Archive for the ‘Home Design’ Category

When you spend a considerable portion (ok, almost all of it) of your waking hours by your computer, the comfort of your work station becomes important. The angle of your chair has to be just so. The phone has to be reachable. The background music can make or break your day. It was therefor incomprehensible that I let my mousepad bother me for so long. It had served me well for many years, but the corners had ripped, the edges scratched my wrist and some kind of plastic residue seemed to collect under the mouse. It was clearly time to let go.

Commercially available options didn't appeal to me. They just seemed, well, too commercial or at least impersonal. As a crafty designer, I needed to tackle the issue hands on. For materials, I chose felt and leather and got them laser cut to size. The beauty of laser is that you can also cut the holes for stitches. It is then easy to glue and backstitch the pieces together.

Even if my waking hours are mostly spent with the computer, there is something incredibly satisfying to touch needle and embroidery floss. It made me miss my knitting. It is also nice to look at and feel my hand stitched mouse pad every time I work.

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This is the first post in the upcoming sporadic series of DESIGN LAB. I will experiment with new manufacturing methods and techniques. Results and pictures, good or bad, will be posted here. Some of these sketches may eventually find themselves in production and the web store, but mostly I’m just playing around.

For the longest time, I’ve been wanting to try laser cutting. Though the laser cutter is pretty old technology, the price point is still very high. It is not in my radar to purchase my own machine quite yet. So, I turned to a service bureau; Ponoko.

Ponoko carries a vast catalogue of materials from leather and wool felt to acrylics and plywood. The prices for materials are reasonable, but price for an individual design may hike up fast, if the design is complicated and specifically if it includes lots of engraved details. This makes balancing between designer’s and consumer’s happiness tricky. Seemingly simple designs may end up carrying a hefty price tag.

This time, I chose to work with white melamine MDF, Cherry Veneer MDF and natural cardboard.

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Cherry veneer has a nice sheen and works quite nicely for jewelry. Here, I made a simple pendant by utilizing a ready made silver setting and designing a piece to fit in. The lesson here; Fonts need to be bold. Otherwise, the result is too subtle with the natural wood grain. The “CHILL” text on the bracelet below is barely visible.

chill I was particularly excited with trying the “live hinge” method. Stiff material, such as wood, can be made flexible by cutting  a pattern of vertical lines. Each thin part will give in a little, just enough to for a nice bend. However, for jewelry purposes and heavy usage items, this is just too brittle. It might be possible to use some kind of enforcement. For the bracelet below, I used duck tape :). For this to work, it needs more R&D.

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Laser cutting is essentially flat design. With some construction, one is able to expand it to 3d. Here is a simple egg pendant which can be shipped flat and assembled when received.

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The white melamine picks up detail really well. Even the thinnest lines will read clearly. Also, the material  tolerates high heat pretty well. Therefor, it was my material of choice for this trivet.

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One last material I wanted to experiment with was cardboard.  These earring display cards will easily fold flat for gift boxes.

packagingOver all, much fun to play with and definitely a learning experience. Next, I will try leather and felt for some bags and cases.

Oh, and a word of warning: All natural fibers and organic materials such as wood, leather or felt will be smelling like smoke. Laser cuts by burning. Eventually, the smell fades, though.

Let's face it. When it comes to kids' ready made curtains, they are not fun. Even if you can get over the boring-factor and the why-so-weirdly-short-factor, the quality is often unacceptably bad. I have had simple roman shades give up in less than a month. Supposedly, they were made for kids' rooms, so I had ambitious expectations for longer usage. Oh, how wrong I was!

Living extensive periods of time without blackout curtains is not an option for an 8 year old who wakes up with the sun (and specially for his parents). After the roman shades gave up, I obviously really had to do something about it. After spending several desperate hours going through the available boring and ugly curtains, I decided to move from ready made to home made.

I knew my artistic and design savvy son would like to choose his color and pattern. So, first we surfed some fabric sites together. Surprisingly easily, we settled to two space themed fabrics from the custom printer Spoonflower. We decided to have a bit fun and have one of the windows decorated with a different panel. Because the fabrics were both by the same very talented designer, Jennifer Wambach, we were still able to create a cohesive look to the room.

If you can sew straight line, you can sew curtains. Basically, I sewed the panel and blackout fabric into a gigantic sack. Then I turned it inside out (right sides out) and overstitched. The only thing left was to cut the holes to grommets (my package came with a template) and snap them to place. Just a few hours later, I was done! Well, until I'll start again and sew some new curtain panels for the jealous little brother.

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Aaaahhh...spring - it never fails. Birds are back, daffodils are sprouting and every piece of furniture in my house looks tired. It's time to either redecorate or maybe buy a new house to decorate. Either case, I'm definitely drooling over  interior design magazines and blogs. Like everything, this too will pass and I'll settle into comforts of outdoor living during summer months and lazy hibernation beginning November. Every year, some items may carve a permanent tiny nest into my heart. The new flat pack furniture from Wintec and custom designed fair trade rugs from node definitely made a lasting impression.

Form and function in  flat pack beauties

STRATFLEX Skin – Single, two or three seater.

STRATFLEX Skin – Single, two or three seater.

While I think of flat pack furniture, I can't help but to think of a certain Swedish discount giant. Fortunately, Wintec has now diversified my thought process. These beauties from the new Skin line are made to be loved. I can see them easily fit into both traditional and modern homes.According to Wintec, they  are made from imported Finnish ply over a locally sourced and sustainable Saligna frame. The result a sculptural, organic and comfortable armchair. Finland has a long tradition in producing beautiful plywood which has, of course, been also used by such legends as Alvar Aalto in their designs.

Just add plywood

Traditional Methods - New Designs

 

Chris Haughton's Owl Rug

Chris Haughton's Owl Rug

Node aims to connect a worldwide network of designers and artists with traditional Nepalese carpet makers to create beautiful handmade rugs.Their rug makers, Kumbeshwar are a founder member of Fair Trade Nepal. Employees are taught literacy and skills. In addition to fair wages their work supports a school of 260 children and an orphanage of nineteen. Node's mission statement sounds idealistic, but the rugs are stunning and priced well.

Node produces their carpets entirely by hand using age old and natural Tibetan carpet making techniques. All their carpets are made from bales of pure Tibetan wool. It is hand spun into thread, hand dyed with natural and non-polluting dyes, and then hand-knotted on our looms into carpet. While the rugs have the traditional lustrous feel of a traditional wool rug, they look fresh and completely new, thanks to the great designers and illustrators, node is working with. More importantly, you can send in your won custom design which they will reproduce. So, watch out world, you may see some rugs designed by me soon.

 

Node carpets start with pure Tibetan wool.

Node carpets start with pure Tibetan wool.

 

I am in love! With Ari Kanerva's furniture line, that is. His collection is a perfect combination of  tradition and modern materials. They bring in memories of grandfather clocks, but at the same time convey lightness which is not usually associated with furniture of that era. Familiar, surprising and fun. I can especially see the Rytmi Rocking chair and Tiuku Pendulum Clock in my future dream office. They would go really well with the Womb chair by Eero Saarinen, which for now, is also still a dream.

See Ari Kanerva's work here

Have you ever wanted to become the next Alvar Aalto or Le Corbusier? Do you have the next Eames plywood lounge chair in you, just no way to output it? Your dreams can become true sooner that you know. SketchChair is an open-source software tool that allows anyone to easily design and build their own digitally fabricated furniture.

SketchChair lets users design chairs using a simple 2d drawing interface, automatically generating the structure of a chair and testing its stability. Users can simulate sitting on a chair with a customisable figure of themselves, in order to test and refine the chair to ensure it will comfortably support them.

The software automatically generates cutting profiles for the chairs, which can then be used to make physical SketchChairs.  Using a cnc router, laser cutter or paper cutter, these parts can be cut from any suitable flat sheet material, and then easily assembled by hand.

On people will be able to send designs to an online digital manufacturing service such as ponoko.com to be cut, or alternatively could send them to a local community workshop or Fab Lab.  Or for the brave of heart, find your long lost jigsaw! The flat-pack and lightweight nature of the chairs makes shipping them affordable, providing an opportunity to a wide audience of people to get their own customised SketchChairs.