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In the fantasy world I am writing, I have several species, including my dozing bear farmers you may have already read of, but also much smaller, mouse-looking humanoids. These people are taller than real-world mouses, but are still struggling to reach an adult human's waist, especially younger ones who may only reach the knees.

I'm concerned that my little ones have some difficulty living among taller species, especially when wandering in cosmopolitan cities, where space may be lacking to store bulky, different pieces of furniture for them, and/or where wildly public differences in treatments between races is frowned upon. Mouse people can walk quite fast for their size, so they should have no issues regarding long distances. But height is much more of an issue, especially in order to access and use furniture, such as the ones when resting in a tavern.

Indeed, accessing chairs or tables is strenuous because you will need to climb up every time you want to sit, and climb down every time you finished what you wanted to do. I've got this part of the problem mostly sorted out, since mouse people are pretty adept at climbing (for most of them, at least), and I have devised several contraptions like chair's ladders to cheer a leader up to the top, and this while hiding it relatively well into a decoration style.

What bothers me more is how they use it once they are in place. Even though they have easy access to their seat, if they can only see the table's border when standing up, their happiness won't be standing really high, neither. Therefore, something must be made for these poor little ones!

So what highest-quality objects would you, clever furniture designers, invent for two species of different size?

Namely, pieces of furniture for a medieval-fantasy inn's dining room where you will have lunch and start your usual tavern brawls1. Don't worry about bedrooms and bathrooms, I should be able to think something up once I have a nice and cozy approach. Usable technology can include most mechanical / physic components you can think of, excluding electricity and other (post-)industrial age energies as well as magic since that's a little overkill for this issue.

Here are some specific goals that must be achieved :

  • It should be comfortable enough for the two sizes.
  • People of different sizes should be able to stay together. You can have lunch with your human buddy if you want to.
  • No one should need external help for most tasks, aside from specific ones you do anyway like asking for that salt cellar at the other side of the table.
  • Proper hygiene prevents you from walking on where you eat, however, you can put your feet on where you would normally sit, and you can bend over the table like a kid trying to reach a far-away cookie pot, too.
  • I'd rather have customers not be on the floor. I have already thought of Japanese kotatsus and cushions in an oriental fashion, so I'd like to see other ideas instead. If you think this condition cannot be fulfilled, well... Tell why and your idea then. It would be sad but I can understand!

And a little bonus is given if you can keep it relatively hidden, like for instance as decoration! You're not forced to hide it, but as I said, ostentatious differences in treatment would not be really well perceived by other races, so it would be nice if you could.

1 : If you dare to make your pieces of furniture help in brawls, the innkeeper will be very sad, but it will be really fun.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Nov 17 '20 at 4:08
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    $\begingroup$ Check out what they do here: *"Yangsi, a remote village in China's Sichuan Province, has earned the unusual moniker of " Dwarf Village." Over the last century, Yangsi has had a highly disproportionate number of residents affected by stunted growth, with about 40 percent of its population (36 of its 80 residents) standing shorter than 120 centimeters (4′). listverse.com/2016/05/07/… $\endgroup$ – chasly - supports Monica Nov 18 '20 at 11:15

11 Answers 11

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Don't build up, build down.

The mouse people can use mouse sized chairs which are placed next to large but low tables. The Bears don't sit on the ground, instead you have in ground chairs / sofas.

Admittedly, this may be more expensive to set up and does not provide you with good tools for a brawl. But you may get mouse people thrown down the Bear Chairs.

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    $\begingroup$ Is my rough sketch what you thought of? If it's this setup, I think the only remaining, easily solvable issue would be more the space for the legs that may be (not even sure) a big gap to reach your food. An extendable floor plank and done! (N.B: you can add this picture to your answer if you want :) ) $\endgroup$ – Tortliena Nov 15 '20 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, something like this. I think you should add some safeguards so the mouse people can't fall down the hole easily. $\endgroup$ – Rolf Kreibaum Nov 15 '20 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ or a way to get out more easily if you fall in. That's a clever conception that avoids even climbing in the first place, I like it! $\endgroup$ – Tortliena Nov 15 '20 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ Nice thinking out of the box! @Tortliena: the way I see it, you could use "curtains" to close the holes. So, each seat would be surrounded by hardware (wood / stone). When a bear use the seat, there's a cushion at the bottom. When a human does, they pull on the mid-level horizontal curtain. When a mouse does, they pull on the top-level horizontal curtain. The cloth is soft enough not to need to move the bottom cushion. You just need to add some piece of wood so they can rest their feet (and not fall) and a ladder to get out if they do. $\endgroup$ – Matthieu M. Nov 16 '20 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ Chose your answer as my solution as it really gave me new ways of thinking. Plus it's simple, cool for culture creation ideas and avoid most if not all height issues, at the small cost of not being able to change the table setups as easily. $\endgroup$ – Tortliena Nov 18 '20 at 21:48
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Convertible furniture

Here are the seats that are spread around the table:

enter image description here

That's sized for the large animal to sit on comfortably. The base of the seat is low enough that the big animals thighs can fit comfortably under the table.

Back view:

enter image description here

If the small animal wishes to use the seat, they can climb the ladder.

The back of the seat rotates around the pictured dowel. It's back heavy (so doesn't fall and hit the big animals back), but when given a little push on the thing I painted purple (within the strength of a typical little animal):

enter image description here

The centre of balance crosses the centre of rotation and the chair back comes down. The small animal pushes from the centre, with the convenience hole to ensure they don't ruin their hairstyle. They climb up and take a seat:

enter image description here

A smaller animal can now sit with waist at table height, and because they have thinner bodies - much closer to the table.

The design actually has two small animal back rests - this is so that 2 small animals fill the space of one large one - so the a table of small animals don't have to sit so far away from each other.

The chair is now stable in the small animal configuration. Should a large animal later which to use the chair, they just need to lift the back up.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Wow, you went to 3D modeling! Surprisingly, I have thought of a flip-flap chair too the next morning after the question, but with the ladder behind the chair instead and using the climbing mouse's own weight to make it turn into "mouse mode". $\endgroup$ – Tortliena Nov 14 '20 at 17:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena there are many improvements to this design that could be made - this is just a rough sketch. Ladder behind would mean chairs can be closer together - a win. My original design was climbing up the middle through a hole in the middle but would be difficult to stack up and the bigs might not want the smalls having a ladder to their groins. $\endgroup$ – Ash Nov 14 '20 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ And again that large idiot trying to start a fight can flip the seat to lauch the unsuspecting mice into the air $\endgroup$ – Gwyn Nov 14 '20 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Gwyn Yes - (assuming the wood doesn't break under the load of trying to catapult them). But the bigs could launch the smalls by surprise in any furniture. $\endgroup$ – Ash Nov 14 '20 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ Latches could be used to keep the rotating piece in the desired orientation. Depending on the tech level, even a dowel that could be inserted half-ish way down the purple bit in "big" mode and the middle-ish of the ladder in "small" mode. Affix the dowel to a string like a pen on a chain so it doesn't get lost. I'd also add some padding so it's not too loud when the back becomes the seat. $\endgroup$ – minnmass Nov 15 '20 at 7:04
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Use the walls.

cat wall

https://www.catastrophicreations.com/getting-started-guide/designing-cat-wall/

Your mouse people face many of the same tribulations as cats. Cats live with large, uncautious humans and rambunctious dogs and kids. That is fine in small doses but not when it is time to eat, or sleep, or socialize in the cat manner with friend cats. Cats need a refuge and they can find it in the underused high spaces on walls.

So too your mice. Common rooms in the world have high ceilings because that helps with ventilation. The consequent high walls are underused by the large bear people for whom ladders seem risky; stairs are bad enough. The walls are the province of the mouse people. They will not be trodden upon or worse, fallen on by inebriated bear people. Everything is sized appropriately for them up there. Vertical transitions are fine and so the entire vertical space can be used as depicted in this cat wall. The bears trundle by beneath, mostly unnoticed.

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  • $\begingroup$ Having no cat, that's a solution to overall circulation I would have never thought of. Does this mean that tables and such would be put near walls so mouse people can sit and have lunch? $\endgroup$ – Tortliena Nov 14 '20 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ Tables on the floor near walls are for bear people, as is the case for human restaurants. Tables for mouse people would be on the walls, protruding, above head height for bear people. $\endgroup$ – Willk Nov 14 '20 at 22:49
  • $\begingroup$ That's a bit of a stretch regarding having different sized people eating together with the height difference, hmm... I'd better go with something like "draw bridge" seats or the like on walls, being able to be set and removed as customer needs go. This with proper wall positionning could fill in all conditions. $\endgroup$ – Tortliena Nov 15 '20 at 10:24
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Multi-Purpose furniture

You need furniture to handle customers of all sort of sizes and shapes. So you build it strong enough for the heaviest customer, and include features that allow it to be used by the smaller ones, to.

Example: A Tavern table with chairs for your Inn.

Chair: The big guy sits on the lower shelf, the midget sits on top. And has steps to make getting there easy! Feel free to include more than just the 2 levels. (Also note the convenient tail-hole, for customers with rearward appendages)

enter image description hereor enter image description here

For the table itself, a simple, low sturdy wooden table. Low, so that small and medium-sized individuals can reach it comfortably. enter image description here

"But that is too low for us BIG FOLK!", the Bear complains.

Well of course it is. That is why you serve the Big Folk's food and drink on a Bear-sized serving tray, which you put on top of the table in front of them.
enter image description here

You could of course makes separate, designated areas for each of the sizes. But that is uneconomical, and just downright RUDE. This is a Happy Place, where Big and Small (and medium) are all welcome to mingle!

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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander Thus spake the OP:"These people are taller than real-world mouses, but are still struggling to reach an adult human's waist"... next time, please read the actual OP posting first, hmmmkay? $\endgroup$ – user79911 Nov 15 '20 at 6:11
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Very high chairs

For humans, the problem of adults and children dining together is solved with high chairs and booster seats. In your case the sizes of dining guests are more diverse. The requirement that they should be able to sit together means that they have to share the same table, and we can play only with the seat height.

The tables in the tavern should accommodate the largest species. The seats would be adjustable. Medium sized guests would simply push their chair higher - but for the smallest guests extra large chairs would be too uncomfortable. They would need to put adequate sized boosters on top of big chairs. Several mouse-sized guests can sit side by side in their own boosters on top of one big chair.

Also, big chairs must be climbable for small guests.

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  • $\begingroup$ Adjustable chairs as well as allowing multiple mouses per big seat is a very nice idea, however, how do you plan to set up the booster seats? Or do they even need to be set-up? I'm a little concerned that it wouldn't be easy for mouse people to do that part :(. $\endgroup$ – Tortliena Nov 14 '20 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena For booster seats, they either have to be helped by big guys, or integrated with the back or armrest of big chairs. For mouse people, bringing booster seats from the ground would be just too difficult. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Nov 15 '20 at 1:46
  • $\begingroup$ Donwside this only works if your serving staff is the largest size. $\endgroup$ – John Nov 15 '20 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ @John The medium size can serve the largest size just fine. But the small size can't serve the largest, true, at least without a number of mechanical inventions. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Nov 16 '20 at 8:14
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Tables on tables.

Tables and chairs are human-sized. Bears are large enough to stand at the table at the same level as sitting humans. Here we see a grizzly bear beside a lawn chair. It's about the right height to have a conversation with a sitting human.

enter image description here

Later on the bear sits down and the head doesn't change height. So sitting on cushions is also an option.

Bears take up more space behind the table. Just use moveable tables in case you have more/fewer bears on any given day.

Small humanoids sit on top of the table at a smaller table and chairs set.

Case study: The Bee Movie.

enter image description here

Second Case study:

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ This is the best answer because it is as practical as all others but also has the Yo Dawg meme. $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Nov 14 '20 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, uh... Sooorrry :'(... My bear men stand up ^^". But if later, I add quadrupeds races, I'd definitely look back at it. For the "tableception" idea, when reaching their small table, how can mouse people avoid dirtying the big one? Or is this part of the table exclusively reserved for them? $\endgroup$ – Tortliena Nov 14 '20 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena Use place mats? If a human server is setting a table placing for a mouse, they put down a woven place mat to protect the larger table agains scratches from the small table and incidentally from dirty boot prints too. $\endgroup$ – Gwyn Nov 14 '20 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Gwyn You always want to put something under the small chair and table set, so the little people are at a higher level than the food. Not doing so is a pretty big faux-pas and/or racial insult. $\endgroup$ – Daron Nov 14 '20 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ I mean it would be considered rude for the small people's chair to rest on the same surface as the plates because it's too much like making them eat off the floor. So put something like a placemat under them. But make sure not to call it a placemat! $\endgroup$ – Daron Nov 14 '20 at 18:52
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Make your human sized chairs with short arm rests that extend two thirds of the length of the seats and a back rest that has a hinge just above the arm rests ( with a locking pin on the side to keep the back rest upright when a human is sitting in it.

When a mouse person uses it, they pull up the pin and fold down the upper section so it rests on the arm rests forming a higher seat and can place their feet on the protruding last third of the human sized seat.

As for bar fights, if you leave an edge or handle to help flip the mouse seat back up to back rest position, an idiot trying to start a fight can slap a heavy hand down on this protrusion at the back of the mouse seat, flipping it up and launching the poor mouse into the air ...

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  • $\begingroup$ The pin solves very well the weight problem of flip-flap back rest designs; The back rest can be also a drink and food catapult, too. Ohhh, gosh... The bartender will be very mad :D! $\endgroup$ – Tortliena Nov 14 '20 at 18:36
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Leather (from local animal skins) inflated trapped air chairs around a table/bar. Using a sprawling web of compressed air filled pipes and contraptions to inflate and deflate the durable and flexible material chairs. A heavier bear farmer would be comfortable in a fairly deflated chair while still being hygienically off of the floor. Mouse people could be given the height,support and equal status at full inflation to sit eye to eye with their companions, given free movement and access to tables without obstruction. Everyone takes a moment to get settled in these types of chairs.

I would suggest a valve to let air out, allowing a mouse to climb on at their height, close the valve and wait a short while for it to inflate to the desired height of their companions. And open a valve again to descend.

They would be more likely to survive tavern brawls and once deflated easy to pack away if needed. Depending on the type of tavern and whether brawls are encouraged pipes can be hidden or on decorative show.

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Imagine a canvas director’s chair. A wooden X frame, two wooden armrests, and a canvas seat and back. Now, remove each wooden armrest and replace with a tiny director’s chair. Call this object a mouse-bear chair. A bear sits in the “director’s seat”, places their arms in the canvas “armrests”, and places their stuff on the floor. A mouse sits in the “armrests”, and places their stuff on the “director’s chair”. You have one object that either seats one bear or two mice (and their stuff). Let’s call this object a “mouse-bear chair”.

Now imagine a typical bar. A long slab of wood with a series of stools. But instead of stools, you have “mouse-bear chairs”. If you have a bar with three “mouse-bear chairs”, you can sit three bears, or six mice, or some combination (if the bears and mice are willing to share personal space).

Everyone eats off the same surface (the bar). Bears put their butts on the canvas “director’s seat”. Mice put their butts on the canvas “director’s armrests”. Anyone with a tail is free to wiggle that tail. Bears put their feet on the floor. Mice let their feet dangle, or might have special built-in footrests in posh places. Bears could use a “mouse-bear chair” like a fancy chair in a brawl. Mice would treat a “mouse-bear chair” as a huge heavy cafeteria bench in a brawl. Beware the mouse that could lift one of these things!

No feet touch the bar.

Noone has to sit on the floor.

Noone has to awkwardly ask for special help or equipment to eat their meal.

The only problem is if a bear doesn’t push their chair in after leaving the bar, and the next (mouse) customer has trouble either moving the mouse-bear chair or reaching the bar. This would be very poor form on the bear’s part. Rude!

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how about extra wide armrests for the bigger population, that can serve as seating for the smaller ones. you could quite easily imagine some sort of small-person-backrest that folds away into the armrest when used by a big guy.

The small guys are gonna have issues moving their chairs once seated, but I think that's hard to avoid. some sort of sliding mechanism on the armrest could mitigate this somewhat, possibly adding wheels to something similar what a modern day drawer would have, if you don't think that's too advanced for your medieval setting.

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So many answers! It was sooo hard to decide which one helped me the most. Still, thanks to all of them (thanks!), they oiled a few cogs in my brain and ideas started flowing in. So I thought people looking at this question behind me would like to see more concepts. Here are two more solutions with my drawings to show what it would look like, roughly.

The sit-in table

Drawing of a table with an extending, sliding seat

This solution is a table extension, working as a seat instead. One has to pull it out using sliders -or rotating hinges- in order to sit on it. Any small one can then reach it with the existing seat.

The design limits the table's legs location, but otherwise it can be really well hidden under or inside the table (as most extensions do), and a lock can be added to prevent the seat to slide back, pinching the legs of the unfortunate ones sitting on it.

The swing seat

Drawing of a swing used as a seat, with a rope to adjust the height

This concept is based on swings like ones in gardens. Instead of having that annoying leg on the bottom, put a retractable one on the top! Then use a pulley system to rise or to lower the seat. Here, it is on the side for more clarity, but it could be incorporated on the chair with a wheel that could be turned, for instance.

The biggest issue is that it makes harder to move seats around, but on the positive side, it's easier to clean the floor. While it could seem so, climbing it isn't that hard if you put small holes like I did on the seat's front and with proper weight balancing.

Note from the bartender : Swinging chairs around the tavern can lead to injuries, and is therefore strictly forbidden. Also, you are not "the hero striking the evil lord" when you leap from a swinging chair and on other customers while in an inebriated state.

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