If you write near-future SF, you should care about “Design and Construction Week”

Every year I check out what’s new from Design and Construction Week, a home building expo that’s like the mid-20th century’s “House of the Future”, expos except the most of the exhibits focus on products made and used in houses now. A lot of the “luxury” items–same as with personal tech like cutting-edge phones and computers–are too expensive for the average person now but will be affordable in 5 or 10 years. The construction materials will be phased into building over the next 5-20 years, as people build new or renovate. So, if you’re writing a story set 10, 20, or 30 years into the future, the innovations that were featured in this year’s show will probably be “everyday” to the characters in your story.

It’s got two parts: International Building Materials, and Kitchen & Bath; if you missed it when the show was running, HGTV does a recap, and you can find individual exhibitors by doing a quick Google search. There’s YouTube videos, too. Plus, KBIS (the interior portion of the exhibition) has a gallery of recent products here.

Some new items I might use in future stories include:

FUTRUS Patient Room 2020 In Corian®

Dupont’s Corian series is taking durable/low maintenance countertops in new directions, literally. Their online gallery is here; be sure to check out their “commercial” looks for more inspiration, as well as the rest of their site. Things to keep in mind: Curving walls, seamless waterfall counters, built in cubbies and racks, wireless charging stations hidden under a surface that looks like marble, granite, or wood.

Virginia Tech’s FutureHAUS Bedroom and Home Office of the Future is all about smart tech and multi-use small spaces. It uses RFID tech to track your clothes, so you always know what’s available to wear, has movable walls to adapt your living space to varying needs, interactive surfaces to create a home office from nothing more than a hi-tech table… Things to keep in mind: your voice commands everything in the space, and all surfaces are available for work/entertainment uses (imagine a TV in the ceiling, the wall is a computer, the floor can weigh you).

LT-2D3D Laser Templator brings precise laser measuring to home construction, which means it’s one step closer to being affordable for a wide array of uses. Imagine every crime scene investigator could push a button and have an immediate, accurate, scan of each object (and body?) in a room. Criminals create instant scans of buildings they’re casing. Museums digitize not just exhibits but the placement of those exhibits within the museum space, so distant viewers can experience the entire scene just as local visitors would… Right now, this technology is too expensive for every day use, but some day soon, it won’t be.

(Click on the images to see larger versions.)

Art History Resources For Writers: Vintage Sewing Patterns (20th century)

Standard 1108; ©1899; Men’s and Boys’ Military Shirt.

If you’re writing about at people who lived in America (or at least, a parallel version of the United States with a similar fashion sense), in a generation or region different from your own, you might not have a clear vision of how your characters dressed. Vintage sewing patterns can tell you what the average person was wearing at the time. Different eras relied more or less on home-sewn clothes, but every generation has worn the styles depicted in sewing patterns, whether they bought off the rack or not.

Peerless 9590W; ca. 1920; Ladies’ & Misses’ Drawers.

Mass market clothing has always been inspired by the high fashion of a couple years prior, and that filters down into the everyday looks worn “today”. It used to be that finding old patterns meant scouring garage sales, or — if you’re lucky — diving deep into your local library’s collection of ephemera. Thanks to the internet, you can now find a lot of these rare pieces on the Vintage Sewing Pattern Wikia.

Hollywood 1090; ca. 1932; One-piece evening frock and short fitted jacket.

Like any other public wiki, this one is updated and maintained by a group of people who may or may not be historians, so double check whatever you glean from their archives, but with sewing patterns, it’s pretty easy to get information about the date and region right there on the package.

Butterick 4133; late 1940s; Misses’ Hostess Gown: Scalloped Midriff.

This site includes both patterns uploaded individually by folks who owned a copy, and some  Vintage Pattern Vendors who allowed their patterns to be used; the site’s About section warns against uploading copyright images.

McCall’s 3616; ©1956; Misses’ Bathing Suit and Beach Robe with or without Sleeves

Vogue 7497; ca. 1968/69; Misses Caftan.

Click on any of the images to see a larger version. All are currently available on the Vintage Sewing Pattern Wikia.