KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The latest design trade shows have been something of a '60s flashback with plastic furniture as the shining star.
Certainly, plastic furniture comes in a kaleidoscope of colors. The forms, too, can be groovy. The sculptural Panton chair (1960) with its wavy lines resembles a long squirt of toothpaste.
But now plastic furniture has evolved and arrived.
"It's always been fun and a good choice for those who have pets and young children because they're so easy to clean," says Sofia Varanka, co-owner of Hudson Home in Kansas City, Mo. "But now there are elegant options."
A prime example is the Louis Ghost chair by Philippe Starck for Kartell, the Italian manufacturer known for its plastic furnishings. The polycarbonate form mimics the traditional Louis XV chair with its medallion-shaped seatback. The plastic piece, introduced in 2002, has become a modern-day classic. Some interior designers say every home "needs" at least one Ghost chair. The transparent finish plays with light, casting rainbowlike prisms in the room.
"Clear acrylic furniture is especially beautiful in small spaces because it helps give the illusion of a larger room," says Judy Miller, product manager for CB2, the hip, younger affiliated store of Crate & Barrel. For three years, the CB2 clear accent tables have been top sellers, so this year it introduced new plastic pieces: a media console and an acrylic tripod easel that adjusts to more than 3 feet high to float works of art.
Not surprisingly, the relatively low prices of these pieces have fueled their popularity. A Louis Ghost Chair costs about $400; a comparable wooden accent chair starts at about $1,200.
Because of plastic's affordability, architect Ryan Townsend of Kansas City became a fan of the medium a few years ago.
"You can get metal folding chairs from Wal-Mart or Target or you can get designer chairs for about the same price," Townsend says. "The choice is pretty clear."
In the past year, Starck debuted Mr. Impossible, which contains two colors in the same form.
"Plastic is constantly being innovated," says Steve Maturo, co-owner of the furniture store Museo in Kansas City.
The one thing to remember when decorating with plastic? Use it sparingly. "Less is more," Maturo says. "It's an accent, so think of it as the jewelry and the bling."