Remy dining chairs
in vintage steel finish
($99 each) and Aero
round dining table
In the past 20 years many homes across America were built to enormous size. But today, even affluent home buyers are rethinking the scale of the mega-property. “It can be seen as wasteful, not cool,” says Ian Baldwin, an architect who teaches history and theory of modern architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design. “The new paradigm in consumerism is being a cuttingedge ‘green’ consumer. That’s cool, as well as being responsible.”
A smaller footprint requires smaller furniture. Gary Paul, a New York architect, who heads his own firm, GP Incorporated Design Consulting, admits to “constantly looking for smaller-scale pieces.” He says: “Smaller-scale furniture saves on materials, which is both ecological and cost effective. It also means you can have more furniture in a room.” New York-interior designer Michael Simon, known for exquisite, often French-themed classic design, says that while many loft projects still call for large scale items, prewar and postwar apartments in the city with ceiling heights lower than industrial spaces require him to be “very attentive to scale. Nothing can look oversize.”
Although Gary Friedman, creator and curator of Restoration Hardware, says he never follows trends, he’s the guiding spirit behind what seems to be a particularly well-timed new collection, Big Style Small Spaces, at the furniture and design store. The collection, which debuted last spring, evolved so quickly that the company devoted a 156-page stand-alone sourcebook to it in the fall. As a way of proving the line’s versatility and effect, 15 inspired interiors around the world were created with items from the collection—from a Chelsea penthouse or East Village loft to a Paris pied-à-terre. “We chose the iconic residences typical to each of those places,” says Friedman.
The key to the collection, according to Friedman, is not only the new proportion, but also, “the ability to place things beautifully in small spaces to create a new drama and excitement.” He says a scouting trip to Paris with his creative team prompted a reassessment of how to design for small areas. Soon after the trip, Restoration Hardware designers began to fashion furnishings that, while scaled down, also reflected a reinterpretation of otherwise traditional designs. For example, a seating inspired by classic Breuer or Arne Jacobsen chair design might be of a different scale and may now feature distressed wood and a variety of textures.
By organizing the line around iconic settings, Friedman seems to be tapping into another trend—a renewed interest, after years of the architectural mishmash of McMansion styles for structures (often in urban settings) with historic design integrity. Ian Baldwin points out that, “With all these interesting spaces people are now occupying, they need different furniture than [what] they once owned. The furnishings are all part of the new ways many people are choosing to live.” 935 Broadway, 212-260-9479