Features & Columns
Holiday Gift Guide:
As the march into our modern future continues, we feel a concurrent pull to the traditional and familiar. Sometimes the fusion of tribal with the contemporary can attack the senses, like a barista with stretched earlobes clutching a smartphone.
At the other end of the aesthetic spectrum, we see a movement to humanize minimalism with cues from history to produce fresh expressions of beauty. As we surround ourselves with more devices and amenities, they may as well be easy on the eye and lend some warmth and expression to our surroundings.
The movement to reinterpret the past with contemporary materials has sometimes resulted in such unfortunate imitative products as wood-grained plastic table radios and vinyl cobblestone kitchen floors.
Thankfully, we moved beyond that to use modern polymers to suggest the bygone rather than engage in failed attempts to copy it. Trying to be something you're not is a character flaw in people as well as in manufactured goods.
Freed from the faux-authenticity requirement, we saw Ferruccio Laviani's baroque polycarbonate Bourgie lamp show off its curves on side tables and nightstands nearly a decade ago. And having seen the light, Philips introduced an LED light bulb recently that is bright and beautiful and allows consumers to save up to 80 percent on electricity. With the world's most efficient bulb to fit the Edison thread A19 incandescent profile, Philips has finally given eco-aware consumers an escape from having to twist mercury-poisoned CFL Quetzalcoatls into their light fixtures.
One of the more beautiful products to hit shelves this year is the Menu kettle teapot, a sexy and functional glass jug with Scandinavian-Zen lines and tea egg dangling from an adjustable silicon strap.
Swissvoice's reinvention of the home telephone to look once again like a phone rather than another variation on the beveled corner rectangle is a brilliant devolution. God created handsets to recline comfortably in the palm of a hand, not to be daintily grasped with fingertips and a pinky in the air. A few mobile-phone users can even still remember the day when hands-free conversations could be held simply by cocking one's head toward one's shoulder, rather than pairing a Bluetooth device. Swissvoice's ePure phones come in a cordless land line version or as an accessory handset for mobile users who enjoy comfort and reduced brain-tumor risk.
Even the homely kitchen garbage can has been reinvented as a focal point. At a recent birthday party in Palo Alto, I found myself admiring a friend's combination trash and recycling bin, whose lid quietly dropped down into a flush frame. The end-to-end foot bar that controls the mechanism adds a retro-industrial touch that transforms the cold ultraminimalism of SimpleHuman's other refuse containers. At $287 with tax and shipping, it may be a lot to pay for a garbage bin, but a bargain for a piece of contemporary industrial art.