By Elaine Markoutsas
If not a decided shift at recent High Point, N.C., furniture markets, let us just say that rooms with smaller footprints will not be ignored. The good news is that the commitment poses even more ramped-up challenges to design furniture smartly, with an eye to size and proportions, multitasking, built-ins and visual tricks.
Relatable scale and clean, modern lines comprise one reason, perhaps, for the appeal of mid-century furniture. Inspired by home furnishings from the 1950s and ’60s, the sizes of pieces seemed right; add to that comfort, sophistication and style — in a provocative palette punched up with kellyish or emerald greens and acid yellows — at affordable prices.
Scale really is the motivator —not just the measure, but how the inches measure up. In other words, the proportions of the piece.
When Libby Langdon designed her Howell chaise for Braxton Culler, she was reaching out to those who love a lounge option, but one that reads more simply, such as a chair attached to ottoman, not a space-hog.
“It’s telling that some of the most popular categories of furniture in recent years have been small tables, bar carts, etageres and desks. One reason is that houses with less square footage demand flexible furniture, so versatile double duty is welcome. A desk can serve as a vanity. A slim etagere or baker’s rack can be ganged in sets of three on one wall or employed in a kitchen or bath for handy items. A piece with doors and shelving inside might be tapped as a bar, TV cabinet, for plates and glassware in the dining room, or folded shirts and accessories in the bedroom. A cart with casters can be used in an entry, holding books, framed photos and flowers, or as a rolling bar.
Visual space-saving is another clever device for inhibited square footage. The etagere is a good example, or a cabinet with slender proportions and transparent backside, which allows the wall paint or covering to peek through and become part of the piece.
Going up the wall, of course, is becoming a useful way to conserve space. We see it in floating shelves, wall-mounted cabinets (particularly vanity and storage pieces in the bath) and in wall-hung toilets. Veil, introduced at ICFF — fabulously compact with a concealed tank and minimal footprint that saves up to 12 inches of floor, a boon for cleaning.
“On the other hand, in the bedroom we used our specially designed small-scale bedside tables, which are (only) 20 inches wide. For many condos, bedroom walls are just too small for a queen-sized bed and a pair of tables. Furniture shouldn’t go past a wall’s border.”
In age of smartphones and devices, that’s just smart living.