Dwell On Design '09
Felt Sculpture

Friday, The Varmint and I packed up our wagon and trekked to the LA Convention Center to help one of our favorite clients promote herself at the Dwell On Design conference (and frankly, to do a little of the same).

I expected a sea of wire-rimmed glasses types, dressed all in black, butt-rods firmly in place, shilling their ultra-swanky products.


Instead, it was a cozier affair with a decidedly environmental bent. The people were smiling and approachable, the products super interesting (solar-powered car ports, sleek vertical canvas sack wall-gardens, converted shipping containers as stylish, glass-walled offices) and I saw only one charmingly overdone designer-type person the whole day: Leopard-spotted head, I'm-so-smart glasses, pegged pants, too-groovy-for-you shirt... I'm pretty sure he was an agency owner attendee collecting cards and chatting people up, just like us.

Varmint in Egg

We saw loads of delicious lifestyle and interior design products but everything was pretty much scaled back to a more realistic level. Sure there were the mouthwatering stainless-steel and glass upscale European doors that retail for $10,000 and kitchens that would cost ten times that much on display - but not very many. The electric Tesla Roadster Sport for $100K was pretty sweet.

But really? Most of the stuff represented was on a much more "upscale everyman" level.


It was refreshing. At least 75% of the stuff was being sold as environmentally friendly, green, reclaimed, organic or recycled. I was surprised the bathrooms weren't decked out with rocketship toilets that would turn your BMs into mulch, right before your eyes.

The key that made all of this stuff work so well was that the product design, while green, was not compromised aesthetically. It's that combo of smart and pretty that's so coveted by people - whether with organizing solutions, energy-efficient lamps, cars or - ahem - spouses.


So often in environmental design, the killer solution or innovation is basically functional, but visually unappealing. That seems to be changing - and I think that will make a big difference in the popularity and acceptance of green designed products overall.

I know I am willing to pay extra for an environmentally conscious product - to a point. 

As an example, we saw these amazing coffee tables made from salvaged bowling alley lanes. They were super expensive, due to the hand-craftsmanship and time involved in their making, but if my budget were different, I might have thought of buying one. The point being that I'd buy it because it was unique and beautiful - not so much because it was reclaimed wood. That's a nice thing and a good story. But it wouldn't make me plunk down five grand for a table if it weren't stunning. You can get all pious on me, if you want, with the wouldas and shouldas. But I firmly believe that's how most people feel. DSC_0237

Buying green for the majority of people is a bonus - not the primary motivation for buying. It'd better work just as well as the normal product, be beautiful, have a good story - something.

Another great example is green laundry detergent. Have you tried it? I've tried many types; my seriously environmentally-obsessed friends have DSC_0279done so too, and every single one of us has switched back to regular detergent despite the impact to the environment because our clothes just don't get clean. It doesn't work! When someone makes one that does, we're in.

That's what made this Dwell show such a pleasure... So many beautiful, functional, smart, green products that really work. Somewhere, we crossed the line and function and form are both stand-alone advantages within these offerings.

What's not to love? From bamboo sheets to outdoor pillows made from recycled water bottles to beautiful furniture and lighting, we left feeling incredibly optimistic about the future. 





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I am a writer and lazy artist who loves travel, architecture and design. Right now, I'm into photography. My fabulous husband (a.k.a. The Varmint) and I are also the principals of a San Diego-based creative agency - and new parents to the divine Baby Mak. Read More >