Improvised Life » renovation If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Tue, 03 Mar 2015 00:17:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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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Reorganization as Soul Cleanse Thu, 04 Sep 2014 08:54:33 +0000

A 48-hour disappearance into the depths of my studio was finally interrupted late yesterday by a well-meaning friend. He peered in to find me on hands and knees wiping out the lowest shelves with damp paper towels.

“Jeez. Still at it?”

I swiveled and growled like a rabid dog, sweat pouring down, hair plastered, eyes raccooned by melted mascara. “I can’t stop now. This is important. This is soulwork” He faded without a word.

Panting, disheveled, covered in cobwebs, I sat back on my heels. WTF? Why did this reorganization seem like a matter of life and death? Taking a swig of ice water, I collapsed on the floor. Presently, it came to me why it was––and is––such a big deal. (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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Apartment Reno Encompasses Old and New Thu, 10 Jul 2014 17:00:20 +0000

Recently we wrote about a slick renovation that sadly covered over a beautiful aged wall that would have made a wonderful addition. Since then, we found an interesting mix of marriage of old and new details by architect Karin Matz in a cost-conscious renovation of a Stockholm space that had been used as furniture storage for 30 years.

Matz literally split the space into two zones: one polished and finished, the other rough and old.

Since a big constraint was cost, the polished/finished space largely employed IKEA kitchen shelving units and plywood. Floors and walls were painted white to reflect light and make it look (more...)]]> 0 Annals of Bad Design: Ill-Considered Sofa Placement Tue, 08 Jul 2014 20:00:15 +0000

Neil Architecture

We are stunned by the really ill-considered design of this slickly-renovated home (house tour here). The sofa is placed AWAY from the garden view and facing a wall unit!!  A simple fix would change the whole flow of the room (you can really see it in the floor plan, below)… (more…)

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Watercolor Wall(paper) Tue, 08 Jul 2014 17:00:02 +0000

Lately, we’ve been seeing some appealing images of watercolor walls. Hmmm. Nice. Of course we thought, we’ll do that ourself. Easier said than done. From our limited knowledge of it, the beauty of watercolor has much to do with the paper, which allows the paint to bleed in interesting ways. So we started hunting for solutions. (more…)

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Renovation Danger: Covering Rough, Beautiful Details Mon, 07 Jul 2014 20:00:54 +0000

Hr estudio de interiorismo & inmobiliaria

Recently, we came across a house tour of a highly renovated apartment in Madrid. It included one “before” picture that made our heart sink: OMG, we thought,  look what they covered up!

During the demolition, a beautifully textured wall was revealed. (more…)

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Creative’s Well-Equipped Bathrooms Wed, 18 Jun 2014 20:00:02 +0000

Sally Schneider

We’ve long admired this rather visionary bathroom of some friends. While they were renovating their space, they planned their bathroom to officially accommodate what most bathrooms do in an ad hoc way: house reading material and intellectual pursuits. They had a nook built into a wall that holds books and magazines. And made sure an outlet was placed so a computer could be plugged in. After they moved in, the hung art on the walls. (more…)

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Ceiling Lights Placed Randomly, Like Stars Mon, 09 Jun 2014 17:07:19 +0000


Early on in planning the Laboratory renovation, we started thinking of ceiling lights. Since the ceiling was only eight-feet-high, we were trying everything we could to give the illusion that they were higher, achieved mostly by replacing the squat doors with tall ones that created floor-to-ceiling vertical lines that made the ceilings appear higher. In the end, we chose NOT to put ceiling lights in the main part of the living room, fearing they would draw the eye UP to reveal how low the ceilings were. Instead, we modulate the space with various kinds of lighting.

Recently in our Renovation file/Inspiration (more...)]]> 0 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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Everything Painted One Color, Moldings and All Wed, 04 Jun 2014 17:00:48 +0000

We came across another good idea from the portfolio of journalist and photographer Amandine & Jules that seems to be something of a trend: NOT painting moldings and doors a separate color but rather the same color as the walls, to make a uniform, less busy  and, depending on the color, more contemporary look.  (more…)

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Trending at the Int’l Furniture Show: Faux Distressed Surfaces Tue, 20 May 2014 20:00:32 +0000

Laura Handler

Designer Laura Handler, whose Montana home we featured a while back, sent us a report of her vist to ICFF, the yearly International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City.  Here’s the trend she spotted and her funny and insightful commentary :

I did notice an interesting phenomenon. There seemed to be a growing trend of faux distressed surfaces…


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The Beauty and Secret of Black Hardware Thu, 08 May 2014 22:37:46 +0000

Sally Schneider

Browsing through my image files, I came across photos I’d collected of matte black door hardware, which I contemplated using in the Laboratory. The first time I saw it used was in a friend’s just-renovated Brooklyn brownstone: black hinges add a surprising graphic element, as does the rosette of the crystal doorknob. Beautiful. Although I only used black hardware in one detail of the Laboratory, I learned its biggest lesson and caveat. (more…)

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