Meeting Wouter Myny, the designer behind the SecretAir – The discrete home office sideboard and winner of the “Innovation of the Year”.

May 7, 2021

Winner of the first edition of the SIT Furniture Design Award “Innovation of the Year” prize, Wouter Myny shares his professional journey and his learnings from the first prototype of the SecretAir – The discrete home office sideboard.

How did you discover your passion for Design?

When I was a kid, I always thought I would become a mechanical engineer, just like my dad. I had a great interest in how things worked, and I assumed I would have a pure technical profession. But when I visited an exhibition where schools and universities presented their studies, I met this professor who talked so passionate about industrial design that I immediately felt this was what I wanted to do. Since that day, I never looked back. I took a master’s in industrial design, won the prize for the best master project, and have been an industrial designer ever since. It did not just become a job, but a lifestyle.

Could you tell us a little about your professional journey?

After I took my master’s degree in Belgium, I started working in Sobinco, a company designing and producing components to operate aluminium windows and doors. I soon started developing products for the southern European market and I traveled frequently to Portugal to work closely with our Portuguese colleagues. It was an interesting journey to work together with different cultures. Already back then I started designing other things (ceramics, exhibition stands, graphics) in my free time.

After some years, I moved together with my wife to Norway. I first worked some time with technical design in an oil service company, but I soon started missing the design for users, user interaction, and working with ergonomics and aesthetics. 10 years ago, I started as a product designer at Inventas, Norway’s leading one-stop-shop for product development consultancy. I have worked with aquaculture, med-tech, consumer products, and many start-ups. I recently became team lead for industrial design at Inventas.

All this time, besides my day job, I have been working with my other great passion, furniture design. I have designed and built most of the furniture at home and now went all-in with the development of the home office sideboard.

What was your design process when working on “SecretAir: The discrete home office sideboard”?

This piece of furniture originates from the need to have a home office integrated into the living room. There exist many beautiful office desks for living rooms in the market, but the reality with open desks is they are never as tidy as shown in the advertisements once you start using them. The annoyance of an untidy desk messing up a living room and the constant reminder of the work to be done started the process of finding a better solution.

As the use of the home office is increasing, not only because of the pandemic, I interviewed many persons who often work from home to find out what the user needs were. Based on the specifications they addressed, I started sketching and made many iterations, based on their feedback.

At Inventas, we are technology optimists, believing technology can solve many challenges. Also, in this case, the key to the solution was found in the integration of technology. After the concept was found, I started 3D modeling and produced the first prototype. Even though the prototype confirmed that the concept is an excellent solution, there was still room for improvement. I had a new round with interviews with the potential users and went back to the drawing table to redesign the sideboard. After many sleepless nights with sketching, 3D modeling, and rendering, the result was sent to the SIT Furniture Design Award competition.

What was the main learning from the first prototype?

I underestimated the positive mental effect of literally being able to open the office in the morning and to “leave work” after the working day. Even while being at home, the desk really becomes a working space where you can focus on what you planned to do. With traditional office desks or using the dining table as a home office, the PC, screen, etc. are always visible. It can be disturbing with work constantly looking over your shoulder.

Can you please share with us, what becoming the winner of the “Innovation of the Year” means to you?

Winning the “Innovation of the Year” prize means a lot in many ways. Getting the confirmation that the concept and the way it was integrated is a good solution, gives an enormous boost to continue the hard work. I feel honored to receive the award, evaluated by an international jury of professionals who have been in the business for many years.

Another reason why winning the prize is so important is that I now get an opportunity to show the product to the public, which I otherwise never could have reached. I really hope the sideboard will catch the attention of some furniture manufacturers with a sales network, so we can cooperate to bring it to the market.

What are you working on now? What is in the pipeline for you?

In the short term, the main focus will be to get SecretAir to the market. I also plan to further develop an entire product range with different variants, based on different user needs. In addition, the product needs other sideboards and a TV bench, so we can deliver an entire product family fitting together in one living room.

I have also designed some other pieces of furniture that I will continue to develop.

What can we wish you for in the future?

I wish that in the near future can start cooperating with a furniture manufacturer, wherewith mutual respect we can make the best out of it.

More information on the SecretAir.