Machine for Living

The unfolding story of Sam Buxton’s MIKRO-House.

The inaugural London Design Festival held this past September brought together an action-packed weeklong series of product launches, debates, and exhibitions on the latest in contemporary design. Highlights included speakers such as Sir Terence Conran and Daniel Libeskind, who spoke at the World Creative Forum; the ever popular 100% Design furniture fair, and the Somewhere Totally Else exhibition, the London Design Museum’s first biennial exhibition of European design.


Sam Buxton is a talented young London designer whose work stands out from the crowd. I asked him to speak about his MIKRO-House, a miniature foldout stainless-steel sculpture of a meticulously detailed apartment, which is included in Somewhere and is available exclusively from the Design Museum shop ( in London and from Moss ( in New York.

I sketched the house in pencil on paper first, working on one long rectangular strip. After transferring the basic design to the computer and adding pieces I needed, an AutoCAD file was then sent to the manufacturer, who produces highly accurate photographic screens, like those used in screen-printing. A blank sheet of rolled stainless steel is placed between these screens and an acid resist is printed on both sides of the steel. The steel is then put through an acid bath that eats only where there is a gap in the resist, and in effect eats only half-way through one side of the stainless steel. So if you want to cut right through the stainless steel, the acid has to eat from above and below, meeting halfway. What this means is that if you have an area that is eating on the top but not on the bottom, you get a surface edge, such as the knives and forks on the table, for example.

The lounge also has Ron Arad’s Big Easy chair in addition to a clock and a shelving system I designed.

I came across an acid-etching process on stainless steel, which is used in the electronics industry to engineer very precise little metal components. I used this to make a card that starts flat and then can unfold it into a three-dimensional cartoon.

The biggest challenge was fitting enough objects in each room to make it seem realistic. The rooms look quite simple when they’re finished, but filling them, especially the bathroom or kitchen, meant spending a lot of time moving things around, trying to fit in as much as possible.

None of the pieces in the bathroom are anyone else’s designs, except for the toilet brush, which is designed by Stefano Giovannoni.

Some pieces are very detailed, such as the mobile phone on the table in the lounge.

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