The rubble rousers

Pity the poor trash can, the plain Jane of housewares, spending its life in servitude and hiding. Who cares about this dumpy receptacle for apple cores, expired milk cartons and rotten screenplays -- the whole messy, smelly detritus of our daily lives? Never more than just a utility player, the trash can has always been consigned to lowly places: out-of-the-way corners and under kitchen sinks.

Today’s trash cans are getting a make-over. They’re in the best shapes they’ve ever been and able to wear all kinds of eye-popping colors. Helping you clean up your act without being overly sober, their clever designs let you toss leftovers with just a flip of the foot or a tap of the hand.

“We wanted to create something you’d like to live with and even want to show off,” says Marne Dupere of the Los Angeles store Orange, which has transformed the iconographic garbage bin -- the 20-gallon fluted can with lid -- by offering it in no fewer than 200 colors. “It’s manufactured by the same company that created it in the ‘20s,” she says of the fireproof barrel. “So it brings the past back with a modern flair.”

Vipp, a Danish line of shapely foot-pedal-operated step cans first created in the 1930s for hair salons, has also joined the color field. Adding to its stainless-steel line, Vipp offers models in tropical shades of orange, red and turquoise that complement both Mediterranean and modern interiors.


For ‘50s enthusiasts, Restoration Hardware sells the rocket-shaped, fire-engine-red Space Boy can with a chromed push door that’s kid-friendly and totally Buck Rogers. Umbra’s swing-top cans are ‘60s Mod with a shot of shimmer that wouldn’t look out of place on a Lexus.

By contrast, Hailo’s stainless-steel Corner Can looks as though it were designed by a European automotive stylist. A space-saving triangle with a rounded front gives it a pagoda-like profile and hinged doors quietly open and close like the wings of a butterfly.

-- David A. Keeps