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HomeHomes
Published: Tuesday, 10/25/2005

Trendsetters get square to be hip

BY CINDY HOEDEL
THE KANSAS CITY STAR

Call it the square root of chic. In the cyclical world of home-decor trends, angles are edging out curves, at least for the moment.

Designers of everything from plates to pillows are in a square frame of mind.

* Blocky glass vases make flowers look even softer.

* Checkered sheers are billowing in front of better-dressed windows.

* Square dishes, once the exclusive domain of Japanese sushi bars, have gone mainstream, showing up in all kinds of restaurants and specialty kitchen stores.

* Even the king of organic blob shapes, New York-based designer Karim Rashid, has designed a groovy cube-y bowl for Nambe.

Some buyers in the housewares field think the square fad is tied to rising interest in Eastern religions, yoga and feng shui.

A lot of it comes from the Asian influence, said Renee Behnke, president of Seattle-based kitchen retailer Sur La Table.

The trend toward square dinnerware may be falling off in plates, Behnke said, but where we ve seen it stay is in dipping bowls, salad plates and some service pieces like a big square platter.

Particularly striking are the square place mats in the company s early spring catalog. We ve sold thousands of them, Behnke said. The 16-inch straw mats have a functional appeal that goes beyond appearance. Round tables can t take rectangular mats, but they can take square mats, she said.

Square dinner plates, on the other hand, may be confusing to some people, Behnke said. Once, when she served food on square plates at a dinner party, she recalled, A male guest asked, Where do I start? Acceptance is higher for (square) salad plates and serving platters.

Customers may be drawn to square shapes for their balanced look and Zen-like feel, but Behnke is quick to point out that a major force behind any trend is simply newness: People like change -- it s just different, she said.

A rug, like a place mat, is rectangular in the mind s eye. A square rug is unexpected, said Diane Elson, owner of Elson and Company, a San Francisco designer rug company.

One of the designs her company sells, Vagabond by artist Rex Ray, is a series of colorful concentric squares radiating out from the center on a beige background.

I m a fan of the square, Elson said. It s a very modern shape.

Of course the square has a past, and it s anything but checkered. Elson said she draws inspiration from renowned Bauhaus designer Josef Albers Homage to the Square series of paintings, executed over two decades beginning in 1949.

Squares are making a mark on fashion at Cy Rudnick s Crown Center Fabrics in Kansas City, Mo. A new rayon and cotton curtain material from Italy, for example, sports two-inch squares in three shades of blue.

Store owner Cy Rudnick said customers are more likely to use bold geometric patterns, including squares, for decor than couture. Rudnick said he was thinking jackets when he bought a two-sided, black-on-white silk organza with square-patterned stitching, but instead customers are purchasing it to make pillows.

You can t put a square peg in a round hole, but in the world of textiles and flooring, circles in squares are all the rage.

A famous historical version of the circles-and-squares concept is Verner Panton s Op art Geometri fabric from 1960, reissued to much applause last year by Maharam. Flourescent orange and stark black-on-white versions of the fabric started turning up on everything from barstools to laminate tabletops.

Just because you re a square doesn t mean you have to be hard-edged. Lots of new textiles are putting some swing in their quadrilaterals. Designer Angela Adams has cornered the market for fun textile graphics with wobbly squares and drunken chessboard patterns that dance across pillows and glassware.

Adams Portland, Maine-based company also sells wool rugs cut with her distinctive lines.

In the kitchen, square sinks are -- yawn -- practically standard. But now bathrooms are getting edgy with square and rectangular ceramic basins. Kohler has an undercounter-mounted model called Ladena (from $199) that looks like a shoebox with a concave bottom.

I sell a lot of that Ladena sink, said Tony Shapiro of Dorfman Plumbing Supply in Kansas City. Shapiro said customer requests for square sinks have been on the rise the last two years.

Other sinks that exemplify inside-the-box thinking include the XO by Lefroy Brooks USA (from $623 through International Materials of Design in Overland Park, Kan.) and the Vero by Duravit (from $435 through Dorfman), which resembles a glazed ceramic box that sits on a counter or protrudes from a wall. Dorfman also carries Andre Collection squared-off faucets and square handles, which may be the ultimate anti-ergonomic design statement.

If you want to get your bed squared away, there are plenty of sheets with four-sided motifs to choose from this season: Garnet Hill s Cubes is soothing in sandstone hues; Crate and Barrel has a soft blue-and-taupe motif called Times Square; and Dwell s Square Dot motif makes a bold statement in chocolate, orange or taupe.

Whether your taste runs toward the bold or the sedate, it s time to get back to square one -- at least until the circle circles back around.



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