One of my sons has just set out for university in Paris and has found an apartment to share with his girlfriend. The whole place is the size of my master bedroom - not that big.
His space has been well-designed to accommodate the latest in apartment furniture, which has taken the world by storm for small spaces. The Europeans lead the way because homes traditionally have been smaller and more compact.
Young people are far more conscious of design today and the almost limitless choices that are available. Television, the Internet and travel have opened up new avenues of thought on how to fashion a lifestyle that complements your age and interests. And it’s more than globalization that has spurred this trend.
Excellent, inspired design – once the purview of high-end decorating in North America – began to emerge at an affordable price in the late ’70s and early ’80s. You could witness the transition at a few remarkable retail stores – Umbra, for one, asked their designers to create great-looking products anyone could afford. What a hit they made.
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The challenge for these designers was, and is, to take an everyday household item that has a practical use and give it some style, some pizzazz. Umbra’s prize-winning Garbino trash can is a classic example. In the ’90s, trash cans were rectangular, black or white, plastic or metal. Not much happening there. Umbra asked world-class designer Karim Rashid to come up with an affordable alternative. The Garbino series, which debuted in 1996, was a runaway commercial hit, and was selected to be part of New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. The can is sleek, curved so that trash easily slides in and out, and has built-in handles. Available in colors that match up with annual trends, this year it’s Eco Green; the simple object looks and feels good, making a mundane chore more pleasant.
The company’s goal is to create everyday products that alter the overall aesthetics of a home. But good retailers are also on the lookout for home-decorating trends and how they can capitalize on specific markets. Right now, wall decor is a huge trend. Walls are being decorated not simply with framed art but by series of shapes or motifs that you can group onto your wall. Umbra’s Orblet series is a set of 10 laser-cut acrylic mirrors with fresh, appealing shapes, or their Tweet series, which is six chrome birds you can place on any wall for fun, and move at will.
Kitchens and bathrooms are high on the reno to-do list, but are also costly. These spots can be easily refreshed with a few accessory changes that will quickly take your eye away from dated cabinetry and countertops. New glassware with a surprising shape, or a splash of color, a bath caddy carved from bamboo, soap pumps designed to hold a scrubber, storage trays that swivel all are styled to make you smile.
Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. You can follow Debbie on Twitter at www.twitter.com/debbie_travis. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.