Best of the Best Design Blog Posts of 2011

January 3, 2012

1 & 4 / 2 / 3

January is a time to reflect on the passing year and plan for the one ahead. Some of my favorite design blogs are doing just that and rounding up their favorite posts of 2011 to share again for inspiration. Think of it as creative recycling when we need it most. I thought I would be clever and compile a round-up of round-ups.

Stefanie from Brooklyn Limestone has shared her favorite posts from 2011 including home organization tips, beautiful travel photos and exciting DIY tutorials. She also just curated a collection for us– here are her top picks for getting organized in the new year.

In case you don’t have enough blogs to follow, over at Rambling Renovators they have compiled a list of the best blogs from 2011. The series is broken up into different volumes and includes a description of their favorite post from each blog.

Apartment Therapy has been doing a lot of reflecting on 2011. They have even round-up their favorite house tours by month. My favorite is their January round-up for its diversity.

Nole at Oh So Beautiful Paper collected her favorite blog posts from this year categorized by design style. I absolutely love colors and type placement on her pick of neon wedding invitations and watercolor designs.

Having resolved to add more color to my life, I am smitten with re-nest‘s round up of color inspiration posts. After perusing the posts you may have the urge to make a colorful statement in your home.

It may be cathartic for these bloggers to look back and share their successes but I find it so helpful as I plan the improvements I will make in 2012.

The Uncommon Life

Marie Antoinette, Grace Kelly and the History of the New Year’s Toast

December 30, 2011

(source ChampagnePascal Vuylsteker)

In a couple days we will gather with and count down the New Year. Whether you are watching the ball drop from your television or in the center of Times Square, there most likely will be a glass of champagne in your hand. I was curious as to why we choose champagne for toasts on momentous occasions like weddings, birthdays and holidays and found out some pretty interesting knowledge.

(source NotCot)

For the longest time, champagne was mostly drunk by men who were attracted by the unofficial endorsement of royal and noble men. Men of all classes and statures flocked to the bubbly on a regular basis, but in the early 19th Century champagne manufacturers thought it was time to start appealing to women. In order to get the attention of ladies, bottles were designed with labels depicting beautiful scenes that like romantic dates, weddings and christenings (not as romantic but very important to women as a special event). The tactic worked but also influenced drinkers to save champagne for more special occasions instead of daily happy hour.

Most drinkers reach for a champagne flute, a tall thin glass that connoisseurs recommend for a better drinking experience. A flute will not over-expose the drink to oxygen and directs the nose toward the wine allowing for optimal flavor. However, coupe glasses are known to come in and out of style for their chic shape although they may weaken the flavor of champagne. They are rumored to have been made from a mold of Marie Antoinette’s left breast as a birthday present to her husband Louis XVI. They were meant to signify the drinks coming from the kindness of her heart. I prefer these shallow, bowl-like glasses because they make me feel like Grace Kelly.

(source Anatomy of a Classic)

However you choose to drink your champagne this New Year’s Eve, please do so safely. When combined with carbonated water, alcohol is consumed more rapidly and champagne’s bubbles work the same way. They aren’t lying when they say champagne goes right to your head!


Uncommon New Designs: Stylishly Rugged

December 29, 2011

Beards have been in style for some time now, and from beard art to facial hair championships, we’re pretty sure they’re here to stay.

We’re celebrating this hairy phenomenon with the Men’s Shaving Kit in our community voting app, which is actually more for keeping a fuzzy face looking good than actually shaving.

This rugged-chic set got us thinking about other great products that mix a natural, outdoorsy feel with high design.

Also in our voting app, lovely light blue Antler Mugs are sweet and simple, with big game appeal.

Another solid new design, the Quadro Bottle Opener, incorporates natural agate. The rugged, volcanic rock looks harsh when collected, but when carved and polished it’s colorful, rich, and sleek.

Of course, many ladies are outdoorsy, nature types as well. Another new design, Tasha McKelvey’s Mushroom Ring Dish may not feature a fungi specimen recognized by naturalists, but it is made from stoneware clay pressed against a piece of wood from a 100-year-old barn, giving it a weathered, textured look and feel.

Would you stash your ring in this little dish next time you want to work with your hands? Know a bearded fellow who could use a break from being burly to pamper his cheeks and chin? What’s your favorite outdoorsy trend?


5 Tips to Redecorate Your Home for Under $50

December 27, 2011

With January comes the excitement of a new year, and with your resolutions come the prospect of a shiny new you. But after the holiday decorations have been taken down and the intoxicating smell of cookies has subsided, you are stuck with the same old house.

If you’re like me, you probably resolved to save some money in the New Year, so bringing in a professional to decorate is not an option. I got an early start working on my resolution for a fresh new home in 2012 so I could share some simple ideas to revamp and reorganize your space on a budget.

Move accessories from one room to another.

Seriously– it works! Rearrange the décor items in your home by transferring them from room to room. Move the armchair from the sitting room to a bedroom, or bring the office lamp into the hall. I have a bunch of vintage dishes that I use to store jewelry and other things. I moved this amber compote from the living room into the bathroom. Perhaps a guest might not pick up the change, but my familiar eye notices a difference.

No new supplies. Total, $0.

Color-block the books on your bookshelf.

I love our library of books and DVDs but the wall of bookshelves in our office looks messy and overwhelming. I experimented with color-blocking each shelf and the result is so neat and tidy. First, I pulled all the books off their shelves and sorted them in piles by the color of the spine. You will probably have large piles of black or white books and you can also sort by the color of the main font.

I assigned one color to each shelf and played around with the directions of the books. Lastly, I put back our collection of vintage cameras and lenses into the open spaces on each shelf. I had no idea this technique would also help highlight our eclectic collection!

No new supplies. Total, $0.

Start spring cleaning early.

My crafting supplies overflow from canvas bags, starting from my closet to the corners of my room.  My coworker Julia shared that she started sorting her yarn and supplies by color in old oatmeal and coffee cans after she saw the idea on Leethal. This is such a great way to store any group of small items like paperclips and crayons in a cabinet or drawer, and you will be recycling too!

Can of coffee, $6. Can of oatmeal, $3. Total, a month’s worth of breakfast and the satisfaction of doing something good for the environment, priceless.

Give a lamp a facelift.

There really is nothing a coat of paint can’t fix. Repaint one of your luminary pieces in a bright color to make a bold statement.

My boyfriend bought this monkey lamp when he was in college and despite my love for the tailed creatures I have always found it dark and creepy. Knowing I wanted to keep it in my almost-completely-white bedroom, I covered it in a bright marigold spray paint. I purchased a plain lampshade that I covered in fabric from Ikea, a skill I picked up from years of watching Trading Spaces after school.

Spray paint, $6. Lampshade, $9. Fabric, $7. Total, $22

Deck the walls. Chances are the pictures that have been hanging on your wall for the past year are looking as stale as the ones that came with the frame. I decided to ditch the frames and hang photos on baker’s twine with binder clips. It wasn’t long until the line accumulated cards, stickers, tickets and other tsotchkes. It was an interesting and colorful mixed-media experience that was easy to change more frequently than framed pictures.

Baker’s twine, $16. Binder clips, $4.50. Total, $20.50

We all know change comes from within but sometimes forget to consider within our own homes. Revamping your home may sound less impacting than a resolution to help others, but getting out of a decor rut by making small and inexpensive alterations can change your whole perspective on yourself and the outside world. It’s a really great place to start!

Maker Stories

Don’t Knock on Wood–Wear It!

December 26, 2011

Looking for a new look for the new year? Why not try a style that incorporates reclaimed wood into modern fashion? David Steinrueck’s creative ties are a clever way to celebrate living against the grain.

David took a moment to tell us about his design inspiration, finding salvaged wood in the San Francisco area, and how to wear a wood tie with any outfit.

Q: How did you get the idea to create ties made out of wood?

I started Wood Thumb with my brother Chris in January of 2011. We wanted to prove that with a little bit of community support and minimal funding, a craft can be turned into a thriving company. The wood tie was designed to allow unconventional people to stand out from the crowd and make a bold statement to the world.

Q: Why reclaimed wood? Is it difficult to get the type of wood used to make the ties?

We use reclaimed materials in part due to our belief in zero waste products and also because of the incredibly beautiful wood we were able find in salvage yards around our area. We are lucky enough to live in an area of the country where we can track down an abundance of old redwood that we are able to use in our process. By using reclaimed wood, we offer every customer a unique product, each with its own special past life.

Q: How do you recommend wearing a wood tie? Casual with jeans? As part of the formal look with a suit?

There are many ways to rock a wood tie:
The Tech Slacker – Wears her tie to the office with a t-shirt, jeans, and a pair of New Balance shoes.
The Urban-Eco – Wears his tie with a worn collared shirt, khakis and hiking boots or sandals.
Center of the Club – Wears his tie with a bright collared shirt, a blazer, dark shades, and dress shoes. Bottle service.
The Mission – Wears her tie with 1950s collared shirt, skinny jeans, and sneakers.

Q: Did you expect such a great response to your unique design?

The very first tie we made was received with excitement from everyone we showed. We have grown our production from 50 ties/week to 500 ties/week and we are still not able to keep up with our current demand. Nonetheless, I am still astounded every day that so many people are enjoying the work and craft that we put into each tie.

Thanks, David! We love the suggestions on how to rock a wood tie! We’d love to hear more ways to jazz up outfits with offbeat accessories. What’s your favorite uncommon statement piece?

Maker Stories

The Best Music of 2011 According to Jeff Davis

December 26, 2011

Want great music recommendations? Ask the man who’s literally in the music business. Jeff Davis, the artist behind the popular record bowls, clocks, coasters, and bookends, knows his albums.

Right now, it seems like everyone‘s weighing in on their favorite songs, albums and music videos of the year. NPR seems to have had a year-long love affair with Adele, promoting her album during every seasonal pledge drive. My favorite music blog, KEXP out of Seattle, turned over the picks to their DJs and ended up with something closer to a top 500. There’s no shortage of great music reviews at this time of the year. I decided to check in with Jeff to get a more timeless perspective.

Q: What are the top 10 albums you love too much to use in your homewares?

A: 1. “Them” – featuring Van Morrison
2. “Unicorn” – Tyrannosaurus Rex
3. “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” – Traffic
4. “Babylon By Bus” – Bob Marley and the Wailers
5. “Blues for Allah” – The Grateful Dead
6. “A Monastic Trio” – Alice Coltrane
7. “The Blues” – Nina Simone
8. “On the Beach” – Neil Young
9. “5” – J.J. Cale
10. “What’s Going On” – Marvin Gaye

Q: What was your first record?
A: “Saturday Night Fever” – soundtrack

Q: Wow! Well… What’s the best new album of 2011?
A: “The King is Dead” – Decemberists

Isn’t it amazing how our tastes all grow and change? I’m not ready to publicly admit the first album I ever bought.

But I agree with Jeff that the Decemberists put out a great album this year. David Foster Williams fans may see some familiar references in their single, “Calamity Song.”

Q: Last question. Will people ever nostalgize tapes or CDs as much as they do records?

A: Not likely. Records have been popular from the 1950s till the present. No other recorded music medium has as much iconic meaning or connection as records.

That, and I’d challenge anyone to figure out how to turn a flimsy CD into bookends!

Thanks to Jeff for sharing some great music with us. What were your favorite songs and albums from 2011?

I’m putting together my New Year’s playlist, so please share links below!

Maker Stories

Five Art Pieces That Will Fool You

December 23, 2011

Artist Melanie Mckenney creates earthenware bowls that bear a stunning resemblance to fruit and vegetables. Her bowls are designed to look like the ingredients in a fresh salsa with realistic colors and the textures and details on her newer Grapefruit and Canteloupe bowls will fool the eye into thinking they are the real thing.

The life-like outcome of her work is not a coincidence. “By translating nature’s designs into clay I am able to invoke a new appreciation for everyday objects. Fruits and vegetables have such a variety of shapes, colors, and textures. By casting directly from the actual fruit or vegetable, I am able to replicate these designs in each bowl.”

(Escaping Criticism by Pere Borrell del Caso. source Wikipedia)

For centuries artists have been attempting to fool the eye with life-like painting and sculptures. In ancient Greece contests were held between artists to see whose paintings were more realistic. One famous contest featured a painted curtain so convincing, a rival artist attempted to draw them back.
The Renaissance brought a better understanding of perspective drawing and a term for art that fools its viewers- trompe l’oeil, which means “deceives the eye” in French. Subjects walked out of paintings and houseflies rested on canvas art. On a larger scale, frescos were painted on the ceilings of buildings giving the illusion of staring up to the sky through a window: an art form named di sotto in su, translating into “from below, upwards” in Italian.

(Trompe L’oeil, genevieveromier)

More recently a modern and reversed version of di sotto in su has emerged in urban environments that are making passers-by look down. Artists are creating 3D images on the sidewalk in chalk and paint to deceive city dwellers into the thinking the ground beneath them has opened up.

(on the very edge of a 3D illusion, calliope_Muse)

Perhaps the most popular examples of trompe l’oeil in our society are wax figures of our favorite entertainers. Commissioned during the French Revolution to recreate the forms of famous leaders, Marie Tussaud’s death masks of the French royal family were paraded as flags after their executions. In 1802, she moved to London with her family where she opened a public exhibition space. Today, Madame Tussaud’s wax museums are huge tourist destinations in big cities internationally.

(Madame Tussaud’s figure at Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood, Loren Javier)

Throughout time artists have created such realistic works to display their understanding of forms and perspective or to trick their audience. Why does Melanie try to fool you? Melanie says that in creating life-like pottery, she “aims to promote local farming, healthy eating, as well as an appreciation for handmade functional housewares”.


Uncommon New Designs: Pick a Place

December 23, 2011

Maybe it’s the recent popularity of the History Channel’s How the States Got Their Shapes, or maybe it’s the thrill that goes along with your city being featured on any sort of top cities list, but goods depicting geographical locations are definitely in style.

We’re loving state love, and our buyers were thrilled to find this gorgeous, handmade Heart Strings State Love Wall Art, now up in our community voting app.

For those who would rather wear their state love than hang it on the wall, results on the State Quarter Rings are coming soon.

But, the location love isn’t just home state pride. There’s a bundle of band new city love at UncommonGoods, too.

From Dave Marcoullier’s City Skyline Wooding Routings (now available for LA, San Francisco, and New York) to Patrick Chirico’s Brooklyn Bridge Pillow Cases, hometown love is warming our hearts.

Of course, we don’t want to exclude those who see home as where they rest their head. And, gifts for travelers are always in style.

Whether you’re a true rambler or a world traveler at heart, our new Hobo Charms and I Am…Pendants help you celebrate free spirit and whimsy.

Will your hometown always be close to your heart? Is wanderlust your guide? Or have you adopted a new place to call home?

Pin It on Pinterest