Archive | June, 2010

animal-shaped corkboards

30 Jun

Chalkboard jungle

By now, I’m sure we’ve all seen the chalkboard-like animal-shaped wall decal stickers like the ones at Wallcandy Arts (above).

But I’ve never seen corkboard fashioned into unique shapes before.  Enter Lucky Magazine, who featured the following item in its July issue.  I thought it was too cool not to share.

migrating bird,

I’d never heard of Kikkerland Design before, so I was pleasantly surprised to view the items for sale on its website, which reminds me of a cross between Charles & Marie and Uncommon Goods.

corkboard frog,

As is the custom these days, the corkboards have a back story.  Designed by Petz Scholtus, each animal featured represents a species affected by global warming.  The website says that “2% of the proceeds is donated to treenation ( to support the cause of desertification, climate change, proverty and CO2 reduction by planting more trees in the world.”

corkboard polar bear,

Coming in at over a foot tall and ranging in length (I think the bear is the longest), these corkboards can fit in spaces where regular square bulletin boards (with their wooden frames) would feel too imposing.   Oh, and I forgot to mention… at $20 each you can create an entire aviary, or jungle, or arctic home on your kid’s wall.


inspiration: richard scarry

29 Jun

Apple car shirt,

I recently found a great book on the closeout pile of one of the big bookstores. Called “The Busy Busy World of Richard Scarry,” this tome of a book could be best described as a love letter to Scarry, written by his long-time editor (Walter Retan) and art director (Ole Risom), and dedicated to his fans worldwide.

There’s a lot in this book; certainly too much to cover (and too many great images to be nostalgic about) for a single post.  So I thought I’d start with a list of three things I’ve learned, which now endear him to me even more than before:

Richard and wife Patsy, courtesy The Busy Busy World...

1.  He met his wife (Patty) through his work – she was an accomplished copywriter, he was an art director.  They both left advertising.  She became a children’s book author.  He became Richard Scarry.  The two of them led quite a glamorous life, jet-setting and sailing, then moving from Connecticut to Europe and eventually settling in Gstaad, Switzerland.

Best Word Book Ever, biography, Biggest Word Book Ever

2. His books were truly trail-blazing in concept and design.

In 1963, “Scarry wanted to create a different kind of word book for children, one that would arrange words by categories instead of by the alphabet.”  His publisher at Doubleday rejected the idea.  He took the Best Word Book Ever to Golden Press, and ten years later, over seven million copies had been sold.

In 1985, Scarry’s Biggest Word Book Ever was the largest scale children’s book ever published to date (2 feet high), and also one of the most expensive (at $29) and costliest to manufacture.  Random House sold out the entire run.

photo from the book

3. He never thought it was beneath him to sell (a selection of) merchandise based on his work. (I was too old for the video series but hear that it was quite wonderful).  I laughed out loud when I saw the caption under this photo.  It reads, “Dick looks at a variety of samples of stuffed toys based on his characters.  Merchandise and other licenses resulting from Scarry’s enormous international popularity added considerably to his income.”

lowly worms, amazingly handmade by stitchcraft creations

But what’s amazing about Scarry’s influence is that, to this day, people are still inspired to create their own Scarry-ific toys, stuffed animals, busy worlds and clothing.   The McDonalds toys are still around on Ebay, and the videos (as above) still exist, yet folks are staging their own birthday parties (check out stitch/craft’s website) and turning Scarry’s book pages into amazing up-cycled playthings.

Here are two of my favorites, courtesy of Etsy artisans:

blocks by LiliaRose, Etsy

Lilia Rose covers oak wood blocks with vintage ilustrations, then glazes them with a non-toxic, water-based sealer.  The images on the five blocks above are sourced from the Best Word Book Ever.  Find them here for $15.

collage by aboundingtreasures, Etsy

Wow.  Dallas, at the Abounding Treasures shop, makes amazing 3-D collages.  This one happens to feature hand-punched butterflies from Scarry books.  I love the delicate, yet sophisticated, beauty created in these collages – and at $15 for a 5.5″ x 7.5″ you really can’t go wrong (save your money for double-matting and framing!)  And please check out her shop to see other patterns and shapes.

storybook wristlet,

Lastly, one for the nostalgic moms out there. I found this wristlet, created from the pages of Please and Thank You, then coated with some type of vinyl to keep it from tearing.  It’s $35 and such a cute piece – maybe it could be used in a nursery or kid’s room to keep wipes or small toys?

The only thing I haven’t been able to find is any kind of textile; I suppose you can create your own via Spoonflower … that is, f you were to keep it to yourself (no one likes a copyright infringer).  I’m sure a Richard Scarry bedding set could do a cracking business – has anyone out there seen any?

play space for a modern harry potter

28 Jun

crawl space

When architects are challenged with redesigning interior spaces, they’re often expected to make maximum use of the square footage on offer.  I’m not an expert in any way, but based on my primary experiences in space planning class, what to do with stairs (and the resulting negative space underneath) has got to rank as one of the toughest tasks on hand … especially when the home is small to begin with.

I discovered the photo at top through the Brownstoner website, who featured this GORGEOUS townhouse as its ” house of the day” last Wednesday. What you see here is the bottom floor of a four-story home in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn.  It’s available via Corcoran,where you can see more photos of the amazing interior.  Although commenters on Brownstoner have debated whether it’s the interior design (versus the space planning) that makes this space so beautiful, for our purposes, let’s say it’s a combination of the two. . . it’s a silly debate unless you’re in the market for a $2MM townhouse…

section drawing, courtesy Brownstoner/Coburn Architecture

Anyway, back to the room.  As you can see in the sketch (above), the playroom occupies a space that’s below-ground on one side and adjacent to the outside space on the other.  An amazing firm called Coburn Architecture (located here in Downtown Brooklyn) had the fantastic idea to section off the space below the staircase; then, instead of walling it closed, they created a little cubbyhole/clubhouse for kids to play in.   Then they added small round cutouts as much for visual effect as to showcase the spaces behind the walls.  I love how the photo is staged with cushions to show how the area might be used.

L: BH&G online; R:

Compare this to what you might otherwise find when searching for ‘creative under-stairs spaces.’  Although the image at right is beautifully done, I’d much rather create a space for my kid to play in! I suppose the depth of the stairwell is at play here, and the desired lifespan for a space like this (what happens when the kids grow up or you decide to sell?)

beautifully staged boy's bedroom

No matter, really, when it’s my fantasy house.  But back in the real world, I’m very impressed with Coburn’s work (as featured on their website).  They’re a multidisciplinary office, offering both architecture and design – and some of these designs are to die for.  Here’s what I believe to be a boy’s bedroom in the architect’s own home – simple, clean, and well-apportioned.  Great work.

mason jars everywhere

24 Jun

assorted antique fruit jars, on

It seems like there’s a new restaurant opening every day in our neighborhood.  And although the latest, named Seersucker, doesn’t offer the most unique concept for a restaurant (I think it’s the third ‘new’ place to offer southern-influenced ‘fine dining’ within a one-mile radius), there’s something about this one that makes me want to pay a visit.  I hate to sound fickle for saying this about a restaurant, but Seersucker – more than its competitors – really Looks The Part of a modern Southern hot spot.

image courtesy New York Magazine

As described in New York Magazine, the 40-seat spot features “a zinc bar, whitewashed brick, and wood salvaged from old snow fences.” More to the point, a review on Chowhound reads, “The food was kind of like the decor, simple and comfortable with a lot of style.”  Personally, I think it’s the mason jars that make the design.  In this age of  small-batch-locally-sourced-homemade-and-handmade foodstuffs, mason jars are more relevant than ever (and bring to mind the best local pickles, kimchee, fruit preserves and anything else featured in Edible Brooklyn).

our beach treasures, next to our Preston North End memorabilia

But I love mason jars for their usefulness and storage potential.  As shown above, this jar (which was left at our house by friends and subsequently ‘reclaimed’) is now on display with all the rocks we collected on beaches during family holidays.  I’m racking my brain to find images of a gorgeous nursery I once spotted, featuring gallon-sized mason ‘tubs’ as storage for puzzle pieces, Legos, and other miscellany.  What I found so charming was the way the lids were painted to match the decor (which would usually be a bit wedding-favor-ish for my taste, but it really worked in this instance).

So, how about it?

for collections, not canning

I discovered that Ball now sells gallon jars for just this purpose.  They’re called  “125th anniversary ‘collectors’ gallon jars” (meaning they’re not meant for canning), they’re $20 each at, and they’re super-cute.

But if the notion of a gallon jug made of glass makes you a bit nervous (as it does me), I found these super-cute PET plastic jugs, which would do beautifully with a bit of acrylic paint to fancy up the white lids.

Paint me!

Available at Freund Container, the gallon jugs are $4 each.  The comparable glass versions are also available at $18 each.

Need more inspiration?  Mason jars are ALL over the Internets – tutorials on how to make mason jar lamps (Design*Sponge has the best one), photos of flower-filled jars for wedding decorations (Amanda Pair’s snaps are beautiful), images of artsy-craftsy handmade porcelain lanterns, and offers for boatloads of soy candles.

'mason jar with marbles' by ria hills, $120

And, lastly, I discovered this BEAUTIFUL pastel artwork, created by a woman named Ria Hills.  At 7″x7″ it’s a bit small, but I believe it would look beautiful in a larger frame with red or blue matting.   And what’s more down-home and kid-friendly than a jar of marbles?

welcome paige viola

22 Jun

paige's first day and birthday

first day home

A real quick post today, in honor of my sister-in-law Kristin and brother Matt.  Today, at 12:50 PM, my (first) niece and their first child Paige Viola was born.  Mom and baby (weighing in at 7lbs 14oz) are both doing great.   And I’m so, SO proud of my family… all of them.

notting hill tube poster discovery

21 Jun

Thames travel poster, London Underground

Just saw this post on website Neatorama and thought it was too cool not to share.   In short, “workers on the renovation of London Underground’s Notting Hill Gate Station were recently surprised (flabbergasted in fact) to discover a long abandoned passageway with all the original advertising posters from the 1950s [mostly c. 1958 and 1959] still intact.”

Poster by Victor Galbraith, London Underground

London Underground describes how it happened:

In around 1959 Notting Hill Tube Station underwent modernisation. The old lifts were abandoned and new escalators were installed. The passageways to the lift were sealed off. Recent work at the station has rediscovered these passageways and when they were opened they revealed a marvellous time capsule. The adverts which were on the walls the day the passageways were sealed off remained and reveal a world long since disappeared.

Mikey Ashworth, a London Transport employee, uploaded these photos to Flickr on June 6th.  You can see the ads individually or as a group (which is probably the most thrilling) and all in situ.   He writes, “I’ve worked for London Transport for over 20 years and we have ‘found’ other posters – but none quite as good as these. We have on occasion arranged for professional removal and/or conservation of old adverts – but in this case, given the scale of the survivals I’m minded to simply leave them and re-seal the ‘tomb’.”

Ideal Home Expo, London Underground

Pepsodent ad, London Underground

All the posters are illustrated – there are hardly any photographs – and they’re similarly stylized with this paper cutout look (as above). See the entire set here.

gowanus kid

18 Jun

On our way back home from a long day out, Fionn and I often walk through a neighborhood on the banks (?) of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.  I must have taken the same route tons of times, but only noticed this graffiti art by a guy called Dolk on Wednesday. Thought it was too cool not to share.

Although he hails from Norway, his work can be found all around the world.  And although there were rumors of the “Dolk” name being an alter-ego for the artist known as Banksy, these rumors are still unfounded.

Check out more images on the Flickr pool here. Apparently, prints of his work are/were also available. (I’m unclear as to whether they can still be purchased.) So, without further ado, another of my favorites (found in Bergen, Norway), and fond wishes for a great weekend.

Protesting Baby