March 10, 2005

Home furniture mutating

Found this article in an old IDSA newsletter. It talks about how furniture is changing to accommodate new usage patterns. Some excerpts:

Many of the furniture designs introduced here last week at the International Home Furnishings Market and that will be in stores in the fall are likewise intended for a harried, hassled nation -- in this case, people who eat on the run, hypertask, work all the time, relocate often, and are too busy to pick out furniture or to give much thought to their design style.


One solution touted at High Point was the "lift top rectangular cocktail table" by Lane Home Furnishings. It looks like a regular table, but the top pulls up and toward you "so it's just about table height,"


Ottomans are getting higher -- some are at least 4 inches higher than they used to be -- the better to balance your laptop on your lap while you're sitting on the sofa. Likewise, reclining chairs are being reinvented for people who can't spare the time to simply recline.


"Now, you see your back and your foot rest operate separately," he said, making it possible to sit up straight while your legs are up and your computer's on your lap.


Since we're on our cell phones all the time anyway, why not literally be on our cell phone? This seems to be the message of the new Cell Phone Stash Chair by Lumisource, a plush chair stylized with a keypad. Fittingly, it multitasks by opening up for storage in the seat.


Where at one time consumers purchased furniture with the expectation that they would spend years, even decades, at the same address, today's manufacturers are designing for a population on the move.


As a result, a new sub-genre of home furnishings seems to have emerged, meant to suggest a kind of faux togetherness. Stanley Furniture's "Provincia Trilogy Partners Desk" would fit into this category: It's a desk for three people with two laptop stations.

On the one hand, it sounds like there's a somewhat cynical sneer to some of the pieces (or maybe just to the writer's coverage of them), but--critical design aside (what does it communicate to the user that their relaxation and work spaces have been explicitly merged?)--it's interesting to see furniture manufacturers shift their focus to design based on an understanding of the changing role of furniture. It's still pretty haphazard--the bemused tone of the article clearly shows that this is all new and wacky--but it's nice to see the industry more explicitly approaching design based on an analysis of user needs.

Posted by mikek at March 10, 2005 06:42 PM | TrackBack

Ahh, yes. Back when I was an IDSA member, I was always surprised to get that newsletter and see which items I had blogged to Core77 that they had decided to pick up, uncredited.

Sure lots of stuff in the blogosphere gets reblogged, and often doesn't get credit (unless it comes from BoingBoing) but I didn't really believe anyone at IDSA was reading the SF Chron and finding the culture/user-need/design spin in their articles.

This really doesn't have anything to do with YOUR point here, but it brought up a slightly small sore spot and I had to vent :)

Posted by: Steve Portigal at March 10, 2005 11:04 PM
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