Furniture Gets Sized for Smaller Spaces
By David Masello
Starter castles, McMansions, call them what you will, in the last 20 years many homes across America were built to enormous size. But today, even affluent homebuyers are rethinking the scale of the mega-house. “It can be seen as wasteful and not cool,” says Ian Baldwin, an architect who teaches the history and theory of modern architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design. ”The new paradigm in consumerism is being a cutting-edge green consumer. That’s cool, as well as being responsible.”
A smaller footprint requires smaller furniture. West Hollywood–based interior designer David Desmond says he’s seeing “a return to traditional house plans with clearly defined rooms. Oversize furniture meant for great rooms now needs to fit in smaller rooms with four walls.” Interior designers Rafael Kalichstein and Joshua Rose of Los Angeles-based Form, feel that “the obsession with Midcentury Modernism may also have something to do with the overall shift to smaller pieces.”
Although Gary Friedman, creator and curator of Restoration Hardware, says he never follows trends, he’s the guiding spirit behind what seems to be a particularly well-timed new line called “Big Style Small Spaces.” The collection, which debuted last spring, evolved so quickly that the company devoted a 156-page stand-alone catalog to it in the fall. As a way of proving the line’s versatility, the company created 15 interiors inspired by locations around the world—from a Los Angeles bungalow to a Paris pied-à-terre—and filled them with items from the collection. “We chose the iconic residences typical to each of those places,” explains Friedman. (And speaking of small, Restoration Hardware just opened a new baby-and-child-focused showroom in Santa Monica.)
The key to the collection, according to Friedman, is not only in its new proportions, but also in that it gives customers the “ability to place things beautifully in small spaces to create a new drama and excitement.” A scouting trip to Paris with his creative team prompted a reassessment of how to design for small areas.
Soon after the trip, Restoration Hardware designers began to fashion furnishings that, while scaled down, also reflected a reinterpretation of otherwise traditional designs. For example, seating inspired by classic Breuer or Arne Jacobsen chair design may now feature distressed wood and a variety of textures, as well as be of a different scale.
By organizing the line around iconic settings, Friedman seems to be tapping into another trend: the renewed interest—after years of the architectural mishmash of McMansion styles—for structures (often in urban settings) with historic design integrity. Says Baldwin, “With all these interesting spaces people are now occupying, they need different furniture than they once owned. The furnishings are all part of the new ways many people are choosing to live.”