Instant connections

We thought this interesting article via one of our Twitter “followings” was worth sharing. It’s always great to hear what’s happening in the design world and in particular when technology influences design. With less walls it means it is more important how you decide to treat those walls for design. San Marco USA has a some ideas. Want to follow our friend on Twitter? @renovation. The article originally appeared on Ottawa Citizen.

By Daniel Drolet, Ottawa Citizen

Our increasingly wireless, digital and networked world is changing the look, feel and function of our homes.

Just as the advent of television created the rec room in the heady ’60s, helping to bring the family together for frozen meals and the Ed Sullivan Show, modern technology is now leading us to demand openconcept living spaces and instant connections to the world — anywhere, anytime.

It’s down with walls and up with wireless devices and touch screens.

The television — the centrepiece of rooms for the last half-century — may be on its way out. Hand-crafted and mixed-media designs are on their way in to decorate our openconcept, multi-use rooms.

So say some of the thinkers and designers gathering for Canada’s largest contemporary design fair. The Interior Design Show (IDS), set to run in Toronto from Jan. 27 to 30 will feature 300 exhibitors and their cutting-edge design, as well as top designers and thinkers.

Over four intensive days, people will get a chance to see — and hear — where design is headed.

One of the many big names at this year’s show is Douglas Coupland, the trendsetter and trendspotter who studied art and design before turning to writing.

Technology is shaping our living spaces, Coupland said in an interview from his Vancouver home, shortly before leaving for Toronto and his appearance at a symposium, Conversations in Design.

People want to live in open, multiuse spaces, says the modern philosopher. When anyone moves into an older home with lots of separate rooms, “the first thing anyone does is blow out the walls. You don’t want a wall between the kitchen and the dining room, or the dining room and the living room.”

“What you have today is a need for open communication, and that is physically manifesting itself in the removal of walls — to the point where if you have a room that’s just a room, it’s creepy.”

In a house with fewer walls, living spaces become multi-purpose. Gone are the days when the dining room was just for eating: “I think the era of single-use rooms is over,” says Coupland, explaining that wireless connections make it easier to move ourselves — and our devices — around.

For example, Coupland says he now watches most of his television on his laptop, which of course in a wireless home can be moved anywhere. As TV becomes less tied to a television set, that may mean the demise of the traditional television.

Hunter Tura, president and CEO of Toronto-based Bruce Mau Design, agrees. “I don’t think we’re going to need TVs in the same way,” he says, adding that because TVs are one of the largest objects in a home, this can’t help but change the way the home looks and functions.

Electronic devices will continue to shape our living spaces, adds Tura.

“Almost every innovation you can talk about over the last 10 years has been digital,” he says, pointing to Facebook, Skype or iTunes.

As digital concepts gain traction, homes are going digital and wireless.

Bye-bye big stereos with receivers and amps. Hello things like Apple TV, a digital receiver that streams shows to your laptop or TV.

The easier a product is to use, the greater the chances it will be embraced. Tura says he believes a threshold has been crossed — probably with Apple’s iPod — that opens the way to a greater acceptance of digital devices.

“Apple is a good example; things are just easier to use. If you bought a Dell computer in 1996, just getting online was a huge headache; now you just throw open your MacBook and it will find the wireless; just hit the browser and go.”

Coupland, meanwhile, says the concept of a home’s centre — the place everyone gathers — is no longer tied to specific place in the house. It’s more changeable, says Coupland, because a home’s communal space is more flexible.

Even though homes are more about open spaces, privacy is still important, although it has changed and is changing, he says.


Does an open-concept living space mean privacy is dead?

It used to be that your room was your private space; what’s private today is access to your electronic space: the passwords to your accounts, and who can and can’t see what’s on your computer screen.

What are we putting inside our multi-purpose, open-concept homes?

Shauna Levy, the vice-president of IDS, has spent years travelling the world, meeting with designers and tracking changes.

Levy says home decor is going the way of what she calls “eclectic modernism.”

Industrial materials are more and more being used in home interiors, says Levy. But they are being used in a way that softens their impact as design shifts from cold and austere to warm and cosy.

For example, Levy says one way to soften an industrial look is to bring in a colourful rug — say, a Persian rug over-dyed in bright turquoise or purple to give it a contemporary but soft aspect.

Also coming on strong are handicrafts — not the macrame of the 1970s, but one-of-a-kind or unique pieces that are well executed and of high quality that function almost as works of art.

The London-based Rug Company, for example, produces embroidered cushions and wallhangings based on patterns created for them by leading designers, including Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood.

“Each piece is lovingly crafted by hand, and takes up to 14 weeks to make,” notes the company’s web-site. ( http://www.therugcompany. info/ cushions. htm)

Also big in interior spaces, says Levy, is mixed media — combining concrete with steel in a kitchen, for example.

“And a lot of touch technologies. We have appliance manufacturers who do the show, and it’s unbelievable what they are coming out with.”

And there’s still a green tinge to a lot of design. When it comes to decor, the green movement emphasizes repurposing old items or using materials out of context, says Levy.

Meanwhile, Tura says more designers are embracing the concept of compactness when it comes to creating objects and designing spaces. This has the advantage of cutting both production costs (fewer building materials) and maintenance (less money spent on heating, for example).


Anywhere and everywhere.

Tura, whose firm designs retail interiors and develops brand identities, among other things, says globalization is a huge factor in to-day’s world. That is erasing boundaries and creating a lot of cross-pollination in design and innovation.

For example, he says the last three people he hired hailed from Ireland, Vietnam and Colombia. And when people get together at meetings to discuss things, they will draw on their widely diverse origins — and their travels — in their search for ideas and solutions.

But newness and innovation have their limits.

“You would be amazed at how often people, who say they want something new, really don’t mean that,” says Tura. “It takes a special kind of person or organization to really embrace new things.”


When: Jan. 27 to 30. The show is open to the public Saturday, Jan. 29 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 30 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Where: The Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 255 Front St. W Admission: $22; free for children 12 and under.

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This entry was published on January 21, 2011 at 1:53 am. It’s filed under Interior Design and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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