Your salad spinner's made of the same sort of silicone rubber developed to make Neil Armstrong's moon boot. And those acrylic salad bowls and patio chairs? World War II fighter pilots needed safer canopies, and Plexiglas was the answer.
Manufacturers of home goods are quick to adopt innovative materials and technology, and synthetics have long been a favourite. The newest ones are a designer's delight: They're malleable, strong, lightweight and take colour easily.
The product range in colorful plastics is expanding, with great shapes and fun hues.
From a crafting standpoint, acrylics are easy to work with. Using heat, they can be stretched and moulded without losing clarity, and joints are heat fused rather than glued or screwed, which makes a finished piece virtually seamless.
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Plexi-craft in New York stocks a wide array of furniture in crystal-clear acrylic. The material works well in small spaces — entryways, boudoirs, small living rooms — because it's nearly invisible. The company will custom tint, however; designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz likes to use a milky white acrylic for an ethereal quality. (www.plexi-craft.com)
Italian design powerhouse Kartell has frequently dominated the synthetic materials marketplace, with "wow" factor pieces such as Philippe Starck's Louis Ghost chair and Ferruccio Laviani's Bourgie lamp. There's a wide range of colorful transparent pieces in the company's collection. (www.allmodern.com, from $73)
Kartell also has manufactured Starck's Bubble chair, a cartoonishly scaled piece that looks like an oversize upholstered chair but is made entirely out of polyethylene. It'll survive indoors or out, and comes in several shades including pale yellow, black and zinc white. (www.allmodern.com, $680)
There was a time when kitchen cupboards and drawers were full of boring basics. But today's cook has a paintbox of hues available when buying mixing bowls, cooking tools and utensils. Whether it's a Kitchenaid blender in hot pink or a set of Rachael Ray's sunny orange cookware, there's more colour in good-quality, functional, synthetic-material gadgets than ever before.
Flexible silicone has fans in fashion, where accessories designers love its pliability, colour friendliness and soft feel. The same characteristics make it big with kitchen and home designers, who also appreciate that it's dishwasher-friendly. Sky-blue spatulas, tangerine whisks — just about any kitchen tool can be found in a fun, friendly hue.
San Francisco-based Bkr makes a glass water bottle with a silicone sleeve, in hip shades like Jet black, Rocket red, Julep teal and Space indigo. Bkr donates to cancer research as well as clean water projects in Africa. (www.mybkr.com, $28)
Lifefactory goes one step further in the category with not only an adult bottle, but baby bottles and sippy cups. The collection comes in cheerful hues like lemon, raspberry, lilac and spring green. (www.lifefactory.com, $14.99 and up)
Target's Room Essentials line has everything from colanders to mixing bowls in a rainbow of pink, turquoise, lime or blue heat-resistant synthetics. (www.target.com, $7.99 and up).