled by Electrical Pulses

Ron Arad's color-changing furniture (All images via dezeen.com)
Ron Arad’s color-changing furniture (All images via Dezeen)

Part of choosing to buy an aesthetic object, whether that’s a piece of art, a decorative sculpture, or a provocative furniture item, is committing to living with it. Sure, your Zaha Hadid desk looks amazing, but would you really want to do work on it every day? Into that conundrum comes British designer Ron Arad whose new series No Bad Colors is a series of pieces that can change in response to any environment.

Color-changing panel by Ron Arad
Color-changing panel by Ron Arad

Debuting at this year’s Milan Design Week, Arad’s series takes advantage of a new technology to create color-changing surfaces that can be modified at will by the buyer. A slab-like workstation with is covered in a grid of colored boxes. It might be intimidating to commit to such an audacious pattern in your home or workplace, but Arad’s desk has a trick up its sleeve: The boxes can switch their hues at a moment’s notice, shifting from pale green to bright red, yellow, or black. A dramatic, graphic wall pattern can perform similar transformations. Switching the color is as easy as using a smartphone app.

The technology behind this material is called Active True Color, from the company Versatile Technologies. Arad’s pieces are covered in transparent sheets that enclose a layer of fluid. Applying electricity to the fluid reorients its molecules, allowing it to create a range of colors. Once the electricity is applied to the material, the color change is stable — it requires very little power and doesn’t emit light. That’s one of the chief advantages of the innovation. Earlier color-shifting displays had to use backlighting or LEDs. The Active True Color, by contrast, look good under external light. “We are talking about reflecting rather than transmitting colors,” Arad explained in a statement.

A wall of color-changing tile by Ron Arad in Milan
A wall of color-changing tile by Ron Arad in Milan

Arad’s designs are only the beginning of dynamic furniture. The company plans to develop an array of different architectural finishes enhanced with color-changing elements, from wood and metals to fabric and leather. With these innovative new materials, it will be possible to switch up the look of a design object even after you’ve plunked down a hefty chunk of change for it. As Versatile CEO Eyal Cohen said, the designs will be able to “evolve based on life’s ever-changing moments in time.”

The video demonstrating the technology shown above illustrates an entire wall slowly changing color, instantly changing the mood of the room. It’s perfect for an office, home, or restaurant, providing aesthetic flexibility to spaces that have to fulfill multiple functions. At the very least, you’ll never have to paint your bedroom walls again.

Arad’s creations are part of Office For Living, an exhibition curated by architect Jean Nouvel at the Salone Officio area at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan this week.

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