Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mid-Winter's Resolution - Double Duty

How can it be almost February? I am just getting to my New Year's resolutions. One was to get the job to design the Obama White House (see below). I did not get the job, and so my list is now back to what it was before - work out more, be nicer to my husband, buy things with double duty.

To explain...I was recently inspired by an NPR story on design - the whole notion of democratic design, actually, and the fact the people are asking for better design, and for things to do more than just sit there. Perhaps Obama will get credit for this too, as a movement of sorts - regardless, I am game. So, with that, I got inspired to get on my own soap box about the notion of double duty design. Don’t buy anything unless it makes you rich or thin.

OK, OK, a bit of an new year’s inspired hyperbole, along the lines of “wake up every day at 5am and workout” – but you get the point. Don’t buy something unless it serves at least two purposes. This goes for furniture, accessories, objets, etc. This is now abundantly possible. Whether space is a constraint or not – this is just good design for the home. Living in Manhattan was like double-duty boot camp for this kind of procurement. For something to occupy space in my one-bedroom apartment, large as it was, it had to offer two uses, be attractive in the middle of a room, or backed into a corner, and I had to absolutely love it. If not, I’d have been swallowed by my lovely oversized, singular-function pieces – like my antique sewing machine. I certainly loved it – but it had all the function of a grain of rice with my name etched onto it.

The story on NPR discussed double-duty design as a significant trend in industrial and furniture design as well as architecture. Of course this annoys me just a tad because it’s not a new concept, and emerged through the arts and crafts movement mot likely, but now it is likely reactionary to people having to flee in droves from their real or idealized McMansions as a function of the economy. People have not the option to up and leave their starter house rancher anymore for a variety of reasons – smaller and better has to work. By the way, I am right their with you.

A few ideas for you on this one. Naturally I am coming to this from the parental vantage point. When I think about furniture, I am thinking about what it can do now that my son is 12 month old– hopefully more than one thing -- but also what can it do in a few months or years – that’s another way to get your second duty. (Sounds awful – but you get my point.) The Expedit Bookcase from Ikea functions one way laterally – on the floor – it makes a great open toddler-height book and toy storage, as well as a reading bench for younger children. I can sit on it, but I worry about it holding my weight – and that’s not because I’m not in my skinny jeans again yet. Vertically, it makes great, slender storage for an entry way, laundry room, or just about anywhere you need or want variable height, attractive, open shelving. You can also make a trifecta – two verticals, one horizontal for a book nook for a child’s room. And it can also make a great coffee table in the middle of the room. Speaking of alternative coffee tables - when did they get so big and out of control? It's a coffee table, not a buffet people! Anyway, in thinking about slender, space efficient ways to have your coffee in front of your tv...I am a big fan of benches for small living rooms – they can function as coffee tables –and sometimes – slender as they are – they function better than traditional coffee tables. Some even have support "beams" across the spanning across the legs which are great for storing magazines, or books. The small surface area means you are unlikely to use a bench-as-coffee table arrangement as a repository for crap. I like this Asian-inspired bench from And when additional people are in your space (if you are one of the lucky ones to have a social life - what was that like again?) then the coffee table becomes additional seating, and it makes scarce more easily than a coffee table when you want to open the room up.

No comments: