Improvised Life » before + after If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Tue, 22 Apr 2014 20:00:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Silo Becomes a Cool 2-Story Camp Mon, 14 Apr 2014 20:00:55 +0000

Brothers Rehan and Josh Nana wanted a “camp” to stay in when they went hunting on their family’s three-hundred acre farmland in Missouri. The brothers decided to forge one themselves out of one of the abandoned outbuildings on the property and chose an old grain silo. Says Rehan in an article in Garden and Gun:  “The silo fits into the environment. And we liked the idea of repurposing something that would otherwise be left fallow.”


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A Mirror Makes a Corner Window with a Big View Thu, 10 Apr 2014 17:00:59 +0000

Sally Schneider

The corner window above is an optical illusion created in response to the penny-pinched architecture of the space that became Improvised Life’s Laboratory. Cutting every corner possible, the building’s developer didn’t even leave one inch to the right of narrow living room’s window — the wall butted right into the sill —making the room feel lopsided and hemmed in. Here’s how it looked when I arrived (more…)

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Creativity Strategy: Tear the Idea Apart (Video) Thu, 10 Apr 2014 08:09:48 +0000 This video called Crazy furniture reminded us that EXPLODING an idea — dismantling it and reconfiguring it in various ways — can really help to refresh the creative process. And it's an especially good practice for re-envisioning a space.]]> 0 When to Deconstruct A TOO Critical Eye Wed, 26 Feb 2014 00:00:40 +0000

At Neatorama the other day, we came across this image of a scribble a kid made on the wall with the headline “Now What?”. The answer was the clever stenciled pattern that disguised the original.  (more…)

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Sanded Egg Cups: How We Hack Gilded and Shiny Tue, 04 Feb 2014 18:54:39 +0000

Sally Schneider

We’re at it again, hacking household items to tailor them to our liking. This time: vintage egg cups bought on Ebay. We love their elegant shape but NOT the cheapish gold edge on the rim.

So we used our trusty extra-fine sanding sponge to remove the gold rim and strip the egg cup down to its pure, beautiful shape. We use these sponges whenever we want to dull something that’s too shiny, remove paint, TAILOR household items to our liking: just sand lightly or hard depending on the effect.

It’s the same method we used for dulling the shiny vintage fondue forks we bought on Ebay to use as cooking forks (more…)

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A Magnetic Wall to Display Art, Photos, Anything! Wed, 29 Jan 2014 18:00:44 +0000

Holton Rower is an artist so inventive that Improvised Life could be devoted soley to his work and improvisations. He designed a wonderful bit of brilliance in his home recently: an iron-clad magnetic wall painted to look like the adjacent walls. It allows Holton and his family to easily display and remove artwork, photographs, notes —anything that can be held up with magnets — as they wish. Perfect in house that serves as an ever-changing gallery of art — the entire family are artists — and interesting things to look at. It would be a wonderful idea to apply to just about any space. Because the steel is painted, it looks like a regular wall and won’t rust, so could be used in a kitchen.

Holton and carpenter Kris Potocki of Krispo Construction shared pictures and the gist of how they created the wall. (more…)

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Inspired Tape Wall Illusion, Indoors or Out Tue, 14 Jan 2014 22:20:32 +0000


(fos), a multidisciplinary team of interior designers and art directors based in Madrid and Barcelona, applies their creative talents to all kinds of projects,  including this ephemeral façade on a Madrid restaurant. They used yellow tape to create the illusion of a beam of light.

Applied outdoors, this idea is ephemeral because the elements will degrade the tape. We see it as a wonderful idea to apply indoors. (more…)

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construction foliage camouflage, a cool material for interiors? Wed, 13 Nov 2013 18:17:44 +0000

The other day, we passed a construction site made curiously beautiful by the addition of sheer mesh scrims displaying murals of leafy foliage and tulip fields (below). We love construction sites, but they do often present a rather bleak, harsh atmosphere. Although we could still make out the messy site behind the scrim, somehow the overlaid nature images transformed it into something oddly beautiful, and way softer. We thought:  Yay, someone has finally started applying a bright, aesthetic sensibility to these ugly spots.

Then we wondered if this scrim-like material could have applications inside a home. We found Camouflage, a Finnish company making delightful disguises out of sheets of die-stamped flowers. (more…)

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Merete and Christopher’s Tiny House: A Tour + Process Tue, 12 Nov 2013 15:00:31 +0000

Apartment Therapy

Last March, we posted about Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith’s film TINY: A Story About Living Small, about their attempt to build a tiny house from scratch.  Since then, we’ve watched Merete and Christopher edit and expand the film, take it to major film festivals, do the PR themselves, and tons of other diligent work we don’t even know about, until they sold it to Al Jazeera America for airing on television.

We asked Merete about the process of making TINY from start to finish. Her answer is a great example of the creative, very improvisational process of making something live in the world, and the essential principles involved. (more…)

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how to make low ceilings look higher (optical illusion) Mon, 04 Nov 2013 17:00:59 +0000

Sally Schneider

We were thrilled when Remodelista contacted us about using images we’d posted some time ago of an essential design trick we’d used throughout the Laboratory’s renovation: replacing the squat 6’6″ doors with tall, eight-footers. Their strong vertical lines make our lowish 8’2″ ceilings look higher. Check out our images on Remodelista. In the meantime, here are a couple of extras, showing ‘before’ and ‘after’. (more…)

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how to wax suede and give it a fab new look Mon, 07 Oct 2013 17:26:02 +0000 Martin Margiela waxed suede boot Checking out the “ingredients” of a product —whether food or object— can yield a lot of information about how the thing is made, and inspire ideas for riffs and innovation on the theme.

While shopping for pair of boots online, I stumbled on a pair by designer Martin Margiela made of “waxed suede”. Waxed suede? I wondered what it looked like and if waxing might be a solution to suede that had become lousy-looking from use. So I ordered the boots to check them out. The boots had a slightly rough but definitely cool, sophisticated patina. It would be GREAT to be able to transform worn suede products into that. I decided to try waxing some suede myself to see what would happen, and if I could achieve an interesting effect myself. (more…)

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the tweet powered car Mon, 07 Oct 2013 08:21:07 +0000

(Video link here.)  Under the guidance of innovative education organization MindDrive, thirty at-risk students in a Kansas City, Missouri neighborhood once called the “killing zip code” , built an electric car that successfully converted social media into fuel for a road trip from Kansas City to Washington D.C. A tweet was 5 watts;  a Facebook like, 1 watt; watching their YouTube video, 3 watts.

The car itself is a 1967 Karmann Ghia which the student team restored to working order from the exterior to the interior. The original drivetrain was replaced with an electric one, and they worked out the programming to incorporate the “social fuel” into the car’s operation. (more…)

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how to use fabric to disappear eyesores and clutter Wed, 02 Oct 2013 20:35:48 +0000 Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

I frequently do Skype consultations with people who need clever, inexpensive fixes for their spaces and are having difficulty envisioning possibilities. Often, they are only able to describe the change in feeling that they’d like to achieve.

In the many spaces I’ve looked at, I’ve seen a common problem: there is a lot of visual clutter. Often it is as simple as open shelving displaying a mash-up of books, boxes, collectables,and essential items. Their numerous small disparate shapes present as clutter, even though everything may be useful and necessary to the client’s life. This is especially common with people who are renting their space, and don’t want —or have the where-with-all— to invest in proper storage.

There is an amazingly simple solution: (more…)

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diy instant bed skirt from a linen sheet or coverlette Wed, 25 Sep 2013 23:50:19 +0000

diy linen bed skirt dust ruffle

Sally Schneider

The Laboratory’s latest design dilemma: how to hide the underpinnings of my makeshift bed and all the art materials stored under it? A bed skirt was clearly the solution, but the traditional route posed a number of problems. Classic bed skirts come in set sizes and lengths, none of which really fit my rigged bed. And since I envisioned a whole other bed in the future, it was very possible that it wouldn’t work for the new one. Not to mention, they are designed with only one purpose— to be a bed skirt — a box with a cotton top and linen sides that would be difficult to repurpose down the line. I was loathe to invest in something that would neither be great to start, nor stay great.

Stumbling on the Rough Linen website got me thinking about using a sheet as a bed skirt, and just folding it to fit my bed. I could change the size as needed, and a linen sheet could come in handy down the line for other uses: a table cloth perhaps, or a throw for the sofa (which is why they are such a great investment). (more…)

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