What do these images make you think of?

and they feel they should fill them to make them homey.

Although it doesn’t show in the shot of the wing-chair, I yearn for the “back in the day” furnishings following graduation from design school; clean horizontal “prairie-style” concrete block/board stereo “cabinet”, 2x10/plywood platform bed, and LOTS of baseboard visible in the room…

which follows from your comment about,

… how little stuff we had, but how we used shape, color, and composition to make it all work… and that you could have Modern pieces and still have it be homey

The non creative types seem to be much more in an Ikea/West Elm/DWR zone…

An old adage relating to the loss of personal property says, “Every three moves equals a fire” ; God forbid, but a good old fire would sure simplify life at our house right now … . . . :open_mouth:

I’m from NC and not to knock the south, but I can totally picture those objects in peoples houses there

I think maybe people buy them for a couple of reasons; they want to make their home seem comfortable without spending a lot of money and they aren’t buying them to be prized objects but disposable decorations, something like seasonal decorations but for longer.

so my describing words would be “cheap decorations”

I think they speak to the low standards people have in what they buy (when they don’t want to invest in a nice product), but also the commodization of crap products. I do wonder where the cut-off is for that kind of buyer (and why), between that kind of faux antique and things they wouldn’t even buy…

for the penguin though, I think it looks a little evil. Do penguins normally have blood-red stains around their heads?

Right on Trav, although i’m not sure how much cheaper a lot of this stuff is, I do know that places that sell it make it much easier for the consumer than say spending an afternoon, or a weekend hitting thrift shops, antique stores, and estate sales, but then the easiness cheapens the whole experience and value.

The Midwest IDSA conference theme this year was “Meaning” and some of the stuff talked about here resonates with that theme.

Also something to keep in mind is that a lot of this stuff was created by artists and crafts type folks or are re-interpretations of that kind of work suited for larger production in developing nations.

re-interpretations of that kind of work suited for larger production in developing nations.

Something is definitely lost in the translation…

It’s like when you have a problem with your cable and call Customer Abuse… . I mean, Customer Service. The out-sourced service rep you are speaking with in Bombay doesn’t have phone/tv/internet service in his home, so he can’t really relate to the problem you are having; the best be can be expected to do is work from the script his is trained to use. If your problem doesn’t fit into that format he/she is lost.

It’s hard to relate to the subtle nuances of a culture when you are not personally immersed in it.

Thanks for all the replies.

I can’t stand any form of nostalgia. I can’t even stand the word. It makes me shiver. But antiques can inspire me. Personally I love shaker style. But if I where to try to reenact shaker I would be completely deluded. It comes from a completely different time.

The reason I posted these objects was because I wanted to see what people who know about design would make of them. The images are a brief selection of the product range taken from my new client. They are looking to modernise their products. Cast iron seems to be a forgotten material. Perhaps because it symbolises antiquary. It is archaic, but so is wood. Material choice gives an emotional edge to a product, and cast iron is perceived as being outdated. Though modern designs can surely bring it back to life. Resuscitation. Gaudi used cast iron to its full potential. His balconies/gates are all over Barcelona and near on 100 years they still look cutting edge.

Perhaps consumer society has led to this. People no longer expect products to last for their whole lives. However given the global recession perhaps cast iron products can make a come back. What do you think?

Also do you think it is better for a designer to have NO aesthetic at all? To approach ever brief with a new persona? Will we be better designers if we don’t do the expected aesthetic. A lot of the celebrity designers seem to have become dry because they have an aesthetic which was once fashionable. Perhaps I will lock myself in a cupboard with a candle and tons of images I can’t stand.


I might also add that Karim Rashid would probably call these objects “kitsch” and then walk away disgusted.

it is better for a designer to have NO aesthetic at all?

With all due respect to our “Engineer” friends, what would a “designer” with no sense of the aesthetic be?

However given the global recession perhaps cast iron products can make a come back. What do you think?

[u]Bakelite[/u] aside, cast iron, as well as brass, bronze, copper, and lead, and gypsum, were the “plastics” of the day one hundred years ago.

Inherited along with the many pieces of furniture in our house is a collection of twenty+ cast iron skillets, and roasting pans of different sizes. All still totally usable (and are) many well over one hundred years of age at this point. Besides being an excellent conductor and distributor of heat, cast iron was appropriate for the purpose and relatively easily manufactured on a large scale. We also have two hand-formed copper saute pans; a thinner material which reacts quicker to temperature change, used for a different cooking process; less easily manufactured, but appropriate for the purpose.

So, do we design for a material, or select the appropriate material for the design? If it is the former, I think we may be bordering on the nostalgic. This is a simplification of course; if our client is a foundry, engaged in the manufacture of consumer products, then we select the material first. But I think you catch my drift.

metaphysical discussion of aesthetic and post-cultural references aside for a sec and down to business.

If this is your client, and you are asking these type of questions, you are in waaaaay over your head. I can guarantee you there is no way they want to rethink the material and create a new design aesthetic using a traditional material like you seem to think. They want exactly what they have - more faux antique/rustic/exotic crap. period. By modernize, they probably mean they want to add a bit of art deco flourish to the finials or mix a bit of eames style legs into the asian looking coffee table.

Sure it is possible to use cast iron in a modern way. I’m sure you could likely find tons of examples at the Salone di Mobilia or any of the major furniture fairs. A material is just a material and for the most part does not dictate an general aesthetic to a competent designer (particulars of form, function and processes, yes).

Companies like these exist because they don’t have a problem with what they do/make/. They aren’t looking to drastically change their business model, brand, distribution, etc. If by some chance they were, they’d be hiring a multinational marketing firm or a Ross Lovegrove/KR/designstar kinda guy. Major shifts in company/product/brand direction are very rare, and it seems like this is what you are expecting.

I don’t mean to be harsh on you, but I’m trying to prevent you from a world of hurt. I’ve learnt from experience that while companies that have bad stuff can seem like an opportunity to do good work (thinking “heck, it can’t get any worse”), they are more than likely a nightmare as they obviously don’t see the value in design, so you end up making major compromises and/or crap they force you into, and it’s a lose/lose for everyone.

If, by chance I’m toally misunderstanding you and you are happy to do more of the same cast iron penguins, and revival Edwardian with a Romanesque twist lamp shades with plastic stained glass shades, then fine. no problem. I’m not judging you. Best of luck.

Just felt the need to add a bit of real world to the discussion.


Cheers both on your replies. Very helpful points.

With all due respect to our “Engineer” friends, what would a “designer” with no sense of the aesthetic be?

Obviously a designer needs an aesthetic but also needs to keep adding to it. What I meant was to add to an aesthetic and not get dry. I find Ross Lovegrove’s stuff a bit stale. He has created many great designs but now he just does the same thing again and again and again and sells it for a fortune.

do we design for a material, or select the appropriate material for the design? If it is the former, I think we may be bordering on the nostalgic

I get your point Lew and I totally agree with you, though the client has asked us to think about cast iron and to try to modify it. I’m not too sure how much of a revamp they precisely want. I don’t know if I am capable of designing the types of products that they currently sell. It’s not in my aesthetic.

Rkuchinsky, thanks for the advice. I haven’t yet met the client. Your points will help with the questions I will ask. Completely get where you are coming from. Thank you.

Look what Karim Rashid did with Nambe though. Some of his best work. I own a few of those pieces. Traditional manufacturer plus modern aesthetic. It can work.

For sure it can work. I never meant to say it couldn’t. Just was saying you need a pretty forward thinking brand/manufacturer and likewise a pretty forward thinking designer to make it work.


I think someone nailed it when they said it’s all about what people are exposed to.
If you regularly have to shop in Home Depot or any of the big box stores for your home furnishings then obviously you will be guided towards a certain aesthetic.

Try looking for a modern exterior light from a big box store like Home Depot…


I still have wires hanging out the rear of my house.

But then try ordering on from a specialty lighting store. It’s like 6 weeks minimum to find out that they can’t get it for another 12 weeks. I really wish I was in the lighting industry just so I could get my taste of the 15 middlemen in the distribution chain. It’s incredible.

Totally, all about the relationship there!

6 weeks of waiting or a lifetime of hideousness on my rear wall ?
It’s a tough one :slight_smile:

But yeah, I know what you mean… plus you pay through the nose for something can could almost certainly be cheaply made.

Continuing with the Home Depot example that Loafer have posted, they must have discovered that that their customers responded mostly to those styles early on (let’s say 10 years ago). Therefore, throughout the years, they continue to offer more selections of those styles into their stores, upgrading them in quality, buying them at a better price, and keeping the margins high. It’s a conservative strategy that one would find in textbooks and it keeps the merchandiser(s) in that department employed.

What that department perhaps have done wrong is that they have a product mix weighted with too many traditional-styled lights. Eventually (and it WILL happen), they would discovered that their sales volume start to taper off. Once that happens, the department now have a story to tell their boss that they need to bring something different onto the shelves. Then you would see more contemporary lights on the shelves :slight_smile:

A good team of merchandiser(s) would be more responsive and proactive in meeting customer’s buying behaviors, that lighting team at Home Depot certainly needs to diversify their product mix.

Now this is the traditional big box retailer way of doing things. There are so many different retail models that also work very well. Only time will tell which strategy works better.

If you don’t like your client (and have lots of money to spare), fire them and start your own business! Unfortunately, this is usually easier said than done.

Well we were given a talk today by the head of sales. It was really interesting. they say they are looking to modify their product range WITHIN the limitations of the market; i,e in competition with the Tesco at al (they retail in wholesale). Which basically means introducing new products which fit into their product range. Should be fun.


Gordman’s home section.

At first, I thought this was a woman lying on her back with her legs up in the air and a black bikin bottom on.