Archive - April, 2008

Trees barf birdseed — you learn something new every day

Right this second, someone, somewhere is thinking about how if they could have anything at all in the world, they’d pick a giant ent face that is poised to vomit half-digested birdseed all over the poor sparrows congregating at the base of the tree.

I think this one's not feeling so well

Sure I only just wrote about these fun forest faces — that’s what the manufacturer calls them — but I couldn’t resist showing you this one, which looks as if it had a rough night on the town with the Birch Boys and is desperately searching for an antacid or a little hair off the dog…anything to wash the taste of birds out of its mouth.

The choice is clear?

Clear and colored plastics don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon if all these house and home rags I read every month are any indication. There are the various Ghost chairs designed by Phillippe Starck, and then there’s the polyhedron Alchemia chairs I mentioned a while back.

Here’s another, again designed by Starck:

Choices, choices, choices…

The Mademoiselle armchair claims to combine two (or is it four?) aesthetic qualities: “solidity and space, materiality and transparency.” I like the fact that it comes in oodles of different colors and prints.

This is Starck’s chair in what is presumably its natural habitat:

Something’s not quite right

I don’t particularly like the way it looks like it’s hovering in space, a la Dominar Rygel XVI’s floaty chair. Maybe it’s something about the wall the chair is up against, but the legs just seem to disappear. I suppose that’s the “space,” but I’m not feeling the “solidity.”

Do good, and look cute doing it

There are worse ways to give to charity

I’m usually pretty wary of anything pink that bills itself as benefiting a breast cancer research charity. The Susan G. Komen Foundation, for instance, has gotten the shaft from shady retailers who imply a connection to the organization by slapping pink ribbons on products, but never actually donate. Plus, why go out of your way to buy a pink grapefruit scented candle or a pink pair of panties when only a portion of the proceeds will be used for good? It’s easier to donate the money directly.

However, that said, I am easily swayed by cute, fun, frilly things, many of which just happen to be pink and just happen to be in some way affiliated with a breast cancer research charity. I’ve been a fan of Carolyn’s Kitchen retro chic aprons and washing up gloves for ages — I am a sucker for vintage apron patterns, after all — and I just now noticed that one of her apron and glove sets is Breast Cancer pink. Fifteen percent of the price of the apron and the gloves goes to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, which isn’t too shabby. Plus, it’s 100% on the level.

But if pink isn’t your bag, you can always make a donation to the breast cancer research charity of your choice and go browse Carolyn West’s other cute apron and glove sets.

Just about the easiest update you can ask for

Bathroom moisture issues aside, shower curtains seem relatively unimportant. It’s so easy to pick up a plain white or black or blue one at the drugstore and be done with it. But consider that shower curtains are BIG — they take up a lot of space, which means that a boring one creates a huge blah space. If your bathroom is already crazy interesting, then skip the cool curtain. But if your bathroom could use a little oomph, a new shower curtain can really freshen up that space.

Dancing in the Street Shower Curtain

Take a cue from these black-on-white stick figures and banish your morning blahs with a little impromptu dance number. They obviously know something we don’t.

Lucky Stripe Shower Curtain

I personally wouldn’t combine the Lucky Stripe curtain with the Lucky Stripe bathmat and the Lucky Strip accessories, but YMMV. Altogether it looks a bit too matchy-matchy. Mix it up!

Paisley Scarf Shower Curtain

I like this paisley number because it reminds me of wallpaper and scarves and other good things that have nothing to do with your average bathroom. Plus it can go just a touch longer than a plain white shower curtain without needing to be thrown in the washer! It’s win-win!

I guess all you can really do is stare them down and hope for the best

Tell me — do these freak you out as much as they freak me out?

Okay, he's a cool dudeDo trees really say bleah?

I’ve seen tree faces around town, and nearly every time I encounter one I’m left the worse for wear. I inevitably flinch or startle or jump, making whomever I’m walking with laugh hysterically as I attempt to regain my composure. Then again, I’m also the first of my clique to get the screaming heebies when Halloween decorations start going up.

Gah, this creeps me out

That’s just NOT what I need to see when I’m walking home from the train station at one a.m. after a great party. I mean, really now, I’m already on edge, trotting around by myself in the darkness.

Maybe I’m in a minority here, but I like trees just because. I don’t need to give them creepy faces to make them funnier or give them personality. All the trees in my life have plenty of personality already — in fact, I spent most of fall raking up said personality!

Mulch madness

When you buy a house, it oftentimes comes with a yard. As it happens, one of the selling points of my particular abode was the lush garden that was included in the purchase price. Unfortunately, the property went untended for much of the summer and autumn while we waited to close, and we arrived at our new home to find it looking rather gnarly and overgrown. C’est la vie.

On one hand, this was a pain — neighbors are more neighborly when they don’t have to look at a rough and tumble yard every time they step outside, and yard work isn’t exactly the idyllic activity that back-to-nature guidebooks would have you believe it is. On the other hand, the scrappy lawn and overgrown flora gave me and The Beard the perfect excuse to drop wads of cash at various garden supply shops.

Long story short, that’s how we found ourselves pricing shrubberies, learning about plant food, and placing an order for the delivery of what seemed at the time like a reasonable amount of mulch. The mulch was to arrive in the afternoon of the day following our foray into the land of bushes and trees.


I was pretending to work on various projects on the day in question when I heard the unmistakable sound of a largish truck backing into my driveway. After peeking out of the living room window I came to an inescapable conclusion: Two cubic yards is a lot of mulch…especially when it is sitting smack dab in the middle of one’s driveway.

We chose an organic mulch made of things like bark, wood chips, leaves, pine needles, or grass clippings, but we could have opted for an inorganic mulch made of fabric, plastic, rocks, foil, or ground rubber. According to the Clemson Extension:

Mulching is a very important practice for establishing new plantings, because it helps to conserve moisture in the root ball of the new plant until the roots have grown out into the surrounding soil. The growth rate and health of trees and shrubs increases when there is no competition for water and nutrients from weeds. Mulch also helps to prevent tree trunk injury by mowers and trimmers. Newly planted trees require a circle of mulch 3 to 4 feet in diameter. Maintain this for five years.

Mulch entire beds of shrubs, trees, annuals, herbaceous perennials and ground covers. How often mulch needs to be replenished depends on the mulching material. Grass clippings and leaves decompose very fast and need to be replenished frequently. Inorganic mulches such as gravel and pebbles rarely need replenishing. As the plants grow and fill in the bed areas, less and less mulch is needed.

So there you have it — more than I ever knew (or wanted to know) about mulching before I ended up with a patch of dirt of my very own. I’m off to move the mulch away from my house, as it can act like a landbridge that lets subterranean termites cross areas treated with anti-bug goo. Now if I could only get this $@#$! wheelbarrow assembled before all of my fragrant mulch is spread throughout the neighborhood via the wind, things will be golden.

Bringing back the Atomic Age

Just a tad busy, but in a good way

I like things that look like other things, and this Bradbury & Bradbury Atomic Age wallpaper fits the bill. When I look at it, I see beautiful bolts of cloth…but that might just be the sewing enthusiast in me. The cool thing is, as I see it, that the patterns I drool over when shopping for fabric are being translated into wall coverings and ceramics and more. Or maybe it’s happening the other way around, with the decor sweeping onto the scene first and changing the direction that everything else is taking.

That’s one of my favorite things about design in general–really amazing colors and patterns eventually show up everywhere. When you find a piece of furniture or a yard of fabric that just strikes you as being oh so right for the times or the season or the political climate or whatever, chances are good that it will eventually inspire the people making clothes, housewares, jewelry, linens, and so on.

You know real estate prices are too, too, too high when…

…beach huts are going for £60,000.

What’s next, the $1m closet?

That princely sum will buy you “The Ark,” which measures a mere 5 meters by 1.8 meters, according to the Daily Mail. For 50 years, the vessel (crafted using reclaimed timber, driftwood, and the upper bits of a grocery van) has stood on the mud flats of Burnham Overy Staithe, near King’s Lynn, Norfolk…and it shows.

Max Sowerby, of Norfolk-based Sowerby’s estate agents, said: “We’re getting strong interest already – generally from people who have second homes in the area.

“Some people who see it say ‘that’s a lot of money for a beach hut’.

“Others say it’s incredibly good value and ‘where else would you find something like that?’. You wouldn’t get permission to build it now.

That’s an incredibly good value these days? Take away the bed and it looks like the inside of my garden shed! Something has definitely got to give and soon.

Foldschool: Why not? It’s free!

They’ll outgrow it anywayKids do love to play with boxes!

What with papercraft looking to be the next big thing — you know, now that knitting is mainstream cool again — why not try your hand at something a tad more useful than the average origami swan? Foldschool is a teeny collection of furniture for kids that parents can construct using the cardboard boxen everyone seems to keep stashed in the basement…just in case.

There’s even a manifesto:

Mass culture is run by superficiality and ecological absurdity. Foldschool supports craftsmanship as a face-to-face approach to design and brings together product and user the closest possible. The mindset of foldschool is to restore design to one of its original missions: to provide a product at an affordable price through a smart manufacturing process.

The downloadable patterns can be printed out with any printer, and you may already have the required tools: cutter, ruler, cutting mat, spray adhesive, needle, glue, masking tape, and folding tool. According to the site, the resultant furniture is stable enough to be used by an adult…though the pieces themselves are small, so consider scaling up. I can’t vouch for the scalability of the designs, but it’s worth a shot, right?

Never miss out on the latest bookshelf news again

If you, like me, have more books than you know what to do with but aren’t willing to donate them to a books for teachers program, then you may just have more than a passing interest in bookshelves. You’re missing out if you’re not stopping by Bookshelf now and again. It’s the blog for booklovers, bookshelf enthusiasts, and everyone else who gets off on storage solutions.


Alex Johnson, creator of Bookshelf and author of Shedworking: the alternative workplace revolution, also has a second blog, Shedworking, which highlights the best in tiny little dwellings meant for so much more than storage.

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