Archive | February, 2010

felted rocks, small and large

28 Feb

Balloon Dog, Jeff Koons, Palazzo Grassi, Venice

I’m on an art kick this week.

Back in my design firm days, we used to talk about the need to engage all the senses when creating new products. Of course, we all want pictures to be beautiful. We want candles to smell lovely, we want watches to tick, and we want cookies to be delicious. But for some reason, we don’t always think about how things feel when we touch them, and how delightful it is when the sense of touch is stimulated.

Haptic perception is the power of recognizing objects through touch. And to me, it’s best sense to play around with. As Balloon Dog (above) illustrates, it’s super-fun to have your expectations challenged. And just as a balloon dog is supposed to be small and lightweight, a rock is supposed to be dull and heavy.

That’s why I think these felted rock cushions by South African textile designer Ronel Jordaan have captured the imagination of many bloggers and online shopkeepers.

Silver rock cushions, Ronel Jordaan

Ronel Jordaan rock cushions, Viva Terra, $298-$595

If you feel like shelling out $300 for a cushion, at least you’ll be pleased to know that they’re all hand dyed, carded and felted merino wool with natural filler, and “made by women in a successful job creation program in Gauteng- Johannesburg.”

Ronel Jordaan lumbar pillow, Viva Terra, $198

The lumbar pillow features little cabbage flowers amidst the stones.

Smarin Living Stones, Olozoo, $320

A French designer named Stephanie Marin sells her own version of the stone cushion, called Living Stones, which I found for sale at an environmentally-friendly kids’ shop called Olozoo.

If you’d like to try your own hand at felted wool stones (albeit on a smaller scale), I found two great tutorials online.

DIY felted rocks, design*sponge
One is from the ever-prescient design*sponge, in a post from last February.

Felted stones, Resurrection Fern

The other is from Resurrection Fern, which includes directions on where to find merino (wool) roving, the fabric you’ll need to make the stones. It looks like a great weekend project. All you need are little rocks, wool, soapy water, and a washing machine. (By the way, the rocks come out at the end. After all, no one needs that kind of haptic experiment happening indoors…)

Remember, don’t throw things at your friends.


photo of the week

28 Feb

Dirty Dog Feet by Jen Silva, $20

Found this photo the other day and can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of Roscoe, my rat terrier. But there’s something special about all the photos in this Etsy shop.

Take a look at Jen Silva’s work (jendrivesacivic). Her animal snaps are sweet without being cloying and clever without being twee. They’re incredibly reasonable, available in custom sizes, and a percentage of every sale goes to First Coast No More Homeless Pets (, a low cost/no cost spay/neuter center in north Florida.

Have a great weekend.

Warhol-inspired silver pillows

26 Feb

Throw Cushion, Zid Zid Kids, $174

This morning, I spotted these mod-yet-eclectic silver round pillows by Zid Zid Kids. The first thing I thought of? Andy Warhol.

It’s amazing how the simplest things can make the greatest impressions. It must have been almost ten years ago that I was sent to Pittsburgh, the hometown of Mr Warhola, for a work assignment. I was lucky enough to have an afternoon free to check out his eponymous museum, where I first encountered this:

Permanent installation, Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh

Tasputen, who posted the following video to YouTube, provides background.

“In April of 1966, the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York opened an exhibit by the true Jay Gatsby of American art, Andy Warhol. Silver Clouds, as it was called, consisted in its entirety of a roomful of silver, metalized plastic pillow-shaped balloons inflated with helium and oxygen. They floated . . . that’s all they did . . . held aloft by the gallery’s own air vents.”

Here’s the original.

Silver Flotations, Leo Castelli Gallery, 1966

Simple, yet mesmerizing in some strange way. In Pittsburgh, you’re encouraged to interact with the pillow-cloud-balloons. And just like playing in the snow, you lose track of yourself, your self-consciousness dissolves, and you find yourself standing there, looking up, waiting for the next weightless cloud to fall.

Why not bring this feeling indoors?

BlissLiving Rocco Silver 12×20 Pillow, Walmart, $65

Found this beautifully understated pillow (if that’s possible in silver) at Walmart, of all places. It’s faux-leather and down-filled. For girls, it could make for a bright contrast in a pale-hued room, adding some much-needed modernity if you’re drowning in princess gear. For boys, you can really play up the industrial side of the metallic tone, even pairing with the robots featured in an earlier post.

Metahlowski pillow in Silvi, Fatboy, $339

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Fatboy range of products, but I could really go for this silver body pillow in lieu of another chair.

The Home Centric, Etsy, $21-$28

Lastly, the best deal comes again from Etsy, where I’ve been finding all my bargains lately. Check out these pillow covers from the Home Centric. They’re the creations of a woman named Urvi, who works in Pune, India. These are just a sampling of her designs. I know they’re a bit intricate, and perhaps delicate, for kids’ rooms, but how can you go wrong for $28 dollars? I especially covet the pillow on the lower right that’s covered in baubles. It makes me happy to look at it, just like the Warhol clouds do.

schoolhouse lights

24 Feb

Baldwin lamp, Rejuvenation, $169
(Similar to the one I grew up with, PS 221, free)

During my childhood, and into my teenage years, my dad commuted every weekday to P.S. 221 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where he introduced grade school kids to the world of art. Some of my earliest memories were shaped by this experience — field trips to the Brooklyn Museum, my first glimpse of faculty lounges, and the amazing light fixtures he ‘saved’ from a certain fate as fodder for the trash heap.

It makes him laugh to hear me tell him that schoolhouse lamps are chic again. (But not as much as he laughed when he found out how much I spent on that ‘vintage’ globe I bought my husband for Christmas…)

Three Potato Four via The Estate of Things.

But, apparently, I’ve hit on something. Here’s what I found today on a fantastic blog called The Estate of Things (link above).

Schoolhouse Chic has been emerging for some time now and I thought it was time to take a break from the flurry of images in my head and examine the look. Rising out of this design comes the love for globes, educational charts & maps, chalkboard everything, glass beakers as vases, card catalog storage, schoolhouse lighting, use of letters & numbers and the industrial feel of school desks, stools and chairs.

The image above is from another blog/shop called Three Potato Four (link above). The items featured are inspirational, fun, and, for the most part, available for sale! I debated keeping news of this amazing shop all to myself, but decided against it.

Back to the lamps…

Schoolhouse Lamp roundup, This Old House Magazine, detail @ Schoolhouse Electric Company)

This Old House magazine is an excellent resource for these type of things. In fact, they’ve devoted an entire feature to schoolhouse lamps, some of which are shown above. The varieties of vintage reproduction lamps available today are mind-boggling; to see what I mean, just check out the Schoolhouse Electric Company website. Here are some of my favorite lamps and shades. Just so you know, the fixtures and lamps are mix-and-match.

Union 6 with clear glass shade, $234 for the set

MIT Cage with bulb, $124 (not technically ‘schoolhouse’ but awesome)

Red shade, $62

Vintage blue shade, $62

If you want something truly one-of-a-kind, go to the Etsy shop LampGoods. The owner writes, “For longer than I can remember, I have been creating new items out of vintage objects. Then working in the design field for several years, I’ve come to appreciate unique lighting fixtures.” Each lamp is made by hand with vintage components, and can be either hardwired or made to hang as a pendant. There are so many beautiful lamps available for sale. This is my favorite:

Manchester Vintage Milk Glass Pendant Lamp, LampGoods, $79

The lamp shade is unlike anything I’ve seen before. “The front has a clear, circular design with raised glass, and the sides project outwards with a reeded detail.” I think it’d add a great vintage touch to a colorful, modern room.

Of course, you can always try tag sales, Ebay, or vintage shops online. Austin Modern is one of these, starting as a bricks-and-mortar location, now selling its wares on the internet.

Vintage Flower Sunburst Pendant Lamp, Austin Modern, $95

They’ve rewired this vintage milk glass globe to create a beautiful pendant lamp. According to the listing on their Etsy storefront:

These are created from original vintage globes from the 1930s and 1940s, salvaged from craftsman homes in the Austin area. There is so much great design out there, there is no reason for anyone to have to live with mass produced junk no matter their budget or the size of their living space. Our motto is this: Buy the BEST you can afford, not the most expensive you can find, and you’ll always be happy with your choices!

I second that emotion.

robot decor

23 Feb

X-ray Otto (Bunk Bots), Amazon, $14

My friend Farrah loves robots. She really loves robots. And if you do too, you might want to visit her blog devoted to all things tin and animatronic, aptly called Things That Remind Me of Robots. I was browsing the other day and discovered Bunk Bots, which she (rightly) describes as the Ugly Dolls of robot toys.

Me, I’m not a huge fan of all things robot, but I can be won over. . . especially when a retro illustration is featured in a beautiful color palette.

Aimee Wilder Robot Wallpaper, $156/roll

Ding. I absolutely ADORE Aimee Wilder’s wallpaper patterns; they’re sophisticated yet playful in patterns that suit both younger and (much) older kids. I know the price is high, but as mentioned in an earlier post, I think the robots would be perfect for one accent wall. The colorways are fantastic as well. Pick out one of the robot colors and use it as your highlight color for the rest of the room.

In fact, you’ll see this pattern around town very shortly. According to Aimee’s blog, Robots and another pattern called Analog will be featured on plastic bandages, for sale at Urban Outfitters.

Robot decals by Designfruit, Etsy, $19 for three

Also available in multiple colors, Jason Gaylor’s robot decals are clever and simple. Interestingly, they also feature a ‘robot with a heart’ design as in the above wallpaper. As I’ll explore in a future post, I have a slight issue with decals, because they’re so tricky to do right. When the wall space is too big, they tend to ‘float’ and seem without purpose. With decals like these, I’d get two or three sets instead of one, so you have a robot theme instead of three dudes who seem to have gotten lost on their way out of the room.

Robo duvet by fred the dog, 58 euros

Fred the dog is a Parisian-based company, founded by a mom (as many of these companies are) who was dissatisfied with the current offerings for kids’ bed linens. The company’s website features ten designs, all of which are fun and colorful.

Robot bedding, Land of Nod, $49 twin duvet

Lastly, I’d be remiss not to mention the ubiquitous Land of Nod and their own robot bedding. (If there’s a trend out there, LON is sure to have an offering that fits the bill). In this instance, however, I’m not as impressed as I usually am. I think the design is perfectly adequate, but maybe not something I’d design a room around. However, if you want to refresh a room without spending a ton of money or effort, a new duvet is the way to go.

Discovered any other fabulous robot-themed home furnishings lately? Let me know.

new yorkers and stuffed rats

22 Feb

Ratos the Rat by Deglingos, available on,

My husband has a favorite quote by John Updike, who wrote, “The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.” I completely agree with the sentiment.

My kid is a New Yorker. More accurately, a Brooklynite. No matter where we go, or wherever he decides to live when he grows up, I like to believe that he’ll always be from here and, moreover, of here.

And, in the wise words of Russell Baker, “What the New Yorker calls home would seem like a couple of closets to most Americans, yet he manages not only to live there but also to grow trees and cockroaches right on the premises.”
Of course, I remember the cockroach when I think of Brooklyn. But contributing even more to the popular imagination of New York pests has got to be the rat.

Remy from Ratatouille
(See here to read about the unique challenges Pixar faced in marketing this film. Fascinating.)

This post may seem a bit odd if you live in LA, for example. But here in New York, there’s something to be said for an adorable handmade patchwork stuffed rat. There’s something so wrong and gross about them in real life that makes their plush counterparts even sweeter and more cuddly. (UPDATE: I’ve just been informed that rats are incredibly intelligent and make great pets. My defense is that this has not been my personal experience with the genus Rattus.)

When Fionn was born I just had to get him the star of the Deglingos line of toys (at top). His name is Ratos the Rat. As you can see above, Ratos is featured as an activity toy, a mini plush, a ‘baby,’ and a squeaker. The entire Deglingos line is fantastic and very on-trend with its use of multiple patterns and corduroy fabrics.

Penelope the Plush Rat, LEFTZ by Arttales, Etsy, $20

But I think I like this little girl even better. Her name is Penelope and she’s handmade from ‘upcycled and recycled’ materials. As described by her creator, the entire line of LEFTZ (pronounced le-ft-e’s) “are plush softies made with upcycled material from yard sales, thrift shops, or my family. These eco friendly plushies are stuffed with recycled plastic shopping bags and are unique in their own way. Their good eye is made from layered vintage buttons.” It amazes me that they’re created without patterns, which makes each one truly one-of-a-kind.

Raggy Rat For Babies by the RR lady, Etsy, $15

Blue Raggy Rat, The Raggy Rat Company

I also love the Raggy Rat Lady, Catherine Owen, from the UK. She also sells plush rats on Etsy in both ‘baby’ and kid versions. See even more at her website. It’s good to see the British also have a healthy appreciation for adorable rat stuffed animals and that the fascination goes beyond Templeton from Charlotte’s Web.

I’ll leave this post on a favorite childhood rat memory.

The inspiration for Remy?

the 'new modern' in textiles

21 Feb

DwellStudio new collection: Gate (left), Pyramids (right)

I’ve been thinking all week about a recent blog post by Christiane at DwellStudio, because it sheds some light on a question I’ve been asking myself recently. As readers of my posts now know, I’ve recently enrolled myself in an interior design class at Parsons here in NY. And on our first day of class, we were asked to introduce ourselves and offer a brief description of our personal style as it relates to design and decoration.

It reminded me of that famous ruling in the 1960’s Supreme Court obscenity trial. My style? I know it when I see it.

Yes, I love modern style. But, as I’m sure you’d agree, I love all kinds of modern design. Eames-era mid-century modern? Check. Formal, minimalist modernism? Sure, when it’s right. Thrift-store, folk-art, shag-carpet-and-orange-needlepoint-owls? That too. But then there’s also the soft textures, the antique aviary prints, and even a zebra-stripe pattern now and again.

Having spent many, many years in marketing, I know all about neat little boxes and the need for people to label things that sometimes defy categorization. Then I read this:

At DwellStudio we spend a lot of creative energy redefining our idea of what is current and modern. Modern to us has never meant gravel driveways and linear achitecture – modern is not a movement that can be distilled down to an iconic piece of furniture. For us it’s state of mind. For us modern is new – new ideas, new horizons, new design.

After the last year, what feels modern to us is something riffing off of the more traditional. We are taking cues from historical visual motifs and making them new. We are transforming the decorative and making it minimal. Decorative Minimal may seem like an oxymoron but we are looking to European style – it’s about the few great things that make a space well designed and the worship of quality and craftsmanship. Our geometrics have become luxurious and three dimensional, our prints more complex – the pieces have a heirloom quality and a modernity that seem to be the right balance for right now.

Although I’m not 100% in sync with the ‘decorative minimal’ style, I really appreciate Christiane’s effort to reassess what’s become a catch-all term.

So what does Modern look like to me? I’ve selected a few fabric swatches to share. Perhaps they inspire you the way they’re inspiring me. They all offer some kind of contrast, a sense of history, and a mix of science and nature. (NB: both sources quoted below offer their swatches for free or at minimal cost – definitely worth checking out).

Dotti/Harbor, Smith+Noble
Geometric yet organic, a curious mix of nouveau and MCM

Network/Steel, Smith+Noble
Strong pattern and soft color

Connected/Crimson, Smith+Noble
Confident and intricate

Brunchwig & Fils Riggins, Trellis, Fabric Guru
So old fashioned and aristocratic in a fun illustration style

Houndstooth fabric, New Green, Fabric Guru
A heritage pattern, large scale and in an unexpected color

Waverly Garden Lattice Woven, Chocolate, Fabric Guru
Bamboo cane-chair pattern reminiscent of 1930’s and 1970’s

I’m thinking of calling it ‘eclectic modern,’ but I’m open to suggestions.