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Design

Home Is Where the Design Is

October 24, 2013

As a fashion blogger at Kita Moda, I believe details and accessories are imperative. But this golden rule doesn’t just apply to my wardrobe, it’s important for my apartment’s design and atmosphere as well.

Kita ModaI moved into my own place about a year ago and over the recent months I’ve spent lots of time getting rid of my college Ikea furniture and replacing everything with sustainable pieces made for big kids. But of course I need stellar pieces to accentuate the fine furniture, right? This is where my obsession with UncommonGoods comes in. Every single one of their home decor items is a conversation starter. Packed with loads of color and unique textures, each piece appears to be from a far-off land making my home a bit like a well-curated mini museum. If you’re searching to brighten up your home with function and beauty, look no further. Take a look at some of my favorite pieces.

For the kitchen: A festive recycled glass pitcher and matching margarita glasses are a must for any party! My boyfriend appreciates the tastes of tequila, and I, sangria. And for when you’re not planning a party? These colored glasses inspired by Brazilian Agate will do just the trick.

Kita Moda For the living room:A beaded picture frame stands out against more basic wooden or metal frames. I love how these colors pop against all the white.

Kita Mod These Agate Coasters will make you and your guests want to use them. I like to leave them stacked when they’re not in use, almost as a mini sculpture.Kita Moda Architectural bowls make such terrific centerpieces. I’ve had my bronze Kelly Wearstler-esque one for quite a while but if I were to to replace it, I’d look to the Satellite Bowl. The stark black and clean lines just make such a statement.

Kita Moda For the bedroom: My entire bedroom is covered in jewelry. My dresser looks as though it’s in preparation for an editorial run-through with trays and bowls and cases full of pieces. My vanity and each and every shelf is the same way, covered. I simply need a closet dedicated to jewelry but until that miracle happens, practical jewelry boxes will have to suffice. One of my favorites actually matches the aforementioned beaded frame and it’s full of compartments inside.

Kita Moda And of course, let’s not forget about the art.

Kita ModaIt was a bit like love at first sight when I spotted this Green Poppy Love Chair by Kate Lewis. It’s currently on my wish list, lets hope Santa comes through this year. It reminds me of a vintage dress my aunt from Greece recently gifted me, proving yet again, how seamlessly fashion and design go hand in hand.

Remember, it’s all in the details, so click here for more unique home decor ideas to add to your own wish list.

Maker Stories

Thomas Both & The Art of Tableless Dining

October 14, 2013

Thomas BothMix and mingling at cocktail parties, couch lounging on movie night, and eating Sunday breakfast in bed just got a whole lot easier with Thomas Both’s Ooma Bowl design. “It struck me that all the plateware we use is designed for tables, yet often we eat without a table.  So my point of view was to design something that is suited for eating without one, and to do it in an elegant way.”

Thomas earned his BS in Engineering at Harvey Mudd College and shortly after worked as a mechanical engineer for three years.  Yet as a person who was a bit more right-minded, Thomas recognized that he held a creative heart, and wanted to finally wear it on his sleeve. He was admitted to Design School at Stanford University, which paved his way to teaching innovative designs at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. “Now, I work much more as a designer than an engineer, but both play a part.”

Thomas BothObserving small living spaces was how Thomas’ inspiration behind the Ooma Bowl came about. After speaking to people living in small apartments he was inspired by the idea of tableless dining. Thomas realized that most non-table plateware lacked a level of elegance, such as bad TV dinner trays or strange party plates. Soon, he turned these discussions and observations into a real life design solution.

oomabowl hospitalThomas believes that a strong perspective helps design a unique product.  He didn’t want to just make a cool looking bowl; he wanted the design to be tied in with a direct purpose. In the early stages of designing the bowl, a friend of Thomas’ broke his leg and was stuck in the hospital for a quite a while. Because the Ooma Bowl was “a bowl that’s designed to be held” without the use of a table, Thomas took this opportunity to have his bedridden friend become one of his first experimental guinea pigs. “I called him up. While everyone else was checking if he was okay and visiting him, I asked him if he’d test out my prototypes. He liked the feeling of being locked into the bowl, not holding it but the bowl holding you.”

Thomas brought his designs to the next level of actual production. At first, he had no experience with ceramics. “Except maybe in grade school messing around with clay. It was a dining design project that just so happened to end up in a ceramic piece.” He had to learn about slip casting, working with clay, glazing, and firing all at once. After rough prototype after rough prototype, including failed plastic forming attempts, Thomas finally made the first buck out of REN shape into two pieces. “One side on a lathe, and the other just sort of by eye and feel.” He then glued the sides’ backs together and made adjustments. The next iteration he worked on was stacking and getting a nice feel in the hand, which was much more work than he ever anticipated.

thomasboth2

thomasboth3Once the design was perfected into its brilliant form, Thomas found a manufacturer in Los Angeles, but just as it was a difficult process to design the perfect bowl, it was probably an even more nerve racking time to manage the products. “Selling and managing production, storage, sales, and shipping is a lot of work. I had way too many boxes in our living room for a long time. That part wasn’t so much fun for me; it was more of an on-going nuisance.”

Yet, after only a short hiatus, Thomas is proud to see that the Ooma Bowl sought its way back out into the world, licensed, and it’s now an exclusive item on the UncommonGoods site. Sarah Stenseng, our Senior Product Development Associate who attended Stanford with Thomas, worked with him to get the Ooma Bowls back into production. Thomas says, “The Ooma bowl would probably still be sitting on the sidelines if it wasn’t for UncommonGoods.”

thomasboth4 Thomas’ advice for designers who are producing a product from just a simple idea is to “get engaged and excited about how people do things and how they think within a certain domain , and pay attention.  Opportunities will emerge.  Then you have to try things.  Make stuff.  It can be crappy, you’re just working on the concept. Work your way to a product idea that you’re excited about and other people love.  Then you can bring more refinement to it and move toward manufacturing.”

Thomas Both

Design

6 DIY Projects For Your Home Sweet Home

August 8, 2013

I recently moved into an adorable brownstone in Brooklyn, and as much as I love my faux fireplace against a brick wall and my fabulous French double doors, I admit that my white walls are currently screaming for attention and my shelves are yearning for some sweet, sweet lovin’. Before I moved back to NYC, I was traveling for a few years and I never got a real chance to make my home a real home that reflected my personality while living abroad. This was due to the fact that I was either stuck inside a tiny chambre de bonne in Paris or my toilet was less than a foot away from my shower-head in South Korea. (Yes, everything got wet whenever I showered. I still shudder when I think about it.) One of the reasons why I moved back to the states was because I wanted my love of home décor to go beyond the limits of the space of a shoe box, and to ignite my dying creative spirit through endless tribal-print toss pillows and painted mason jars. Now that I’m finally in a decent sized apartment, it’s time to tackle a few do-it-yourself projects to spruce up my living space and to finally cross out “Decorate my home to make the holy Martha Stewart jealous” off my bucket list. Below are my top 6 ideas I’ve found online (AKA: procrastinating on Pinterest) that I hope to complete before the end of summer. They’re fun, easy, and won’t break the bank!

Wine cork magnets

1. Wine Cork Magnets – For my severe love of red wine and DIY projects that take under 30 minutes to complete, these wine cork magnets made it to the very top of my list. I open my fridge every day, and even though half the time the inside is empty, at least these adorable wine corks will have me feeling quite sophisticated. (And okay with myself that the groceries weren’t done for the week.)

Painted Terra Cotta Pots

2. Painted Terra Cotta Pots – I love getting my hands nice and dirty with a new project. What better way to do that than getting paint and dirt all over? Lovely Indeed‘s painted terra cotta pots would look great hanging in my living room near the windows, and I adore the fact that I could mix up the colors and change the plants inside seasonally.

Geometric Print Curtians

3. Geometric Print Curtains – Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m semi-obsessed with geometric shapes and anything tribal-print. Maybe it’s just a quirky fact about myself or a problem that will result in an intervention, either way I will most definitely be making One Little Momma‘s awesome curtains. And PS- Potato-printing is, indeed, involved!

Tribal Print Storage Containers

4. Tribal-Print Storage Containers and Boxes – Since we’re on the subject of tribal prints, I might as well mention these next. I’m prone to collecting gadgets and gizmos of plenty (whosits and whatsits galore) and stashing them in the back of my closet or hiding it all under my bed only to be forgotten. Having Modernette‘s containers and boxes in tribal print not only makes the perfect excuse to keep all my treasures at a hand’s reach, but it also creates a funky bohemian display for my lonely shelves and fireplace mantel.

Chalk Board Serving Platter

5. Chalkboard Serving Platter – I know I was complaining about living in a tiny room in the City of Lights, but if there was one thing I got out of living in Paris for two years it was gaining an excellent knowledge of stinky cheese. These Wit & Whistle chalkboard serving platters would be perfect to show off my fromage skills the night I decide to play host for my future wine and cheese parties.

Decorative Power Cord

6. Decorative Power Cord – Power cords hate me, and as a result, I hate them. They tangle, they get dirty, they break, they’re inconvenient, they runaway from my outlets and play hide and seek for two days. But with the magical powers that washi tape beholds and tips from DesignLoveFest, I believe our hate-hate relationship can turn into a beautiful love-hate relationship.

 For more cool ideas, check out out our DIY Pinterest board!

Design

The Dos and Don’ts of Setting a Table

May 20, 2013

Growing up in a big Italian family, the dinner table was the hearth of the home. It was where everyone gathered during get-togethers or parties, whether or not there was a formal meal set down. As an adult I love having my friends and loved ones over to feed them but so far all my meals have been spread across a small apartment with plates on laps. However I spent enough time setting tables between stirring my grandmother’s gravy (tomato sauce!), reading my mother’s hip-high pile of Martha Stewart Living magazines, and the studying the copy of Emily Post that I bought at a yard sale when I was 12 to consider myself an expert in-the-making in the art of table setting.

Since I don’t have a big rustic table of my own, I have been living vicariously through my newly betrothed friends and have been dishing out dinner party advice. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts I have put together from years of research.

DO mix and match different styles of plates – a great way to hide the fact that you might not have enough of one style for everyone at the table!

DO give everyone at the table all the plates and utensils they will need for the entire meal… unless your butler is there to change each place-setting between courses. This means soup spoons, salad forks, any utensil they may need for dessert.

DON’T put out dessert plates until the dessert course. It’s everyone’s favorite part anyway so save all the surprises for later.

DO learn the basics of place-settings so you can bend and break the rules for your own meals and style.

Some basics: Utensils are set from in the order they will be used from the outside in. This means the fork to the far left is your salad fork; the one inside is your dinner fork. The spoon to the right of the knife is for soup, a course that comes before dinner. Forks on the left, knife on the right as it’s proper etiquette to hold food down with the fork on your left hand as cut with the knife in your right, then switch the fork when you are ready to eat.

DON’T choose a centerpiece with an overpowering aroma. Stay away from scented candles and very fragrant flowers. You don’t want the décor to upstage your amazing meal.

DO make sure that centerpieces allow guests to see across the table to keep the conversation flowing. Nothing is worse than having to talk to someone’s forehead over a ridiculously large flower arrangement.

DO get funky with your napkins. Fold them, roll them, or use a pretty ring. Napkins can really tie a whole table together.

DO provide your guests with a water glass and another for the alcohol being served with dinner. If you are offering white and red wine, choose a versatile glass.

DON’T play music that will stand out. Like your centerpieces, the music should be noticed but not enough to offend or distract. Try something without lyrics – Pandora has a lot of instrumental options that don’t sound like elevator music.

Design

Trend Spotting: Kantha Quilting

April 24, 2013

We recently introduced Kantha Blankets to our assortment and I couldn’t be more excited to bring these to our customers. These eclectic, one-of-a-kind quilts each have a special story to tell while brightening up any room. I thought it would be fun to share a bit about the history of Kantha as well as some fun decorating tips.

Decor8, Celadon, Desh Crafts


Kantha, a word meaning “old cloth” or “rag”, refers an age-old art form traditionally practiced by the women of Bengal. Kantha blankets are made from recycling worn saris originally intended to keep warm during the cooler months. In the traditional Kantha style, five layers of used saris are sewn together with a single running stitch to make a quilted blanket. Once the blanket is finished, Bengali women “sign” their pieces with their name, a mark of pride and identity. Such blankets are passed on as heirlooms to future generations. While this tradition dates back to the late 16th and early 17th century, Kantha is still the most popular form of embroidery practiced by rural women. Aside from providing a source of income for Bengali women, the popularity of Kantha products has given this traditional folk art a stake in the modern global marketplace.

Justina Blakeney, Apartment Therapy


Nowadays, this age-old tradition is finding its way into modern home décor and design. Traditional Kantha is used on a wide array of products, from personal accessories, to pillows, and upholstered furniture. No matter what the execution, the unique, one-of-a-kind nature of this traditional folk art is a show stealer. Each piece is unique and one-of-a-kind and you can truly see the fingerprint of the artisan women who created them.

Hand & Cloth, Justina Blakeney, Anthropologie


I see Kantha as an easy way to incorporate a little colorful, bohemian touch to your living space. Suddenly you can integrate a splashy touch to your otherwise monotone bedding; the blanket, casually strewn over a couch or chair can transform the look of the room to that of one occupied by a world traveler and collector.

Design

Slate Cheese Board Styled 3 Ways

March 19, 2013

Any apartment dweller knows the plight of a lack of storage. I cringe at the though of single-use items that will take up space on a shelf or counter (oh, how I’m dying for a waffle iron!). Since moving to New York City a couple moons ago, I have started to give a lot more thought to my purchases and make sure everything that enters my tiny apartment will be used. Simply, I don’t buy things that won’t get used frequently!

I spied the Slate Cheese Board with Soapstone Chalk since it was launched on our site months ago but wasn’t sure how often it would get used. Yes, I love cheese – many, many kinds of cheese – but it’s rare that any lasts long enough in my posession to leave out for guests. But the board was too gorgeous in all it’s rustic glory to pass up. So I took it home and gave myself a weekend to see how many times it could get used, finding that there were more uses for this board than meets the eye.

Build your own omelet party After work on Friday I met some friends at the gym to get the weekend started. Afterwards we all came to my place for dinner and I had two main objectives: a) eat some protein to rebuild muscle tissue and b) clean out my fridge. So I threw a “build your own omelet” party and set out the ingredients. It was a self-serve experience so everyone could make their omelet to their liking. I’m glad I got to label their choices so no one picked up an ingredient they didn’t want. The idea was a success and I can’t wait to throw another “build your own” party (sundaes, cocktails, pizza, grilled cheese…).

Movies in Bed Nothing is more fun that lounging in bed on a cold Saturday with your laptop and Netflix, but I always struggle with keeping crumbs from falling out of a lopsided bowl of popcorn. Wondering how the cheese board would fare as a bed-tray, I stocked it with gummy candies, a Mexican Coke and a heaping bowl of lime coconut popcorn while getting under the covers to tackle my growing queue. It did the trick and kept my soda and popcorn level when I readjusted in bed. That night’s sleep was not a story of the Princess and the Popcorn Kernel, thankfully.

Sunday Brunch One of my favorite New York past times is hunkering down after a morning of yoga with the NY Times and a cup of tea. Just sitting all day, leafing through the massive pages that cover my dining table. Since my Sunday brunch is never quite a complete meal – some fruit, nuts, a bagel, maybe a pastry – it was nice to spread out an afternoon’s worth of things to munch on as I caught up on current affairs. I was so comfortable, I didn’t get up until the sun went down and it was time to make supper.

Maker Stories

Meet Beau Lyday, Garden Design Challenge Winner

March 4, 2013

Our busy year of design challenges started off with a call for garden decor in January. With entries from across the country of sculptures, planters and birdhouses, our judges Katie and Chris had the difficult task of picking a winner. They decided on a design they considered to be a triple threat- with beautiful craftsmanship; a creative, unique design; and functional. What they didn’t realize during their deliberation, that they were inviting Beau Lyday of North Carolina into the UncommonGoods artist family. Meet Beau, a carpenter whose skills were passed from generations and a philosopher whose view on art and life is sure to inspire.

What was the inspiration behind the Garden Tool Box Tote?
My wife loves Pinterest and she pinned a garden box on her “Projects for Beau” board. Using the rake for a handle was a really neat idea. I made her a gothic style garden box for a present. That got me thinking about my grandfather Pennington. He was a carpenter. He passed before I was born, but I remember playing with his tool box in the shed. Wooden tool boxes used to be a commonplace item, but are rare now. Using the handle idea and my memories of my granddads tool box, I came up with a strong serviceable garden tool box tote.

Who or what are some of your design influences?
My Father helped me make a stool when I was six. He was a teacher at school and at home. We worked side by side, repairing and refinishing antiques through high school and then whenever we could get together. He taught me how to work with my hands and to be safe with machinery. Most of all he instilled in me a pride in workmanship and if it was not right it was wrong.

After college, I studied the works of Palladio and Christopher Wren, learning the classical relationship of balance and proportion. Their rules have become my basic design building blocks and help me discern why something looks right or wrong and how to fix it.

My wife, Brenda, is a wonderful artist with a keen eye. We make a wonderful team. When she makes a critique she is seldom wrong and she does it with love. I am my own worst critic. She is my greatest influence.

How does designing fit into your lifestyle?
Designing/creating is how I uncover my authentic self and act on it. The quote “By the work one knows the workman” says it best. Whether a person appreciates what I do or they don’t is not as important as the act of bringing an idea, a feeling to life. Working with the creation process, understanding the challenges and overcoming them, creating something useful and pleasing is where my true vocation and occupation come together. So, my work is my full time job.

What are some of your other designs?
Brenda and I try to have breakfast and watch Sunday Morning each week. I love the sun art work. This inspired me to create a series of sun mirrors.

This week I have continued taking down an old barn. I made a checker board with a Celtic ribbon border out of some of the wood I repurposed from that barn. There were also several pieces of wonderfully aged red painted boards that I used to make Brenda a primitive one door 3 shelf wall cabinet. She showed me a strange table in a magazine that we figured out was kite shaped. It took me two tries to make one but it is a very unique small side table and it’s only Wednesday evening. My web site has over 70 items I have made this year.

I am always looking for new inspirations, experimenting, refining until I have it right.

Describe your workspace.
We live in an 1840’s post and beam farm house I restored. Behind the house Brenda and I have side by side studios with wood floors and good windows. My grandmother’s Warm Morning pot belly stove keeps my shop comfortable in the winter time. I am going to have to take a week off and fix up my studio. It’s functional but not too pretty. I have a blacksmith shop in a shed by my studio. Brenda’s description of my work space is sawdust, sawdust, sawdust.

What is most uncommon about you?
I am a unique individual. My uncommonness stems from spending most of my life observing. How do the lines come together and work with each other. Which colors are present and how do they blend. What are the effects of textures and light. Can I identify the functions and understand how it works. I question how these observations relate to each other. I debate with myself why objects are pleasing or unsettling to me. These conclusions have become my memory library that I draw from to see things, to create and to interact.

I made a whirligig base on a child’s antique rocking horse and carriage and showed my dad. The horse’s head rocked up and down, the carriage following along. My dad said he remembered riding in a carriage like that when he was three (he was 80 at the time). I asked him what he thought of the whirligig and he said, “Son there is a fine line between crazy and genius. He did not tell me which side of the line I was on, but he had a smile on his face.

Design

Call for Entries: Garden Decor Design Challenge

January 18, 2013

We couldn’t wait to get this year’s design challenge calendar underway and are excited to announce the call for entries for the Garden Decor Design Challenge from now until January 31. This call is a search for garden sculptures, planters, bird houses and other accessories for an outdoor space and the winning design will be featured in our Spring catalog.

“Our customers love handmade, creatively designed garden décor,” says our home accessories buyer Katie Giannone. “With spring and summer right around the corner, we are entering our strongest sales period for outdoor items. This design contest is an exciting opportunity to showcase your work, gain exposure and a potential partnership with our brand.”

To learn more about the challenge and to submit your designs, visit the Garden Decor Design Challenge page.

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