Improvised Life » Material If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Thu, 13 Nov 2014 09:20:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Beauty of Unfinished…and Asking for Help Wed, 12 Nov 2014 23:44:04 +0000

Amanda Palmer/Maria Popova

This image of musician Amanda Palmer in Brain Pickings reminded us how beautiful walls intentionally painted in a rough “unfinished” line can be.

But the real gift was this little video of Amanda Palmer talking about why it is so difficult—and can be so healing — to ask for help, which is the subject of her new book, The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help. Check this out: (more…)

]]> 0
A Metal Frame Lounge Chair-Fort Wed, 12 Nov 2014 17:59:32 +0000

The forts and bunkers of his childhood inspired Czech designer Michael Tomalik to design a wire frame chair that is “a place of convenience, comfort and personal repose“. His monkey-bar-ish construction is a kind of grownup fort, made comfortable with giant pillows and outfitted with books,  plants, and a light (to which we’d add a shade and dimmer). (more…)

]]> 0
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…)

]]> 2
Cool Wall-Mounted Kraft Paper Dispenser Tue, 11 Nov 2014 18:00:26 +0000

We use Kraft paper all the time for jobs around the house — as a big page to block out ideas, a drawable tablecloth, decoratable wrapping paper, table protection when doing messy projects, and desk blotter/notepad. Right now, we have the roll standing upright in our tool closet. When we need paper, we have to unroll it and cut with a utility knife. Having easy access for when the mood/need hits would be a boon.

So we are really taken with George & Willy’s Studio Roller a wall-mounted, kraft paper roll dispenser that easily lets you pull out a section of paper when you need it. (more…)

]]> 2
Imaginings: A Jigsaw Puzzle Floor? Mon, 10 Nov 2014 18:00:08 +0000

Sally Schneider

Wandering around Artists and Craftsmen the other day, we came across jigsaw puzzle blanks meant to be painted or printed on to make a custom jigsaw puzzle.

We saw the jigsaw pattern as an interesting possibility for a ….floor, no doubt inspired by our white-painted plywood floors with their geometric grid of seams. From the beginning, we’ve thought of them as a potential palette on which to paint designs or splashes of color. What would a mild jigsaw puzzle design look like?

We love the process of envisioning. As we look at images of our floor, we overlay the jigsaw pattern in our mind’s eye…

We (more...)]]> 0 The Hash Improvisations Fri, 07 Nov 2014 07:51:30 +0000

Sally Schneider

My favorite rescue for leftover roasted meat or poultry is hash, by which I mean a mess of skillet-cooked onion, potatoes and/or root vegetables into which I toss the diced leftovers. Last night’s hash was inspired by some rare steak I’d roasted a couple of days before. I tossed it into a caramelized braise of diced onions, turnips and celery root, brightened with thyme and slivers of lemon zest. I made it while talking via speakerphone to friends who were also cooking dinner. After cooking together, we sign off to eat our suppers, sometimes texting quick photos of what we made.

When my friend saw the slap-dash photo of my hash, and then asked how to make it, I took it as a sign to publish the method on Improvised Life. (more…)

]]> 0
Glue Gun Textiles and Couture Thu, 06 Nov 2014 22:37:33 +0000

Jonathan Leung

At Carnegie Mellon University’s yearly Lunar Gala Fashion Show, Industrial Designer Miriam Buchwald showcased COCOON, her line of dresses made totally of hot glue.

She didn’t hot glue fabric. She MADE the textiles out of hot-glue, which has expanded our view of hot glue’s possibility greatly, way beyond crafty Martha Stewart.  (more…)

]]> 0
Found Magazine Page Envelopes Redux Thu, 06 Nov 2014 18:00:15 +0000

Sally Schneider/Pamela Hovland

Our friend Pamela Hovland is an extraordinary designer who helped us create the original look for Improvised Life. Our first year in business, we wrote about her clever use of ripped-out pages from magazines as her envelopes. Recently she sent us this beauty with the message “this wrapper had your name all over it“. Indeed it did.

We held back from opening it until we could photograph it; it is an enduringly good and charming improvisation.  (more…)

]]> 0
Gary Snyder’s Buddhist Grace Thu, 06 Nov 2014 09:22:13 +0000

We’ve come upon this passage about saying grace before a meal many times while flipping through The Gary Snyder Reader: Prose, Poetry, and Translations and each time have thought, We need to do that, to at least think it if not say it aloud. Snyder’s view is just right. It may be especially resonant now that we are receiving food every week from Essex Farm in northern New York. We are cooking and eating with the seasons and are astounded weekly by that abundance that we are lucky to have. In hearing of what goes on on the farm, we feel like we somehow are part of it, aware of the weekly harvesting of vegetables, gathering of eggs, careful, mindful slaughtering of animals.

In The Practice of the Wild, Snyder puts eating in a much bigger context that we find deeply connecting and comforting. His grace is about taking a moment to think about our food and to express gratitude for the hugely creative force behind it, which we are part of: (more…)

]]> 0
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:


]]> 5
An Innovative Farm Experiment + ‘The Dirty Life’ Wed, 05 Nov 2014 09:56:56 +0000

Ben Stechschulte

For the past couple of months, we've been participating in Essex Farm's innovative CSA experiment. Curious about its origins, we've been reading The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love, ex-journalist/city girl Kristin Kimball's tale of her unexpected transformation into a farmer and partner of Mark Kimball, whose vision drove Essex from the start. He is a man after our own hearts (and hers, after some wild adventures)...]]> 1
Clever, Strong Folding Sawhorses to DIY or Buy Tue, 04 Nov 2014 19:28:38 +0000

(Video link HERE.Barclay Moore is a woodworker who was fed up with broken sawhorses. So he designed is own and knocked prototypes out of plywood. Then he created a Kickstarter to raise money to sell his invention. The project, he says, developed out of necessity (as many great inventions do).

What interests us most are all the constraints that his design had to work within, and the demands it needed to fulfill. Check out this list: (more…)

]]> 2
Trees and Foliage Inspire Street Art Mon, 03 Nov 2014 23:00:46 +0000


I’ve been collecting a stash of graffiti images for a while. They range from cutie kitsch to angry gangbanger to political harangues. The ones I like best combine existing natural foliage with painted images and play around with scale—large and small—creating an improvised, witty, public art gallery. (more…)

]]> 3
Interlocking Cardboard Disks for Building Mon, 03 Nov 2014 17:50:17 +0000

Luke Hayes

As great admirers of the infinite possibilities of ordinary cardboard, we love British designer Torsten Sherwood‘s simplified single-component system that encourages instinctive building. Noook are colored, double-faced cardboard disks that slot together to create overlapping formations that can create unique structures.

Inspired by Legos, Noook offer’s infinite possible combinations. Designed for children, we see it as a wonderful material for adults. (more…)

]]> 0