Improvised Life » d-i-y + how-to If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Thu, 25 Sep 2014 21:00:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Non-toxic DIY Tip #10,833: PAM Fly Eliminator Thu, 25 Sep 2014 17:03:44 +0000

Susan Dworski

We have an infestation of flies in this Southern California heat. Particularly in the kitchen. Having no screens no doubt complicate the issue. But, hey, we haven’t really had to deal with this before.

In a fit of rage I started shooting them down this afternoon with PAM oil spray wherever they landed. Overjoyed to see each little black bastard expire, coated in a morass of 100% natural oil.

A quick swipe with a (biodegradable, recyclable) paper towel towel–avert your eyes as they writhe–and bingo! Fly toast.

This ranks right up there for me with pouring lines of cinnamon over ant trails to divert them. (more...)]]> 0 Art Retreats as Career-Shift Catalyst Thu, 25 Sep 2014 08:52:42 +0000

A classmate inspecting a freshly-poured silver casting in Penland's metals studio

A vacation for my soul,” “summer camp for adults,” “paradise,” “the one time a year I get to make anything“—these are all common phrases heard at summer arts workshops around the country. For many without home studios or careers in the arts, these short-term art retreats (way up in the mountains or shrouded by woods and river) are the only entry point into a totally immersive environment of making and ideation.

This July, I returned from a short summer session at Penland School of Crafts where I was taking a silver casting and ring fabrication class with world-class jewelers Tim Lazure and Jen Townsend, and I decided to (more...)]]> 0 Update on Vibrating Bed Solutions: Hanging Beds Wed, 24 Sep 2014 16:30:19 +0000


We were thrilled to get such a resounding and thoughtful response to our contest asking for solutions to keep our bed from vibrating, that is, to dampen the mysterious vibration coming through the floor. A number of readers suggested suspending the bed, which we WISH we could do. But as with any creative problem, we have some serious constraints to deal with. (more…)

]]> 3
Cargo Bikes to DIY or Buy Tue, 23 Sep 2014 17:29:57 +0000

(Video link HERE.) When we saw the image below of a hacked cargo bike Susan Dworski spotted on a Venice California beach, we thought of our old friend Peter Hoffman, chef of Back Forty and Back Forty West (formerly the great Savoy) in NYC. When his kids were young, he’d ride his odd-looking custom-made cargo bike to Union Square Farmers market; it had a huge front-wheel carrier, that allowed him to tow his kids AND a load of produce.  Although we’re happy to know about the iterations of custom cargo bikes you can have master bike-maker George Bliss of Hudson Urban Bicycles in NYC make you (check out the video), we love that there a multitude of other ways to go, as with the brilliant, multilayered and cheap bikes below. (more…)

]]> 0
Embroidery Fix Redux: Disguise Rips with Images or Symbols Tue, 23 Sep 2014 17:01:31 +0000

Recalling Virginia del Giudice‘s recent post on using needlework to cover holes in vintage garments, Susan Dworski alerted us to an inspiring iteration on the theme of embroidery fixes: (more…)

]]> 0
Stylish, Cheap Socket and Shade Lighting Formula Mon, 22 Sep 2014 17:00:12 +0000

After Remodelista touted the virtues of the vin ordinaire hardware store porcelain light socket, we were reminded of the one that ended up on our wall during the Laboratory’s renovation. Overwhelmed by the all the details we needed to get together to make the space livable, we improvised, adorning it with lighting designer David Weeks’ clever, inexpensive Lunette clip-on shade. Et voila! (more…)

]]> 0
Contest: Solve the Vibrating Bed Mystery Fri, 19 Sep 2014 08:00:25 +0000

Holton Rower

A few months ago, after a mysterious vibration coming through the floor started shaking our bed, and us, awake at night, we wrote about the improvised bed legs I’d made using yoga blocks and special thick rubber we’d researched. It worked for a while, but we are still plagued by the mysterious vibration that is keeping us sleep-deprived. (From surfing the internet we realize that THOUSANDS of people suffer from this problem). We have read endless technical papers on the vagueries of how sound and vibration travel. We’ve lost count of our attempts at damping the vibration, including the sculptural “bed shocks, above, my friend Holton Rower devised.

So we’re issuing a challenge to Improvised Life’s clever readers: help us devise a solution to keep the bed from being shaken by the vibration coming through the floor. The winner will receive a lifetime subscription to Improvised Life. Here’s what we’ve tried already (call us crazy but we can’t sleep): (more…)

]]> 25
Extra Long Ribbon Book Mark to Mark Many Pages Thu, 18 Sep 2014 21:00:51 +0000

Sally Schneider

Last weekend we bought a big fat book of Pablo Neruda’s odes for a dear friend’s birthday gift. Loving to improvise the presentation of our gifts, we went to our collection of found ribbons and wrappings wondering what would strike us.

A very long, thin green ribbon gave us the answer: it would become a 3-foot+ bookmark that could wind in and out of the book to mark the odes we wanted our friend to read first, so that they too would become a kind of gift. (more…)

]]> 0
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…)

]]> 0
Weave a Grapevine or Room Screen Tue, 16 Sep 2014 17:00:33 +0000

Sally Schneider

In a recent ramble around New York, we came upon this classical iron fence, transformed by grapevine. The fence acts like a loom or structure through which someone wove grapevine in and out to make for much greater privacy and a warmer, more organic feel.

And of course, that got us looking up grapevine (which we use for smoking foods; stay tuned for a post on that), and how to use it, and then imagining other applications for it… (more…)

]]> 0
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…)

]]> 2
Rock Table…DIY Imaginings Thu, 11 Sep 2014 20:00:05 +0000

Elisabeth Garouste and Maria Bonetti

Spotted at Aqqindex: a very cool Rock Table by Elisabeth Garouste and Maria Bonetti.

Could we chistle out notches in small boulders or interesting big rocks to hold a triangle or rectangle of painted ply or…


]]> 1
DIY Two-Panel Room Divider Thu, 11 Sep 2014 17:00:21 +0000

Annaleen Karlsson of Annaleenas Hem  came up with this DIY room divider for La Petite Magazine. It’s not a new concept, but a tried and true one: You attach hinges to two boards of the same height and width, painted or finished as you like.

Our old friend Tom Booth made a two-panel screen almost the height of his ceiling. He placed it in a corner of the living room and hid all sorts of things he needed access to but didn’t want to see daily: extra folding chairs and tables for dinner parties, boxes on their way to the stroage room etc…). It gave the room a sleek, modern look. Because there are only two panels, it looks curiously UNscreen-like (more…)

]]> 1
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…)

]]> 0