Improvised Life » renovation If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Tue, 22 Apr 2014 20:00:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Geometric Fireplaces and Stove Hoods Mon, 21 Apr 2014 14:29:47 +0000


This image of a beautiful, VERY geometric, sculptural fireplace by Peter Harnden got us wondering WHY fireplaces and stove hoods are almost invariably rectangular boxes. We’re thinking it’s most likely due to the trickiness of getting a chimney to draw the smoke up into the chimney properly, rather then having some fly into the room. Our experience with fireplaces AND stove hoods is that it takes an experienced tradesman to be able to figure it out, whether you’re installing ready-made or special design. (more…)

]]> 0
Jagged or Unfinished as a Design Element Wed, 16 Apr 2014 16:58:34 +0000

We’ve long been fans of “broken geometries”, the purposeful leaving of design elements unfinished, uneven, or even broken, to create a visual surprise. Recently Remodelista did a roundup of some  fine examples. Our favorites: To start, the octagonal tiles above left as is, with no finished line


]]> 0
A Silo Becomes a Cool 2-Story Camp Mon, 14 Apr 2014 20:00:55 +0000

Brothers Rehan and Josh Nana wanted a “camp” to stay in when they went hunting on their family’s three-hundred acre farmland in Missouri. The brothers decided to forge one themselves out of one of the abandoned outbuildings on the property and chose an old grain silo. Says Rehan in an article in Garden and Gun:  “The silo fits into the environment. And we liked the idea of repurposing something that would otherwise be left fallow.”


]]> 0
Material for Making: Healthy Plywood 101 Tue, 08 Apr 2014 18:03:48 +0000

Among our many obsessions, plywood is high on the list. It is an endlessly useful, accessible, great-looking material for making. Dig, for example, these chairs designed in the 1930′s by Ko Verzuu, with their odd, simple lines and bright colors.* Plywood was the material Le Corbusier used in his tiny, austere cabin-retreat in the South of France. The problem with modern plywood is that glues that bond the thin sheets of wood veneer together often contain formaldehyde,


]]> 0
Reno Solution: Sleek, Simple Wood Baseboards and Moldings Mon, 10 Mar 2014 18:01:04 +0000

Joe Lin for Studio Junction

Our great lesson in renovating the Laboratory was how expensive minimalist design can be, and why. When you forego moldings around doors, you actually make for more work and expense, not less. Recently, we came across Mjölk House in Toronto, Canada, designed by Studio Junction,  a stylish house that uses moldings freely while achieving a clean, modern aesthetic.

The trick: (more…)

]]> 0
Torggler’s ‘Evolution’ Re-envisions the Door Wed, 12 Feb 2014 21:00:06 +0000

(Video link HERE.) This teeny video of Austrian Artist Klemens Torggler clever ‘Evolution Door,’ has been flying around the internet. It sets the common concept of a door — opening via hinges or running on a track —literally on end. The Evolution is a rotating geometric flip-panel door system that opens up with momentum and looks like origami. (more…)

]]> 0
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…)

]]> 0
Plywood Cube Room with Sliding Doors Thu, 30 Jan 2014 21:00:05 +0000

We’ve known a number of people who have built small rooms within an existing space, but we have never seen one quite so appealing as this plywood cube.  Bookshelves and storage along one side afford some sound proofing. And painted sliding doors make for an appealing wall in the main room.  (more…)

]]> 2
Sheetrock or Plywood Walls With Shapes Cut Out Thu, 30 Jan 2014 18:00:45 +0000

Scott Carter

This installation by American artist Scott Carter is making us view walls as…sculpture. Carter cuts out shapes from walls and formed them into furniture, like some living, human-sized puzzle.

But we can’t stop mulling the idea of cutting out shapes from plywood to give interest to walls or partitions. Carter has tried all sorts of shapes from linear rectangles and squares to these more fluid ones. (more…)

]]> 0
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…)

]]> 2
Cool Idea from an Upscale Water Tower Reno: Cat Hidaway Wed, 22 Jan 2014 18:00:43 +0000

Andreas Meichsner, Jasmine Van Hevel, Mauro Brigham and Olivier Papegnies

Although we enjoyed the virtual tour of this upscale renovation of an abandoned water tower in Belgium, there was only one idea we took away to use: a lucky cat's lair with a charming entranceway.]]> 0
Design Question: When to Leave Rough and Aged As Is Mon, 02 Dec 2013 18:00:20 +0000

Daniel Hertzell

Part of the artfulness of envisioning a space is knowing when to keep rough and aged areas and let them be themselves, a subject we’ve written about before. Here, patched brick walls painted white, and a rough concrete floor are a lovely backdrop of elemental REAL that works well for modern furniture.

After demolishing of the space that would become the Laboratory, we looked closely at the concrete slab covered with soft gypsum leveler as a possible design element. It had a strange beauty we loved, though we wondered at the practicality of living with it. (more…)

]]> 0
Remodelista’s New Book is Full of Good Ideas Mon, 18 Nov 2013 18:42:01 +0000

Remodelista's new Manual for the Considered Home is chock full of practical info and stories reminiscent of the early Remodelista. One favorite: The Reinvented Rental Kitchen.]]> 0
Merete and Christopher’s Tiny House: A Tour + Process Tue, 12 Nov 2013 15:00:31 +0000

Apartment Therapy

Last March, we posted about Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith’s film TINY: A Story About Living Small, about their attempt to build a tiny house from scratch.  Since then, we’ve watched Merete and Christopher edit and expand the film, take it to major film festivals, do the PR themselves, and tons of other diligent work we don’t even know about, until they sold it to Al Jazeera America for airing on television.

We asked Merete about the process of making TINY from start to finish. Her answer is a great example of the creative, very improvisational process of making something live in the world, and the essential principles involved. (more…)

]]> 0