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Finnish furniture for refugees gains ground at Milan design expo

Makeshift furniture invented with refugee accommodation in mind is making waves at a design fair in Italy.

Pahvisia hätämajoituskalusteita
The lightweight units can be moved and assembled with ease. Image: Antti Turunen / Rehome

A team from the Lahti University of Applied Sciences has invented a range of domestic furniture called Rehome designed for the emergency housing needs of immigrants and refugees. The various units are manufactured by Finnish companies Stora Enso, Isku, Korvenranta Ltd. and Koskisen Ltd.

The cardboard and plywood products can be easily transported and quickly assembled for use in dire housing circumstances. The innovation has sparked international interest at a satellite event for the Salone Internazionale del Mobile design fair in Milan.

Lecturer and project head Vesa Damski from the Lahti University of Applied Sciences says the expo is similar to the tech jamboree Slush, but for start-ups and new applications in furniture design. The Milan fair receives more than 300,000 visitors a year from more than 160 countries.

Damski says that more than 100,000 people will see his team's handiwork at the event, in large part due to the motivation behind the Rehome series.

"Our ideas and these pieces of furniture are gaining ground because the refugee crisis is seen as a shared threat," Damski says, referring also to the European migrant crisis which is particularly evident in host country Italy.

Big plans

The Lahti group next aim to get their innovations into industry magazines, which could spur professional collaborations. Damski says that some visitors to the Rehome booth have reacted with earnest emotion.

"The reaction has been very positive, even emotional. Our concept paves the way for people to think about design as more than just luxury and status. Clever design can be used to solve pressing global issues," Damski holds.

In early May the Rehome series will make its way to Jordan in the Middle East, where aid organisation representatives will be in attendance at a local exhibition.

"In a way the Rehome concept will for the first time be scrutinised based on its practical applications as methods to potentially alleviate difficult situations," says Damski.

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