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 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 factory full of whimsical takes on vintage and modern decor. The duo's curvy acrylic vases and rippled bowls, done in neon hues, dance.
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 -- entries, boudoirs, small living rooms -- because it's nearly invisible. The company will also custom tint; designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz likes to use a milky white acrylic for an ethereal quality. See www.plexi-craft.com.
Italian design powerhouse Kartell has frequently dominated the synthetic materials marketplace, with 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 at www.allmodern.com, from $73.
Kartell also has manufactured Starck's Bubble chair, a cartoonishly scaled piece that looks like an oversize upholstered chair but is made entirely out of polyethylene. It'll survive indoors or out, and comes in several shades including pale yellow, black and zinc white. See it at www.allmodern.com, $680.
Accessories designers love flexible silicone's pliability, color friendliness and soft feel. Kitchen and home designer also appreciate that it's dishwasher-friendly. Sky-blue spatulas, tangerine whisks, just about any kitchen tool can be found in a lively hue.
San Francisco-based Bkr makes a glass water bottle with a silicone sleeve, in hip shades like jet black, rocket red, julep teal and space indigo. Bkr donates to cancer research as well as clean water projects in Africa. See them at www.mybkr.com, $28.
Lifefactory goes one step further in the category with not only an adult bottle, but baby bottles and sippy cups. The collection comes in cheerful hues like lemon, raspberry, lilac and spring green. May be found at www.lifefactory.com for $14.99 and up.
Target's Room Essentials line has everything from colanders to mixing bowls in a rainbow of pink, turquoise, lime or blue heat-resistant synthetics. Items at www.target.com, $7.99 and up.
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