THE Green Brigade has cried itself hoarse, but from the look of it they have managed to gain very few converts to the concept of using alternative material for contemporary furniture. There's nothing like well-seasoned wood to add that touch of class to interiors, though people today are trying to minimise its use with a combination of glass and wrought iron. Teak and cedar remain all-time favourites but the heavy ornate look is out, slim-and-smart is in.
A concept pioneered by Charles Voysey (1857-1941). Utilitarian was the key word. "Let every man judge furniture from the point of view of reason. Let us ask: is it fit and thoroughly suited to the purpose for which it was intended? And does it express the qualities and feelings consistent with its owner and its surroundings?"
A thought with which most people agree with today. Says Ashish Thapar, architect and owner of Timberdrome, a furniture shop: "Clients today are getting round to the idea of less clutter and simple lines. While they still have to get used to a mix and match of materials, a beginning has been made."
The simplicity wave entering Indian homes today, however, had its origins in Europe. "The higher the art rises, the greater the simplicity," said the world renowned designer William Morris (1834-1896), in a denial of Victorian clutter. The wheel has come full circle with European lines catching the Indian eye. So, you have a glass-topped dining table with solid cedarwood legs and teak chairs in a dark finish. The effect is startling but the experiments continue with the new-look movement gaining ground.
What is clear though, is that ethnic is definitely out. While the low-seating styles of ethnic furniture looked attractive, homeowners have finally woken up to the fact that they provide little by way of comfort. The wave has receded, though a taste for the traditional still lingers on, and another is building up—simplicity with a lot of style. A necessity today where urban apartments are concerned—the space crunch combined with changing tastes has led to a rejection of ostentatious furniture. The idea is not to feel crowded in but get enough space to breathe in.
Multifunctional units, therefore, are becoming popular. For example: a flapdown round table with the base that is used as a storage unit can also serve as a dining table and the sides can even be folded down to make it a sideboard. Or a stark dressing table which doubles as a chest of drawers. The glass table top and mirror are separate units so that each piece can be used irrespective of the other. Such innovative designs are much welcomed, and people and designers alike are exploring ways and means to make the optimum use of a single piece of furniture.
This departure from convention has come to include not just wood but also wrought iron, various kinds of metal, compressed wood particles, glass and pipes. This is ideal for the modern couple, living very often without domestic help, for the furniture cleans faster and is easy to maintain. Which is why metal beds are becoming popular with the younger generation. With classic designs dating back to the Victorian and colonial era, the antique touch is heightened with gold finishes and cracked porcelain set in antique brass. The biggest appeal is that they require virtually no maintenance and can be easily assembled or dismantled, a necessary feature with people now shifting residence regularly. Chairs and tables are beginning to pick up too.
And, as an increasing number of accessories make their appearance in the shops, innovative but sleek designs are flowing in faster than even a connoisseur can keep pace with.