Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Vancouver Sun Westcoast Homes & Design: "Your space might be limited; your design vision shouldn't be" April 3, 2020

     My second column for Westcoast Homes & Design was written for the 'Decoration Issue'. For many years I have been fascinated by the opportunities afforded by smaller homes and have often thought residential designers could learn from those who design boat and recreational vehicles interiors.
     Since I happened to be attending Palm Spring's annual Modernism Week celebration of mid-century homes and design when it was time to write the column, I decided to focus on some of the  trailers on display at the Vintage Trailer exhibit.
Unfortunately, there wasn't room to include my photos, so I have added a few here.

Below is my column.
Would you like to live in a 280-square-foot home? Probably not. Would you like to live on a 40-foot yacht? Possibly yes. While we don’t usually measure a boat’s living area in square feet, a 40-foot boat equates to approximately 280 square feet. However, these boats are often surprisingly livable since the furniture is built in and spaces are designed to be flexible and multi-functional.
For example, the dining area is easily converted into a double bed. Seating areas and tables can also be transformed for sleeping.
Given the growing interest in laneway housing, tiny homes and generally smaller living spaces, residential designers can learn a great deal from studying boat interior layouts. They can also learn by examining the design of many recreational vehicles and trailers.
A few years ago, I was reminded of the delights, challenges and benefits of small-space living while spending a weekend in a 120-square-foot recreational vehicle. At eight by 15 feet, it included kitchen facilities, a small bathroom with shower, and living, dining and sleeping areas. There were numerous built-in cabinets and storage areas and it was beautifully decorated.
While it is one thing to live in a small space for a weekend, it is another to do so for an extended period. However, boats and RVs can offer important lessons when it comes to the design and decoration of smaller spaces.
This was very evident at Palm Springs’ recent Modernism Week, an annual 11-day event that celebrates mid-century modern design, architecture, art, furniture and fashion.The mission of Modernism Week is to foster an appreciation for mid-century architecture and design found throughout the greater Palm Springs area, with the hope that other cities will cherish and conserve their mid-century architecture.
The event includes double-decker bus and walking tours of iconic homes, many of which have been restored and furnished to appear exactly as they looked when first completed in the 1950s and ’60s.
One of my favourite Modernism Week events is the vintage trailer exhibition featuring a collection of trailers, campers and motor homes, most of which have been completely restored, equipped and decorated in a mid-century theme. You don’t have to be an RV aficionado to appreciate and enjoy this fascinating collection, which included a converted 1958 GMC Greyhound bus.
This delightful trailer even had a pull-out toilet under the bed!
The beauty, ingenuity and creativity of the compact designs on display offered many ideas that should be incorporated in smaller home designs being built throughout British Columbia. This was particularly true for the clever kitchen and bathroom layouts, built-ins and storage spaces that too often are missing from new homes.
Owners were in attendance to show off their creations, some of which are lived in year-round. There were also displays of furnishings and artifacts from the 1950s and ’60s, some of which were for sale at surprisingly high prices.
Every year, visitors can vote for their favourite exhibits in a variety of categories including best original, best restoration and People’s Choice. This year’s People’s Choice Award went to a gorgeous, fully restored and glistening 1959 Airstream Traveler. It featured varnished wood panelling and cabinetry, two-toned turquoise-and-white appliances, and a quilted stainless-steel backsplash.
As I walked through its interior, I could not help but compare it with the bland interiors of too many of today’s apartments.
As the price of housing increases, living spaces will continue to become smaller and smaller. However, by carefully studying the interior design and decoration of boats and recreational vehicles, we will discover that smaller need not be equated with less livable, especially when furniture and spaces are carefully designed and transformable.


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