Friday Roundup – Strange Closets people, homes, travel and stuff Mon, 29 Apr 2013 17:29:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Roundup! Mon, 10 Oct 2011 23:50:17 +0000

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 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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The Friday Roundup: Mash-ups Fri, 17 Dec 2010 08:35:11 +0000

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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The Tuesday Rant (topics include summer strolls, decor’s debt to cartography, wall-to-wall carpeting, tumblr and Ralph Waldo Emerson) Tue, 31 Aug 2010 04:57:22 +0000

Warm evening strolls are one of life’s great pleasures. It was almost hot and definitely humid last night, but there was a hint of a cool breeze that made it pretty bearable. The neighborhood looks so different at night. Rather than focusing on the architecture and landscaping, my eyes were drawn to the illuminated windows of the single family homes and apartment buildings lining the streets. (Note the word glimpsed – while walking through the neighborhood at a normal pace. Seeing and watching are two very different things). I saw a large faded, antique map hanging prominently over a sofa (I think), and I noticed a beautiful harp on my neighbor’s front porch. Who knew? But my favorite sight of the evening was what appeared to be a den in the second floor apartment of a brick 2-flat. Paneled in a honey colored wood, the walls were lined with shelves, and I spotted a large white glove mold among the books. The room’s only pop of color came from a deep blue, larger-than-average vintage aviators globe on a table or something near the window. It looked very, very current in the most old-fashioned possible way. Like a gorgeous, vintage flannel shirt some cool twentysomething kid bought at a thrift store – cool yet very cozy. Not a bad combination at all.

Can wall-to-wall carpeting ever feel urban?

Speaking of cozy, lately I’ve missed wall-to-wall carpeting. Hardwood floors look nice, that’s true. But I grew up with wall-to-wall, and it really does make a room feel warm and comfortable. I didn’t sit on a piece of furniture until I was in college. That’s only a slight exaggeration, as I loved lounging on the carpeting as a kid. While it sounds unsanitary, my mother enforced a strict no shoes rule for years, and despite relaxing it in recent years, her home is always clean, tidy and lovely. But back to my dilemma, should I have the second bedroom carpeted, or is that too extreme? Is this just nostalgia?

Are you a Tumblr?

I rolled my eyes the first time I read about Tumblr, a new social media platform that borrows elements from blogging, Facebook and Twitter. Much like Facebook, users can post links, photos, videos or text, but Tumblr offers more functionality to customize profile pages, and like blogging, multiple themes are available. Some are calling it the next big thing, so I checked it out last weekend, and it’s oddly satisfying. Perhaps it benefited from my low expectations, but I like the themes a lot, and I see the potential for positioning content in a new way. My Tumblr site La Casa Dada will host some of the atypically cool places I’ve featured over the past couple of years as well as links to those kind of stories in other blogs and publications. I’m pretty sure people follow people, but I haven’t quite figured that out yet – another big difference from Facebook where the emphasis seems to be more about connecting. Have you tumbled?

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

My cousin’s very sweet 11 year-old daughter Amalie (above in my brother’s upstairs apartment) visited last weekend. As usual, her interest in decor and attention to detail impressed me. This time she described my place as “jazzy and creamy,” which is a pretty good description. The zigzag rug in the living room definitely brings to mind the jazz age, and white is one of the signature colors throughout the space. Click here to read about her last visit during the holidays.

Spotted on Sheridan Road in Edgewater. Let’s pool our money and go in on it together.

Spotted in the West Village, NYC.

Spotted in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. NYC.

Spotted on Wabash in the loop.

Spotted at Brownstone Antiques in Andersonville.

Spotted at Metropolis Coffee. I love this countertop, which appears to be a very soft, honed soapstone? Anybody recognize the material?

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Friday Roundup (on Monday) Mon, 08 Mar 2010 06:56:47 +0000

Welcome to my first Friday Roundup in a long, long time. My apologies for the Monday release. And I’m afraid I left my notes for today’s opening remarks at Dollop Coffee, so I’m going to make this short. One of the last good old fashioned coffee houses, Dollop Coffee offers tons of space, free WIFI and delicious tea. I buy the Green Earl Gray, which I take with a spot of honey, a dash of cinnamon and three Splenda. Yep, I’m a sweet freak. Check out any Dollop Coffee for a good old fashioned coffee house experience. In today’s Friday Roundup (on Monday), we’re heading to New York, so let’s be on our way.

Am I alone in my adoration of designer Zach Motl’s 178 sq. ft. studio Brooklyn apartment (above)? Featured recently in the New York Times, the apartment puts to the test Motl’s theory that rooms with lots and lots of well-placed things make small spaces look larger. I don’t know about that, but what I do know is that seeing Motl’s amazing little Clinton Hill studio threatens to bring out the Mister Ripley in me. The studio has certain elements of both Scout and Brimfield, but something’s different, and I can’t quite figure out what. More saturation of color perhaps? And speaking of color, how about Motl’s fire engine red socks? Maybe flashy socks are the secret to pulling together a look like this? Because even though my living room alone is larger than Motl’s studio; and even though I too have a map, lots of books and a Thonet chair (I even have the exact same bar stools), Motl’s apartment makes mine look like a Turkish prison cell. So I’m going to buy a pair of red socks, and I’ll get back to you about how my life changes for the more stylish. Check out the New York Times slide show for many more beautiful shots by photographer Robert Wright.

Photos by Robert Wright for The New York Times

Motl looks anything but.

I apologize in advance for the length and rambling nature of the following caption. Reader discretion is advised. Oh. my. goodness. gracious. That is one fine looking kitchen. This space makes mine look so feckless. Green Lantern and Green Arrow, prepare to meet your new friend Green Bead Board. Holy Moly! And is that a framed Maple leaf I spy? Very nice Mister.

More Color!

How does New York Magazine’s Wendy Goodman find such terrific spaces? Goodman’s featured homes run the gamut from dumpster-furnished rad pads to perfectly propped luxury coops, but all are remarkable, distinctive and about story as much about set. Take this Broome Street apartment as an example. Finding out Keith Haring had once lived in their apartment was all the inspirations two designers needed to design an appropriately zany homage. As my college roommate might say, this space “makes me all kinds of happy.” It drives me crazy to think of all the unusual, funky and just plain ole’ crazy spaces I might be passing as I cruise the streets of Chicago. If you have one of those spaces, a home begging to be celebrated, you must believe that  you’re not alone; Strange Closets readers are a fine and attractive group eager to see what you’ve done. So . . . There should be a symbol for call me – the symbolic equivalent of using one’s thumb and index finger to approximate a phone. Note, this action is often accompanied by a crook in the neck, but that’s optional. Something like ƒ. That looks kind of like the thumb and index finger. Or maybe §? Thanks in advance for your ideas, because I’m stuck. But folks, please ƒ.

Photos by Leigh Davis for New York Magazine

FUN FACT: I love Goodman’s home section so much I sent her a fan e-mail.

Ditto Duty

For my third New York home story, I bring you these photos of Rush Limbaugh’s penthouse from the Huffington Post. I’m most definitely not feeling the mural on the ceiling (not the sky nor the vines), but let’s start with the good: Limbaugh’s taste in decor doesn’t surprise me at all, so my instincts must be sound. Now for the not-so-good: Rush might consider hiring a home stager like my friend Laura Heitz at Right Now Redesign. With her help, Rush’s place will sell in no time. What do you folks think? Am I being too hard on Rush?

Products I ♥

Will you take a look at this sexy lucite chest Apartment Therapy featured? I love it, but it makes storage a bit of a chore, no? Nothing sounds more pathetic than, Oh I’d love to meet for coffee, but I have to de-clutter and Windex the chest at the foot of my bed. Plus don’t you think life’s just too short for such nonsense? Even if you can keep it organized and pretty, you still can’t really use it to store your, um, personal things – your personals -there. I can’t come up with a good euphemism, but everybody’s got something just a little embarrassing they don’t leave out on the nightstand. For example, until very recently, I was ashamed to admit I’d purchased yet another Superman statue, which makes 4 in total (5 if you count the little one, which is also the name of my forthcoming basketball documentary). I’d fill the chest with salt water and an eel. Or maybe a mound of soil and some mushroom spores? Both would combine my lifelong love of home design with my passing fascination with nature. Either way, I’d throw a lovely cashmere throw on top to cover the oxygen holes. Oops. I guess I’ll pass for now, but I do like it very much for the more industrious sort.

Photo by Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos for New York Magazine


Letters continue to dominate newspapers, websites and home interior shops, a long-lasting trend if ever there ever were one. Peter van Agtmael’s stunning photograph in New York Magazine reminded me of my beloved salvaged T, which I bought from Agent Gallery owner Mariano Chavez last year. At the time I felt sated, but now Scout has a line of black and white salvaged letters, and I’m hungry all over again. Unfortunately, owner Larry Vodak doesn’t have any T’s, but if he did and if I had no other way, I’d work odd jobs to earn the money to buy one. I’d even consider getting back onto the spoon hanging competition circuit, which was very stressful (although I nearly made it into the Guiness Book of World Records – I was shy a mere four spoons). Knowing a sneeze could end your dreams with some klinks, some klangs and a big old bang was no way to live. On that note, I realize I beat the Scout drum often, but hey, everybody has a few favorites, and Scout has been consistently delightful, well-edited and well-priced. Larry and the whole crew really hit their stride last year, and my poor heart can’t take much more of this. Might Scout be the first stimulant not regulated by the FDA?

There’s just one more short section. It’s almost over.

It’s almost over (you did it!)

Finally, how cool is it that these concept sketches for the Microsoft Courier slate computer feature interior design boards that include the Mooi horse floor lamp? Check out Engadget for the whole story. OK, I’m done. You guys have been great as always – great crowd!

The Rumored Microsoft Courier. Read the story at Engadget.

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