Op Ed – Strange Closets http://www.strangeclosets.com people, homes, travel and stuff Mon, 29 Apr 2013 17:29:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.10 Are we stuck in a design rut? http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/12/are-we-stuck-in-a-design-rut/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/12/are-we-stuck-in-a-design-rut/#comments Mon, 19 Dec 2011 21:41:53 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=31237

In his essay You Say You Want a Devolution in the January issue of Vanity Fair, Kurt Anderson wonders if America’s days of cultural innovation are behind us, noting that although “the world has become radically and profoundly new,” thanks to e-mail, mobile phones and other technological advancements, the world’s appearance has changed very little since the late 80’s or so. “The past is a foreign country, but the recent past – the 00’s, the 90’s, even a lot of the 80’s – looks almost identical to the present,” he writes, pointing out that popular fashion and style have evolved far less than they did between past eras when “the characteristic surfaces and sounds of each historical moment are absolutely distinct from those of 20 years earlier or later: the clothes, the hair, the cars, the advertising – all of it.” Nowadays, Anderson notes, “It’s the rare “new” cultural artifact that doesn’t seem a lot like a cover version of something we’ve seen or heard before.” I think Anderson has a point. Take last weekend’s box office returns – the top 3 grossing box office films were the latest installments of the Sherlock Holmes, Alvin and the Chipmunks and Mission Impossible franchises. Hardly bold and original.

Why is this happening? Capitalism might play a role. Anderson points out that established companies such as Old Navy have a vested interest in maintaining a certain status quo, which is why jeans never seem to go out of style. Likewise, if Design Within Reach has anything to say about it, mid-century modern may still be hip long after the 2050’s have come and gone. It’s like fashion and decor have taken a page from soap operas and comic books. In both genres, the characters and stories seem to progress, but ultimately, the goal is a kind of sameness where everything is slightly different but reassuringly familiar. Superman’s new costume (sans the red trunks) is about as new and thrilling as an Eames chair upholstered in a colorful Ikat fabric. It might seem exciting, but it’s a minor innovation at best. Maybe Anderson’s right and American culture really did start to stagnate in the 80’s? Maybe having so many choices offered by so many companies invested in the status quo blinds us to potentially exciting and innovative ideas? Or maybe there are only so many new ideas that can be birthed from the alphabet of suitable lines, colors and textures that the cultural gatekeepers, stakeholders and arbiters of good taste have incorporated into the cannon? Does the ubiquity of sameness mean that the truly innovative aesthetic “novels” already been written? While globalization has given everybody access to new words and phrases, there are only so many possible “plots” or combinations. What do you think?

Extra credit: Is it possible to create a new alphabet of design without scrapping what’s already in place? If so, how?

Top photo from the September 2011 issue of Azure Magazine: Innovating design seems more common in Europe at the moment. For example, I’ve never seen anything quite like the room’s wrap-around shell, and I really love it. (The general idea kind of reminds me of the set that Alvin and Todd installed in their very cool Andersonville loft). 

Hardwood floors continue up a curved wall in this modern apartment in Spain from Materialicious. Still a minor innovation, but I rarely see this type of design in the U.S.

Perhaps technology will ultimately enable new and interesting designs for both interiors and exteriors. This building, from the September 2011 of Azure Magazine, was built with an energy efficient material that breathes. 

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Roundup! http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/10/roundup/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/10/roundup/#comments Mon, 10 Oct 2011 23:50:17 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=31050

Recently I’ve been kind of obsessed with Lindsey Adelman Studios and their fantastic lighting collection. If you don’t have 15 big ones to drop on one of their custom chandeliers, Lindsey Adelman Studio has posted detailed instructions for several fixtures on their website. Best of all, the parts needed to construct the stylish pieces can be purchased from Grand Brass, McMaster-Carr and Amazon.com. I know how I’m going to keep myself occupied this winter.

Speaking of lamps, check out this concept drawing for a lamp / robotic servant that would have lived on Superman’s home planet of Krypton.

Part Roomba, part Moooi, that lamp is enviable, but I’ll bet it won’t be very long before we have furnishings every bit as useful.

DC Comics recently rebooted their entire line of comic books, which includes iconic characters such as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. The company used the opportunity to toss out 60 years of convoluted continuity and to update the characters histories and costumes. Superman, for example, is losing the iconic red trunks. Corny as the red underoos might be, I’m not sure if I approve of this change. The red adds a nice flair. What do you think?

Vintage Superman

The new look. (I suppose it’s alright).

Superman’s ditching the red trunks, and I’m ditching the blue art in my dining room. I’ve never particularly liked the piece, and last week I finally replaced it with a vintage wooden screen that I bought at the Randolph Street Market a few years ago. (Note the astronomy prints on the opposite wall because they come up again later in this post).

I’ve always liked the screen, but I never knew what to do with it. No clue why I didn’t try hanging it above the dining room buffet a long time ago. I guess I just didn’t see it working there. It’s very difficult to break the mental blocks we have when it comes to our own homes, don’t you think?

From the summer issue of CS Interiors, check out this great photo of Ann Kendall of Covet Studio in Glencoe and her astronomy prints. Great minds think alike! Ann’s installation confirms my suspicions that the one in my dining room would benefit from adding another couple of vertical rows. Unfortunately (and fortunately), I live in a quirky house:

This old gas light fixture prevents my installation from being as large as it could be (ok, should be darn it!). But it’s too charming to remove, so I persist.

I swiped the astronomy print idea from an Elle Decor spread a few years ago, and I recently spotted the same prints in a gorgeous Highland Park home (as chronicled in the now classic post Jinx, you owe me a coke! Coincidence or design doppleganger?).

How about this ad for Jayson Home? I’m obsessed with snakes, and Jayson is by far one of my favorite shops in Chicago. Caroline Scheeler and co. have always made room for the slithery reptiles in their product line, which makes me s-s-so happy.


Continuing with the snake theme, I snapped this photo of a vintage lamp recently at the home of a very talented photo stylist.

This is a recent Associated Press photo.

Speaking of snakes . . . I spent last Saturday paging through the last several months worth of Rolling Stones issues, and I particularly enjoyed Matt Taibbi’s May 2011 article The People vs. Goldman Sachs. To illustrate Goldman’s dubious business practics, however, Taibbi attempts to draw a comparison to the way in which interior designers do business, and I’m not quite sure that it makes his point. What do you think?

A little maybe. But don’t many interior designers, in fact, mark up products to supplement their incomes? And I don’t really have a problem with that. They have the creativity and the access. They edit, and they deserve to charge for it. Sure, jacking up the price of a brand name wallpaper is unethical, but it strikes me as a subtle distinction, and I’m not sure that it really conveys the magnitude of Goldman’s shenanigans as so eloquently recounted by Taibbi.

Isn’t this a clever product roundup? From the iPad magazine POST (debut issue – Matter).

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Do decorators have the best memories? http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/07/do-decorators-have-the-best-memories/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/07/do-decorators-have-the-best-memories/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2011 01:04:49 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=30653

In March, I read Joshua Foer’s new book Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. Ironically, I remember very few of the many fascinating tidbits about memory that Foer reveals in his book, but that’s not so surprising as Foer contends that our memory has gone downhill since we gave up on our oral traditions in favor of writing, which was a controversial new technology when first introduced. Having said that, yesterday, I was surprised to discover that I do remember a list of commonplace grocery items from the book using one of the memorization techniques Foer discusses – spatial memory. Have you ever noticed how it’s so much easier it is to remember the contents of somebody’s apartment than to remember a random list of items to pick up at the grocery store? According to Foer, it’s possible to sort of hi-jack your brain’s spatial memory as a vehicle to remember other bits of information. The trick is to place the items you want to recall into a familiar context, say your childhood home or if you’re a designer, one of your decorating projects, and then transform the images into something a bit over-the-top or even vulgar, which creates very distinct and memorable visual images. For example, if you’re trying to remember to buy milk, envision giving your ex a sponge bath in a tub filled up with spoilt milk in the bathroom of your first college apartment. Yuck. But memorable.

Image from the article 10 Amazing Ways to Use Milk and Chocolate.

In March, I spent maybe five minutes memorizing part of Foer’s list. Yesterday, I recalled the following: jar of garlic (in an adult human-sized jar at the foot of the driveway at my childhood home), cottage cheese (which I imagined in a large vat by the back door), smoked salmon (on my Mom’s white formica kitchen counter), six bottles of white wine (which are dancing and illuminated by a ray of sunlight streaming into the dining room), 3 pairs of socks (which hang from the molding between the living room and dining room) and that’s it. Foer’s list has several more items, but I was unconvinced that remembering the list was worth the effort (and also became bored). But after re-reading that section of the book yesterday, I’m not so sure. Here are the first few items from Foer’s list: pickled garlic (close enough), cottage cheese, salmon (peat-smoked if poss.), six bottles of white wine, socks (x3). Not too bad considering I read the book four months ago, but it begs the question: do interior designers, who spend lots of time placing hand-picked items in other people’s homes, have potentially better memories than the rest of us? If so, does it matter? Is being able to recall a grocery list, even months after committing it to memory, worth much in the real world? While writing his book, Foer actually won the 2006 National Memory Championship. It’s a remarkable accomplishment, especially because he was a complete novice at the outset. I remember how proud I felt when I triumphed over a bevy of more experienced athletes in a spoon hanging contest during a visit to Magic Waters in 1987-88 (or thereabouts), but only a few diehard fans even remember my near Guiness-level accomplishment.** So does having a great memory for details carry any currency in a world with Google? A recent study suggests that Google does impact how we store memories (click here for more information – not that you’re likely to retain much of it), but does it really matter? What do you think folks?

* Foer’s brother Jonathan Safran Foer is a writer whose books include Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, both of which I enjoyed as well.

** Drawers are to spoon hanging what Google is to memory.

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Jinx you owe me a coke! Coincidence or design doppleganger? http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/07/jinx-you-owe-me-a-coke-coincidence-or-design-doppleganger/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/07/jinx-you-owe-me-a-coke-coincidence-or-design-doppleganger/#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2011 23:58:00 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=30592

Top photo: The dining room in my Edgewater Glen apartment. Bottom photo: The family room in my friend JB’s Highland Park home, which I’ve photographed twice, the first time a couple of years ago for a Strange Closets Open House and the second time earlier this year for the North Shore magazine Make It Better.

Sharing a proclivity for vintage astronomy prints is one thing (I stole the idea from an Elle Decor spread). But coupled with a blue painting? What are the odds? Because my good friend, Rebekah Zaveloff, of KitchenLab and Design in a Bag, redesigned the kitchen and helped JB decorate the rest of the place, I wondered if they might be having a little fun with me, but they say no. What do you think?

1. Indeed I was punked by JB and Rebekah.

2. The universe is sending me a coded message, and I should skip the jokes and more diligently attempt to decipher.

3. Great minds . . .

4. As coincidences go, it’s really not that remarkable.

Click here to read all about JB’s renovation in Chicago Home + Garden. Click here to read about the decor in Make It Better. Scroll below for more photos of JB’s fantabulous home. Thanks JB and Rebekah!

Thanks to Rebekah Zaveloff’s design, this might be the most published kitchen of the past decade. Not too difficult to see why eh?

This is a Victorian-style Foursquare. Note the four square door frames.

Not to mention the peacock pillow, which may also be viewed as ominous in light of this post.

Who loves this house? (I never get tired of that one).

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Virtual downloadable interior designs? http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/04/virtual-downloadable-interior-designs/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/04/virtual-downloadable-interior-designs/#comments Thu, 07 Apr 2011 03:37:05 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=30120

Prediction: By 2025, we’ll download our interiors at iTunes, Elle Decor’s website and a multitude of tablet apps, and redecorating an entire home will cost a yet to be determined but relatively low number ending in 99 cents. The market for $25,000 rugs will evaporate overnight when people realize they can no longer discern the difference between handwoven silk and the virtual one they downloaded for 9.99. By 2025, virtual reality will have improved to the point that the mass market furnishings industry will experience the same difficult transition as the publishing, music, manufacturing and entertainment industries before it. Artisans will continue to supply the luxury market with high-end goods, and the hipsters of tomorrow will no doubt incorporate vintage pieces at home, but eventually we’ll all inhabit bland but infinitely customizable spaces designed primarily for physical comfort and display. Interior designers will merge with graphic designers, artists and coders to supply interiors for purchase online. Houses will be hacked, formerly exquisite hi-res rooms reduced to scattered pixels on a beige canvas. On the other hand, experimentation will become so inexpensive and easily reversible that it will launch a new golden age of design. Best of all, everybody will have a killer view. Although it sounds like magic, the technologies that will make this possible already exist.

Motion Control

Microsoft’s Kinect technology was developed for the XBox gaming system, but tech geeks are hacking into the technology and using it to perform amazing jedi-like feats like controlling Tesla coils from a distance, manipulating Google Earth by gesturing and creating 3D photos of people as virtual souvenirs. And that’s just the beginning. Someday we’ll use it to vacuum, turn off the stove and a million other everyday tasks. How does it work? A 3D camera maps your body and translates your movements into identical virtual motions, i.e. it creates your 3D avatar in a virtual world. When our environments are eventually pre-wired with Kinect technology that includes remote sensors on locks, appliances, etc., we’ll all live like Ben Kenobi (or Carrie, it depends on the day).

3D Technology

Kinect isn’t the only new gadget that incorporates the technology. Mass market adoption of 3D TV’s has begun, Hasbro recently unveiled an iPhone 3D viewer, and the Nintendo 3ds portable gaming system leverages new advances that eliminate the need for glasses.  3D has a ways to go. In the context of action movies or video games, it can seem a bit disorienting and certainly not totally immersive, but the technology continues to improve, and there are rumors that similar technology will be incorporated on future smart phone and tablet releases. Imagine how cool it would be if you incorporated 3D into the i-goggles pictured directly below, which I read about at Patently Apple, an interesting blog that keeps track of what’s happening behind the scenes in Cupertino via their patent applications.

If these connected wirelessly to a central computer / tablet that incorporated 3D technology, the result would be something like an iPad with a wrap around screen that allows for a more immersive experience. When coupled with gesture control, the result would be pretty amazing and far more comfortable than holding a magazine-sized slab of glass, no matter how thin or light they make it. Which is why I want them now! Where are they Apple?! Hey, remember the VR scene in the 90’s Michael Douglas / Demi Moore movie Disclosure?

I loved this movie at the time.

Without goggles like these, your someday house might look like a bland white box, but when wearing the shades, it’ll look like Steven Gambrel‘s latest Elle Decor project. (He’s one of my favorites). When hosting your parties of tomorrow, you’ll have no idea if your “decor” is really as fabulous as the guests claim or if they have deviously superimposed their own more tasteful interior over your own (developing proper etiquette (and payback strategies) will be tricky). Some of the partygoers might actually attend in person, but most will be holographic 3D avatars who ride in on Wi-Fi and interact with actual guests as if they were actually standing in the same the room. Virtual 3D nightclubs will provide a safe place for kids from everywhere to hang out with kids from everywhere else, exchanging ideas and philosophies. If you and I take a stroll together, I might be immersed in my new app, New York City in the 20’s while you’ll feel like you’re walking through the streets of . . . well, that’s up to you. We won’t ever really know how each other is viewing the world, and I guess it’s comforting that some things won’t change when practically everything else will. We’ll all become more influential and also less so. Much will be automated, but nothing will cost very much. And our rooms will be more boring than ever before, and yet much more interesting, because where there is nothing, there is pure potential. In the meantime, wouldn’t you love Charlotte Moss to makeover one of your more unfortunate looking rooms (we all have them)? For free??? If so, enter the Ugly Room Makeover contest with Charlotte Moss at Make It Better. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity folks.

The Thursday Query

How will technology change the business of design and the way we decorate at home?

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Are you watching Downton Abbey? http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/01/are-you-watching-downton-abbey/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/01/are-you-watching-downton-abbey/#comments Wed, 19 Jan 2011 23:27:34 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=29376

Historical fiction isn’t my favorite genre, but I love Downton Abbey, which was created by Julian Fellowes, who also wrote the screenplay for the 2001 Robert Altman film Gosford Park. Both films explore class and changing social mores in early twentieth century England. The show originally aired as a 10-part series in England (it has been renewed for a second season), and its now airing in the United States on PBS as a four-part Masterpiece Classic. Filmed partially on location at Highclere Castle, the interiors and set design are worth checking out even if history, romance and intrigue aren’t your cup-of-tea. Curiously enough, I think the sparse, monochromatic servant’s quarters (above) might be more of-the-moment style-wise than the sumptuous rooms inhabited by the Earl of Grantham and his family. If that’s not enough of a carrot, how about the cast, which includes Elizabeth McGovern, Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith and Dan Stevens.* Are you watching? What do you think?

This room is VERY upstairs.

* Uh oh, I just realized I only named actors who happen to portray upstairs-folk.

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The Friday Roundup: Mash-ups http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/12/the-friday-roundup-mash-ups/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/12/the-friday-roundup-mash-ups/#comments Fri, 17 Dec 2010 08:35:11 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=29028

I popped into Roost last night, and owner Danny Malone told me about a great vintage shop in Columbus, Ohio called The Attic that’s rather oddly connected to a restaurant called Basil Thai, both owned by antique enthusiast Rhome Ruanphae. Top earning drug dealers (illegal or pharmaceutical) know not to use the product, but antique dealers live by different rules, and many heavy “users” / collectors wind up in the biz. As Danny said during the same conversation, “(Owning Roost) gives me a good outlet for a bad habit.” (Friday, Dec. 18th is Late Night Andersonville from 6 – 10 pm). Inspired by The Attic / Basil combination, I’ve been seeing potential mash-ups wherever I look, and I find myself toying with different combinations. A butcher / leather goods shop? It could work. A barber / yoga studio? Probably not. But there are an infinite number of mash-ups. Maybe they’ll be the next hot retail trend ala pop-up shops? Or maybe they’re just the topic of today’s Friday Roundup. (This is where the theme music would play if this were a TV program).

Wallpaper + Math & Science

Science didn’t interest me much when I was a kid, but I don’t understand why not. What kid doesn’t love finding out how things work? There’s certainly no shortage of questions or discoveries that will impact the world and ultimately, design and decor. Scientists recently announced that they successfully coaxed a sea of photons into acting as a single entity, which may ultimately shrink electronic devices even further, and NASA just announced the discovery of arsenic-eating microbes, which significantly increases the number of potentially life-harboring planets in the universe and which may even change the very definition of life itself. Aliens in America. But science and design and decor don’t often intersect in obvious ways, so I was fascinated to read Stephen Ornes’s recent New Scientist article, Wonder walls: Taking home decor to another dimension. Apparently, there are only 17 possible pattern combinations, mathematically speaking, but that number only applies using conventional, flat-plane geometry and a man named Frank Farris has something more ambitious in mind. Ornes writes: For a geometer like Farris, with a penchant for outré decoration, it is more interesting to look at surfaces that break these laws – weird spaces where the size of an object depends on its position and it is quickest to walk in a curved path rather than a straight line. So, bored with the constraints of conventional design, he decided to investigate wallpapers to suit these exotic spaces. It’s a great piece and very humorous. Check it out here. Runner up decor + science mash-up: Scientists create new rubber-like metal that conducts electricity. It’s conceivable that cars made of the material will have the ability to gradually bounce back into shape after an accident, and I’ll bet it will influence the design of a whole host of products, including those for house and home. Fun stuff, isn’t it, folks? Image source: New Scientist.

Home & Garden + Technology

Screens are the focus of Virginia Heffernan’s New York Times Magazine article Studies in Hyperreality. Technology is moving fast, and I’ll bet that a decade from now, house windows embedded with advanced screen technology will finally democratize the killer view. Miss that ocean view from your last vacation? Just turn the knob on the wall. Or gesture. Or think. Who knows?  It’ll seem odd and unnatural at first. I still find TV’s in bathroom mirrors creepy (but in a sexy way). But the early adapters will work out the bugs (and pay a premium for the honor), the technology will become more and more realistic, the neighbors will have them installed, and soon enough . . . download your iViews at the Apple app store.

Art & Design + Pizza

With its nondescript name, simple logo and elegant front window displays, Great Lake looks more like a bakery or yoga studio than the stereotypical  pizza parlor, but despite its small size and front windows, the gourmet pizza was quickly discovered and embraced after it opened in 2008. GQ Magazine even rated the pizza as America’s best. The place is packed all the time, and the window displays have become a mini neighborhood art installation, as dynamic and interesting as many retail windows. Check out their latest window, which features a gorgeous wood reindeer by Peter Dunham, and stop for a pizza while you’re there. Great Lakes also carries assorted, high-quality foodstuff and small accessories, and this season they are carrying pieces from UUSI’s lineGreat Lake holiday window Images from UUSI’s website.

Decor + Propaganda

My good friend Albert Tanquero recently visited Cuba for the first time since he was five, and he brought this piece of propaganda ephemera back for me. I’ve always liked how another friend Beth Robinson-Juhas uses communist propaganda in her apartment. (Click here for her amazing Open House). It’s only natural that some gravitate toward propaganda’s iconic images, striking fonts and bold colors, but the systems and ideologies they represent turn just as many people off, so I group it alongside religious kitsch and skulls as a solid example of Decoratus Absurdum. Thanks Albert, I love it. (I’m hoping he’ll contribute a guest post about his trip, because it sounds like a fascinating experience on many levels). What do you think about propaganda as decor? Like it? Hate it? Why or why not? What’s OK and what’s beyond the pale?

Please check out Albert Tanquero and Jim York’s amazing stationary company The Found, a great source for cool cards (holiday or otherwise).

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Genes, memes, temes and decor http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/10/genes-memes-temes-and-decor/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/10/genes-memes-temes-and-decor/#comments Fri, 29 Oct 2010 19:18:12 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=28101

Not to belabor talk of my new den, but I wasn’t kidding when I described the space as opinionated. It knows what it wants, and I’m just carrying out orders. Or at least I considered that idea after recently revisiting Susan Blackmore’s August 22nd New York Times blog post, The Third Replicator. Blackmore, a psychologist and Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth, has written several books about consciousness, including The Meme Machine, Conversations on Consciousness and most recently, Ten Zen Questions. Allow me to butcher her recent New York Times blog post concerning temes by first trying to define her concept, which she calls a third replicator after genes and memes.

It starts with genes

Genes make humans who we are by encoding protein to express DNA (i.e. our underlying human code*) essentially creating the body. Over time, a tiny subset will be copied with errors or mutations. Most mutations aren’t successful enough to survive, but some, like walking upright, losing our tails and language, are successful enough to take hold and mutate further over the course of millions of years. Tiny changes add up. So while we still have a tailbone now, we probably won’t if we stick around long enough. Many theorize that life is just an efficient way for genes to replicate themselves, that living things are essentially just gene factories.* If meditating bores you, pondering this concept may also help to tame the ego.

Lucky Brand jeans are my favorite.

So what are memes?

Just as genes are the mechanism that enabled bacteria to evolve into more and more complex forms of life, memes may be the mechanism that explains how tribalism and witchcraft evolved into more organized forms of government and religion. Memes are the genes of information, and they express themselves through culture, religion, music, trends and of course, decor. Like genes, memes evolve by copying, and also like genes, they use us to do it.  A good example is that classic kid’s sleepover (and adult corporate retreat) game where one person in a group whispers to another until everybody has heard it. The last person says the secret out loud, which is inevitably followed by laughter, because what each person heard is usually a little bit different with the last person hearing something completely different than what the first person said. Tiny changes make a big difference in the end. In the game, there’s often a provocateur who deliberately changes the sentence to make it funnier, dirtier or just to add a personal rhetorical flourish, but that’s the point.  Artists and designers are society’s provocateurs, agents of change, drawing from the past to create something new.

Then what the heck are temes?

According to Blackmore, the Internet can now, or will soon be able to, replicate data automatically – no human intervention required. Programs scan and search for the most prevalent ideas and then copy them further. Supercomputers are far faster than us, so even if they don’t achieve consciousness, they will have progeny, which will evolve so quickly they will ultimately overwhelm the human-generated stuff. It’s positively bacterial. Of course, a small percentage will have errors. It’s natural selection of the technological variety. There’s only one problem: literally speaking, humans aren’t necessarily part of the equation anymore. Genes and memes need us to perpetuate themselves, but temes do not, which makes us expendable (cue the organ music) or at the very least, even more pointless than before. But what if it goes further and genes and memes are besides the point too? What if their purpose is to create the anatomical and cultural conditions that would enable the creation of faster and faster processing systems (i.e. computers) in order to create temes, which are the real point? If I were a curious universe, that’s how I would do it. (If you were a universe, what would you do?) Former GE CEO Jack Welch believed companies should be on the cutting edge, lest they become obsolete. But if Blackmore’s teme concept has merit, it begs the question whether human advancement has actually caused our own obsolescence? If so, how do we get in on the ground floor of the teme business?

Cholera bacteria from an interesting Newsline article.

Is this post a joke? What does this have to do with decorating?

What’s this have to do with decor? Maybe nothing. Or maybe memes explain not only why the long arc of history bends toward justice but also how cave drawings became the expensive peacock wall covering available at Schumacher. We’re still here, so we’re probably not completely irrelevant yet. We’re still posting our favorite articles to Facebook and Twitter, videos to YouTube and photos to Flickr, where they will be seen and copied by others. According to Blackmore’s theory, automated replicating systems will index them and copy the most popular information. Note: Tematically at least, I’m well aware this post is an evolutionary dead end. As with genes, there will be errors, and new concepts will emerge as if by magic as an entire universe of electronic information emerges from the digital noise. It might seem depressing, but at least we’re establishing the template.

Schumacher’s peacock wall covering. It would make such a splash in my very tiny entry hallway. I would write many, many posts about that.

Design Rules: Don’t feel bad about copying an idea, but for the sake of the universe, it’s important to tweak it somehow

Add your own touch. For example, I was infected with a meme during a visit to Open House stars Don and Jackie‘s Rogers Park Victorian a couple years ago. Hanging in every room is a framed photo of that room, which I think is a really weird, cool idea that I’m planning to try in the den. But as you might expect, the demanding room wants me to customize the photo idea to better suit its specific vibe and Hitchcock elements, so I have an idea. If my innovation is successful, it will be copied and modified, and 100 million years from now, it might be a grain of code in one of the virtual rooms being created by giant supercomputers. Um, that’s it. Have a Happy Halloween!

Foe more information, please check out Susan Blackmore’s website and Facebook page.

Above: The den.

Top photo: A framed photo of Don and Jackie’s kitchen hanging in their kitchen.

* DNA is just a form of information, right? So that leads things into a much stranger direction.

* But really, who cares if we’re just gene factories? Why do we have to be the point of everything?

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Guest Post: Rebekah Zaveloff on the 2010 Harbor Country Kitchen Walk http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/10/guest-post-rebekah-zaveloff-on-the-2010-harbor-country-kitchen-walk/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/10/guest-post-rebekah-zaveloff-on-the-2010-harbor-country-kitchen-walk/#comments Sat, 09 Oct 2010 03:21:57 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=27714

Thanks to my friend, KitchenLab and design in a bag’s Rebekah Zaveloff  for today’s guest post about the 2010 Harbor Country Kitchen Walk benefitting Designs 4 Dignity.

When a friend first introduced me to Harbor Country® Michigan, I couldn’t believe I’d been living in Chicago for so long and had never driven the 90 minutes out of the city to this hidden gem across the lake. I absolutely fell in love with the rolling hills, sandy dunes, and charming towns complete with antique stores and restaurants. We were frequent visitors to our friends’ home before we found a place of our own, and have since spent 3 years in heavy renovation mode. If you’re so inclined to re-live our rehab drama with us, check out the This Old Farmhouse series on our blog. My husband and I drove around for years, looking for the perfect house we could afford – driving past various home and saying “I’d love to see what that house looks like inside”.  When we found out about the local Kitchen Walk, needless to say, we were pretty excited! I’ve been attending the Harbor Country® Kitchen Walk benefitting Designs 4 Dignity for the past 4 or 5 years, and it’s a wonderful annual event that we look forward to every year.

As the air gets cooler, and the angle of the sun dips and lends a golden cast over the trees and vineyards, I’m so happy that fall is finally here and the kitchen walk isn’t far around the corner. We have some very fond memories of driving around Harbor Country®  touring various homes, and discovering new areas and roads along the way. In addition to being for a  great cause, getting to peek inside these cool homes is only one of the perks of the Kitchen Walk, another is that each home features a cooking demonstration from a local chef or restaurant, and featured wines and beers from around Michigan. Last but not least, the day ends with the way all perfect fall days should, with an annual “Wine Down” party and silent auction. Ok, maybe all days should just end with a glass of wine, but you get my point.

This year the Wine Down is at the beach house at Weko Beach, in past years it was at a B&B and a sculpture gallery and garden to name a few – so don’t just come this year, every year there are new and wonderful homes to tour, and party and silent auction to end the day. Also check out Designs 4 Dignity’s website with all sorts of information about this terrific organization and info on how to buy tickets. Come out and enjoy a beautiful fall day or make a weekend of it! For Chicago folks that only want to spend the day, there’s a shuttle bus that will take you from Chicago to Harbor Country and back in addition to taking you on a tour of the walk. Jan Parr from Chicago Home + Garden Magazine and Janet Davies of 190 North & ABC 7 are the honorary co-chairs, and if you ride the bus you’ll be riding it with Janet Davies, so get on board!

The 2010 Kitchen Walk features unique kitchens located in Harbor Country® Michigan. The event includes exhibitions and demonstrations by local and Chicago area chefs and artists. The tour will culminate with a wine down reception and silent auction. Join our Facebook page to find out more about the chefs, wineries, breweries, and silent auction items being donated! Check out these photos from past Kitchen Walks.

BENEFITS: Proceeds from the Walk will support Designs for Dignity.

Designs for Dignity provides pro bono interior design services to area non-profits that serve marginalized or at risk populations.

WHEN:            Saturday, October 16, 2010 (from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Michigan Time) or 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Chicago Time)

Last Stop…‘Wine Down’ reception and silent auction (from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Michigan Time)

COST: $75 per person ($90 at the door)

SHUTTLE BUS & TICKET: $125 per person (ride to Michigan from Chicago pick up point and tour the  homes and attend wine down reception).

VIP SEAT: $200 per person (limited seats available) Ride with Honorary Co-Chair Janet Davies of 190 North & ABC 7 News for the day. Price includes shuttle & ticket to and from Chicago.

WHERE: Check-in

At Home With Nature

15998 Red Arrow Highway

Union Pier, MI

FOR INFO: Please call (773)-293-3259 or visit www.designsfordignity.org

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Now what? My DIY Dilemma http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/09/now-what-my-diy-dilemma/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/09/now-what-my-diy-dilemma/#comments Wed, 08 Sep 2010 01:06:04 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=27080

Summer’s official end was the impetus I needed to finally tackle the thankless job of stripping two coats of paint from an old metal tanker desk I found on Craig’s List last year. The industrial-grade stripper is a nasty, highly flammable, probably cancer causing gel that burns to the touch. I’m just getting started, but I’ve already spent hours scraping away the off-white top coat and the underlying army green powder coating, a task that’s meditative in the worst possible way. From time to time, the repetitive nature of the task lulls me into a hypnotic stupor, but inevitably something happens – my glasses slip off my perspiring face or I accidentally get the caustic gel on my skin, which burns until I take off the thick, rubber gloves and wipe it off with a wet towel. It doesn’t have to be this hard. It’s not like old metal office furniture is rare. This stuff was mass produced by many different companies for years and years, and companies like Twenty Gauge rehab and sell metal furniture that looks brand new, but I’ve been searching for a long time, and buying an already restored desk felt a little too easy.

Continued . . .

Here’s one from the very cool Los Angeles company Twenty Gauge, which offers a wide variety of vintage metal office furniture. I love the wood top and may go in this direction.

A few years ago, I thought my search might be over when my mom called to tell me that she and her husband had just spotted a tanker desk abandoned along the side of the road. Should they return to pick it up, she asked. Guess how the story ends? Evidently somebody spotted it and took immediate action, because by the time my mom returned, the desk was gone. To the victor goes the spoils. No doubt you have your own tales of lost scores – all vintage enthusiasts do. My point is: while hiring somebody to rehab the desk might be easier, I felt like I should be the person to take on the grueling experience. It’s been a troubled tale from the get-go. Why change things now? But it’s hell, and I haven’t even started the most difficult part: stripping and cleaning the sludge-like mix of stripper gel, army green and off-white paint shreds from the desk’s many crevices, ridges and corners. Gulp. Wish me luck ladies and gentleman.  I think I’m in over my head, so I appreciate any pointers.

The tanker desk before. Note the army green color on the feet.

Taking the desk apart makes it easier to cover every surface. Even the feet come off, which I didn’t notice until after I’d started working.

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