Next time you're having a backyard barbecue or going mod with some new furniture, thank science.
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.
Find out what your paint personality is by taking our quiz! Story continues below.
a) A rustic cabin far away from city life b) Bar-hopping to all of the city's new hotspots c) Trying out a new restaurant off the beaten path d) Riding the tallest, fastest roller coaster all day long at an amusement park
a) Yoga-sexy b) Right off the runway c) Eclectic chic d) Business Class
a) Bedroom b) Living Room c) Kitchen d) Home office
a) Hawaii b) New York c) Jamaica d) Hong Kong
a) Prius b) Fiat c) Land Rover d) BMW M3
a) Brown b) Red c) Orange d) Blue
This palette focusses on the importance of an intimate space to nest and nurture balance. Given the chaos of our economy, we're naturally drawn to organic textures, comforting earth-tone shades of rust-worn bronze, and the rich, regenerating colours of golden sunrises. The trend palette used here is neutral, but soulful, with muted overtones that bathe the room with measured calm. Your celeb designer match is network design stylist Elizabeth Wharnsby.
Our cities are evolving, and city-dwellers' tastes in colour are more grown up. They speak to a sophistication that's posh and polished. The reflective surfaces in the room combine a dramatic backdrop of cityscape green, softened with cream hazes and accented with pale seafoam and smoky mauve, to express a distinct metropolitan vibe. The palette feels well-heeled and well-honed. Your celeb designer match is television design personality Ambrose Price.
Design trends are now as global as commerce and culture. As a Canadian company, it's not surprising that PARA has responded with a bold and eclectic collection that shows a strong multicultural influence. This hybrid palette pairs spicy oranges and yellows that pulse with island rhythms and mouth-watering purples of homemade preserves. The effect is primal and evocative of tribal adornments, but with a luxurious regal flair. Your celeb designer match is celebrity trend designer/Publisher Marc Atiyolil.
This palette expresses a vibrant, youthful, futuristic glow that's very now. The palette is alive and playful, immediately satisfying and stimulating. It reflects our thirst for quick access to information. We've charged this palette of modern greys, blacks and reds with a luminous optical energy that inspires creative clarity. These are high-speed hues that give sharp definition to a room's style and sense of form and function. Your celeb designer match is celebrity design host Glenn Dixon.
Two Palm Springs, California, designers — Larry Abel and Raymond McCallister — run Art Style Innovation, a fun factory of whimsical takes on vintage and modern décor. The duo's curvy acrylic vases and rippled bowls, done in neon hues, are décor dancing. Their playful acrylic bookends come in a variety of silhouettes including cats, roosters, dogs, flowers, even a pair of shapely female legs. You'll find clear acrylic cube tables, too, in modern takes on classic architectural design. (www.artstyleinnovation.com, $35 and up)
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).