While most household products keep getting bigger, these designers are keeping city dwellers in mind
Photo by Gunter Binsack/Courtesy of Tojo.
Close quarters call for minimalism, and living in high-density cities often necessitates the ownership not just of less, but of smaller scaled, stuff. This isn't always easy: Most stuff isn't made with cities in mind. Appliances like washing machines have grown increasingly massive, capable of washing the dirty socks of a family of 12. Even dinner plates have gotten wider over the years (back in the 1960s, they measured 8-1/2 inches; they've now stretched to a full foot in diameter) making shelving stuff a tight squeeze (and alas, making it far too easy to pile more food on one's plate). And at the Consumer Electronic's Show earlier this year, Panasonic unveiled a comically massive 152-inch 3-D plasma TV—yours for a cool half a million (not including monthly utility bill).
"The Futurist's Apartment," part of New York magazine's incredible issue on urban global design, offered a savvy guide to objects for the contemporary urban condition (which is likely one short on space). There's a skinny dishwasher, an expandable table, and a fridge-in-a-drawer but I'm most partial to the Mint 4200, a mop with GPS(!) that cleans more frequently used areas more often, and retails for $199. IKEA's flimsy wood mattress slats are put to shame by the above sculptural expandable bed frame by Roy Schäfer for Tojo. Intriguing—until it starts collecting, well, what collects in drains—is the elegant when right out of the box, transparent PermaFlow Never-Clog drain. (It better never clog, imagine what you might see stuck in it).
Some of our favorite new small apartment-friendly stuff includes Blu Dot's skinny and stylish Splash Coat Rack (pictured right), and Redwell's space-saving and visually appealing infrared chalkboard heater that's both economically and environmentally more efficient than most conventional alternatives (and lets you leave nice notes for your family to boot).
There's one necessary product awaiting the right industrial designer: the countertop compost bin. All options on the market look like mini-fire hydrants or toilet brush holders, and some retail in excess of $200. If your city doesn't require at-home composting, they may already be looking at the model of San Francisco, where I live, which has achieved its goal of 75 percent diversion from landfill (and penalizes those who toss their food scraps in the trash). The compost bin is one product in need of a practical, affordable and aesthetic upgrade.