Things That Look Like Other Things

Touring the Confederate White House in Richmond, Va. one fall, I was amused to learn that all of the opulent wallpaper and ornately contrived furnishings were made by machine. In 1860s America, this was a runaway trend: being well-off enough to afford things that looked expensively handmade but were in fact even more expensively machine made. Factory-spun velvet draperies graced the great room where a massive mirror bore scratches and swirls from Southern socialites testing the authenticity of their engagement diamonds. Sometimes we want things to look like other things, and sometimes we don’t.

Which brings me to faux bois, a runaway trend for 2008 America that fits squarely with the delightful woodland themes found in decor right now but borders on mockery. Whether it’s fossil-fuel plastic rendered to appear to be wood or hydrogenated oil rendered to appear to be butter or sparkling rocks marketed to appear to be worth freedom (for both the diggers and the debtors), we are very good at creating things that are almost something else much better. Recycling plastic into stylish reuse is one thing; first-use plastic made to resemble wood is pretty hypocritical.

Fortunately, our human penchant for imitation is resulting in some cheerful – and eco-friendly – innovations. Plastic bottles quickly replaced glass ones in the 20th century, and the era of single-use containers has caused innumerable environmental and health consequences. Glass bottles are now being made to look like the plastic ones that were once made to look, of all things…like glass.

Image: Dose of Design

Note: If you fancy those sparkling rocks, there are a number of ethical, eco-friendly options. My first choice would be created diamonds (they’re not fake or imitation – they’re the real deal). A leading created diamond company is GreenKarat. And I’ll be posting later this week about the green choices now available for engagement rings.