Improvised Life » before + after If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Wed, 12 Nov 2014 23:44:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Simple Wood Chair Wrapped and Embellished Mon, 15 Sep 2014 17:00:04 +0000

Ruth Ward

To raise funds for Teddy’s Wish charity auction, nineteen of the UK’s leading designers from the field of architecture, design, fashion and graphics have been invited to customise the iconic Ercol Stacking chair,  a simple, elegant wooden chair that invites embellishment. We are smitten with Faye Toogood’s iteration, above, wrapped with what looks like white nylon rope, or even rag. Oddly beautiful.

Here’s the original Ercol that provides the structure for Toogood’s imagination: (more…)

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Our FIX for the Flawed Cos Backpack Wed, 10 Sep 2014 17:00:50 +0000

Sally Schneider

In July, we posted a compelling backpack we’d bought from the stylish COS site only to discover that its design was profoundly flawed. If you put all but the lightest items in it, its magnetic closure instantly popped open, inviting strangers to dip their hand into the bag and steal our wallet (image below).  In that post, we experimented with a possible fix by using binder clips. Since the approach seemed workable, during our recent break we hacked the straps and sewed on sliding holders. We’re proud to say our fix WORKED: a lesson in trying ideas out, and flexing our own untrained design muscles to make things better or at the very least learn a few things.  (more…)

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Playing with a Mashup of Modernist and Classical Wed, 03 Sep 2014 18:04:48 +0000

McKinney + Windeatt Architects

When we scroll through the many design sites we cull for ideas, we find ourselves wading through image after image of the same midcentury-esque spaces, void of anything that “breaks” the look. There’s a disconcertingly uptight sameness to the essential idea of mid-century design that was, in its time, so alive and quirky.

So we found ourselves curiously relieved when we came across this very modern, in parts brutalist, space whose design was broken and softened by classical antiques. The heavy concrete mantle with an ornate gilded mirror is a fine example. (more…)

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Huge Linen Shirt Becomes a TeaTowel Tue, 02 Sep 2014 18:36:53 +0000

Marella Consolini

This just in from our friend Marella Consolini (whose daybooks with custom covers we love):

A new improvised project! Jimmy bought a gorgeous linen shirt on eBay for pennies, that turned out to be about a hundred sizes too big. But I fell in love with the pattern and the quality of the linen. Rather than send it on to the thrift shop, I folded it up and put it in my drawer, certain that I’d eventually figure out something to do with it.

Finally it dawned on me: the back was big enough to turn into a small pillow case or a towel — yes, a linen tea towel, which I love best! (more…)

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Why Not Really WIDE Moldings? Mon, 04 Aug 2014 20:00:32 +0000

Ettore Sottsass and Aldo Cibic

Found on the great Aqqindex, which almost fetishizes design from the 70’s and 80’s: a vew of Ettore Sottsass and Aldo Cibic’s design of the Munari Apartment, from 1983. Dig thos wide, spare moulding around the door, the opposite in moderne uber-minimalist, and very exprensive none-at all moldings. Rather then the usual 2-inch wide compromise, they really push the width, making the door a much more substantial volume. They ask Why not? in the realm of moldings.

Check out the difference in effect and feeling: (more…)

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Industrial Materials for DIY + Home Improvements Mon, 28 Jul 2014 20:00:01 +0000

Sally Schneider

Even though we are complete laymen, we have a thing for industrial materials: the mysterious raw materials used by various industries that were traditionally off-limits to the public. Years ago, we learned that if we could find a source, we could buy them like anyone else. In those days, we used a Business-to-Business phone book to find zinc fabricators for an kitchen island top, or a guy to forge a table base out of steel angle irons. Recently, we had an adventure and lesson in the vast possibilities of rubber products (and made some big discoveries we didn’t expect). (more…)

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Annals of Bad Design: COS Lightweight Backpack + Our FIX Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:01:02 +0000

Sally Schneider

When we looked at images of the COS Lightweight Backpack online and read the product description we thought PERFECT. Just what we’re looking for:

Made from a lightweight technical fabric, this cotton-lined backpack has an all-over print and fastens using a magnet and wide drawstring. Multi-functional, it can also be worn as a tote bag using the two top handles.

We ordered one and the harsh realities set in. (more…)

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A Rusty Corrugated Shed with a Modern Interior Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:05:48 +0000

Raffaello Rosselli

In our continueing search for examples of the incorporation of organic and decayed materials with modern functionality, we present Australian architect Raffaello Rosselli‘s lovely repurposing a corroding tin shed in Sydney to create a small office and studio apartment. (more…)

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Apartment Reno Encompasses Old and New Thu, 10 Jul 2014 17:00:20 +0000

Recently we wrote about a slick renovation that sadly covered over a beautiful aged wall that would have made a wonderful addition. Since then, we found an interesting mix of marriage of old and new details by architect Karin Matz in a cost-conscious renovation of a Stockholm space that had been used as furniture storage for 30 years.

Matz literally split the space into two zones: one polished and finished, the other rough and old.

Since a big constraint was cost, the polished/finished space largely employed IKEA kitchen shelving units and plywood. Floors and walls were painted white to reflect light and make it look (more...)]]> 0 Annals of Bad Design: Ill-Considered Sofa Placement Tue, 08 Jul 2014 20:00:15 +0000

Neil Architecture

We are stunned by the really ill-considered design of this slickly-renovated home (house tour here). The sofa is placed AWAY from the garden view and facing a wall unit!!  A simple fix would change the whole flow of the room (you can really see it in the floor plan, below)… (more…)

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Apply Design Thinking Anywhere, Even the Hospital Thu, 26 Jun 2014 20:08:51 +0000

Sally Schneider

On Monday, after our weekend spent looking after a friend in the hospital, we posted the makeshift phone table we devised by turning a foot stool on its side, so our friend could easily reach the phone. Like many prototypes, our design needed tweaking after it had actually been put to use. The problem: our friend was tethered to monitors and IV’s so didn’t have his usual dexterity. The rigged table tipped over easily.

So we made an improvement to our phone table, using what was around. (more…)

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Stylish Affordable DIY End Grain Block Flooring Tue, 17 Jun 2014 20:48:53 +0000

When we were hunting for a affordable flooring solutions for the Laboratory, we came across a wood floor we had never seen before in a store in Soho: it was made from tiles cut across the grain of hard wood beams: end cuts placed in a grid to make an unexpectedly beautiful pattern. The lighting in the store was so poor that our snapshots were too vague to publish. Recently, we came across some fine images of what we now know to be Log End or End Grain flooring, and info about how to do it. We found some great info and a how-to at Design Sponge:  (more…)

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DIY? A Chair Frame Wrapped in Suspenders Tue, 10 Jun 2014 20:00:23 +0000

Outdoorz Gallery

Over the years, we’ve come across chair frames and carcasses — the structure without soft back or seat in place — and wondered what we can do with them. Sometimes we find beautiful sculptural ones discarded on the street, sometimes new versions, like chair forms meant to be upholstered that we discovered here (see below), or Ikea finds WITHOUT the pillows.

Recently we came across a compelling idea for transforming chair frames developed by Italian designer Luca Martorano in collaboration with craftsman Georg Muehlmann. In their ‘Bretelle’ chair (Italian for suspenders), they wrapped the back and seat of the wooden frame with a layered, intersecting network of suspenders to form the pan and backrest. The elastic framework provides comfortable, lightweight seating. (more…)

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Murphy Bed with Storage Design: Our Life-Size Prototype Wed, 14 May 2014 20:00:48 +0000

Sally Schneider

Sometimes people adept at designing things get jammed and stuck by thorny design problems. When that is the case, making a prototype with moveable parts can help to test out various iterations. You can shift them around and play with them to see how they will actually work and feel.

Somehow, I had forgotten this essential technique until a friend reminded me and got my stalled hideaway bed/storage/bookcase unit project MOVING. With the help of a life-size prototype made of Foam Core and a lot of tape, I was able to figure out the design in two days (after an embarrassing amount of time mulling, and working on other projects.) Here’s how the miracle cure worked: (more…)

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