Less is only more where more is no good.
-Frank Lloyd Wright
In our everyday lives we are surrounded by products of a modern age: laptops made of glass and aluminum, TVs filled with warm plasma or cool LEDs, and cell phones that contain more technology than what NASA had to send Apollo 11 to the moon. Yet everyday we are limited by the same old traditional furniture that we’re all used to – Queen Anne end tables with cabriole legs and designs recycled from 1720′s early America.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with these older styles of furniture, it is nice to embrace the modern age and explore new materials, looks and designs. This doesn’t mean you need to tear down your ceiling to expose the pipes above your kitchen, or throw out all your existing furniture and replace it with black leather couches and Eileen Gray end tables (above) for a modern look. But as one of the designers from the movie Objectified summarized: we live in a modern age, we surround ourselves with modern products, so why not embrace new design elements by incorporating them into our homes?
In my journey to find some minimalist furniture for my new (old) apartment I am having a difficult time discovering anything in my hometown. I was at a local furniture store last week and ran into a younger salesman named Dave. When I asked Dave where all the modern furniture was he said they’d had some modern pieces in the past (coffee tables and sofas) but they remained untouched on the showroom floor. Customers seem to mosey on by these pieces, raising an eyebrow only to show a surface interest (as if they are in an art museum rather than a furniture store). Apparently this furniture is only popular in larger demographics like California or New York City.
This past weekend my brother and I visited our cousin who lives in the Pittsburgh area. I had two goals in mind when I was down there: exchange my iPhone 4 for a new one due to a malfunctioning home button and visit the Scandinavian modern furniture outfit called “Ikea.” After a quick and painless exchange for a new phone at the Apple Store we savored a few delicious tacos at Chiptole and were on our way. Upon entering the building we were ignored by the 2 greeters standing at the front (they didn’t appear to be enthused with their jobs) but the store’s industrial design quickly thrusted us into the “rat maze,” a term my cousin uses to refer to Ikea’s busy museum-like showroom design.
My initial impressions were confirmed: I more than likely wouldn’t buy any serious furniture at Ikea (like a couch for a living room) but I did like some of the smaller items and designs. The dining tables, for instance, I would imagine would have a short lifespan due to their shoddy materials and construction (they were more than a bit wobbly, at least on the showroom floor). On the other hand, I was rather attracted to a small LED clip lamp (right) in the lamp section (for 14.99) and a red rug (below) that was downstairs in the “warehouse” (for 39.99). I also picked up a cheap little clock for a buck and a blue throw blanket for my girlfriend (for 2.50). My brother bought the hugely popular POÄNG chair and my cousin too bought a rug. The clock (not on their website) is a clean little white box that actually has an alarm clock built into it. I mainly picked it up about halfway through our journey as a memento since I didn’t think I was going to buy anything else (I was wrong). I ended up keeping it for my bathroom and am curious to see how long it will last.
If Ikea were indeed a rat maze then the cheese was at the end. Though Ikea was a very cool store that had a lot of retro, mod, mid-century modern and contemporary/modern reproductions, it did not fully quell my search for the holy grail of modern design. My cousin described it best when he said he has a “love/hate” relationship with the retailer. For affordable and interesting pieces it is a great place to buy small elements (lights, chairs, picture frames) to accent a home or apartment, but as a long term solution for serious furniture (living room couches, coffee tables or dining tables) I am personally continuing my search.