While Umbra, the Canadian housewares purveyor best known for kitchen doodads, Karim Rashid-designed trash cans, and closet organization accoutrement, has long exhibited a knack for marrying the utilitarian with the design-y, the company’s new extension, Umbra Shift, takes things to a whole new level.

Making its world debut at the just-wrapped-up International Contemporary Furniture Fair in Manhattan, Umbra Shift “focuses on contemporary influences in the design community” by tapping into the talents of emerging and established designers along with its in-house design team. The result, in the words of the company, is a “collection that expresses diverse points of view, yet sits together with a shared belief in ideas that are functional, familiar, and forward thinking.”

I had the chance to view Umbra Shift in person at ICFF this past weekend and I was amazed by how, well, un-Umbra-y the collection is. It’s a departure, and very much in a good way. Uniformly strong with an emphasis on traditional materials and techniques, it was hard to settle on just one favorite piece. Inspired by traditional basket-making techniques of the Philippines, Harry Allen’s colorful collection of Coiled Stools was one highlight. Same goes for the Pleated series of earthenware planters and vases with self-watering wicks from Toronto-based studio MSDS. Paul Loebach’s LED Cup Lamps and Iceland-born Hylnur Atlason’s hand-woven abaca Floor Mats also grabbed my attention.

But the true showstopper of the collection comes in the form of French Canadian designer Philippe Malouin’s simple yet elegant plywood folding chairs that playfully mimic the form of your ordinary clothes hanger.

Provided that there’s room to spare in a closet or available space on a wall in which to suspend them, the Hanger Chair is a shoo-in for tiny houses, square footage-challenged apartments, and other space-strapped dwellings where guest seating would come in handy but available floor/storage space is at a bare minimum.

Explains Malouin of the design, which has actually been kicking around for several years now (sister site TreeHugger featured the Hanger Chair back in 2008 when it was first exhibited by Malouin):

'Occasional furniture'. The name should be self explanatory, but it is somewhat incorrect in most cases. These pieces tend to lie around the house, stacked in a corner, or in an unused room. When space is an issue, as is the case for most European city dwellers, an object such as a folding chair will clutter up the precious available space.

The Hanger Chair is a folding chair based on one of the ultimate storage systems: the modest hanger. It allows us to store clothes in an orderly fashion. Most houses or flats are equipped with a wardrobe to receive the object.

By morphing the function of the hanger with that of the folding chair, a new hybrid is born: a Hanger Chair that has a function, even when not in use, to store our clothes in an orderly fashion.

Available in five different solid colors, the Hanger Chair along with the rest of the Umbra Shift collection will hit stores in the coming weeks.

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