Alternative materials make decorating more interesting

By Vicki Payne

The Charlotte Observer

Whether I’m flipping through my favorite home decor magazine or browsing online, a great room always makes me pause and study how it is put together. I believe visually dismantling a room piece by piece is the only way to learn how to create compelling spaces.

A technique that I find intriguing is skillful use of alternative materials. Designs that include something beyond traditional wood and upholstered furniture are simply more interesting.

Alternative materials come in many forms — metal, wicker, stone, ceramic, plastic or glass, to mention a few. Incorporating a well-edited selection of these materials is the glue that holds a room design together and sets it apart at the same time.

For me, Kenneth Cobonpue’s Noodle chair fuels the imagination. With handcrafted loops of rattan placed as randomly as an idle doodle, its spontaneity is matched only by its versatility.

Embracing furniture made of alternative material is not a new concept. I have been collecting vintage design magazines and books for years. I am always thrilled when I rediscover a trend that today’s reporters are describing as new and inventive. Truth is, great designers have always known the value of incorporating the unexpected alongside the norm.

Working with alternative materials allows manufacturers to create pieces that can move with ease from indoors to outside. Global View’s Studio A collection includes the Eiffel Park Bench and Loveseat. Both are inspired by the French iron bench. The delicate lines allow them to slip into a room without becoming overpowering or taking up too much space.

Alternative materials are often used in occasional chairs, offering an opportunity to introduce new elements in a room without a major investment in dollars or space. The Spinnaker Chair by Studio A takes its name from a wind-filled sail. The shape gives motion to a sedentary room. The hand-woven, gray-washed faux-rattan chair was inspired by a vintage technique. Replacing a traditional wing chair with this updated option could be a refreshing alternative for your home.

Looking for a small end table? Consider using a garden stool. These are modestly-scaled round ceramic stools that make wonderful, versatile tables. They come in a variety of colors and metallic finishes. They work beautifully indoors and out. Consider placing one next to your bathtub as a perch for your wine glass, a candle or towel.

Furniture pieces crafted from alternative materials are simply fun to use, and they certainly help to create rooms that give us pause.