Choose functionality over fashion in home design

Valuing function over fashion

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Last time, I invoked Henry David Thoreau — "Simplify, simplify!" — to buttress my contention that the best design choice is usually the simplest one that does the job. Yet things appear to be going in the other direction. Following are some currently popular design choices that needlessly complicate our homes:

Glass shower enclosures have become the default standard in bathrooms these days, showing up in every trendoid design magazine, invariably looking dazzling and pristine. Such adoring coverage might lead you to believe that shower curtains don’t even exist anymore.

What’s wrong with glass enclosures? First off, compared to the alternative — our old friend, the shower curtain — they’re astronomically expensive. They’re also a real headache to maintain, since those crystal-clear panes require constant cleaning to maintain that coveted magazine-spread sparkle. Lastly, they unnecessarily clutter up what is already a modestly sized room.

A $10 shower curtain, on the other hand, stops water just as well and can be drawn back to virtually disappear from the scene. Nor is there any slavish daily cleaning required — when a shower curtain gets objectionably scuzzy, you can simply replace it and recycle the old one as a drop cloth.

Kitchens are another nexus of bad or impractical choices made for fashion reasons. Let’s start with all those cabinet doors: Cabinet manufacturers delight in whipping up showroom kitchens with a plethora of doors: big doors, little doors, narrow doors, glass doors — and with good reason: the more doors, the more profitable the order.