Glam and kitsch are two words often associated with clear furniture, but acrylic is back… As urban living for young first time buyers gets ever more compact, see through furniture is the answer to the question we all want to know: how to make a living room look bigger.
There are many ways too, of course, to give a room a sense of space. But we Scandis like the cool elegance of clear furniture and how the plexi or Lucite material catches the light and reflects it around the room.
See through furniture opens up the space to experiment with colours, patterns, shapes and accessories. It doesn’t interfere or clash with anything – in fact, it emphasises everything.
One of our favourite furniture companies is Kartell which features super chic, modern pieces, including the fabulous, iconic transparent Philippe Starck chair – CLICK HERE TO VIEW.
And because it is a relatively new trend – and not a natural product and produced with modern machines – clear furniture adds a touch of drama or playfulness to a room.
How clear Furniture opens up the Space
Those old wooden tables and chairs we’ve lived with for centuries block the view. They clutter the room. However useful or beautiful they may be, they make the room seem even smaller and busier than they are.
Whereas a table surrounded by dining chairs made of durable plastic show what is behind and underneath. It de-clutters the room (if there’s nothing stored under the furniture, of course).
But not everybody likes the look, although it is one that is gathering momentum – both for aesthetic reasons and out of need.
Living Room Innovators – Top Designers who changed our Living Rooms
The greatest and most famed proponent of see through furniture is designer Philippe Starck, French trendsetter extraordinaire. Starck takes the concept of plastic decor to new heights by combining avant garde materials with period designs, giving it a broader appeal.
His Louis Ghost Chair was introduced as recent as 2002. Ironically, despite the luxurious designs, Starck’s stackable line of chairs is also a way of sticking to his promise to make furniture more affordable to more people.
He uses discarded material from factories and industrial plastic plants to produce his pieces, of which he has sold over a million. In addition, they are hugely imitated.
Uber Chic – The von Furstenberg Name is big in Acrylic as well as in Fashion
Other brands who feature plexiglass furniture prominently include the upmarket Roche Bobois whose department at Harrods is dominated by the chic see through look.
Uber chic Alexandra von Furstenberg, daughter-in-law of fashion legend Diane von Furstenberg, is another powerful proponent of the clear look – she set up her design business in 2007 specifically to make luxurious furniture made of acrylic.
As her brand grew, von Furstenberg added more acrylic neon tables and trays, vases, bowls and other table top accessories in different tones to her collection.
Make the Room look bigger – and messier?
The brilliant selling point of clear furniture is the sense of space it gives, but there are disadvantages, too.
One of the biggest disadvantages is that it reduces storage space – or rather it removes the option to hide boxes and suitcases or toys under the table where it would all be patently obvious.
That means extra storage space is needed or fewer things have to be stored – heading towards a minimalist lifestyle.
It is a major lifestyle choice, and those deciding to have clear furniture – going the whole hog with see through dining table and chairs – will know the space looks better if kept spotless. That’s hard work!
But is is worth it? That’s the questions. A full set of plexi craft or acrylic furniture is highly stylised over and above what’s practical – but some feel more comfortable in a highly styled, tidy space.
For many years it was considered so painfully chic and decorative rather than functional. Modern techniques and research have changed all that.
The younger shopper has been buying the small side table, either on its own or as part of three nesting tables, for years.
Now he or she is considering whether to get the see-through coffee table and the console too. Maybe even the full dining set to be really on trend.
What is Acrylic Furniture – Why it makes the Room seem bigger
Poly, which is better known as acrylic or acrylic glass or plexi glass or Perspex among other names, is a light-weight alternative to glass. It is used in a surprising number of products in its different forms.
Designers find the material and its mysterious ways irresistible. They can manipulate it to reflect and deflect the light to different parts of a room with special effects such as putting different sheets of plexi together.
Among the products it is used for are rear lights on cars, aquaria, wall signs, even acrylic electric guitars and drums like the ones used by the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. And surrealist artist Salvador Dali used it as his “canvas”.
Chemically, acrylic is a synthetic material, developed in 1928 in several different laboratories by many chemists. It is strong, tough and lightweight – it weighs about half as much as real glass.
It came on to the market in the 1930s. During WWII it was used as aircraft windshields, which protected pilots’ eyes better than glass could.
The material took off as a sought after material for furniture in the 50s. It was used to give the home a hyper modern and futuristic look.
To make individual pieces – chairs or tables – no matter how intricate, the material is poured into one mould. This makes the item an all-in-one item with no joints.
Top Tips on what Pieces to get to open up the Space in your Room
- Side Table – The nesting tables (Pandora’s Box style) are hugely popular and entry point to transparent furniture decor
- Console – Super chic accessory for those wanting to add “something” under the mirror without wanting to clutter the room
- Coffee Table – A highly effective piece to make your room look bigger with cups and saucers looking as if they’re floating in the air
- Dining Chairs – Never look out of place with any table. A stylish addition to the dining area
- Table – A see through table is for the seriously stylish decorator and aesthete.
- Stands – Makes accessories such as plants and objects placed on top look as if they’re floating, too
- Lamp Bases – A more expensive accessory, but stunning. High end designers are producing their own versions of clear lamp bases
- Shelves – Ultra light effect. The books or any object placed here truly stand out
Contrasting Styles – How Classic and Modern help maximise your Room Space
The combination of old and new is hugely effective when creating a home that reflects the personality and life of the people living there.
Matching a clear coffee table with an old, perhaps inherited, sofa creates a unique style that looks to the future while retaining some of the memories the sofa will spark. Mixing it up creates an individual look and feel to the home.
Advantages and Disadvantages of having see through Furniture
Plastic, or acrylic, furniture works both ways: people either love it or hate it. Few have an opinion about an ordinary wooden table, but a see through table will bring out a reaction from most people.
|Maximizes the space
Modern / Fresh
Reflects the light
|Shows up untidiness
Few stores sell it
Reputation as kitsch
Who are the big Fans of see through Furniture?
Acrylic furniture may be an acquired taste, but the more we see it the more “acceptable” it becomes and the more we get to like it. Hence the slow spread into non-celebrity homes from the 1930s and until now.
Plastic was frowned upon as inferior to wood and the see through quality unnecessary and avant garde.
When see through furniture began in the 30s and 40s it was mainly celebrities and arty, creative types who brought it into their homes to make brand new design statements.
Among the first stars were Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, Dean Martin, Johnny Carson, and Tennessee Williams – crooners, TV stars and playwrights.
Today’s celebs who love the look include Sir Elton John, whose Los Angeles home features a Lucite-and-glass table by Pace International. The round table adds a sense of space to a small and dark coffee room.
Former American baseball star Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) has a spectacular inches-thick plexiglass dining table at his Florida home.
Rock star Adam Levine of Maroon 5 has a gorgeous glass vintage drinks tray by his dining table in the Hollywood Hills, while fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg – mother-in-law of designer Alexandra mentioned above, also has something acrylic.
Her apartment above the DvF headquarters features a large glass top above a tree trunk. Film director Oliver Stone is another fan of the plexiglass table with one at his Manhattan apartment overlooking the Hudson River.
How to make a big Room look even bigger
If your living room is already sizeable you’re lucky – you have almost an infinitenumber of ways to experiment and dazzle iwth decor.
And it should’t shtop yo ufrom furnishing it with see thorugh items. In fact, you have the opportunity to turn a good size open plan living room diner into a loft-style apartment.
By using plexiglass table and dining chairs – you can get acrylic chairs with beautiful cushions for added comfort – and opting for acrylic coffee and side tables too, you can open up the space in spectacular ways.
This would allow you to pick on any part of the room or item to emphasize – such as a special painting, a favourite corner, a beautiful sofa or rug.
How to care for Plexiglass Furniture – the Do’s and Don’ts
Do not spray or wipe with standard glass and window cleaner, which might seem the obvious choice – it will make the acrylic look hazy.
Do use a clean microfibre cloth either with plain water or, if greasy, a special acrylic cleaner, ie Brillianize. Ensure the cloth is free of any small bits and pieces which might scratch the furniture.
If the acrylic furniture has been scratched you could use Novus 2 Fine Scratch Remover, which also removes haziness and abrasions from most plastics by removing rather than filling in. With repeated use it restores faded and discolored plastics.
Acrylic is also prone to build up static. This attracts dust – therefore, use an anti-static cleaner when necessary. Another tip: use canned air and spray onto the surface. It blows away dust particles before you start washing with water.
Acrylic furniture is sensitive to scratching, as are other pieces of furniture, so the best precaution is to prevent scratches by putting small felt patches under things to be placed on top of the acrylic.
Plastic Fantastic – See thorugh Accessories are everywhere
It doesn’t end there. As acrylic tables and chairs become ever more popular, the trend is already part of the art and fashion universe.
The pop art scene makes generous use of acrylic – it is hugely popular with younger collectors. Bond Street galleries feature dozens of sculptures of figures from cult cartoon series, showing both wit and flair.
But also in fashion where acrylic jewellery are a very respectable cheaper substitute for crystal and diamonds and see through carrier bags, rain coats and bangles are the norm.
Now the must-have fashion piece is the crystal Aspinal of London trunk box shoulder bag. It shines and glitters in the light and it shows everything you carry with you.
For more on how to make your home look more Scandinavian, read also our blog How to Give Your Living Room a Scandi Makeover.