Improvised Life » housewares If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Mon, 20 Oct 2014 21:33:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 BIG Leaning Mirrors Expand the View Mon, 20 Oct 2014 17:00:34 +0000

I’m crazy about how mirrors can animate a room and bring it to life. Particularly oversize, leaning mirrors. I thought these were beauties.

You don’t need to do anything — no hanging or rigging; just set them where the look best or reflect the best view.

An oversize picture frame can easily be fitted with a mirror. And a huge rectangle of unframed mirror gives an elemental look.


—Susan Dworski

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Clever Hardwood Board Uses (with Resources) Thu, 09 Oct 2014 17:00:19 +0000


This clever bread board bird feeder reminded us of the endless odd permutations on the theme of bread boards we’ve written about before, and of the vast possibilities for using wood planks in general for household projects, from a ledge to perch on top of the back of the toilet tank to a low bookshelf bench set on stones… (more…)

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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…)

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Back to Basics with Homemade Household Products Wed, 30 Jul 2014 20:00:07 +0000


Here’s something to put up on your refrigerator door: a chart showing 72 practical uses of common “core” ingredients that make up our (far more expensive) store-bought soaps, lotions and surface cleaners. The idea is that all of the countless “new and improved!” drugstore potions lining our cabinet shelves are really just permutations of six or seven simple active components (more…)

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Sea Shell Salt Cellar Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:00:50 +0000

Virginia del Giudice

Our friend Virgina del Giudice sent us a lovely vacation email with the subject line: “Improvising“:

We were on vacation in La Pedrera, Uruguay (very beautiful place!)

My husband and I rented a forties garage converted into a cozy little appartment for two. The kitchen was small but perfect for improvising nice recipes like croquettes with the seeweed across the street. But we did not have fancy stuff, so I improvised this salt little dish with a shell. I was happy when I used it!

Sea shells indeed make lovely vessels, often with memories attached! (more…)

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Find: HUGE 100% Cotton Dish Towels Have Many Uses Thu, 17 Jul 2014 17:00:53 +0000

We stumbled on these HUGE dish towels and ordered a set to check out, having learned the hard way that the real thing is often way different than pictures. We washed them and…they are great, 100% cotton, wonderful-looking and useful for many things. (more…)

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Leftover Tiles Morph into a Trivet for Hot Pots and Pans Wed, 16 Jul 2014 20:24:48 +0000

Sally Schneider

We chose plain white Corian for the countertops in the Laboratory kitchen renovation and love working on it: it presents a “clear” palet of a work surface that is a pleasure to prep food on. It’s ONE drawback that our old, visually-busy granite counter tops didn’t have: we can’t put a searing hot pot directly on the Corian for fear of damaging it (although it can be sanded back the “new). So we devised a minimalist, practically-invisible white trivet to sit next to the stove, (more…)

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Introducing Improvised Life’s New Store Thu, 10 Jul 2014 23:05:19 +0000

Over the years, Improvised Life has featured some seriously good stuff, from books about design, art, productivity and poetry to all manner of tools for making and living. Since these wonderful items have been buried in the archive, we decided to gather the BEST of them in one place, Improvised Life’s Store. (more…)

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Window Shade Room Dividers Thu, 10 Jul 2014 20:00:04 +0000

This Venetian blind room divider created by interior designer Jose Juan Belda in the 70’s got us thinking about how useful window shades can be as mutable room dividers. When we were planning the renovation of the Laboratory, we considered using sleek, flat solar shades afixed to the ceiling to make dividers we could open or close at will to define the office area. Recently we found an example of just such a use in the clever renovation of a small space in Stockholm: (more…)

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How to Keep Cast-Iron Cookware Naturally Nonstick Mon, 16 Jun 2014 20:00:50 +0000

This image of vintage cast-iron reminded us how much we love the endlessly-useful, impossible-to-destroy cookware. We’ve been using it for years having inherited many pieces from friends or relatives. It provides the even heat of heavy copper cookware at a fraction of the cost.  We use a 10- year-old griddle to heat tortillas, small skillets to fry eggs, our classic big skillet to hot smoke salmon, and a big 12-inch Finnish Littala pan (below) to make our faux-fried bricked chicken

If properly cared for, cast-iron will build up a naturally nonstick surface that can take the place of commerical nonstick cookware, (more…)

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Line a drawer with Cloth not Paper Tue, 10 Jun 2014 20:00:12 +0000

Sally Schneider

Looking for a skillet to fry some eggs in at Maria Robledo’s house, we opened a drawer to find a brilliant idea we never would have thought of: line a drawer with a cloth, such as a dish towel instead of the usual paper. It cuts down on clatter and the cloth can be easily washed. And (more…)

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Good Idea: Keep Track of Water Glasses with China Markers Tue, 10 Jun 2014 17:00:40 +0000

Sinnae Choi

Recently, our friend Jane Lear wrote us to say “This great tip stuck in my head, and I finally had a chance to reference it in this week’s food advice column for TakePart about ways to use less water.

The tip that stuck in her head —YAY! we LOVE that— was wine and spirits writer Anthony Giglio’s inspired practice of writing the name of each guest on his/her wine glass to cut down on “lost” glasses (and the attendant OMG-there-aren’t-enough-glasses stress). (more…)

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DIY Silverware Drainer + Dish Drainer Hack Wed, 04 Jun 2014 20:02:19 +0000

Sally Schneider

When we renovated the Laboratory, moving and installing our 25-year-old kitchen cabinets for the 3rd time, we had to also install new countertops. We choose original white colored Corian from Home Depot (the prettiest and cheapest) and treated ourselves to something we’ve always wanted: built-in dish drainer gooves that would wick water from just-washed dishes into the sink.  We want minimal and good looking when it comes to draining dishes AND silverware. Our minor obsession takes the form of NOT wanting to look at the big stainless steel dish drying rigs that are around these days.

First, we bought the lowest profile dish drainer we could fine, and ditched the tray underneath that make it look bulky. YAY. That made for nice neat lines. Then we fashioned our own silverware drainer out (more…)

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Serene Sheer Linen Bed Spread Mon, 02 Jun 2014 20:00:14 +0000

François Halard

We clipped another lovely, doable idea from the idiotic New York Times T Magazine article a few weeks ago about the Axel Vervoordt-designed “wabi wabi” penthouse at NYC’s Greenwich Hotel. 

A sheet linen bed spread. We thought right away of Rough Linen’s lovely Summer Cover, made of lightweight linen. We used one as a bed skirt and it is wonderfully sheer. (more…)

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