KITCHENS AND THE ART OF EVOLUTION (part 2)

(Part 2 of our 2 part series)

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So now that we’ve talked about the whys of product design pushing the boundaries of interior design and how it has - and can - morph culture, let’s take a look at what the future has in store. Whether it’s advancing material science, 3D printing, or tiny homes, interior design has some exciting challenges ahead of it. While the focus here has been innovative product design taking interior design to uncharted levels, it’s a two-way street.

Often the locale is what dictates the way homes are designed, which in turn demands a need for niche products. Growing metropolitan areas cannot think of their architecture in the same way as the middle of Nebraska, for instance. According to the 2010 US census, 123.3 million people - or 39 percent - of Americans live in the coastal regions of the country. Given that the United States is rather large, this leaves the rest of the country for the remaining 61 percent, which amounts to a lot of open land. Point being, architects, and designers do not have to be as spatially mindful in wide open spaces. When square footage is limited, and families still want all the necessities and luxuries of those in the middle of the country, design gets it's most creative.

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Some people dream big, either in their life ambitions or the literal size of their home. Growing up in the Midwest, there was plenty of land for the taking when it wasn’t being occupied by corn fields. This enabled my young mind to think lofty and daydream of a large mansion with so many rooms that I’d forget about them all. Once I reached adulthood - and more importantly, moved to Seattle - my ideals changed, and I realized that it’s not always about having an enormous house, but one that gives you everything you desire no matter the size.

For anyone reading this, that’s not aware of the current situation in Seattle; we don’t have copious amounts of land to grow into, or much space at all to begin with. We’re tucked in between two mountain ranges, meticulously sprawling around many bodies of water. However, we have people moving here in droves to the tune of roughly 1,000 people per week, according to a 2017 census report.

Politics aside, what this means is a forceful nature of smaller living spaces and buildings reaching for the sky. From this emerges a revolution of small homes and micro-studios. While surly resistance was shown at first, many have grown fond of the tiny home movement and resorted to a life of minimalism. With the challenges of less square footage comes interior and product design ingenuity that can even translate to larger homes.

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Referring back to part one of this post, designers shine when faced with a problem they need to solve - that’s usually why they chose the profession in the first place. So with reduced space, many issues need to be addressed. When you have space, it’s easy to fill it with gizmos and gadgets, pots and pans, unnecessarily novelty utensils, and perhaps even drawers deemed “junk” drawers for all the miscellaneous items that otherwise don’t fit categorically into others. This all changes, when you move into a spot with less extra space and you, realize you can’t just play a game of Tetris with your belongings, but instead have to part ways with them.

Considerations need to be made for what and how much to throw out. You start to weigh how much you like those plates and convince yourself they don’t even match the decor, even though deep down you’re still fond of them. Never fear, designers, are here! Your home is never too small to for the big life you have planned.

There’s no limit to a designer’s imagination, and the challenge is what enables a creative mind. Now that you can no longer have a large assortment of utensils to fill every niche, why not have a multitool to accomplish all those tasks and take up a fraction of the space? Luckily now, instead of having many products that must be used in stages, you can buy that sparkly, fancy new “all-in-one(!)” device that will do it all. Perhaps you had to scrap some of your adored furniture for something more purposeful?

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The good news is that furniture designers are dealing with the issue of limited space every day and increasing functionality while maintaining style. Advancing material science is allowing for more robust fabrics, stronger structural components, compact appliances, smarter work surfaces, and so on. A rising trend in interior design is the idea of multi-functionality, and this doesn’t just pertain to small spaces either.

Minimalistic lifestyles have called for reducing clutter and products with the added benefit of performing several functions. Smart devices provide a way of combining numerous tasks into one while also adding a stylish flair and contributing to the “Internet of Things” (the term given to the interconnectivity of devices with computers embedded so that they can relay information back and forth), giving you the modern conveniences of a smarter home. Most technology is going hands-free now, where you just shout out your demands and Siri, Alexa or Cortana will be at your whim. Suppose your hands are busy kneading dough, but you’d rather not stop to rinse them just to set a timer--why not just yell out to get that convenience? If you’ve ever seen past depictions of the “house of the future,” this is precisely what they were hypothesizing.

Imagine now in this house of the future that you no longer have to go to any stores for your household items. Sure, we have Amazon now, which is fast approaching a near-instant drone delivery service, but there’s more in store for us. With 3D printing, everything comes from within the house. Instead of having to go to the shoe store, you’ll now use a 3D scanner and augmented reality to visualize a shoe you want on your foot, as well as getting the perfect fit.

When you’ve decided, you submit the order to your manufacturer, and you pay for a digital file, which can then be materialized out of thin air from your 3D printer. This isn’t far-fetched, and it translates perfectly to interior design. You know what you want, and designers want to help you get there. The technology already exists to render an interactive walk-through of your new or remodeled home, so let’s take it a step farther.

Go ahead, put your Oculus Rift goggles on and take a look around your house. This will immerse you in your future home, and you can already see the memories you’ll be making in the new space. You’re in love with what you see, so you’re ready to say “yes” to your designer and move forward to production. This is where you’d get a file to print out all the pieces. No delivery, no waste, and bespoke. Does this excite you?

There isn’t a fight to be had when it comes to the idea of evolving design--it’s something that simultaneously has a mind of its own and is a collective conscious of needs and desires. Nothing can ever be predicted for sure, but we can fantasize and follow trends. The goal of the perfect design is always chased and never achieved. Whatever the idea and however good it is, there are still improvements to be made. Product design will continue developing better solutions, and interior design will never stop making demands for innovation. 
 

By: Brock Slowinski