From sushi to your sitting room
The question would have estate agents licking their lips: how do you turn a one-room flat into a fourroom flat? It’s also the puzzle which Simon Woodroffe set himself, and which he believes he has solved.
How? By combining theatrical scene-shifting (he used to design stage shows for Rod Stewart and Madness) with Japanese slidingscreen technology. After his time in music, Woodroffe founded Yo! Sushi in 1997, spotting a gap in the market for healthy Japanese food. When he sold his controlling interest, in 2003, it was worth £10million.
Given that Japan crams even more people in less space than London, it’s unsurprising that they have come up with some innovative space solutions. A hotel was the logical next step. Then in 2008 he launched Yotel – pared-down hotels you can hire by the hour at Gatwick and Heathrow airports.
Now he is moving into homes. Domestic space is growing tighter than ever. Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that it’s not only in London that the number of people has increased over the past 10 years (from 7.3million to 8.2million). Over the same period, the population in Newcastle has grown by 13.2 per cent, in Bristol by 14.1 per cent and in Leeds by 17.9 per cent.
“The same thing is happening in cities all over the world,” says Woodroffe. “Which is why we’re not just going to build brand new Yo! Home developments, we’re also going to convert existing Seventies and Eighties office blocks.”
So far he has got no further than a “Yototype”. But he is confident that, as cities get more crowded, his Yo! Home concept will catch on.
There’s no doubting the inventiveness of his design. One minute, he is sitting in a sunken lounge area, feet up on a coffee table. Then he pushes a button, and down from the ceiling comes a capacious double bed, which fits neatly over the area, where he was just sitting.
Next a dining area opens up like a trapdoor in the kitchen floor. Wall panels fold away to reveal a steam oven, fridge-freezer, cooker, sink and dishwashing machine.
The office desk disappears into the wall, and a single bed emerges in its place. It is screened off by another wall-on-runners that turns the office area into a cosy second bedroom. Don’t forget the cinema screen, which can be conjured down from above, and watched either in bedroom or living-room mode. The whole thing is spectacular, like a scene from Thunderbirds.
“It is a standard-size, singlestorey apartment that measures 80 square metres. But in effect, it contains an 80-square-metre living room, an 80-square-metre bedroom, an 80-square-metre kitchen and an 80-square-metre dining room,” says Woodroffe.
“Plus, you have two cinemas, one
Watch this space: Simon Woodroffe demonstrates a bedroom/living room transformation in his Yo! Home ‘Yototype’, top; which also has office, kitchen and bathroom areas, left