Improvised Life » before + after If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Tue, 12 Aug 2014 08:50:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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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The Beauty and Secret of Black Hardware Thu, 08 May 2014 22:37:46 +0000

Sally Schneider

Browsing through my image files, I came across photos I’d collected of matte black door hardware, which I contemplated using in the Laboratory. The first time I saw it used was in a friend’s just-renovated Brooklyn brownstone: black hinges add a surprising graphic element, as does the rosette of the crystal doorknob. Beautiful. Although I only used black hardware in one detail of the Laboratory, I learned its biggest lesson and caveat. (more…)

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Briwax to Restore Wood, Wax Suede, and Other DIY’s Tue, 29 Apr 2014 20:00:54 +0000

Sally Schneider

Over the years, we’ve become big fans of Original Briwax for a variety of diy projects, from waxing suede to cleaning and restoring wood that’s become dirty from use or age. Briwax is a blend of beeswax and carnauba wax mixed with the solvent Toluene (Briwax’s Toluene Free formula contains the solvents Xylene and Naphtha); solvents make the hard waxes spreadable AND help it clean dirty wood. We consider them a necessary evil, so we use Briwax in a well-ventilated space, and wearing gloves.

Recently, we used Briwax to clean a treasured burled wood hand-held mirror friends had given us years ago. We purposely cleaned half the mirror to show just what Briwax can do.  (more…)

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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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