A new modular furniture system, designed by Panter&Tourron, prizes flexibility

Vitra’s Anagram Sofa Could Fix Me

Vitra’s Anagram Sofa

Remember couchsurfing? The act, codified by its eponymous website, meant offering your space up to those who needed a place to crash. The couch became a bed, and suddenly your living room is a hotel room. Lately couches have become much more: They are workplaces, as WFH often means WFC (working from couch); after school hangouts for kids; sites of friends reuniting after years apart; and campsites after you say the wrong thing to your partner. In short, the couch ought to be mutable enough to handle contemporary life, but they often are not. Seemingly everything these days about our homes—where we live, who we live with, where we work, what objects we choose to keep, how we consume media—exists in a state of flux. Why must our furniture remain so static?

black vitra couch
The system allows for endless configurations, from reading nooks, and L and S–shapes, to sleeping areas, and island-like meeting points (Courtesy Vitra)

side of black vitra couch
The system is designed as a series of islands that can be combined with other modules on four sides and fitted with attachments: backrests, side panels, and tables (Courtesy Vitra)

Enter Vitra’s Anagram Sofa, a flexible furniture system designed by Stefano Panterotto and Alexis Tourron of the Lausanne-based design studio Panter&Tourron. It begins with rectangular platforms that can be clipped together along an outer shaped rail cast into the frames which turn the corner with a handsome diecast leg. Additional components—backrests, side panels, and tables—can be attached along all four sides. These elements can be removed or adjusted easily, making for a sturdy array of pieces that can be rearranged for different activities. These platforms can make all kinds of shapes: Ls, Ss, Fs, pinwheels, mirrored pairs, deep daybeds, the list goes on… In response to the lack of customization available with most modular couches—a left-corner piece can only be used in that position, for example—the possible customization here, including fabrics, feels endless. An online configurator will help U.S. customers make decisions when the product becomes available in September.

yellow couch
The frame is made with aluminum, featuring 80 percent recycled materials and nothing glued, laminated, or foamed (Courtesy Vitra)

The result is that your couch can take on a different set-up when you’re on deadline, or when it’s movie night, or when the grandkids come over, or when you move into a new (larger) apartment. A responsive sofa means that this big, bulky, expensive part of your interior can better accommodate your lifestyle. “A sofa is an important character in the home and usually one of the largest objects,” Panter&Tourron observed. “It is very important that it can evolve with you, otherwise you won’t enjoy a long life together.”

pink cushions
Cushions are made of 100 percent recycled PET fibers and contain zero animal-based products (Courtesy Vitra)

yellow and orange
Fabric is easy to remove for cleaning or replacement (Courtesy Vitra)

Part of the Anagram Sofa’s strength is that its design acknowledges that domestic life is no longer centered around the hearth or the television. Our attention is (too often) directed downward, toward phones, tablets, and laptops—sometimes, perhaps, even books. With the requirement for all users to have their vision directed toward the same surface lifted, the sofa becomes a dais of variable media feeds and attentions, alterable when needed if there’s a special event or a change in circumstances.

The Anagram Sofa also encourages furniture to exit its wallflower era: This piece doesn’t have an unsightly backside, so it can command center stage in the middle of a room. It looks great from all sides. Thanks to its various platform sizes, the system might perform well in small rooms but can also expand to create a flotilla of more communal arrangements where multiple people might need a sofa for different activities at the same time, say in a large house where residents aren’t related or in a coliving shared space.

couch with side tables
The platforms feature an outer rail that makes it easy for accessories to click into place and moved around with ease (Courtesy Vitra)

Anagram Sofa was on display in Vitra’s showroom
During 3 Days of Design, the Anagram Sofa was on display in Vitra’s showroom (Courtesy Vitra)

Panter&Tourron focused on designing for disassembly. Furniture is a “very complex archetype where everything is glued, [and] everything is bounded together,” Tourron said at the release event in Copenhagen during 3 Days of Design last month, where guests lounged on various configurations of the Anagram Sofa in Vitra’s showroom. This method of industrial production produces “a heavy fossilized being” which includes “vast quantities of plastic,” the duo explained via press materials. The Anagram Sofa is an exit from this paradigm, as its demountable pieces can be repaired, replaced, exchanged, or customized. The ambitious idea, which springs from Vitra’s sustainability-minded development guidelines, is an attempt to deliver a sofa system that anticipates how we might live decades from now, in a future that seems more uncertain with each passing year.

anagram sofa
The Anagram is an attempt to deliver a sofa system that anticipates how we might live decades from now (Courtesy Vitra)

Panterotto and Tourron’s journey with flexibility began in 2017 when working with Samara, the ADU start-up cofounded by Airbnb cofounder (and RISD alum) Joe Gebbia, on its Backyard concept. “This experience opened up a new vision of how we live today, how we might live in the future, and how we adapt furniture to these new ways of living,” Panterotto said. Their process continued with a flat-pack sofa for IKEA that could be compressed into an envelope. This latest project, for Vitra, builds on their expertise to offer a product that responds to social and cultural changes.

The Anagram Sofa offers a relaxed way of sitting that wasn’t previously available in Vitra’s portfolio—the feel is lower, deeper, and cozier. In Copenhagen, attendees were able to swap out panels and test out the ride for themselves. It doesn’t disappoint in comfort, construction, and concept.

green lounge
The sofa system features a lightweight profile and low seating (Courtesy Vitra)

The work seems to be the result of the millennial designers’ own peripatetic lives as they bounced across continents, purchasing and discarding cheap furniture along the way. Panterotto and Tourron understand this reality of movement because it is their own: As young people are faced with soaring housing costs, reduced wages, college debt, delayed procreation (if at all), looming political mayhem, and environmental collapse, the vision of what a possible good life can be has shifted dramatically. (“Instead of the dream being owning a suburban house with a yard, for many it has been reduced to an apartment with good light and an inoffensive sofa,” I wrote back in the early 2020s.) A good couch, then, might be one vehicle with which to navigate the rocky, precarious terrain of life. While Vitra’s is priced like a used car—the entry point is around $11,000 for simpler versions—it will no doubt be of serviceable use for much longer.

edge of sofa
Attention was paid to the design of each side of the sofa to enable configurations in the center of the room (Courtesy Vitra)

edge of sofa and cushion
The entry-level price of the sofa starts at around $11,000 (Courtesy Vitra)

Looking ahead, there may be future versions of the system that expand its usage. In conversation in Copenhagen, Tourron hinted that a version directed at workplaces might have a powered platform rail, which would allow devices to plug in. It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which you crush a quarterly Zoom review of your KPIs from the comfort of an Anagram Sofa at your coworking space only to ebike home to your personal Anagram Sofa to Netflix and chill the night away. Sounds cozy, no? Thanks to Panter&Tourron’s work for Vitra, the future looks more comfortable than ever.