Furniture and housewares that are easy on the eyes aren't always easy on the wallet. But there are exceptions. Here, eight products we came across in 2014 that are beautifully designed but not outrageously priced, from easily assembled tables and shelves to Brutalist architecture-inspired pillows and smart night lights.
These won't necessarily beat tag-sale prices or convince broke college kids not to rescue that perfectly good dresser from the garbage pile on the curb, but money-conscious design snobs might appreciate the fact that these sleek products are all under $200.
The Swedish furniture behemoth's PS 2014 collection is even trendier and more adaptable than its usual products. The PS 2014 "On the Move" collection consists of 51 items, many of which perform double duty: a nightstand has a built-in lamp and a wraparound side that turns into a magazine rack; a coat rack has branch-like hooks for hanging up coats, hats, and purses; and a stacked shelving system with hooks could easily hold an entire kitchen's worth of eating utensils and cookware. Browse the collection, ranging from $13 for a mirror to $360 for a chair, here.
Designed by Evan Clabots and Louis Filosa for the e-commerce site Fab.com, Sway shelves don't require elaborate mounting racks to install. Instead, two nylon straps with an eyehole at the end allow you to mount your new Sway shelves about as easily as you'd hang a picture on your wall. And they're surprisingly inexpensive: a set of two Sway shelves can be purchased from Fab for just $35. Sure beats giving up and buying another Expedit.
Furniture company Soapbox has designed a line of tables perfect for those incapable of deciphering hieroglyph-filled instruction manuals. The company's Short and Tall Tables don't require any tools. Instead of fasteners and screws that can loosen over time, clamps of solid steel hold the table surface and legs together at four corners. The simple clamps easily snap into place, and their bright colors make them an intentional, attractive part of the design's aesthetic. Short and Tall Tables are available here for $130 to $170.
The Drift, a smarter lightbulb by Saffron, requires only your light switch to access its several modes. Flick the switch on and the LED light bulb will glow like any bulb you know. Flip the switch on twice, and you enter Midnight Mode, which gradually dims the light over the course of 37 minutes to lull you to sleep like a setting sun. Flip the switch three times, and you enter Moonlight Mode, which slowly dims the bulb but stops at a faint glow to serve as a nightlight. Buy it here for $30.
A book by Indiana-based industrial designer Christopher Stuart, DIY Furniture 2, features 30 chic designs by makers, designers, and artisans around the world, many cobbled together from unlikely, upcycled materials. There are step-by-step instructions on making chairs from PVC tubes and suction cups; overhead lights from cardboard and electrical wire; and tables from repurposed pizza crispers. And these won’t make your home look like an ad hoc squat or a crunchy hippie pad: they're as sleek and functional as pieces you might find at, say, Design Within Reach, or Blu Dot. See more here.
London studio Custhom has found a way to make Brutalist architecture cuddly. They based their latest textile design on the architecture of the Hayward Gallery, a Brutalist classic designed by a group of young architects in 1968. Now comes the Hayward collection, which includes pillows, blankets, and tea towels, and features a cotton-flax mix fabric printed with a grid of geometric solid blocks; a reinterpretation of the concrete building’s shapes. Blankets are on the expensive side, but the rest is available from prices ranging between $30 to $128 here.
In addition to possibly being the world's most beautiful and sophisticated nightlight—with an ambient light sensor, a ring to adjust brightness, and the ability to set the hue to one of 16 million colors—the Leeo Smart Alert can protect your home when you're away. It's a plug-and-play accessory that will listen for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, alerting you and your emergency contacts if something goes wrong when you're away from the house. To use it, just plug it into the wall, and connect it to your home Wi-Fi, setting it up through an iPhone or Android app. Get the Smart Alert here for $100.
The Fantasia lamps, from Italian design studio MID can turn nearly any baton-shaped item—broom handles, carrots, spoons—into a standing lamp. "The idea was to steal things from our daily life to create and animate other different objects," designer Lapo Germasi says. "To support itself, the family of Fantasia lamps steals the brooms from the storage closet, greens from our food reserves, screwdrivers from our home toolbox." They range from about $113 to $312, here.