The other week, I wrote a post about design in the UK, wherein I generalized all over my adopted country, and shared some of my favorite design lessons learned as a Canadian expat. It was fun to write, but it also got me thinking about those design details more common back home that I love, too. So consider this post a counterpart, sort of "Design Lessons from America," or "Things I Really Wish the UK Would Get on Board With."
1. Subtle (& Attractive) Central Heating
When I first realized that what we refer to as "radiators" back home is thought of as "central heating" over here, I laughed with a mixture of mirth and sadness. Hailing as I do from the land of forced air and unobtrusive vents, there is nothing more annoying to me than a big, bulky radiator. They eat up space in narrow hallways, interfere with your furniture layouts, and unless you're lucky enough to have the traditional cast-iron type in your period property, they are ugly as sin.
Obviously I can't change the mechanical and electric practices of entire countries; many UK homes don't have basements and the resulting extra room for a large furnace. But I will say that as a designer, I'm grateful for the increased use of under-floor heating in new builds and renos on this side of the pond.
(Radiators do, however, make an excellent place to dry your laundry on a winter's day. So there's that.)
2. Front Hall Closets
As a born and bred Ontarian, wearing shoes in the house is a no-no for me. I'm also in possession of a sizable (some might say ridiculous) collection of outerwear, covering all possibilities of weather and style. And you know what? I like to divest myself of these things within seconds of entering a home and have a dedicated spot to stash them — ideally behind a closed door.
Though post-war homes in the UK often have multiple closets and practical storage (my own flat does pretty well on this count), there are a fair number of homes with front doors that open directly into a living room or narrow hallway, no closet in sight. The solution is often a bulky piece of furniture by the entryway, or a dash to your bedroom the minute you get home. You would think that a country with such, er, changeable weather would have come up with a better coat-storage solution.
(I suppose I could just own fewer coats and jackets, but that sounds like an extreme fix to me.)
3. Good Home Shopping on the High Street
So the whole world has IKEA, and that's great. In the UK we also have Habitat, Made.com (love it), Heals and The Conran Shop, though the latter two are far pricier than the former. Most of our chain department stores also sell furniture, though it can be hit-and-miss on style and price. A couple years ago London even got its first West Elm, which was an event, to say the least.
But really, despite having (in my opinion) superior or at least just-as-good clothing shopping over here (a London outpost of Madewell would mean I'd never have to visit NYC again), Brits are sorely underserved in the homewares department. You can get beautiful furniture, and you can get affordable furniture, but if you're looking for both, pickings are slim.
So that's it: the design features I sorely wish I could import to the UK. You might have noticed that while the original post was 5 points long, I can barely stretch this list to 3. Seems I've been away from home for too long and can't remember all the fantastic things about it (or maybe UK style really is that good).
So tell me, what's great about style in good old North America? What would you change?