Psaligraphy

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Paper cut 1 I was recently re-introduced to the very patient work of psaligraphy or fine paper cutting. I remember seeing this type of work in my grandmothers house especially around Christmas time. It hung as a garland or as delicate ornaments on the tree. I knew that it was beautiful and very delicate, but as a child I didn’t understand all of the work that went into each piece.

I found out from an exhibition that I attended that the art of modern day paper cutting evolved from the old Danish tradition of Gaekkebrev—this was a letter sent around Easter time to a person whom one is in love with. It included a paper cutting with a verse. This custom was also practiced in Germany and Norway in the 1600s.

The Danish poet and storyteller Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) was the best known paper cutter in Scandinavia of his time. Papercut2 He loved to tell a new story while cutting the paper and he would finish both at the same time. The unfolded content of the paper would then be revealed to the spellbound audience. colored monkee and snake vintage chinese cuttings Another term for the craft is called Scherenschntite, which is German for ‘scissors snips.’ It began in China with the invention of paper, around 100 A.D by Cai Lun in the Eastern Han Dynasty. Cuttings were placed in windows and on doors as protective images from evil and were also called chuang hua (meaning Window Flower).

Paper-making was taken by Chinese war prisoners into the Arabic region of the world about 750 A.D. and from there spread to Europe. Papercutting came from China to Austria by way of Indonesia, Persia, and the Balkan Peninsula. By the 14th century, it had spread to the rest of the world.

I had the pleasure of seeing the work of Josefine Allmayer (1904-1977) from Vienna Austria at the University of Oregon art museum and it took me back to my grandmothers home.

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Its quite amazing to me when you look at the details in these images to think that they were not cut by lazer but by a very small pair of scissors and an infinite amount of patience.

In a modern world where speed, efficiency, production are the norms, I’m inspired when I see this level of detail.

There are those who still practice this art in a modern day context.

Such as Aoyama Hina.

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Kaku Uedo

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Bovey Lee

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and Karen Bit Vejle

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“My heart and soul are at peace when I have the scissors in hand and the paper dances between the blades. If my scissors can manage to make you stop and wonder for just one instant, I will be happy” – Psaligraph Karen Bit Vejle (born 1958)

This fine art has now found its way into personal adornment. The company Paperself has a line of cut paper eyelashes that can be applied and re-used once or twice.

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I’m not sure I will be able to start practicing the paper cutting art of my Danish ancestors anytime soon, but it was a pleasure to acquire a deeper knowledge about those beautiful garlands that hung on her mantle so many years ago.

 

Images courtesy of Ponoko.com, copenhagenet.ek, peggymclard.com, toxel.com, abduzeedo.com, paperself.com

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Warp and Weft

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Silk damask embroidered

I frequently find myself surrounded by piles of beautiful fabrics. Mind you they are usually just small 6″ x 6″ square samples of a fabric but nonetheless, they are one of the biggest pieces of the design puzzle. Finding just the right fabric can sometimes bring an entire room together. I remember when I was in school we spent hours studying line, form, building code, auto cad, etc. but fabric was but a small portion of the program that I was in. It was usually only at the very end of a semester that we would quickly pull a few fabrics together to present along with the rest of the architecture that we had been slaving over.

But I have always had a particular weakness for fabrics, see my earlier post on Linen.  I had learned quite a bit about linen and about textiles in general from one of my first jobs out of college. I was working for a woman who had just started her company importing Italian and Portuguese textiles. She was a great designer and looking back now I realize how much that experience was a seed for the career I have now.

It wasn’t until I worked for a local high end residential firm here in Seattle that I discovered “fabric”. I had the unique opportunity to be assigned to specifying an entire ship. It was being re-done with nearly all of the fabrics being replaced. It was basically like doing a hotel, except every room was different. Each room had to be luxurious, comfortable, and able to withstand multiple guests and deal with extra harsh conditions at sea such as salt water air, and bright sun.  The image below isn’t the boat I worked on but was similar in style. Our client was very private so no pictures were allowed.

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I started from the top deck and worked my way down to the underwater lounge. There were fabrics for pillows, sofas, chairs, window coverings, bedding, ceiling panels and built ins. There were also some new furniture pieces to be specified but the majority of my work was to come up with the fabric themes for each of the rooms. I would work through a floor and then present to my boss for review. Sometimes I was on the money, sometimes I had to replace a fabric or two. Sometimes I had to go back and re-work it all. (Wait a second, no one told me he hated green.) But frustration aside, it was a great experience and I really honed my eye.

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Now that I have my own firm, I still find myself going through wing after wing at the design center, except now its my design, for my client that I’m trying to find that really special fabric for. I can have a very specific idea in my head about what I am looking for and sometimes I can’t seem to find it. This frustration led me to wondering about designing my own fabric line.

There are some other women in the industry that by watching their progress have shown me what a small fabric line can look like. People like Lauren Liess out of Virginia.

0314Lauren-Liess-5165Victoria Larson in Annapolis

Victoria Larson

Locally we have Kassana Holden, from Vashon Island who not only does the designs for her fabrics she also prints them right there in her studio using her wide format Epson printer.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 12.12.57 AMWatching their progress has started me on a journey. Not exactly sure where I will end up with this but I’ve got a big stack of books on textile design, and I’ve been combing the internet looking for ways to get my designs printed on the types of fabrics I love.  I’ve already found out so much. Everything from resist-dyed silk satin damask (rinzu), embroidered with silk and metallic thread as you see in the image I posted at the very top.

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To the basics of fabric design like what warp, weft, selvedge, and bias mean. I’ll keep you posted as I move forward and look forward to your feed back as I get ready to select my own designs.

Images courtesy of http://www.metmuseum.org, http://www.boatsinternational.com, http://www.frannbilus.com, architecturaldigest.com http://www.laurenliess.com, http://www.homeanddesign.com, http://www.bergamotstudio.com, http://www.the-stichery.co.uk

If you would like your home to be warm, inviting, stylish, and reflect your personal style contact us here to discuss our design services.

Thonet

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Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 11.06.23 PMOn a recent trip out to Vashon Island we made our obligatory stop at Grannies Attic. Grannies is an institution on the island. It is what thrift stores used to be. “Thrifty” You can actually still find and purchase a great item there for under $3. I blogged earlier about the cabin we are renovating on the island INDIGO and it is still underway. We have been looking for gently used treasures to add to it so we make our stop at Grannies before heading down to tear into yet another area that needs renovating. It is amazing the things I have found….. Calphalon cookware for $1, antique linen, napkin set $3.50, framed original woodblock prints $10, a brand new Calvin Klein dress with the tags still on $5.00 (The tag said $260) SCORE! On a recent trip I spotted 4 chairs like the one featured above. I quickly made my way over and through the overstuffed, corduroy recliners, and oak chairs and flipped the black chair over. It was old and was extremely well made. They were in pristine condition even with cane seats which told me that someone had loved these chairs and they were of high quality. But were they Thonet? The girl at the register told us they were $5.00 each or $15 for the four. Thonet or not, I was buying them.

I got them home and gave them a good cleaning and some spot repair. I was able to finally read a tag that said Made in Italy. Then I uncovered another tag you see below.

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 11.42.22 PMA quick search on the internet revealed that these were made by a furniture company in Italy that was known for its high quality but they used designs from other companies. The maker was Salvatore Leone, from Modena, Northern Italy. (Unfortunately now deceased) The Leone’s were builders in the 19th century, and were also into coach building, cabinetmaking and boat building. However both the first and second world wars, took a heavy toll, both in terms of financial and human resources. After Salvatores death in the late 70’s, there were no family members left to continue the business. Which seems a shame considering how well these chairs have held up.

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 11.50.22 PMThonet chairs have always been a favorite of mine. They are the classic grey suit, or white china.

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Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 11.52.07 PMThey can morph from traditional to urban in a heartbeat. A classic, and there were so many to choose from.

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 11.53.45 PMMichael Thonet (2 July 1796 — 3 March 1871) was a German-Austrian cabinet maker. Following a carpenter’s apprenticeship, Thonet set himself up as an independent cabinetmaker in 1819.  In the 1830s, Thonet began trying to make furniture out of glued and bent wooden slats.  Thonet’s essential breakthrough was his success in having light, strong wood bent into curved, graceful shapes by forming the wood in hot steam. This enabled him to design entirely novel, elegant, lightweight, durable and comfortable furniture, which appealed strongly to fashion. In 1850 he produced his Nr 1 chair.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 12.06.40 AMThe World’s Fair in London 1851 saw him receive the bronze medal for his Vienna bentwood chairs. This was his international breakthrough. At the next World’s Fair in Paris 1855, he was awarded the silver medal as he continued to improve his production methods.  The 1859 chair Nr. 14

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 12.07.07 AM– better known as Konsumstuhl Nr. 14, coffee shop chair no. 14 – is still called the “chair of chairs” with some 50 million produced up until 1930. It yielded a gold medal for Thonet’s enterprise at the 1867 Paris World’s Fair.

When Michael Thonet died 1871 in Vienna, his business Fa. Gebrüder Thonet had sales locations across Europe as well as Chicago and New York. People still want his classic designs, myself included. I had been contemplating purchasing 4 of these beauties at Design Within Reach for months.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 12.23.52 AMBut so glad I waited. I got the thrill of the ride of thinking I had found 4 original Thonet chairs for a song. I also ended up getting a history lesson on furniture making in Italy by Salvatore Leone and a refresher on the background of Thonet. All for the bargain sum of $15. What a lucky find.

What was your luckiest find? Leave your answer in the comment section below. Can’t wait to hear about your discovery.

Images courtesy of j. ingerstedt, wikipedia.com, http://www.vam.ac.uk, DWR.com, www.thonet.com.au, sfgirlbybay.com

Architecture on Ice

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As the temperatures dip this time of year and our homes are covered with snow and ice I started thinking about structures that were made of snow and ice from the inside out. My search lead me to some really great ice architecture that I thought I would share with you.

The ICE HOTEL in the village of Jukkasjärvi, about 17 kilometres (11 mi) from Kiruna, in northern Sweden, was the world’s first ice hotel. After its first opening in 1990, the hotel has been erected each year from December to April.

The hotel, including the chairs and beds, is constructed from snow and ice blocks taken from the nearby Torne River. The structure remains below freezing, around 23 °F (−5 °C) which can make staying overnight at the hotel challenging but they have special insulated mattresses, reindeer hides, and down duvets for their guest. Most guest usually stay one night then move to the heated quarters on the grounds.

ice-hotel-sweden-new-materials-suite-13When completed, the hotel features a bar, church, main hall, reception area, plus rooms and suites for over 100 guests. Each suite is unique and the architecture of the hotel is changed each year, as it is rebuilt from scratch. Each year, artists submit their ideas for suites, and a jury selects about 50 artists to create the church, Absolut Icebar, reception, main hall and suites. When spring comes, everything melts away and returns to the Torne River.

ice-hotel-sweden-new-materials-communal-areas-5ice-hotel-sweden-new-materials-suite-2800px-Icebar_Icehotel_Jukkasjärvi_2012ice_church_bigbenIn Finland from December through March the Snowcastle of Kemi is the biggest snow fort in the world. It is rebuilt every winter with a different architecture in KemiFinland. The area covered by the castle has varied from 13,000 to over 20,000 square metres. The highest towers have been over 20 metres high and longest walls over 1,000 metres long, and the castle has had up to three stories. Despite its varying configurations, the snow castle has a few recurring elements: a chapel, a restaurant and a hotel.

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Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 1.16.45 PMScreen Shot 2014-01-05 at 1.18.42 PMScreen Shot 2014-01-05 at 3.00.56 PMAlso in Finland in 2004 was an international project called the The Snow Show. It was a unique artistic collaboration between artists and architects of international renown, a first-of-its-kind exhibition that explored the structures that result when artists and architects experiment with building in snow and ice. The results of this global cultural project were on view in Finland’s Lapland.

Zaha HadidAbove is the structure that Zaha Hadid and Cai Guo-Qiang built. Hadid had streamlined blocks of ice that cantilever into the air like the prow of a racing ship. Artist Cai Guo-Qiang then concocted a mix of vodka and ethanol-based gel that, poured onto the twin forms at nights, spills in all directions, creating pools of transient flames.

snow showThe above was erected by Morphosis + Do-Ho Suh. The piece was called Fluid fossils. Embedded objects in a constructed archaeology, this project explores the transformation of matter in time.

Yoko-Ono-Arata-Isozaki-Penal-Colony-2004Above is Penal Colony – Yoko Ono & Arata Isozaki  Ono described the piece with the following piece of poetry.

PENAL COLONY

spring passes

and one remembers one’s innocence

summer passes

and one remembers one’s exuberance

autumn passes

and one remembers one’s reverence

winter passes

and one remembers one’s perseverance

there is a season that never passes
and that is the season of glass

© Yoko Ono ‘81

tadao ando snow showScreen Shot 2014-01-05 at 4.59.26 PMAbove we see images of Ice Time Tunnel by Tatsuo Miyajima & Tadao Ando. It was described by Ando as follows.

Using ice, an ephemeral and formless material, I tried to create a minimal and purified form, with a motif of continuous curved line.What emerged in the geometrical space of ice is a sequence of light and air.The abstract concept, sequence, also responds to Tatsuo Miyajima’s artwork, whose theme is time: from past to present and from present to future. The collaboration, ICED TIME TUNNEL has been completed by combining a sequence of my architecture and time and space in Miyajima’s work.

harbin ice festJust this past week on another side of the world we saw the opening of the 30th annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in China’s Heilongjiang province. It lasts for weeks, drawing Chinese and foreign visitors. Nearly 10,000 people were involved in making the sculptures, which are fashioned from huge ice blocks cut from a local frozen river and from blocks of man-made snow. The ice and snow are  assembled and sculpted to resemble huge buildings, snow maidens and other structures, some of them lit up fancifully at night as seen above and below.

ice fest. chinachina ice fest A-Look-Inside-Chinas-Annual-Ice-Festival-Sculptures-3 APTOPIX China Harbin Ice Snow Festival Ice-festival-opens-in-Harbin-3So while it may be chilly out there, it’s good to see that people around the world are making more than just the best of it. They are creating some amazing, sculptural and architectural works of art.

Images courtesy of Boston.com, travelandleasure.com, inthraled.com, english.peopledaily.com, washingtonpost.com, inhabit.com, designbuildideas.eu, wikipedia.com, visitkemi.fi, artwisecurators.com

The Narrative

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What is it that separates an interior from being a group of items that look good together from an interior that that not only looks good but also tells a story of the inhabitants? We’ve all seen both. Where one is quite beautiful, the other you will remember forever.

A long time ago I was in New York visiting a relative and this particular Uncle had owned his beautiful brownstone close to Central Park since the 40’s. It had been filled with antiques that he had either inherited or had acquired from his neighborhood over the past 50 years. Each piece had a story and was hand picked by himself or his late wife. As he sipped his violet martini he told us tales of each piece. Some he got for a song, others he had to save up for. This made delivery day even more exciting. I remember almost every piece in that house and it was so well put together because it was their collective story and it wasn’t rushed. It was carefully thought out and each piece placed in their home had to add to the story, like a chapter in a book.

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I came across a book the other day that reminded me of my Uncle’s story. I was out looking for Christmas presents at the book store and I came across the book Roman and Williams, Buildings and Interiors. the first thing that caught my eye was the binding of the book itself. It had a heavy, black leather binding and raised lettering. It definitely didn’t look like the other design books with their bright front covers featuring a room with a proud designer standing perfectly poised at the side of a chair or sofa. I pulled this rather large, black book down and started to read and I was immediately reminded of how important narrative is in the design of a space.

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As I read I discovered that Roman and Williams was founded by Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch in New York City in 2002. This is how they describe their firm, taken from their website Romanandwilliams.com

“Having worked together for a decade designing sets for Hollywood films prior to establishing their firm, Standefer and Alesch have created projects that consistently find the tension between spontaneity and rigor, refinement and rebellion, and past and future. Without boundaries or borders, Roman and Williams employs a range of ideas, materials, objects, and references – from the unexpected to the pedigreed to the mundane – and, through the lens of their own singular viewpoint, create alchemy.  They have an uncanny ability to mix seemingly disparate objects together in ways that “allow them to simmer to see if we can raise the temperature of a space,” as Robin and Stephen explain. “We try to communicate a voltage between time periods, cultures, and styles.” Never limited by what they designed last, the Roman and Williams aesthetic is constantly shifting and evolving, reflecting the diverse interests and profound curiosities of the firm’s principals, a practice that has earned them many devoted followers and accolades, including being honorees of the Architectural Digest Top 100 in 2011 and 2014.”

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Their design aesthetic spoke to me and as I glanced through briefly, and then at depth later after I purchased the book, I found myself drawn by how they work through the idea of narrative in all of their projects.

For the Ace Hotel in New York they described it as a “grand, dilapidated country house that the Doors holed up in to make a record or maybe an old money retreat where a kid threw a big party when his parents weren’t around and he and his friends trashed the place.”

7-ACE-HOTEL_2009_HIRESJPEG_-1254x925roman-williams-bedone_kings_lane_book_roman_and_williams_aceFor the Boom Boom Room on the eighteen floor of the standard hotel they began with idea of it looking like a honey covered Bentley automobile. The incredible sound and privacy of being inside a luxury automobile combined with a sensual, tactile nature. Smooth, classic timelessness, and pure warm nature.

one_kings_lane_book_roman_williams_boom_boomThe-Standard-NYC-99_High--1233x925At 211 Elizabeth Street in New York their story was one of creating a classic American building that was to be like a human being. It was to have lids, lips, and eyes. It was to be a basic form and a singular experience from beginning to end. A true classic like a well made grey flannel suit.

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Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 9.54.38 PMScreen Shot 2014-01-03 at 10.01.37 PMScreen Shot 2014-01-03 at 10.03.51 PMTheir own home in New York is filled with the narrative of their own lives. It is filled with items they ardently collect.  As they are looking for objects that reflect the stories of their clients lives, they will often find other treasures that speak to them. These objects are  boxed up and shipped home from India, California, Morocco, Japan, or wherever their world search takes them.

9. Roman and Williams LoftScreen Shot 2014-01-03 at 10.13.34 PMScreen Shot 2014-01-03 at 10.12.56 PMScreen Shot 2014-01-03 at 10.13.50 PMScreen Shot 2014-01-03 at 10.14.08 PMI think the key to their success is their commitment to beauty, quality, and endurance. It is the well made chair that will be passed on to the next generation or the antique cutlery that is thick, strong, and feels great in the hand.  There is a  sense of memory and soul in their work and of course… the story that guides their way.

Images courtesy of wmagazine.com, Coolhunting.com, Ananasmiami.com, onekingslane.com, and romanandwilliams.com

Green

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Greenwich-Art-Barn-537x442When asked by clients if I do “green” design I tell them that yes, I always like to consider where and how the items I choose are produced, but it is far more complicated than that. Green design has many factors to it because I can choose the most green product out there but if a client sends it to landfill because it doesn’t perform well, then was it really green?

The path to green in architecture and design begins at the very beginning of the process  of design. I came across an article recently written by architect John D. Kelley from Santa Barbara and I feel it is a thoughtful synopsis of the principals of green design and I thought I would pass it on.

PROTECT & ENHANCE THE SITE

Land is an environmental resource and we should make appropriate use of it. When planning a development it is important to study the ecosystems on the site,  in order to avoid environmental harm to undeveloped land, and then to protect the site during construction. On ecologically damaged land, landscaping with native plants and creating beneficial microclimates with water features and trees can help to restore and enhance environmental productivity and biological diversity. On steep sites, it is least disruptive to terrace the buildings in harmony with existing land contours. Landscaping with edible plants enhances the sense of community, while making positive use of the land.

ENHANCE COMMUNITIES

Building appropriately gives us a chance to strengthen local economies and communities by preserving and enhancing the existing economic and social fabric. By remodeling existing historical buildings we maintain and enhance a sense of place, while saving the energy and expense of new construction and eliminating demolition and disposal costs.  We can also plan new developments to integrate with and enhance existing communities, maintaining beneficial land use and transportation patterns and minimize new infrastructure.

Bullitt center below. Worlds greenest commercial building

BullittCenter06MAKE BUILDINGS HEALTHY

When designing buildings, we should consider providing views for enjoyment and inspiration, and useful and pleasant outdoor spaces easily accessible from the building. For energy efficiency, it is useful to incorporate natural daylighting and ventilation to the maximum extent possible, and whenever possible, provide each room with windows on two sides for light and ventilation. Thermal performance should be designed for human comfort while minimizing energy use. Choose systems and materials to minimize or eliminate toxins from indoor air. Design acoustic qualities according to human comfort and functional requirements, by incorporating features to minimize or eliminate unpleasant noise. Minimize human exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF). Protect workers during construction.

SAVE AND PRODUCE ENERGY

We can maximize beneficial use of sun, wind, and natural features with building placement and configuration. Use landscape features and outdoor rooms around the building to create beneficial microclimates. Incorporate natural daylighting and ventilation to the maximum extent possible. Design an energy-conserving building shell to optimize thermal performance and comfort. Once the shell is designed, we can further reduce energy consumption by selecting energy-efficient furnaces, water heaters, lighting, appliances and equipment, and by minimizing or eliminating air-conditioning. The building can produce its own renewable energy using solar hot water panels and photovoltaic electric panels. Also consider wind, hydro and geo-thermal energy production where feasible. This keeps money in the local economy by spending less on imported energy resources.

SAVE AND RECYCLE WATER

We can use significantly less water, and lessen the impact on our rivers and oceans by harvesting the water that falls on our sites with on-site ground water recharge systems and water storage tanks.  We can reuse water that has been lightly used (gray water) for use in our gardens. There are many ways to save water by using low-flow toilets, shower heads and faucet aerators, and choosing water-efficient clothes washers and dishwashers. We can further these savings by planting natives and other drought-tolerant plants in our gardens and minimize water use with drip irrigation and other water-efficient irrigation systems.

Recycled chair below by Fumi Masuda

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SAVE & PRODUCE MATERIAL

Reduce, reuse, and recycle during construction.  The most basic ways to use fewer materials are by re-using existing buildings or by designing smaller buildings. If reuse is not feasible, rather than demolish, move or deconstruct the building for reuse. By designing more intelligently, we can design the building to make efficient use of standard lengths and sizes of material. We can also expand the standard material selection criteria of strength, cost, appearance to include environmental impact, durability and toxicity.  With the materials we use, “greener” products are becoming available such as engineered lumber, bamboo, non-toxic paints and finishes, low-impact fabrics, non-toxic adhesives and insulation, and long-life roofing. We can also incorporate salvaged wood products such as timbers and flooring and select other products with recycled content. Consider alternative construction techniques such as adobe, native stone, rammed earth, sandwich panels, foam blocks, and straw bales. Create a sustainable supply of materials by using sustainably harvested wood products or by planting trees to replace the wood you use.

MAXIMIZE LONGEVITY

We should maximize the longevity of the entire building by designing with flexibility in mind. When selecting materials and construction techniques consider long life and sustainable maintenance. Design the building to be economical to build and operate, and maintain the specified quality of materials and workmanship during construction so the building performs as it was intended. Operate and occupy the building in a sustainable manner.

images courtesy of inhabitat.com, gosustaino.com

Business of Fluff

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After the paint has dried, the floors are finished, and the main furniture items have been placed, comes the moment when the final touches to a room are then added. This can mean the artwork, books, vases, plants, decorative plates, fresh flowers, throws and  last, but not least, the PILLOWS. Pillows are one of the best investments you can make when finishing a room. They are like the earrings on the woman with the ball gown. They can bring an entire room “together.”

1-1-Throw-Pillows-PinterestOversized they command attention and create a visual color palette.

creative-throw-pillow-designs-1They can add both extra comfort, visual interest and texture to a space.

MinimalThey can be minimal with a small detail such as these embroidered pillows.

over the topOr over the top with high impact, questionable functionality but big on style like these flower pillows.

In betweenThey can also be somewhere in between, adding just enough visual pop and needed comfort.

The key is to pick the right size, fill, design and of course the right fabric to bring out the extra quality you are looking for in a room. These design details are what can make a pillow somewhat expensive compared to what you would find off the shelf at a big box design store, so let’s get down to the details of pillow sourcing and see how these things can add up.

Size: Standard squares (about 18 inches) nest neatly on sofas with typical dimensions. Oversize pillows (24 inches) create a more casual, loungey feel. If you have a modern sofa with a very low back, consider 16 inches. The lumbar pillow is the answer if you have a sofa with a sharp angle from the seat to the back. Lumbar pillows can mean the difference between comfort and discomfort on some sofas and chairs. If you need a specific size this has to be taken into consideration and these dimensions will be custom quoted by a reputable fabrication house. They will sometimes need to make a special pattern if the pillow is a size they don’t normally make. This can bring the cost of a pillow up.

Fill: A feather-and-down fill has more squish, and it’s also the priciest.The fill can be a blend of feathers or down all the way from 5% down / 95% feathers to 90% down / 10% feathers. The general rule of thumb is that the more down, the softer the pillow. A pillow with a 10/90 fill is 10% down and 90% feathers – this type of pillow is firm with a bit of give (This pillow is less expensive due to the lower down quantity). The 50/50 pillow likewise has 50% down and 50% feathers and is softer then the 10/90 pillow. Some consumers find that the 50/50 product is firm enough for support and soft enough for comfort. Another thing to consider with down is that the cover you have on the down filler is very important. A thread count of 230 or higher means that the pillow is “down proof” (a measure of air permeability), but often lower thread count pillows are specially treated with starch sizing to prevent feather and down leakage. You just want to make sure you’re not being poked by feather ends. You can also use a less expensive foam and other synthetic fills but while they may hold their shape, they look less lush and are stiffer. However, if the pillow needs to be in a high humidity area or will need to be washed frequently, synthetic fill is the way to go.

Design: 

Here are some basic design details for the edging on a pillow.

There are countless variations on this these basic designs and the custom design that an interior designer can create for their clients can mean the difference between an ok pillow and an amazing pillow.

Fabric: Now it gets REALLY interesting. As you know there are thousands of fabrics to choose from and picking the “right” fabric meaning the one that has that certain something that brings the room together, is a real art. We are trained in our industry to look at not only the appropriateness of a fabric meaning, its ability to withstand the elements that it will be subjected too, but also to its suitability to the room itself. Does it distract? Does it speak to the language of the room? Are the colors working with the ones around it. Does it bring out another color in the room that you were hoping to emphasize? Is it the earrings that really bring that ball gown to life?

These fabrics can be expensive which will be one of the main reasons for the cost of a pillow.  However we will usually only be using a small quantity of it. The quality of a fabric can make a budget sofa or chair suddenly look as if it came from custom design house.

Custom look

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 3.46.34 PMWhile this business of fluff can be time consuming and sometimes more expensive than the pillows that are off the shelf, the value-add that they can bring to a room is worth every penny.

Photos courtesy of journeys of mangonett.blogspot.com, interiorholic.com, pinterest, laurenliess.com, horchow.com, realsimple.com

The Art of the Game

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Axel-Vervoordt-02I love art. When I was in High School, I had a great art teacher. She was great because she gave us space to create and she opened the doors of possibility. She gave us just enough information to intrigue our imaginations and then showed us the tools. She also showed us images of the work of other artists and how they were using the medium. At first you copied the work and then as you worked through it you began to find your own voice in the work. While I don’t profess to be a hyperrealist, I do enjoy doing my work whether it is in pencil, watercolor, silver, wood, or processing in the darkroom. There is just something about losing yourself and having time slip away in the creative process. I have these same feelings when I’m working on an interior design project. You have a bit of information from the client and you then begin the process of creating a space that speaks to who they are. Your tools are your pencil, the layout, the pieces of furniture, artwork, colors, textures, materials, light etc. It all begins to come together into a finished piece.

When I first started doing design, just as in High School, I looked at work that others were doing. One of my favorites was Axel Vervoordt. He is an antiques dealer, curator and interior designer who’s work is shown in the image above and below. He is from Antwerp, Belgium and has been an influential taste maker. His clients range from royalty to rock stars. They are drawn to the Belgian antiquaire’s cerebral good taste. One of the proponents of the WABI SABI movement he has a way of mixing antiques with contemporary art. I’ve admired his work for some time with its simplicity, rawness and penchant for the artful interior.

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Another design team I have admired is Anne Marie Midi and Jorge Almada known as Casa Midi. They are based out of Bruxelles, Belgium and San Miguel de Allende Mexico. As you can see in the work below they have a way of mixing the old with the new, the artisanal with the found object d’art.

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There are many others who’s work I’ve admired over the years and this post could go on forever showing examples of the spaces they have created but the point is that I’ve watched the way these designers have handled space and I’ve taken lessons from their usage of art in their work.

For example imagine what the room below by Sabine De Gunzberg would look like without all of that artwork. It is the cool greens and blues that play the foil to those popping fuchsias in the chairs and rug.

EDC040112DeGunzburg06-625-lgnOr sometimes a piece of artwork can perfectly mirror the mood of the room. It may be the cornerstone piece that inspires an entire space. Dark, smokey, moody like the image below.

hickory hill

Maybe its something bright and balanced that perfectly creates a vignette of the owners lives and the objects they have collected along the way.

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At the end of the day what is most important to me in my work is that every piece, I consider placing in a room is part of an overall story. The story that the client has told me. That each piece is considered a part of the canvas. Individual strokes of a brush that create a picture of their lives.

kinfolk.comImages courtesy of Grahamandco.org, axel-vervoordt.com, elledecor.com, hickoryhill.tumblr.com, kinfolk.com 

Gear Head

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gears

Gear head. A term affectionately coined amongst my friends, and possibly amongst yours as well, to describe someone who is into the inner workings of something. They are fascinated by the technical aspects. They want to know how it works and they ask “why” it works. They were the kids that tore their transistor radios apart. My dad was a gear head. He had a shop and I mean it was THE SHOP. There was nearly every tool known to mankind in there. If the tool didn’t exist that he needed, he would fabricate it himself. He grew up on a farm where you fixed things if at all possible, he then became a machinist in the army, then a pilot, moving on to an engineer for the US government where he was allowed to invent things for them when it was needed and it didn’t exist. From a young age I was in THE SHOP. I learned how to drive nails, work the band saw, weld, solder, and was the assistant to many a machine being repaired. At the time I don’t think I appreciated all of it but in later years it has come in handy and saved me a lot of money. When the blender doesn’t work in our house, I open it up. Printer on the fritz, I pull the cartridges out and start diagnosing. Sometimes I find the problem and sometimes I have to concede to the professionals to solve it. But I give it a go and about 90% of the time I can figure it out. As my dad taught me…. look for the obvious first. Usually its a wire out of place or a lack of oil, or something has slipped off track.

I’ve been blessed to marry a contractor so much of the driving of nails and wood work has fallen to his expertise but I am still the one who installs the modems and fixes the small machines that don’t work.

On a recent visit to my dad’s farm, my dad gave me a very large machine. His beloved 1966 Honda S90. It is a beauty. Clean, simple, purposeful. Transcendent of time. It’s beautiful and it works really well. Everything on it, is where it naturally feels “right”. It’s easy to use and self explanatory. This is a fine example of good industrial design.

I’ve been riding on the back of this bike since I was 4 or 5 and could barely reach the back pegs. I had my favorite riding outfit at that time which consisted of a bright orange poncho and white go-go boots. I’m not sure if I can top that now but I’ll have to look into this.

Honda-S90So the motorcycle wasn’t working and dad and I went out to the shop and we worked on it. Back to our usual roles. “Can you hand me the straight slot, get me the meter, I need a rag.” I quickly found whatever item was needed as my dad explained what he was doing. We went through the usual paces and he checked what he thought would be the most likely suspect of why it wouldn’t start. We filed the points, checked the battery, pulled the spark plug and tested it.  The list went on and each time it led to a dead end. Frustrated, my dad was getting tired. He is 76 now and pulling apart a motorcycle in the summer heat is no longer his idea of a good time. I interjected that maybe it would be best if we took it to the motorcycle mechanic. I knew that the local mechanic, who I heard was quite good, could probably find the problem. If dad tinkered with it long enough he could probably find the problem but it might need a part that we didn’t have on hand. Plus I knew he was getting weary. I suggested a trip to Cascade motorcycle and then a final stop at the local Dairy Queen for a cone. That got him.

We took it down to the repair shop and the owner, Dave, came out. He had been working on motorcycles since he was 14.  Definitely a gear head. He had owned this small shop since 1987. Dave told us stories of other vintage bikes that have been brought in to his shop. Many in much more advanced forms of disrepair then my bike. He had to have at least 75 bikes queued up in front of his shop doors. When I asked him about this he told me that, unfortunately, people can’t always afford the fix when they find out how much its going to cost and they ask him to allow them to make payments towards the repair. So he patiently holds the bikes and has to roll them in and out of the repair bays each morning and night. He told my dad and I that it takes him about 45 minutes each day to one by one, roll the bikes out into the yard and then roll them all back into the shop at night to be locked up. This man is a saint. A non-productive saint, but a saint nonetheless. to hold those bikes for these people as they work their way towards final payment, is an act that only a man committed to his cause could do.

He rolled my bike in and within a couple of days it was repaired and ready for riding. My dad sent me this picture of it out by the barn after he had taken it for a spin. I know he is sad to see it go but I think it helps when he sees my own daughter riding behind me as we cruise through the field.

Honda_90_s_001I had to return to Seattle while it was being repaired but Ill be going back down next week to Oregon to pick it up. I’ve been doing my research on the bike and I’ll be getting my full tutorial from dad when I arrive.  I’ll need to know how to service this large machine. I’m sure I’ll have to buy a few more tools for the job. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. An official gear head in training.

Photos courtesy of MidAmerica auctions and Ian Britton.

Time

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Ikepod-Hourglass-6Time…..with the long days of summer now here it feels like we have more time. The sun is up and streaming through windows, waking us up earlier and earlier. The evenings are prolonged and we can find ourselves still in the last hours of daylight at nine thirty. In short, I love it. I feel like getting all of those projects that are on my long list done. I don’t have to squeeze them into the short hours of a winter day. I can be out in the garden at 8:30 p.m., still clipping and digging or going for a walk around the neighborhood and chatting with neighbors on their front porches. An interesting by product of these slow moments is that I feel more compelled to create. Slow time can be a very good thing for refilling our creative wells. A moment to think and not necessarily DO. Simply enjoying the moment without rushing.

I’ve found that rushing has never helped a design project. The luxury of having more time is something that isn’t lost on me. Sometimes I wish solutions came in a straight line. But this is rarely the case. Usually it is a circuitous and tangled line. That looks something like this.

process of design

This desire for a solution to come in a straight line is usually driven by a perceived lack of time, real or imagined. However all of those paths that we take on our circuitous route are useful. They can lead us to other opportunities and other moments of learning that we can use later. Let’s take this blog entry for example. I was first reading a book about the history of knot tying. I was thinking about how long it must take to perfect this art and how many mistakes you had to make to get to a perfectly constructed ocean plait knot. It is a slow process of learning. Trial and error. This then reminded me of a great book I have called 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Mathew Frederick. Looking through it I found on page 81 the quote I was looking for. “Engage the design process with patience. Don’t imitate popular portrayals of the creative process as depending on a singular, pell-mell rush of inspiration. Don’t try to solve a complex building in one sitting or one week. Accept uncertainty. Recognize as normal the feeling of lostness that attends to much of the process. Don’t seek to relieve your anxiety by marrying yourself prematurely to a design solution; design divorces are never pretty.”  Words to live by. I then started to think about how to time oneself in such a manner that would simultaneously keep you on track and yet move at a pace that encouraged you to ponder. I thought about an hourglass and then started to look for images of one. On Google I found a reference to Marc Newson and his work with Ikepod which is a timepiece company. He has created a line of very high end hourglasses that are amazing.

hourglass 3These are the type of products that are not created “pell-mell” but thoughtfully developed and created. You can see the video by clicking the link below.

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http://www.nowness.com/day/2011/4/14/1410/marc-newson-for-ikepod

After watching this I realized that I had a blog entry. I didn’t sit down and decide that I needed to write about time. I was wandering down a path, taking time out of a weekend day and had encountered a series of experiences that I realized were connected. I wasn’t married to any particular outcome.

Sometimes being creative means not knowing where you are going down the path but taking the TIME and wandering just the same. Looking for and finding the connections along the way.

Images courtesy of legitlifestyle.com, marc-newson.com, the jewelryeditor.com