Here are five sites that caught our attention this week.
1. BLDGBLOG – I don’t know why it has taken me this long to get to this architecture and design blog. It began in July 2004 and is written by Los Angeles-based Geoff Manaugh. He reads voraciously and we all benefit. You’ll find thoughtful pieces on a huge range of topics from author Cormac McCarthy to a great little renovation done by Robert Choeff and Krystyan Keck of the Bureau of Architectural Affairs. This blog is smart and wonderfully broad. You always come away with a tasty little morsel. Where to start: His most recent quick links post. Where does Google stand on the Thai-Cambodian border at Preah Vihear Temple?
2. Living Etc. This UK magazine has a great website and it’s gallery section is fabulous. Think Domino meets Metropolitan Home with a dash of Dwell and you get the idea. Where to start? The home office gallery, of course.
3. Paul Smith While we are in the UK it make sense to stop in at Paul Smith. The designer is super talented but he’s also very tied in to an interesting creative community that he blogs about (rather incessantly). Where to start: Today with the mention of Zarigani’s Japanese graphic designers taking part in an interesting experiment. They have moved their workspace into the public arena at Smith’s Space store in Japan.
4. Dezeen This one shouldn’t come as a surprise to many of you. The online design magazine was launched in November 2006 and satisfies all us news junkies by “bringing you the best architecture, design and interiors projects from around the world before anyone else.” Love it. What more could you ask for? Where to start: Try all the news about Milan Furniture Fair …before it has actually happened.
5. Letterheady Sometimes you need inspiration for the little things that make your business tick. In the case of this extraordinary blog it’s all about letterhead. The clever writer, blogger and curator of correspondence Shaun Usher has collected an awesome amount of stationery from every corner of the globe. Where to start:Hitler’s letterhead? Thomas Edison’s rather lovely copperplate? Roy Lichtenstein fabulous 190 Bowery stationery?
“We followed Alexander Girard where he led us because we knew he had impeccable taste and incredible astuteness about space, color and pattern. He provided…emotional attachment.” That was DJ De Pree, Herman Miller’s founder. His relationship with Girard began in 1952 when the designer was hired to head the fabric and textile division. Over the next 20 years Girard’s work with Herman Miller brought him together with designers like the Eameses and George Nelson. His colorful textiles incorporated geometric patterns and folk art-inspired images that gave life and vibrancy to the company’s furniture designs.
It seems fitting with Valentine’s Day fast approaching to take a look at his “Love Heart” (1972) and the “International Heart”(1967) Girard, who grew up in Florence, Italy, said “the whole world must know about itself…The colors vary, their languages vary, but their spirits and aspirations are interwoven into one incredible rich humanity.” The ‘International Heart’ with the word love in 16 languages certainly speaks to that sentiment. In the 1967 Herman Miller catalog the “International Heart” is referred to as “Love Heart” and “A tribute of Love and Friendship to your wife, sweetheart, or customer.” A nice broad sweep there! The price? $2.25 for a 15 1/2 inch square.
While, for me, the singular “Love Heart” is a testament to Girard’s extraordinary skill as a designer. He has taken a simple graphic, boldly red heart and graphically imposed the word love inside it.
And to finish here are some inspiring words from Girard: “The hope for good design lies in those designers who believe in what they do, and who will only do what they believe … contrary to hearsay, it is possible to make a living that way.” I think that rings true for all of us.
You’ve probably seen the new Stanford research: Customers at Starbucks that listed calorie content of each food ordered 6% fewer calories per visit; calories per transaction fell by 26% in customers whose orders averaged more than 250 calories. It’s reassuring to know that if the information is staring us in the face, we make slightly better choices. Maybe America’s collective waistband will start to shrink.
Restaurants have been a part of the problem, skewing our idea of serving sizes, which are often two to four times larger than the government standards. If eating like that were confined to eating out, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad. But, researchers say, serving sizes also ballooned at home (which is double trouble for those who work from home). When asked to bring in medium-sized potatoes, bagels, and cookies, students of one nutrition professor brought in foods that were at least twice the size of standard serving.
If you want a visual refresher on what really constitutes a serving size, the Mayo Clinic site does a nice job or use these comparisons to familiar objects. While you might end up right-sizing some foods, the Stanford research in Starbucks showed that coffee drinks are off limits. Listing the calories of those had little impact on buying behavior.
Ingrid Fetell over at Psychology Today has an interesting piece on the impact of modern design. Fetell, who is a designer herself, goes beyond the glib and looks at the emotional effect form has on us whether it’s a particular color or the shape of a desk. Make sure you also check out Fetell’s own blog Aesthetics of Joy. I’m going to see if we can get an interview with her – I’m really curious to see her workspace.
Ray and Charles Eames appeared on NBC in 1956 to launch the lounge chair and ottoman (watch Part 2 to see the chair being built). They are interviewed by Arlene Francis and I’m not sure what is more fascinating – hearing Charles speak about the designs, watching the dynamic between Ray, Charles and Arlene or listening to their fabulous accents. It’s compelling television.
The Wall Street Journal just ran an interesting piece by Richard Greenwald on the rise of freelancers and consultants. “The implications for the American workplace are profound. Imagine one in four workers, of all collars, working on a contingent basis. Whole career paths and professions have shifted from stable full-time jobs with definable career ladders and benefits to almost completely contingent work forces that shift from project to project.”
It’s fascinating and Greenwald offers some very good advice, including the following – “…successful consultants say that having a work space separate from your living space is crucial. Clients do not want to have an important phone conference interrupted by a nagging two-year-old, a TV in the background or the sounds of street traffic. Most freelancers I spoke to have a space in their home that is solely for work—a bunker, as it were.”
I like the idea of a bunker. If you’ve got any bunker-like work spaces send them in – we’d love to see them.
The home office above is from Steven & Chris – Decor on a Dime series.
Friends, neighbors, parents, inlaws, significant others—sometimes they all seem to be conspiring to make sure you don’t get any work done. As long as you don’t have your own kids underfoot (that’s an entirely different matter) here’s everything you need to know in 30 seconds or less.
1) Get Caller ID and use it.
2) Hide your car. If you don’t have a garage, park the car a few streets away.
3) Hide out in a room that’s not easily seen from the front door. Pull the shades. Then play dead. Your curiosity will be your own worst enemy when the doorbell rings. Don’t give into it!
If, in spite of 1, 2, and 3, these people still manage to get through to you, then 4) say no. No, I can’t go fishing. No, I can’t watch your darling toddler “for a minute.” No, I can’t fly to Bora Bora with you—even if you have a free ticket for me. Say firmly, I’m working. I’ll call you back after 5:00 (or whenever) to set up a time when we can go fishing, when I can watch your toddler, when I will fly to Bora Bora. Many telecommuters find that they are their own worst enemy and research shows that44% of all work interruptions are self-imposed, e.g., stopping to check e-mail. If you need help overcoming distractions of all kinds, you might try reading this.
By the way, Amazon sells the “Go Away Come In” door mat pictured above for $23.49.
Over at our sister blog, Discover, there’s a great post on the science of sitting. As it turns out it’s a lot to do with blood flow to your bottom! Which I guess makes sense. Gretchen Gscheidle, who wrote the post and is a scientist and artist, has worked with Herman Miller on perfecting their designs for decades. She was reacting to a study published in the Chicago Tribune that found the “sitting too much could be deadly”. Don’t you love a newspaper headline? In the 1990s Gretchen began using pressure map technology, “which visualizes what the seat and sitter interface looks like—and how it changes depending on seat construction and the posture of the sitter. These changes translate to comfort or discomfort for the user.” It all sounds rather technical but the results have given us super comfortable chairs like Embody.
Unhappy Hipsters, a hilarious blog that sends up all things modern, has received a lot of attention lately. We included it in our High Five list last week. I had emailed them to try and get an interview but was met with silence. The Los Angeles Times’ architecture writer, Christopher Hawthorne, had a little more luck. They emailed him the following: ”We’d like to stay anonymous. But we can tell you this: Unhappy Hipsters is a place to finally say what we’ve all been thinking: ‘Oh, miserable modernist — you picked the concrete floors and the gravel yard; at least pretend you like it.’ “
Timothy Dahl has been blogging every day since 2005 “which in relative terms isn’t very long but sometimes seems like forever.” His home improvement blog Charles & Hudson offers great practical advice on everything from insulation to updating a kitchen with wall tattoos.
How long have you worked from home…and where is ‘home’? I’ve always had a home office but I’ve only been working full-time from home this past year. Laura (my wife) and I moved from NYC last year and our home office there consisted of a 5-ft tall loft area in our 1-bedroom apartment. We called it our “John Malkovich Loft”. You couldn’t stand up (unless you were short) but we managed to wrestle a desk and chair up there and when seated it was a workable space although a bit claustrophobic.
We now rent a small bungalow in West Los Angeles that’s about 900 sqft and since we both work from home it was imperative we had a bit more space. Fortunately this property has a separate building in the back which serves as Laura’s fashion design studio and I use the second bedroom as my main office. I’ve also carved out a couple spots in our back yard that work great and given the incredible weather in Southern California we can use almost year-round.
Utilizing our indoor outdoor space breaks up the workday and nothing beats fetch with the dog or 5 minute breaks on a speed bag to get you revved up again.
What does an average work day involve? I’ve been running the home improvement blog Charles & Hudson for about 5 years now and early on my work consisted of simply writing and publishing posts every day of the week (tougher than it sounds). As C&H has grown into a larger network that now totals 6 websites, my work day encompasses not only writing/publishing but everything else that comes with building a business. I typically start the day with reading and answering email. I write and publish content for the next day in the afternoon/evening and set a good portion of the posts to publish at 8am EST the following day time which alleviates me from waking up at 5am or earlier to catch the East coast readers. Posts are still published throughout the day by myself or team of contributors.
Lately I’ve made more of an effort to network with fellow bloggers and industry folks by attending home related events such as the International Builders’ Show and Kitchen and Bath show. Working from home is great but it’s just as important to shake some hands and connect with people in-person.
Is there any form of technology that really helps you with your work? Although it’s been around for awhile, wireless internet access really changed everything. Working remotely from a library or cafe was always possible but you couldn’t publish or read real-time content.
What I can’t do without is GPS and the flow of innovative applications that have taken advantage of this technology that now fits in the palm of your hand. Google’s streetview and Yelp’s monocle (on their iPhone app) still blow my mind.
How do you organize your space? I’m thinking here of your physical space but also your virtual space (any particular software or program that helps keep things under control?) I keep a strong division between personal and business finances and use separate filing cabinets for each so there is absolutely no cross over. I also value proper lighting and keeping my office on dimmers but my desk illuminated by a lamp keeps me focused.
I straddle the PC/Mac world and find benefits for using both. It has come to my attention that I use about 10 different Google products which at times is comforting and convenient but also extremely scary.
The following programs are almost always open on my computer desktop: Thunderbird, Tweetdeck, Photoshop, Firefox, Notepad or Textedit and Trillian.
What item from your desktop/office can you not do without? A good chair. I could work from a slab of plywood as a desk but an uncomfortable chair impacts all of my work. A neighbor in New York was selling a set of Knoll Pollock chairs and we couldn’t resist. I’ve struggled with one too many crappy desk chairs from Staples that fall apart after 6-months.
What inspires you? People and places. Observing people working towards a goal whether it be an entrepreneur bringing a product to market or one of the kids I coach in lacrosse working on throwing with their off-hand. People focused on their goals and their journeys inspire me.
I recently spent some time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and our job site manager and my fellow volunteers were a great source of inspiration. It felt great knowing we were all working together for a common goal that wasn’t about succeeding in our careers or making money but leaving a lasting impression on a family for years to come.
Travel is also huge source of inspiration and I’ve been fortunate to spend time in areas around the world. I also realize there is still so much to discover, not only abroad but across our own country. If travel can be wrapped into outdoor pursuits such as hiking or snowboarding, even better.