The words “plastic” and “furniture” used in the same sentence does not usually bring to mind images of high design—perhaps the most commonly known application of plastic to home furnishings is the old practice of covering sofas in a clear vinyl wrap. Imagine the scandale of walking into a Forbes Park home whose ’70s-era chintzy couches were sheathed in plastic. If the intention was to protect one’s heirloom pieces from wear and tear, then plastic wrap certainly did the trick, as nobody would want to sit on film that will make your bare thighs sweat and squeak.
Plastic has especially gotten a bad rap in the era of climate change, but the material has a fascinating history as a product that was developed as an alternative to natural resources which were in dwindling supply, like ivory, tortoiseshell, or bone, with the early celluloids being made to emulate Italian marble or semiprecious stones.
In the 1940s, injection-molding machines enabled the mass-production of plastic products in one shot, and scientists sought to develop plastics with their own unique, never-before-seen-in-nature characteristics. The focus was on functionality and innovation—and during the post-war recovery period, experimental design started to flourish.
The iconic Eames shell chairs—replicas of which we see in trendy co-working spaces everywhere—were made with fiberglass-reinforced polyester which was originally developed by the US Army for protective helmets. Italy in particular birthed a sophisticated plastic design movement with companies like Kartell, which was founded by Giulio Castelli and Anna Castelli Ferrieri, leading the way.
Accenting your living room area with a piece of high-end plastic furniture is an unobtrusive way to add a “design” piece to your collection; also, it indicates that you are both practical and whimsical. Practical because plastic has a smaller footprint, is easy to clean, and is virtually child-proof; whimsical because Italian design is sometimes bonkers and why would anyone say no to an invisible armchair?
Here are seven pieces of fantastic plastic from Kartell (that isn’t a Ghost chair) you should be considering for your home:
1| The Masters Chair
A tribute to three iconic chairs: the Series 7 by Arne Jacobsen, the Tulip Armchair by Eero Saarinen, and the Eiffel Chair by Charles Eames, by way of Philippe Starck, who literally layered the silhouettes of all three chairs into one super chair composed of curving lines. Light and stackable, this chair is ideal for dinner party situations that call for extra seating, indoors or outdoors.
2| The Kabuki Floor Lamp
Like a giant-sized neo-Baroque goblet crafted from plastic lace, this lamp, designed by Ferruccio Laviani, is made from injection-molded, perforated thermoplastic polymer, whose surface emits a diffused light at night. By day, it’s simply a large, stunning objet d’art that you won’t be too precious about having your dogs or toddlers knock around.
3| Uncle Jack Sofa and Uncle Jim Armchair
Everyone claims to be all for transparency these days. Take it to the next level by making your furniture completely see-through. Designed by Philippe Starck, the polycarbonate sofa is an innovation in the world of injection molding technology, a single piece 190 cm long and weighing 30 kg. The matching armchair blends into any style of room and will not add visual clutter to your man cave’s stockpile of vinyl records, vintage girlie mags, or white sneakers.
4| Dune Tray
Designed by Mario Bellini, the Dune Tray would be more aptly named the Terminator 2 Tray. Stare at the 3D-like mercurial texture and you’ll be convinced the T1000 will coalesce from out of its rectangular frame, crushing your grandma’s precious teacups in its wake. “What use is a tray if it is only good for carrying things?” Kartell asks of you. Indeed. A tray must actually carry its user.
5| Infinity Wine Rack
This is the Lego of wine racks. The Ron Arad-designed bottle holder consists of modular parts which can be attached together in variety of ways, from a snowflake to a pyramid. The 16-piece pack can hold 10 bottles; add on as your collection of 2009 Bordeaux grows.
6| Flip Trolley
When you need your bar cart to moonlight as a dessert buffet or handy side table, or not be there at all—this trolley designed by Antonio Citterio and Toan Nguyen can also be folded away for easy storage. The polymethylmethacrylate trays, which come in a range of transparent or opaque colors, can be used separately—a fine marriage of aesthetics and functionality.
7| Bookworm Bookcase
With three different curved lengths, the pieces of this flexible wall-mounted bookshelf, designed by Ron Arad, can be shape-shifted to your own peculiar imagination. A bookworm can twist into a booksnake or unfurl into a bookdragon—your wall’s the limit. The spiky parts are bookends that can hold up to 10 kg for each support.
Kartell Manila is at 30th St. cor. 9th Ave, Bonifacio High Street, BGC, Taguig.