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 favorite. The newest ones are a designer's delight: They're malleable, strong, lightweight, and take color 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 molded without losing clarity, and joints are heat-fused rather than glued or screwed, which makes a finished piece virtually seamless.
Two Palm Springs, Calif., designers — Larry Abel and Raymond McCallister — run Art Style Innovation, a fun factory of whimsical takes on vintage and modern decor. The duo's curvy acrylic vases and rippled bowls, done in neon hues, are decor 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).