Friday, January 30, 2009

Trends of 09

One trend that I'm seeing a lot of in modern design is typography. It's not just text, it's also the careful attention to letter forms that is getting a lot of attention. The written word is appearing everywhere in design:

This Pillow from design warehouse

 The ubiquitous 'Keep Calm and Carry On' Poster.

Wall Stickers and murals:

Camp Rock wall mural from PB Teen

and this mirror:

What do I think of it? Well, by now the Keep Calm posters have become a bit passe (but I still want one) and I really don't like Camp Rock, so that's out the window.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

mirrored furniture

I love the blog Apartment Therapy a little too much perhaps. Still, some of the trends that they feature are a bit bizarre. here they feature the designs of Maison&Objet, which include a number of mirrors as well as mirrored furniture.
Now a mirror is a great way to add the appearance of space to a room. Funky shapes can further add a decorative element. But mirrored furniture is something else. To me, it just suggests the phrase "I do cocaine".

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What Are the Design Trends for 2009?

Well, According to the folks at Sk├Âna Hem, a Swedish home design magazine, here are some of the trends that we can look forward to seeing. Now while the trends themselves are solid, the photos illustrating them are a bit silly. Let's take a closer look:
Raw Blonde wood

AKA: the 'We went to IKEA and bought a bunch of wood furniture' look. Part of me thinks that this is Sweden's way of ensuring money goes back to Sweden. I think it's a great way to introduce natural elements into your space while still keeping a clean and modern look.

Tailored Textiles

Okay, this looks like an electric chair designed by the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. I have no qualms with tailoring. The wallpaper below the chair rail is a bit much, though. I'd have gone for a solid color.

Industrial forms

This room dissolves Mondrian on contact. The setting where industrial forms work best is when they're allowed to speak for themselves. Simple settings highlight the beauty of the form itself and its simplicity. Jamming a bunch together just creates a mess.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Wallpaper, part 3 of many

Flavor Paper's Vapor pattern is pretty 1970s. On a scale from 1 to Avocado green kitchen appliances, it rates a solid 7. That's enough to be concerned about, but not enough to be wholly indefensible.
Case in point:

Better Living Through Design points in the direction of this kitchen. I like the way the pattern doesn't call a lot of attention to itself, but still does a good job of breaking up the monotony of the cabinets. Compare to this version from the 70s:

The good news is that this time around, we're learning our lessons.
Ugly version of the Vapor courtesy of Apartment Therapy

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More on mixing patterns

Rule 1: Patterns with similar color schemes and shapes coordinate.
Rule 2: Just because they coordinate, doesn't mean you can do this to a room:

There are areas where there is no pattern, if you can believe that. They're so outnumbered that all they can do is ride it out.
Bedrooms are supposed to be places of relaxation. All I know is that if I went to sleep here, I'd have visions of blue flowers dancing in my head forever.
And the solution to incorporating patterned bedspreads is easy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Can multiple patterns live in harmony?

Yes, that green is a teensy bit radioactive-colored, but the yellow tempers it and makes the blueness of the wall stand out more. This goes to show you that perceptual contrast can save almost any color. Though the use of color in the above photograph is skillful, the rug situation is painful. The first problem is that there are four of them. The overall effect is something like this car:

Two coordinating patterns can work together. A pattern with two contrasting elements can work with a more muted pattern. The reason there isn't a lot of theory on two somewhat coordinating patterns mixed with one pattern containing contrasting elements, and one pattern that clashes with itself is that nobody ever thought that it would be seen. Until the design world makes an official proclamation about this situation, I can only offer the following advice about bringing it into your home:

This photo brought to you via The City Sage. Check them out, won't you?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Liveblog: 'This land is OUR land'- A talk by Ian Ritchie

Ian Ritchie, famed architect of Reina Sofia Museum of Modern Art in Madrid and the Dublin spire gave a talk at USC on issues of environmentalism and the role that Architects can play in this. Moderating the dialog was Frances Anderton, LA editor for Dwell magazine and host of DnA: Design and Architecture for KCRW.

Ironically, Ian Ritchie needed some persuading to attend the talk. His concerns that flying out to Los Angeles would produce many tons of carbon dioxide was eventually assuaged by the argument that those in the audience would take to heart his message of sustainability.

A Brief summary of the talk follows. The ideas are those of Mr. Ritchie's.
We are in a new age. An age of "unselfish architecture", which is to say architecture that looks beyond excess of design, and looks instead for bettering the planet.
He Structured this talk around five major questions, asked in response to five major ideas.

1. Heritage. How does our shared heritage shape action?
Part of the problem is that in the West, our traditions have separated us from nature, whereas other cultures have not had this problem.

2. Thought. What are we thinking about now?
Mind and nature are our two worlds. The artist and architect can dance between these two worlds. we must take into account the sustainability of our actions. To some extent, Ritchie feels the markets are to blame, in that we put their freedom above human equality. this destroys our sense of community and obligation to the planet. Freedom ought have a framework, namely a balance between individual freedom and community.
He mentions, rather hopefully, that it takes only 1 generation, our generation to really care and to turn back on the way things have become.
Here, he took a break and focused on his own method:
He uses poetry and language to describe and define the structure. Then draws the house in a few sparse lines. This prevents the drawings from being defined in his mind too early.
Back on topic, He moved on to the third point, behavior. How are we behaving as designers? Humans are slow and not very clever. This is how disasters can happen without our knowledge. The question is do we want sustainable growth or sustainable progress?
Most designers believe that they are doing good. However, the real good comes in reorienting our consumer society. Through research and development, we can create and invent new materials that allow us to create products that have multiple useful lifespans. Another part of this is in deciding whether a building is necessary. To illustrate this, out of 680 projects that have come to his firm, the group has produced approximately 40 buildings.

4. how should we design today? Innovate or die?
Reducing cost cannot become the sole reason for design. In architecture, the shift has to be focused on working with industry, towards accomplishing the goals sustainability. The paradigm shift comes through redefining our goals.

5. Intervening. How should we personally make things? Making things means doing things, which means intervening. In a sense, this means a moral obligation. The solution is to dream, because this can question reality. Designing with the moral dimensions in mind, then aesthetics become more significant.
So how can we apply this to design? The most major aspect of environmentalism is not in making or buying 'eco-friendly' things, it is in changing a mindset. If you want to have a truly eco-friendly home, this involves a great deal of removing extraneous things. Yes, this means simplifying things, and giving up a great deal of luxuries.

My favorite tidbit for design comes from his design process. Think about how you want your home to feel, and express that not in images and in words. Use them to capture the feeling that you want, not the look. In doing this, you'll be able to be more open-minded in how to encapsulate that feeling. After all, home is a feeling.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Back to bedrooms

We have here three different bedrooms.

Apartment Therapy featured this bedroom a while back as part of a house tour. I love it. I can't stop people from using patterned bedspreads, but I can at least point out how to do it correctly. The walls are a clean color, so the bed becomes the focal point of the room: there really isn't a lot competing for your attention. The blanket adds more color and keeps the room from feeling too dark. At the same time, it covers up the pattern, which keeps that from dominating the room too much. This is how you do it, so take note.

And then, we get to these rooms.

What we have on the walls is the graphical equivalent of an acid trip. Often kitschy, full-wall graphics can sometimes take your mind someplace else. Why you'd want to be taken to a place where you think that your face is melting and strawberries are out to get you is another matter.

Padded headboards are for bedrooms. Padded walls are for asylums.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Let's talk pets

Earlier, I made the joking comment that if your dog clashes with your color palette, you should consider getting a new dog. Bad jokes aside, this is a question that you do need to think about. Our pets scratch, shed and sometimes break things, but we love them all the same. Food, pet beds, bowls and toys all have to go somewhere.

While on the subject of bowls, I'm a little bit in love with these bowls from urban materials + accessories: Not only are they really clean looking, but my cat pushes her water bowl into the middle of the doorway and spills water everywhere. Maybe this will stop her. (Probably not)

So readers, what are your design stories involving your pets? Did Fido break your brand-new DWR lamp? Does Fluffy shed so much that you decided to save time and buy furniture to match her coat? Or have you incorporated your pets seamlessly into your design? Your comments, stories and pictures are all welcome!

urban pet bowl

The Secret to getting the Most from the Ruffle Frame Shelf

Taking a brief step aside from my typical tastes in design, I confess that I really like the look of the Ruffle frame shelf from Brocade Home. The lines may be more ornate than I usually like, but the white gives it a really clean aesthetic. Now, someone who's more crafty than me could replicate the look with an old frame and paint.
Okay, fine, what's the secret? You've got a white background, so the lines of whatever you put on it stand out more: this shelf makes things look better. This means the less you've got on the shelf, the better it works.

Ruffle Frame Shelf, On sale, $199.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Purple is the noblest wall color

I'm pretty sure this is the same color that pimp costumes are made of. Yes, it's bright, bold and full of character. It's also ridiculous. All that color theory tells us that yellow and purple are complementary and thus work well together. Correct.

But I've got a competing (and more important) theory I want to test. Near as I can tell, there might only be exceptions in terms of certain patterns. I call it the "Dress shirt theory". (well, right now its just a hypothesis, but hopefully with your input, we'll be able to prove it)

It goes a little something like this: Imagine the wall color (or pattern) in question as a mans dress shirt. Any color or pattern which would look silly should be used only under the advisement of a design professional.
A pastel works fine on walls or as a shirt. Color combinations such as white with brown or blue work fine. And a print with ducks on it makes you my father.

Now, to undo all the negative karma from the bad purple room, here's a good purple room. (Fine, lilac room)

Friday, January 16, 2009

A thought on patchwork quilts

In these winter months, there's nothing like going to bed under a home-made quilt. Except I live in LA, and it is unseasonably warm here. But those of you fortunate enough to not live in LA get to have nice quilts. But don't quite rush out and buy just any quilt, because some of them are uglier than others. Today, the topic is patchwork quilts.
Now wait a second, you say you openly admit that your favored style is modern, sometimes modern of the mid-century variety. How can you reconcile a quilt with that? Aren't you going to pick on all of them?
Yes, I like MCM and modern design. But I'm not picking on these quilts (or any design things) because they aren't compatible with my favorite styles. I pick on them because they're intrinsically ugly. As in, it doesn't matter how you use them, there is little good about them.
Come on, how bad could some of them be?

Okay, you win

There's nothing wrong with a patchwork quilt. However, these quilts are only as good as the patches they're made of. There are some fabrics which ought never have been made. If the quilt contains any of them, it's not a good quilt.

This (above) is a good quilt. It may be a bit lacking in the color and overall impact department, but it's simple. The 'cabin' quilt from LL Bean (link below) has more color and presence, but I'm not nearly as big a fan of the pattern.

My thoughts?
Keep the colors in harmony. If you simply MUST have big and bold patterns, keep everything else restrained. You can always use pillows to accent.

Quilts from Anthropologie , L L bean

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Orla Kiely for Target: Yay! (and a little nay)

For Winter 2009 Target is proud to announce that famed designer Orla Kiely will be bringing her touch to Target's housewares department. This is almost old news by now in the design world.
Personally, I'm torn by this collection. I look at a number of elements in the collection and I can clearly see the 1970s reflected. On the other hand... they're just glasses and plates. They're small enough to not have too much bearing on the overall design of the room. Restrain yourself and you'll be fine. And I kind of like the shape of the carafe. And those square plates.
I will say that the brown storage boxes and shoe holders are a no. Brown has been an "in" color for just a bit too long. I also think the apron doesn't look good, but I am yet to find an apron that looks good on me.
This hits Target stores February 1st. Start planning how to incorporate it.
Enough of my babbling, let's look at some pictures:

Photos from Apartment Therapy and Decor8

Another thing I like

The Kugel chair from Seefelder.
It's modern, but could easily work with an Art Deco style.
I don't know how good your German is, so I've translated it as best I can.
"The chairs are dynamic and yet clear in form. They turn about their own axis (they rotate). The chairs are available in high-quality leather and fabric in the Seefelder collection.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wallpaper, part 2 of many

Poor bathroom. You could have had it so much better. Too-small mirror and weird metal cabinet over the toilet are hindrances, but bathrooms have overcome worse to become truly great. Then your owner decided to post up wallpaper that is covered in the flarg flower from planet Zebulon 9. (on Zebulon 9, flowers look at you!)
Bathroom, your owner might be an alien.

Casasugar feels that this style might be a bit much for small bathrooms, and should only be used in powder rooms and half baths. I think they're forgetting a crucial detail: it should only be used in powder rooms and half baths that are on the planet Mars.
This image comes from

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Triumphant return of bread

Enough negativity. It's time to embrace the positive. It's time for me to show you a thing that I love.

Considering that I want my kitchen to look something like the above (though maybe a but less fussy and with slightly cleaner lines... not sure I like the window treatments), I must say that I love this bread box from Target

Clean, simple lines, with a wonderful retro feel. I don't even like bread all that much, but this is simply beautiful.

I fear the design world is singling me out for ridicule

According to the folks at casasugar the new hip trend for 2009 is mushrooms. Things with a general mushroomy shape or pattern are in.

Please, don't do it. For my sake, at least. I truly dislike mushrooms on a magnitude that is hard to understand. Suffice to say I would rather have a dentist attempt surgery with a backhoe than eat a mushroom.

However, in the interest of showing just what I'm going up against, check out casasugar's picks

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kickin' it old school

And now, a brief history lesson.
the inspiration for this blog is two-fold: First, I must give MASSIVE amounts of credit to James Lileks and his book Interior Desecrations. (Buy it!) Seeing just how ugly interior design was has made me aware that this must never happen again. My aim is purely humanitarian. But if I make a few bucks off this somehow, that's cool too.

This brings me to part two of inspiration: Pottery Barn Teen. I have a love-hate relationship with that branch of the company. Well, actually, I just think that some of the stuff they sell is really ugly.

Which brings me to the product which caused me to start thinking about all this:

Technically yes, it is a couch. I know it looks like a bunch of cushions that were stolen from a hobo camp. We also have the rug to deal with. Yes, that is a rug, and not a bunch of used mop heads that the janitor at Pleasant View Elementary threw out. Please, shag rugs were only good until you spilled stuff on them, at which point they could never be fully clean again. And please don't tell me that you're buying them for the ironic value: Irony only works if the thing in question was originally good, but has since fallen out of favor. This is like being ironically racist.

And you can still buy the couch here. I'm pretty sure the charcoal gray is the color in question.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Black and white, Part 2

Allow me to demonstrate why black and white color combinations work best with another color in the mix: I present the following rooms that Mobileffe is currently showing.

It's not the warmest-looking room in the world, but it still looks inviting. Still, I'm not sure what to think about the glowing rock-like things in the foreground. They might be radioactive.

There's only one other color here. That's all it takes to make this look work. Some warm wood tones soften the overall appearance, and add a nice organic counterpart.
The dog is another design reminder: if your current dog clashes with your decor, you MUST get a new one. (kidding, kidding)

This room somehow manages to be the chemical opposite of Prozac. Maybe it's the fact that the stripes look like jail bars. Even with the TV, this looks like a room in which fun is outlawed.

Thanks to contemporist for the inspiration.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Elle Decor Jan 2009: A deconstruction (part 1)

I'm not an avid reader of Elle Decor. By this I mean I have never actually read the magazine, and was not fully aware of its existence. So when I was directed to their website, I was pleasantly surprised. They focus on the same kind of design that I like, so I'll half-heartedly consider subscribing, then remember that I'm a poor college student.

On to the magazine.
The hot trend for the month is Black and White. It's a powerful, dramatic combination of colors. A little bit goes a long way.
Here's an example from Design Sponge
this headboard is good.

But when you see the rest of the room in context, the effect is a bit overwhelming

The red wall almost makes the room work, and it adds a great deal of much needed warmth. Something to keep in mind is that the black and white combination can get very cold very quick.

Second thing to consider is to keep it clean.
Consider these 3 patterns:

The middle pattern has a clean aesthetic that the others don't. And because of the stark contrast with black and white, design elements are emphasized: clean designs look cleaner and busy designs look busier.

Keep it warm, keep it clean and don't over-do it. Those are the 3 keys to making this trend work.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Now this is not a recent photo. This is from the horrible 70s. However, it's being used to illustrate the idea of covering the walls with fabric, as an easy way to It's an inspiration.

Really, the only thing this pattern is inspiring me to do is go drive out to the country, find a field of flowers and DESTROY ALL OF THEM. This fabric has ruined an entire species of plant forever. Even looking at it makes my allergies flare up.

In all fairness, the idea is sound. Please look at Monika's Post at Apartment Therapy for tips on how to use this technique.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


With this blog, I will try to point people against things that are rather ugly, but at the same time, I want to point people towards things I like.
which brings me to this pillow.

I love it. It's funky, its got great color, and it's got that perfect mid-century modern look about it.

You can get one at

Or check out her blog at

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bathrooms of 2008

In lieu of actually looking over all the bathrooms of the world and finding examples that properly reflect the times, I've decided that commentary on the tastes of others is much more satisfying. This is not to say that their personal opinions are wrong; they're just (in my opinion) bad. Consider me the devil's advocate for home design.
So, without further ado, I present a counter-analysis to some of Desire to Inspire's favorite bathrooms of 2008

If Satan's cathedral had a master bathroom, it would look like this. There really isn't too much wrong with the bathroom until you get to the paint. That color, that sheen, and the juxtaposition with the blue floor just goes to show you that it only takes one thing to ruin a room.

If you tried to play 'one of these things is not like the other', your head would implode. Now, I know that nobody in their right mind would attempt to assemble this bathroom for the real world. (Well, David Lynch might)
I like the red cabinet, I like the juxtaposition of the sink and mirror, and I'll tolerate the tiles in the bathroom. I just don't like the combination of those elements.

Tip: Using mirrors can help make a small bathroom look bigger. Painting the walls this color just makes it weird. It's like you polished the entire 1790s so hard the finish came off.

I cannot in good faith allow this wallpaper pattern to propagate. While the color is nice and works with the other tones in the room, it will age gracelessly.