Recently, we went looking for a 24-inch round metal bistro table for our Harlem terrace and hit a dilemma: whether to buy the pricey classic Fermob table (top photo), made in France, (THE table used in many public spaces), whose durable finish we’ve tested in the guise of a rectangular table we’ve stored outdoors for 2 years OR
…a good-looking knockof (bottom photo), made in China and $100 cheaper. It’s 2 pounds lighter, a concern due to the high winds up here, and we have no idea how the finish would hold-up, or how it looks in person as opposed to a photograph. If it looked cheesey or flimsy, sending it back would be expensive. On the other hand, Terrain, the store that sells it guarantees it for a year. Reviews we read for other Fermob knock-offs complain of easily-scratchable powder coating and flimsy construction. Terrain claims their matte, powder-coated finish is really durable.
Part of our improvised life is making the most of our money, and we LOVE finding less expensive routes to well-designed stuff. It’s a personal challenge we find immensely gratifying WHEN we succeed. But we’ve learned the hard way that going cheap can often be expensive read more…
(Video link here.) Paulo Goldstein sees himself as a craftsman in his approach to repair. It seems to us, he has the viewpoint of an artist, and certainly his repairs reflect a rare sensibility. We found this short video incredibly illuminating, for the many levels of living he addresses. Here’s the gist, but there’s way more in this 5 minutes:
REPAIR IS BEAUTIFUL began with the idea of solving frustration. A broken object delivers frustration because it doesn’t achieve its functionality, but the same principle applies to a broken system that caused the financial crisis, which has affected our lives since 2008. In a time of uncertainty, taking things into our own hands and having the feeling of control back can be very therapeutic. Repair is Beautiful aims to give back this feeling of control – by scaling down a major society problem to a human size and projecting frustration upon broken objects that can be repaired through design and craftsmanship. The final outcome is a collection of intriguingly repaired objects imbued with new meaning and functionality. The once rejected objects reflect the environment that created them and call us to question our society as a whole.
Check out Goldstein’s director’s chair repair inspired by a suspension bridge:
We found this wonderful image on Maria Robledo’s Instagram. Ohhh, what a great method of storing receipts (emptying pockets or bag then-and-there.) Thrown into a space between books —some amazing ones at that— they take on a curious beauty.
We have a box in an easily-accessible file cabinet that we throw them into to collate later. Whose got time to scan and organize ‘em?
Wandering around Harlem recently, we spotted this structure in the back of someone’s brownstone. It appears to be a clever combination porch and treehouse, literally built AROUND the tree growing in the yard.
Whoever made it clearly didn’t want to mess with the old tree growing very close to the house. So they found away to…embrace it. read more…
We have a nasty patch of rubble in the back alley guarded by unsightly bent pipes that protect a gas meter. Every fall I throw a packet of wildflower seeds down, scratch them in, and wait to see what the rains will bring. It’s different every year. Nasturtiums and poppies duke it out neck and neck for starters (below). Quickly followed by the big guys: penstamom, coreopsis, feverfew, lupine and cosmos (above). read more…
Stumbling on this wonderful image of sculptural black-painted chairs on a wall of the La Gran Francia Hotel in Granada, Nicaragua got us thinking about ways to store un-folding chairs. This assemblage is a more playful, freeform take on the Shaker-esque practice of hanging uniform chairs on hooks (below).
Then, moving too fast as we scanned Remodelista, we mistook Williamsburg’s (and now San Francisco’s) store The Future Perfect as someone’s HOME, and thought, how cool is that: line up interesting chairs, and even a bench or two on a shelf, like a display of sculptures. read more…
We’ve just discovered photographer Maria’s Robledo’s crazy-beautiful Instagram, a trove of images that will make you SEE the everyday differently and put you right in the moment. Only Maria could have come up with this simple, curiously moving arrangements of pussy willow blossoms (which people usually just throw away once they’ve been knocked off their stem). The image shouts SPRING. It seems the perfect accompaniment to this 4-line gem of a poem by Su Tung-p’o written over a thousand years ago:
Pear blossoms pale white, willows deep green – when willow fluff scatters, falling blossoms will fill the town. Snowy boughs by the eastern palisade set me pondering – in a lifetime how many springs do we see? read more…
Of the many imaginary inventions in my head, a pop-up guest room has had many iterations. Living in a moderate-sized New York City apartment with only one bedroom, I’d love a separate, somewhat private space to offer guests who come to sleep in my big open livingroom/kitchen/workspace. My latest inspiration comes Fabrica, Benetton’s communication research center in Treviso, Ialy.’Next Cabane’ was a design exploration spurred by a foldable wooden structure found in a dark corner of an antique market in the south of Scotland. Fabrica’s designers viewed envisioned it as movable rooms that can be carried from place to place.
‘small, temporary spaces where we can set our boundaries, seek shelter or simply live a different life rediscovering the quality and simplicity of things. personal, intimate havens in harmony with their surroundings; they reflect on subjects like work, pop-up culture, loneliness, games. alternative settings were one can live in a better way with more awareness, where design is at the service of research into materials, forms and structures.’
All it would take to make the frame is a some drilled slats of hardwood, jointed with hex bolts and wing nuts* nut whose “wings” provide a grip for the thumb and finger. You tighten the wing nut to secure the form; untighten it to fold it up for storage. read more…
Speak of the devil! Christoph Niemann created this brilliant cover for the new New Yorker’s Innovator’s Issue. At the New Yorker blog, Niemann has again illustrated his process , which AGAIN involves nixxing an idea, only to have it come back at him in a completely unexpected way. We GET and love that the brilliant guy struggles a bit to create his wonderful stories and illustrations.
We are looking forward to diving into this issue, especially IMAGINED INVENTIONS by some notable folks —our own imagined inventions would fill a library— and Susan Orlean on the future of treadmill desks.
When we saw this cunning walnut doorknob from ModKnobs, we imagined it to be the perfect knob for our bathroom door. But when it finally arrived, the knob we thought so fab turned out to be huge and clunky, way out of scale for the space (see photo, below). We had neglected to take note of the knob’s actual dimensions and hold a template up in the space to see if it would work. Not only did we have to pay return shipping but a restocking fee as well, all because we had neglected a simple step.
It reminded us of other common mistakes we made when ordering hardware online during the Laboratory’s renovation. We learn our lessons the hard way! Like all lessons, some good came out of it; it lead us to create our 7-Step Guide to Buying Hardware Online so you can avoid our mistakes when you buy hardware:
When the wise, inventive, not-terribly-technological Christoph Niemann tried to create an app, it became pretty “interesting. He documented the process in the New Yorker recently and in doing so, a wonderful distillation of the creative process and struggle:
I explored countless (but crucial) dead ends, and it all came down to the most important struggle at the center of all creative pursuits: being the artist and the editor at the same time. read more…