14 Jun Covadonga Pendones: Home design
The life of a design object, be it a utensil, a material or a structural element, has different stages in relation to its consumption and popularisation, and its success and survival depend precisely on the fulfilment of each of these stages until it subtly enters our lives and homes and becomes indispensable to us.
We usually talk of a fad when a product with specific innovative aesthetic characteristics breaks into exclusive or professional circles, it belongs to a higher sphere and its acquisition is restricted. When the product reaches the streets, we see it in shop windows and is available for purchase, still in its trail of novelty, we are dealing with a trend.
Finally, over time the product may lose its qualities as an exclusive and aesthetic innovative item, and become the object of popular consumption, which is not in any way to its detriment; on the contrary, reaching that goal marks the success of any commercial product. This process in which a product goes from exclusive and innovative to popular consumption ensures the survival of the product for decades. I would like to go over a few instances, whose evolution we could follow in interior design magazines from the time they were launched onto the market as the utmost of novelty and sophistication until they were absorbed by society and entered our homes as common and accessible goods or materials. I am not referring solely to design objects or furniture, but also to structural systems, innovative materials and other interior design elements that seek to make the most of today’s dwelling spaces.
In all probability kitchens and bathrooms showcase best the incorporation of design into our homes. In the early 1990s, kitchen counters were made of stone, marble, wood or laminates. When synthetic materials appeared, that is, mixtures of resins and powdered marble or quartz, they caused a sensation in the sector because they were clean, non-porous, easy to install and moderately priced. What was a revolutionary and exclusive product fifteen years ago is now a standard material found in many households.
Mixer taps, horizontal airflow ovens, touch screen appliances, kitchen islands, decorative range hoods, furniture with automatic doors, etc., are technological design innovations that seemed the stuff of science fiction only five years ago. At the time they were a novelty, now they are a fad, and in five years they will have become so widespread that they will be standard features of kitchens and appliances.
Not long ago, bathrooms were simple functional spaces, with little room, dim lights and poor ventilation. The evolution of the bathroom as a space for wellness has transformed the design of all of its elements: wall-hung toilets, concealed water tanks, spa bathtubs, hydromassage columns… A decade ago, all of them were perceived as luxury items; now, they are affordable objects that do not surprise as much, since a new generation will arrive with yet unexpected and innovative features, as happened with thermostatic taps, which are installed regularly today. However, the most important shift in the functional design of the bathroom has been the replacement of the traditional bathtub by the shower, which opened up some space and provided easier access to this area. It has taken much quarrelling with plumbers and construction workers to get such showers installed without having to be told “Ma’am, this can’t be done, it only exists in magazines”.
I also want to mention some structural designs or interior design systems that we have witnessed trickling in, which went from being out of our reach to being perfectly “doable” in our houses. It is not that they were originally that elitist or expensive, but that their concept fell beyond our understanding. I am referring, for instance, to sliding doors, a system that has been revamped to become the best ally of small spaces; glass partitions that have replaced glass blocks, already a bit démodé (although it had its moments of glory, too); the new synthetics floors, which thankfully displaced Sintasol; the new vertical sliding curtain systems, which covered the horrible box for the window blinds and drove the ancient valances to oblivion; modular and collapsible furnishings, like the bunk beds that fold into the wall, a great invention of modernity. And let us not forget the flat panel television, which has been the most coveted object of the past decade. All of these furnishings, systems and materials were luxury products not so long ago, futuristic designs or pieces suitable only to design professionals, yet today we have the fortune of coexisting with them with absolute ease and familiarity. This is what I called “homey design”, which after all is the ultimate objective of good design, for it to be useful, durable and beautiful. And to reach such a goal is not easy, many designs fall through the cracks in their long way home.