Improvised Life » cool spaces If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Thu, 13 Nov 2014 09:20:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tiny Transforming Apartment Yields One Big Idea Tue, 11 Nov 2014 22:00:47 +0000

(Video link HERE.) We find this video of a tiny apartment* in which each piece of furniture transforms into something else strangely compelling, all the while feeling that having to transform EVERYTHING in our place would drive us mad.

It did give us some ideas, one in particular that solves a design problem we been struggling with in our Murphy Bed storage unit. Our  side opening door looks sleek when closed but sticks too far out into the room when open. What to do.  (more…)

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8+ Strategies for Redecorating an Ugly Hotel Room Wed, 05 Nov 2014 18:00:13 +0000

Being very sensitive to spaces, we have long been big on tailoring hotel rooms to our own sensibility and personal feng shui. Photos of the newly renovated Hôtel Baume in Paris made us think of the many strategies we’ve developed over years of traveling to shift the feeling of not-quite-right, often OVER-decorated hotel rooms and make them more comfortable. Where many folks think they have to live with the dictates of the room they find themselves in, we are great believers in improvising on what’s there to make it more comfortable for our minimalist sensibilities. Here are our tricks and tips, with examples:


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‘My Only Religion is Love of the Work to Be Created': Matisse Mon, 03 Nov 2014 09:29:22 +0000 In this beautiful video, Morgan Meis visits Chapelle du Rosier de Vence, the chapel Matisse called his “masterpiece”. The short film is a wonderful interplay of the chapel itself and clips of Matisse working. Meis' commentary illuminates what it's like to experience the spare space, as well as Matisse's process and motivations:]]> 2 Lost Bohemia: Inside Carnegie Hall’s Artist Studios Thu, 30 Oct 2014 08:11:47 +0000

(Video link HERE.) For over 100 years,some of the 20th century’s most significant artists and performers lived and worked in the 165 studios that lay hidden atop Carnegie Hall. The studios were rented by creative people of all stripes, from fashion designers to painters and ballerinas, an eccentric mix to be sure. Some lived there.

Photographer Josef Astor lived and worked in his three-storey Carnegie Hall studio for twenty years. In 2007, when the Carnegie Hall Corporation decided to evict the remaining artists to develop the property, he made Lost Bohemia, about the spaces and the community they housed: (more…)

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Le Corbusier’s Wall Built Tight-to-The Window, and Ours Mon, 27 Oct 2014 17:00:34 +0000


This image of a room in Villa Savoye, the Le Corbusier-designed modernist villa in the outskirts of Paris, defies notions we had previously held about the WRONGNESS of having a wall run right into a window. That is what we encountered when we bought our laboratory space; we saw it as a major design flaw, the result of the developer cutting corners. To us, it made the room feel unbalanced and closed in. Our solution was to place a mirror directly adjacent to the window, to create the illusion of a corner window. (more…)

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Painted Oriented Strand Board Floors Tue, 14 Oct 2014 17:01:24 +0000

Lisa Van Damme

Remodelista recently featured the clever redesign of a 430-square foot-apartment in a century-old row house in Antwerp, the work of Belgian architecture firm Komaan! —translation, “Come on!”

It’s full of good ideas, including clever layout that creates a fluid space with lots of storage, and interesting use of plywood,  but our favorite is the floors: sheets of Oriented Strand Board, known as OSB, painted high-gloss white. (more…)

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Make a Bathroom a ROOM with rugs, paintings, objects Wed, 08 Oct 2014 17:00:32 +0000

Ricardo Labougle

We recently stumbled across a couple of images from Decoracion, which features the work of Spanish interior designer Jaime Parladé.  We love Parladé’s use of the elements of a living room: a cotton rug, a shelf of objects, a painting, unexpected tiles, a basket trunk, to give a bathroom a more UNbathroom like feel.

Of all the elements in the room, the simple flat woven rug goes the farthest in making the bathroom feel more like a sitting room. Parladé also uses these textiles as wall coverings, to give an elemental, graphic feel.  (more…)

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Matisse Painted with Scissors (You can Too!) Tue, 07 Oct 2014 18:12:54 +0000

(Video link HERE.)  We readily admit to being spaced out, fogged, our mind on other things lately, so we deeply appreciate reader Zoe Komaransky putting herself in our shoes and coming up with an inspiring article:

I appreciate how challenging it is to come up with these posts. I bet there are days when complete ideas just show up and then others that require beaucoup research. This often makes me think, “Ha! I need to send this improvisation to Sally and IL.” Then that day goes on, I get busy and I don’t. But there’s one now that won’t let go so here it is—’keep your hand wide open’ as Abbey Lincoln proclaimed in her wonderful song.

I saw the The Matisse Cut Outs show at the Tate Gallery in London this summer and was astonished. I said, ‘Here’s a man who could not stop improvising.’ When he became so ill that he was bedridden or wheelchair bound and could no longer paint, he switched to making art with scissors and paper.


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Interiors Painted in the Style of Famous Artists Thu, 18 Sep 2014 17:00:12 +0000

Brand New Paint Job

At Brand New Paint Job, artist Jon Rafman overlays the visual style of iconic artists onto rooms and objects, from a Fernand Leger Bomb to a Cy Twombly Lamborghini.

We were especially struck by Rafman’s interiors which seem completely viable, while instantly shifting our view. We would love go sleep in the Paul Klee Master Bedroom, above, or go to a school with a De Kooning-esque Hallway and Lockers.(more…)

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Surprising Painted Patterns on Floors, Walls, Ceilings Wed, 17 Sep 2014 16:59:28 +0000

Jerome Galland via myscandinavianhome

Why buy rugs to roll out on your floors, when you can paint them? Why collect art when you can decorate walls, floors and ceiling, with found materials?

I’m smitten by these two wildly different, improvisational ways that artists have used paint to mimic and displace art in such disparate places as a house on the Cycladic island of Serifos in Greece, and a classroom in Bihar, east India. In Greece, the floors get the spartan treatment; in India, on walls and ceilings, the sublimely ornate and colored with suprising materials. Both are divine. (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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Why Not Sleep on the Roof in a…Sky Parlour? Thu, 07 Aug 2014 20:48:12 +0000

We recently read that President Taft had a sleeping porch built (below) on the roof of the White House in the 20’s. On hot summer nights, the first family could sleep up there to cool off. It allowed the President retreat up there to chill and look out over Washington.  It was improved in 1927 when the third floor was expanded. Grace Coolidge called it the “Sky Parlor”.

We LOVE this for two reasons: that a man living in such straight-laced conditions as the Presidency would do something so personal and eccentric.

And that WE love sleeping outside as well, and often sleep out on our top-floor terrace, so we can look out at the giant trees in the park across the way and the stars, while listening to the lilt of Motown from the folks hanging out on the corner. (Nobody can see us as our ornamental grasses hide us.) We always preferred the tent guesroom our friends would erect when a crowd would emerge for several day reunions.

We’re always on the lookout for cool impermanent shacks (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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Stylish Repurposed Tables from RioEtc Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:00:59 +0000

When we start poking around the google translate version of, a site meant to show the stylish side of Rio, we found, over several separate posts some compelling mashups of tables. The first, the coffee table, above, which appears to be made of mismatched crates, some with wheels, some not, and a cubist hunk of…is it foam rubber…with a glass top; curiously works.

Then we spotted this table made out of painted boards that had been stripped and affixed to the wall by what appears to be black pipe, (more…)

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