Fast furniture: ‘can good design wean us off our wasteful ways?’

·1-min read
 (Alamy Live News.)
(Alamy Live News.)

The other day my dad gave me a CD he’d found in a second-hand shop — a tribute to cult Sixties girl band The Shaggs, thanks for asking — and then immediately worried that I might not actually have anything to play it on.

Luckily my aged stereo is going strong so I can still enjoy certain obsolete technologies (RIP my VHS collection).

According to the Design Museum’s current exhibition, Waste Age: What Can Design Do?, this is by no means the norm.

The show is a stark visualisation of our disposable culture, which is creating new geoformations — mountains of discarded “stuff” accumulating over time outside some of the world’s poorest cities.

Fast fashion gets the finger of blame pointed at it most but we’re increasingly culpable in our homes, too.

The trend cycle in interiors is getting ever shorter and homewares cheaper — fast furniture is a thing — while most homebuyers take it as a given that they’ll replace the kitchen and bathroom on move-in.

You need only see the furniture coming out of house clearances to realise how much our attitudes to home décor have changed.

Grannies bequeath well-cared-for, mid-century pieces that would have cost enough when bought new in the Seventies to be considered worth holding on to for a lifetime. A Billy bookcase rarely lasts a house move, let alone five decades.

How can we #ENDTHEWASTEAGE, as the curators urge us to do?

Designers, admittedly still at the intellectual and experimental end of the spectrum, are finding “the lost value in our trash”, creating clean materials and devising a circular economy.

There’s hope for the future, just as long as I can still play my CDs.

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