Improvised Life » living room If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Thu, 13 Nov 2014 09:20:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 House Tour with Life Lessons: Tom Fallon’s Shelter Island Cottage Tue, 29 Jul 2014 08:48:16 +0000

Jason Penney

When our friend Tom Fallon’s Shelter Island cottage was featured in Hamptons Cottages & Gardens, we realized just how many lessons about home design and LIFE we learned from him over the years. Here they are, with pictures by Jason Penney.]]> 2
Rough-stitched Ripped Linen Pillow Covers Wed, 23 Jul 2014 17:00:11 +0000


Just as we were wrapping our head around learning to use our new sewing machine, we noticed these big pillow covers on IKEA’S blog Livet Hemma

…which sent us hunting around Ikea USA to discover that it is selling 100% linen by the yard for 7.99 a 59″ yard in white and gray.

We’ve long been fans of washed, shrunk, ripped linen and these couldn’t be easier: (more…)

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A HUGE Paper Globe Transforms a Room Mon, 14 Jul 2014 20:05:07 +0000

Gilliam Khaw

Spotted in a house tour at Desire to Inspire: one swell idea. Want to add some moderne architectural interest to a prewar room? Hang a giant Noguchi-esque paper shade.  We’re talking BIG:  36-inch or 42-inch in diameter  We like the Maru white paper lantern available at Shoji Decor.  They also sell single cord lantern kits for hanging them.

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Achille Castiglioni’s Inspiring Casa d’Oggi Wed, 02 Jul 2014 17:00:49 +0000

In 1956 Italian industrial designer Achille Castiglioni created “COLORI E FORME NELLA CASA D’OGGI”, the installation of a living room at Villa Olmo, a neoclassical villa located in the city of Como, northern Italy. When we saw images of it, we flipped. It is such a far cry from the sterile interiors we see so often today; it’s a thoughtful, reality-based modernist living and working space.

Here’s some of the design thinking behind it, with a few more pictures: (more…)

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Murals Inspired by Frescoes to DIY or Buy Thu, 29 May 2014 17:00:47 +0000

Peggy Markel

Our friend Peggy Markel, who leads culinary adventures in Italy, Morrocco Spain and India, sent us these images of her visit to Castello Sonnino, an agricultural estate/vineyard/restaurant/lodge/cooking school 20 minutes from Florence; its earliest buildings date back to the 13th century, with later buildings c 1800. The murals are frescoes painted directly on the walls —when, we don’t know — to stunning effect. They reminded us of the Dreaming Walls we wrote about recently, and of photographer Thomas Wrede’s Domestic Landscapes, which feature printed murals people have applied to their walls, to expansive, imaginative —and sometimes dissonant — effect.

These images got us thinking about mural services we’ve come across in our wanderings.


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The Beauty of Unframed Art via Schnabel’s Palazzo Chupi Wed, 19 Mar 2014 19:00:26 +0000

We’re so used to seeing images of tidy interiors with neat rows of framed pictures that it was a joy to stumble on this image of Julian Schnable’s living room at Palazzo Chupi. In addition to all the pink, there’s a nice mashup of art, much of it unframed. Unframed canvases have an immediacy and, well, naked-quality that cools out the framed art.

We found a trove of images of Schnabel’s extraordinary building, which appears to still be for sale, here.

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Dirty Pink Obsession: Even Donald Judd Loved It Thu, 27 Feb 2014 21:00:53 +0000

Nick Tenwiggenhorn

It seems that even Artist Donald Judd liked muted, "dirty" pink walls, the focus of our ongoing obsession. Here's one of the rooms in the Cobb House that he renovated in Marfa, Texas, the vast army base he bought and transformed in the 1990's. ]]> 0
A Cool Tiny Moderne House Inside a Prewar Apartment Thu, 20 Feb 2014 18:00:58 +0000


Over at AQQ Index we stumbled on this image, notated “Wayne Berg Living Room”. Who is Wayne Berg? The most we could find was a NY Times Obituary. Berg was an architect who gained fame in the ’80’s and ’90’s (he passed away in 1999); he was known for creating “substantial architecture on a human scale” and helping to reinvigorate modernism.

He must have designed this innovative room inside of a prewar apartment years before “tiny” became a movement. (more…)

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House Tour: Jean Cocteau’s Villa Santo Sospir Mon, 17 Feb 2014 21:00:03 +0000

© Aurelie Millet

An image of bookshelves cleverly set into a wall painted by Jean Cocteau sent us looking for its origin. It is Villa Santo Sospir, Francine Weisweiller‘s villa in the South of France that Cocteau embellished and used in two films La Villa Santo Sospir and  Testament of Orpheus in 60’s. It seems that after coming for dinner one evening, Cocteau moved into the villa and stayed for 13 years.

Looking at it like a canvas, Cocteau offered to do a drawing over the fireplace in the main living room. Over time the whole house ended up like a piece of art, (more…)

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Enzo Mari Fireplace Inspiration (A Mantle as Display) Wed, 12 Feb 2014 18:54:22 +0000

We are smitten with Enzo Mari‘s fireplace because it rolls all sorts of things we love into one: a fireplace, slabs of concrete or stone, shelves and ledges to display still lives —perhaps one of the nicest uses of a mantle. Our own yellow mantle, sans fireplace, acts as a repository of things we love: a Buddha’s hand, a friends art works, a propped open copy of  Tantra Song, things we found while wandering — a morel from the West Virginia woods, the flower end of a persimmon, seed pods….

It’s been getting pretty full lately. Our friend Holton Rower suggested placing a smaller mantle inside it, (more…)

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Tiny Plywood Studio Morphs into a Gallery via Pegs Tue, 11 Feb 2014 18:00:14 +0000

Gidon Levin

We got a lot of ideas taking a little photo tour of the versatile 66-square-foot artist’s studio Anaan Stern and Shany Tal designed in Tel Aviv. There are many kinds of clever storage: shelving, sliding panels, drawers of all sizes…

But what we liked best are pegs you insert into small holes bored into the plywood sliding panels, to hold works of art or open books and make an ever changeable private gallery. (more…)

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Design Swap Brilliance: Painted Radiators and Pipes Thu, 06 Feb 2014 18:00:10 +0000

Heating pipes and radiators are common to a lot of New York City apartments and are often forgotten in the design process. Drawing attention to them however, and having the freedom to paint them any color we choose, can add a cool curiously modern feel to a room. This design idea from Dabito is simple, but incredibly effective and easy to create.

What is equally as inventive though, is how the idea came about. While staying in New York City, Dabito says his friend let him “crash at his shoebox studio for three months in exchange for some decorating help”(more…)

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A Magnetic Wall to Display Art, Photos, Anything! Wed, 29 Jan 2014 18:00:44 +0000

Holton Rower is an artist so inventive that Improvised Life could be devoted soley to his work and improvisations. He designed a wonderful bit of brilliance in his home recently: an iron-clad magnetic wall painted to look like the adjacent walls. It allows Holton and his family to easily display and remove artwork, photographs, notes —anything that can be held up with magnets — as they wish. Perfect in house that serves as an ever-changing gallery of art — the entire family are artists — and interesting things to look at. It would be a wonderful idea to apply to just about any space. Because the steel is painted, it looks like a regular wall and won’t rust, so could be used in a kitchen.

Holton and carpenter Kris Potocki of Krispo Construction shared pictures and the gist of how they created the wall. (more…)

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Annals of Bad Design: Extra Deep ‘Luxe’ Sofas Thu, 16 Jan 2014 23:09:07 +0000


Recently, we checked out a nice-looking sofa on sale at Restoration Hardware.  It came in two depths: 37″ deep Classic and the 43″ Luxe. Try sitting on the Luxe and you’ll find you’re listing way back at an awkward angle because the back pillows are too far away to support your back. It’s part of a trend the past several years to make sofas deeper so that they appear more luxurious, as in the photo above. (Hence, Restoration Hardware naming it’s sofa Luxe.)

For us, it’s bad design in the name of the illusion of affluence and style. Here’s our thinking: (more…)

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