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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |  10 Jul 2014  |  Comments (1)

Perigot-Frisbee-trash-bin.jpg

Open wastebaskets are the easiest to drop things into, but sometimes end-users will want a lidded trash can—for appearances, for odor control, or for keeping children and pets out of the garbage. The Frisbee trash bin, designed by Frédéric Perigot, has a removable liner bin with a handle. That's a design that will appeal to some, but others will find it hard to manipulate. The lid, shaped like a Frisbee, is "ultra-flat"—pet owners will note that this provides yet another space for their cats to curl up.

Brendan-Ravenhill-Dustbin.jpg

Bendan Ravenhill's previously-seen Dustbin uses a detachable dust pan as the lid; a long-handled brush attaches to the side with rare earth magnets. This design would work well for end-users who never know where to store the dust pan.

Patent-Ochsner-rubbish-bin.jpg

Patent Ochsner has bins with two interesting options. The first is a dust pan which slides into place on the lid—another way to keep the dust pan close at hand. The second option is a wood seat, with a cushion as an additional option, making this a dual-purpose product especially good for those with limited space. But an end user whose trash can regularly holds smelly items might find this a poor choice.

The Eva Solo Waste Bin, designed by Claus Jensen and Henrik Holbæk of Tools Design, gets clever with the lid. The lid can be opened from any direction, and it can also be removed and used to carry waste to the bin. The bin was also designed to make it easy to replace a liner, and keep it firmly in place; it has a rubberized metal ring which the liner folds around.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |   3 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)

Urbano-Eco-trash-can-at-Uncommon-Goods.jpg

Professional organizers are fans of wastebaskets—they help ensure trash actually leaves the space—so I'm always interested in new design twists on this basic product.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, where I work, many cities are banning plastic grocery bags—but before the bans, I saw many clients with huge stashes of those bags. But the bags don't need to go to waste; they can be used in wastebaskets, if those baskets are designed to make use of them. The Urbano Eco trash can, designed by Kevin McElroy, uses one bag for collecting trash and stores other below. The only drawback with this design is it's just a bit awkward to add new bags to the collection while one is in use. And sometimes any bit of awkwardness keeps people from putting things away.

Products-That-Work-Bagsavr.jpg

The BagSavr+ from Products That Work does things a bit differently; extra bags (up to 10) are stored in a pocket, so it's easy to add bags at any time. The BagSavr+ has also been designed to allow it to live on the floor or mounted to walls, cabinet doors, etc. It has a flat back and keyholes to allow it to be wall-mounted with a couple screws; it also comes with a mounting bracket.

Polder-mini-bath-can.jpg

Other wastebaskets, such as this one from Polder, look more like conventional wastebaskets, but are still designed to hold plastic grocery bags. Some users of a slightly different version complained about it being hard to remove the bag without making a mess—a good reminder that ease of use needs to be paramount with products like this.

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Posted by Ray  |   2 Jul 2014  |  Comments (1)

WINKCOMP.jpg

By now, it seems like the conceit of a 'home of the future' has existed for as long as we've taken residence in permanent structures—while subsistence cultures certainly didn't fret over replacing HVAC filters, our domestic life perpetually bears the promise of being easier or more comfortable. But even as sci-fi films offer tantalizing glimpses into a swipeable, location-aware near-future, the app-enabled abode has proven to be an elusive dream as we once again crank up our noisy old air conditioners, much as we did with barely adequate space heaters just four months ago.

Well that's the case here in New York City, but for those of you who live outside the endemic constraints of shady landlords and co-op boards—and,to some extent, even for those of us who do—the fabled smart home may be appreciably closer to becoming a reality with the launch of a new collection of products on Monday, July 7, thanks to a new free app called Wink and your local Home Depot.

It's not a retail partnership in the traditional sense: Wink is a software ecosystem for other networked devices and appliances. It relies on a single piece of hardware, a pointedly nondescript white box that will likely gather dust alongside your modem and router—plugged in, of course, but scarcely touched after initial setup—since the entire interface is accessed via smartphone. Several Wink-enabled products will work without the hub, which facilitates networked communications for less deeply integrated products; compatibility is clearly indicated by labels on the packaging.

WinkHub.jpg

Nor is it a 'collection' so much as the launch of the app and 60 compatible products from 15 well-known brands, including literal household names such as GE—who have partnered with Wink's parent company Quirky to produce a series of networked products—and first mover Phillips to smart sprinkler startup Rachio and tech darlings Dropcam. So too does the selection run the gamut from entry-level light bulbs (GE & Quirky have developed one for $15) to more advanced products such as motorized curtains, deadbolts and garage doors. (Both the Wink Hub and the products will also be available via Amazon, though the displays at Home Depot will drive awareness and in-store sales.)

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  27 Jun 2014  |  Comments (9)

patchnride2.jpg

They say, not unfairly, that the only upper body workout cyclists get is having to pump up their tires. That's certainly one reason fixing flat tires is such a bummer. To give your feeble T-Rex arms a break, and to save you mysophobes from a day of despair, check out the skepticism-inducing-yet-promising tool from PatchNRide.

The PatchNRide system is a little oblique, modeled largely by CAD drawings and a distractingly good-looking actor. From what we can gather, it works like this: you locate the source of your flat, remove offending debris, push the pointed business end of this tool into the hole, depress a needle into that hole, inject a rubber sealant into the inner tube, remove the tool, and refill the tire with air. In less than 60 seconds your ride has gone from bummertown to back in action. No tire removal and minimal grumbling at the side of the road.

Don't look at the strap*

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |  26 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

Safco-Facil-flat-file-on-high-base.jpg

We've talked about filing solutions for normal office papers—but what if the papers the end-users are dealing with are blueprints, maps or other large items?

Flat files are one obvious solution. They're incredibly easy to use—you just put your papers in the drawers (which can easily be labeled so you know what's where). The enclosed structure means the papers are protected from dust, spilled coffee, etc. To a limited degree they files are modular; the ones shown above can be stacked two high, if they're placed on a closed base rather than this open one. There's usually a locking option, if the end users need that level of protection. But they do take a lot of floorspace, and they're heavy; the Facil flat files from Safco weigh 118 pounds and up, and that excludes the base. So end users aren't going to casually move these around.

Arnos-Hang-A-Plan-trolley.jpg

On the other end of the spectrum, there's the mobile trolley, such as the Hang-A-Plan from Arnos. Vertical storage like this takes less floor space, and the trolleys are easy to move around (as long as you don't need to go up or down some stairs). With this design, the binders that hang from the trolley hold up to 150 papers, with no need to add strips or holes.

Jalema-Offset-rack.jpg

The Offset Rack from Jalema is available as a two-tier unit—an interesting option for end-users with nine feet of clearance, and a collection of documents they don't need to access very often. Jalema uses staple strips—a reasonable option for archive-type storage, where the end user doesn't need to add or remove documents from the bundle. Color-coded index tabs are available to help end-users find the files they need.

Brookside-Design-Pivot-Wall-Rack.jpg

For end-users with the available wall space, there are designs such as this Pivot Wall Rack from Brookside Design, with a maximum capacity of 1,200 sheets. The mounting holes are stud-spaced. If end-users are unable to locate wall studs, Brookside recommends using hollow wall screw anchors rather than the one-inch screws used when mounting to wall studs.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |  12 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

Typhoon-Novo-bread-bin.jpg

I've got clients who love their breads—which is totally understandable, since bakers are now making some great loaves. But these clients face the question of how to store any bread that's not getting eaten right away. Long-term storage requires the freezer, but a good bread box will often keep crusty breads fresh for around three days. (This will vary depending on the type of bread and the climate.) The goal is to keep the humidity in the bread box just right; the vent holes in the box allow some of the moisture from the bread to escape. The Novo bread bin from Typhoon places those vent holes on the sides.

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These bread boxes from My Kilos don't have vent holes; they just have a space where the wooden lid rests on the box. That lid can be used as a cutting board, too.

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This bread drum has a cutting board that rests on the top. When the cutting board is removed, the bread drums can be stacked—a clever space-saving device. The rectangular shape of the prior bread bin vs. the circular shape of this one is a reminder that breads come in various shapes and sizes, and the end-users will need to select bread boxes that fit the breads they prefer.

Joseph-Joseph-bread-bin-Morph-design.jpg

This Joseph Joseph bread bin, designed by Morph, is another one with a cutting-board top. Two interesting design touches: It has an easy-to-grip handle on top, and it has grooves on the cutting side to help collect crumbs.

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  11 Jun 2014  |  Comments (2)

minkpresentation1.jpg

Innovation springs up in the gaps between the available and the unimagined, so it follows that applying a familiar technology towards a familiar goal can still feel unexpected. The Mink makeup printer debuted at TechCrunch Disrupt, and sits solidly in the penumbral zone between Wacky-Futuristic and Both-Obvious-&-Feasible. Simply put, Mink is a printer for make-up. Using the primary functions of inkjet printing with cosmetic grade inks and substrates, inventor Grace Choi wants to turn a mundane technology into one of the most practical applications of 3D printing that I've seen yet.

The Mink proposition is to take the good parts of boutique cosmetics retailers (quality materials and niche color options) and mass-market retailers (low cost, high accessibility), and ramp them both up. Prestige brands capitalize on on-trend colors that you can't find at a standard drugstore or Walmart, charging incredibly high prices for materials that are only marginally different from cheaper options. Meanwhile, mass market vendors keep costs down by streamlining color and material options, which drastically reduces the diversity of options... to the dismay of color-hungry and non-Caucasian makeup consumers.




 

Choi's solution would allow home users to use any imaging software (from MS Paint to Photoshop) to capture any digitally rendered color, save the hex code, and print it directly into the desired base material, using nothing but FDC certifiable dyes and bases. Pure, custom makeup, on demand. Choi raised eyebrows by live-printing eyeshadow at the TechCrunch event, and specifically mentioned the possibility of working with the different media needed for different types of makeup, from foundation to lipstick to powders.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |   5 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

Hon-Brigade-lateral-file-cabinet.jpg

While moving toward a paperless world is a great idea, the reality (as I see in my clients homes and offices) is that people still have lots of paper they're keeping—and that paper needs to get filed away. And my experience has also made me very aware of some issues related to file cabinet design.

One of the first decisions for an end-user is whether to use a lateral file (such as the one above, made by HON) or a vertical file. Space constraints matter here, since lateral files take more wall space, but don't extend as far into the room.

And while you can't see it, this file cabinet has a lot of other design features worth noting. There are four adjustable leveling glides—always nice for less-than-totally-even floors. To prevent tipping, there's an interlock system to keep the end-user from pulling out more than one drawer at a time; there are also counterweights, where needed, to prevent tipping when drawers are open. Since I've had clients' file cabinets tip over when one or more drawers were open, these features definitely catch my attention. My only caution: One of my own file cabinets (not a HON) had an interlock system that jammed and was somewhat of a pain to reset; these need to be well-designed to prevent such problems.

CP-Asisto-filing-cabinet-2-rows.jpg

A lateral file can also be configured to hold files facing the front, rather than the side, as you can see with this Asisto cabinet from C+P.

Herman-Miller-lateral-file.jpg

These lateral files from Herman Miller are modular—always nice for meeting changing needs. And for certain shared workspaces, the ability to have some drawers open in one direction and some in another could be quite useful.

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Posted by erika rae  |  30 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

NotCamera-Comp.jpg

There are enough quirky "found thing" necklaces out there for this one to pass as nothing more than a piece of jewelry ironically moonlighting as a camera—which is exactly what Brooklyn-based designer Olivia Barr wants you to think. In reality, it's a real-live piece of tech that's perfect for the hipster Harriet the Spy in all of us.

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NotCamera-Size.jpg

Barr made the first version for her 101-year-old grandmother (pictured below), who took up photography in her 90s. She wanted to create a lighter version that was easy on the muscles and simple to use. The half-inch thick walnut camera also shoots HD video and comes complete with 3.5MB capacity and straightforward instructions laser-etched on the back.

NotCamera-GrandmaComp.jpg

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |  29 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

Weston-Mill-Pottery-terra-cotta-wine-racks.jpg

Living not far from some of California's best wineries, I have a number of clients who have bottles of wine to store. Some have just a few bottles, while some have quite a collection. And they all need storage—and something not as elaborate as the Spiral Cellar.

The terra cotta wine racks from Weston Mills Pottery provide a modular system for storing a few bottles, or a larger collection. The terra cotta helps shield the wine from temperature variations, and it won't deteriorate if placed in a humid cellar. It's also incredibly simple to "assemble"—more so than many other modular options. However, this is a heavy product, and would be a pain to deal with if the end-user was moving.

MuNiMuLa-UU50-wine-rack.jpg

The modular wine rack from MuNiMulA, made from interlocking pieces of anodized aluminum. Although these pieces can be stacked, I'd be somewhat concerned about having a tall stack in earthquake-prone territory, or anywhere small children could pull at it. That's an issue with a lot of wine racks, unless they can be bolted to the wall.

Echelon-wine-racks.jpg

The Echelon wine rack, made from extruded aluminum, addresses my concerns about stability. This is the retail, tabletop version—but there's also an architectural version, which has a wall bracket.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |  22 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

Simple-Human-laundry-hamper.jpg

As a professional organizer, I believe in having plenty of easy-to-use laundry hampers. Sometimes the reason the dirty clothes don't make it into the laundry bin is that the bin is down the hall, not in the bedroom!

This laundry hamper from Simple Human has a lot going for it. The open top makes it easy to put things into the hamper. The double bags allow the end-users to sort darks vs. lights, or regular wash vs. dry cleaning. (Not everyone has room for a double-bag version, so Simple Human also provides a single-bag hamper.) And the bags are easy to remove from the frame and tote to the laundry room. Some end-users say they come off a bit too easily—coming loose when jostled by a vacuum cleaner, for example.

Brabantia-Laundry-Bins.jpg

Some end-users prefer to have a laundry hamper that isn't so open—so the dirty laundry isn't on display, so the cats can't get into it quite so easily, etc. These Brabantia laundry bins accommodate that preference while allowing laundry to be placed in them without removing a lid. There's a removable, washable laundry bag inside, and Brabanita sells replacement bags; that's a nice way to protect the end-user's investment in the bin in case the bag gets ripped or stained. There are plenty of ventilation holes in the bin, too.

Crate-and-Barrel-plus-Restoration-Hardware-laundry-cart.png

These laundry carts from Crate and Barrel and Restoration Hardware would suit an end-user who likes the super-easy-to-toss-into open look—and who has a laundry room down the hall from the bedroom or bathroom. With baskets that don't go all the way to the floor, there's no awkward reaching for laundry at the very bottom, but the a limited capacity.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |   8 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

Vitra-toolbox.jpg

As I work with clients to organize their offices, I often see them scramble to find everyday things such as pens, paper clips and sticky notes. That's one of the first things we fix, since it's a basic organizing principle to keep often-used items close at hand. And using the proper containers for those items makes them easy to grab when needed.

Especially if the desk does not have a pencil drawer, end-users will want to keep these frequently-used items on their desktops, in some form of desk organizer. Some of these organizers are a single piece, such as the Toolbox from Vitra, designed by Arik Levy. This design is nice for end-users who move between multiple work surfaces—or who work on something like the dining room table, where the desk supplies need to be removed when the table is used for other purposes. The Toolbox also could be used for plenty of other things if needs change and it's no longer needed as a desktop organizer. It's made from ABS plastic.

Less-and-More-Etsy-desk-organizer.jpg

This desk organizer, from Less & More, consists of two pieces that join together. One piece has holes of various sizes, plus a compartment that would hold a wallet or something of a similar size. The second piece has slots to hold paper and notes, a separate slot that's the right size for a cell phone, and two magnets to hold a few paper clips. Here we see the space-vs-storage tradeoff: This organizer is 10 inches deep (compared to the Vitra toolbox, for example, which is 7 inches deep), which will be too large for some end-users. And the design creates some hard-to-use space in the areas to the left and right of the piece storing the papers and the cell phone—fine if you have space to spare, but not if desktop space is limited.

lAtlier-dExercices-wood-block-desk-organizer.jpg

In comparison, this single-piece wood block desk organizer from l'Atlier d'Exercices is more compact, at only 2.25 inches deep, but it stores much less. There's one hole for pens, and five slots for papers—but nothing for items such as paper clips.

AMAC-Rhombins-desktop-storage.jpg

Other desk organizers are modular. These are the Rhombins from AMAC, designed by Eric Pfeiffer and Scot Herbst. Each of the three rhombus-shaped modules has a divider inside to separate items kept within. All sorts of configurations are possible, including a stacked one to save space—although that means the end-user needs to unstack them to get at certain things. The Rhombins are made of Cereplast, a plant-based bio-plastic.

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Posted by erika rae  |   6 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

Resmo-Lead.jpg

Last week, we spotted a couple of airplane interior designs from Paperclip Design LTD—aircraft armrests to seating concepts)—which address just a couple of the countless travel-related annoyances. But when you think about the worst that could happen in terms of travel plans, a delayed flight is probably pretty high up there, considering it can throw your entire trip into limbo.

My own personal interaction with major traveling hiccups takes me back to the age of 12, crying in the middle of Reagan International Airport terminal until some nice flight attendant took pity on me and let me tearfully call my parents on her brick of a cell phone. The one thing that might have made me feel better would have been a quiet place to nap and continue mourning my delayed flight home. Enter RESMO. The Red Dot Award winning design is a collapsible seat complete with a privacy shield made expressly for those trying to deal with a delayed flight by catching up on some much-needed rest. (For some of us, this might be considered a vacation in itself.)

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Posted by erika rae  |  29 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Sure, there are a lot of ways to make your own cosmetics at home. Just hop on Pinterest for, oh let's say, two minutes. Many of those methods may feature infusing your own scents and flavors into home basics, like vaseline—but those recipes aren't always looking out for the well-being of your skin. Teardrop—a kit of tools and accessories for extracting beneficial properties from plants—focuses less on the finished product and more on the safety and sustainability of the homemade phytocosmetics (plant-based cosmetics) you're looking to make. You won't get a complete jar of lip balm from this, but you will be on the right track to avoiding the unhealthy ingredients like salicylic acid exfoliates and alcohol in your skin products.

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Teardrop is a steam-based distillation system, which means it helps the user produce pure herbal water, which can then be used to create toxin-free cosmetics. (Enter: The never-ending fleet of Pinterest recipes.)

Teardrop-Kit.jpg

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |  24 Apr 2014  |  Comments (1)

Infusion-Furniture-step-stool.jpg

Storage that's hard to reach—the rafters in garages, the top shelves of kitchen cabinets, bedroom closets and tall bookcases—is a common problem in homes, and sometimes in offices. As a professional organizer, I recommend step stools (or short ladders) to my clients all the time, so they can make use of the storage space available to them, without standing on chairs and risking their safety.

And different designs serve different situations. Sometimes the space allows for a step stool that does not fold, but rather sits out and becomes part of the decor. The step stool above, from Infusion Furniture, was designed for a loft-style apartment, for an end-user "who wanted a stool that was interesting and elegant enough to live in the kitchen and not in the closet." The handle makes it easy to carry around to different locations.

Swedese-heaven.jpg

The Heaven stepladder, designed by Thomas Bernstrand and manufactured by Swedese, is made of lacquered aluminum sheet metal. There's no second side to provide support; instead, the base does that. This might make some end-users nervous, but others will love the look. That photo is by Fredrik Sandin Carlson.

Cramer-kik-step-stool.jpg

And if we're talking about step stools that don't fold away, the Cramer Kik-Step has to be included. This one has been around for 50 years, and it's often found in libraries—but I know someone who uses it in her pantry. The Kik-Step has hidden casters to make it easy to move around on most floors; the casters retract when someone steps on it, and the stool locks into place. The bumpers keep it from scratching the walls. It's made of steel, and supports up to 500 pounds.

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But many end-users, especially those in small spaces, will want a step stool that does fold up. The Lucano step stools, created by Metaphys and Hasegawa Kogyo Co., will each hold up to 220 pounds. The step stools are made of a combination of aluminum and ABS; end-users comment that the light weight makes them easy to move around. One drawback: The grooved steps are too narrow for some end-users; the bottom two steps on the 3-step ladder are just 2.75" deep.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |  17 Apr 2014  |  Comments (2)

Zone-Denmark-spinning-top-timer.jpg

Timers might not sound like an organizing product—but as a professional organizer, I recommend them to my clients all the time. They're great for overcoming procrastination; end-users can set the timer for 15 minutes and do some dreaded task for just that amount of time. Or they might set the timer for 20 minutes and make sure, when it goes off, that they are still on task. And, of course, timers are useful when cooking and baking, or performing any task where keeping track of time is critical.

Yes, many of us carry timers around with us on our smartphones—but not all end-users have smart phones. And for some, the timer on a smartphone is harder to use than a physical timer. And do we want our smartphones exposed to liquids, grease and chemicals?

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Both this timer and the one above come from Zone Denmark. The spinning top timers catch your eye, but the other timer has the advantage of being magnetic, so you can stick it on a refrigerator door (unless the fridge is stainless steel). However, the websites for these timers leave me wondering about many crucial design issues, such as these: How long can the timer be set for? What does the timer sound like when it goes off? Does it tick as it counts down?

Kuchenprofi-egg-timer.jpg

This basic egg timer comes from Kuchenprofi, and a number of other companies have products that look similar. This one's an hour-long timer, which is pretty common. The company says it has a long, loud ring, which is important. With the simple design, wiping it clean would be a snap. And it uses a mechanical movement, so no batteries are required.

Terraillon-Richard-Sapper-mini-timer.jpg

Here's another mechanical timer with a simple design: the minitimer, designed by Richard Sapper for Terraillon. You'll find this one in MoMA's collection; it's at the Brooklyn Museum, too. With this design, the remaining time is visible both from the side and the top.

Matthaeus Krenn had a red one, and he explained how to set the timer: "Twist the two red halves in oposite directions to load a spring on the inside. Then twist back to set the timer to the desired duration." Sounds easy, right? But I wondered how this would work for someone with arthritis.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |  10 Apr 2014  |  Comments (3)

Knife-and-Saw-bike-shelf.jpg

Bicycle owners with garages have an obvious place to store those bikes—but what about those without garages: apartment dwellers, etc.? Those end-users may want to store their bicycles in their living spaces, and they'll want their bike racks to look good. Since floor space will probably be limited, wall racks have a lot of appeal.

Designers are recognizing the need, and addressing it in various ways. The Bike Shelf from Knife & Saw is designed to be installed into wall studs, and will leave only screw holes when removed—another consideration for those in rented spaces. The shelf gives you a bit of extra storage, although I wouldn't put anything too fragile up there, since it seems like it would be easy to jostle things while putting the bike away. And one drawback which you'll see in many designs: the shelf works well for top-tube bikes, but not for diagonal-tube bikes or step-through bikes.

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The Shelfie is an active Kickstarter project which has already met its funding goal. Juergen Beneke wanted a solution for all types of bikes, because he owns a range of them himself; he also wanted to avoid scratching the paint on the top tube and kinking the cables. The Shelfie addresses these concerns by using the seat to hang the bike. The storage compartment is large enough for a bike helmet, which is a considerate design touch—since the bike and helmet are used together, it's helpful to store them together. Shelfie comes with anchors for sheetrock, wood and concrete/block—and a paper-template with the hole-pattern, to make pre-drilling the holes easy and accurate. My one concern here is how stable the bike is; will a rambunctious child or an earthquake cause it to tumble?

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The Bike All from Board by Design also uses the seat to hang the bike; it has hooks for hanging the end-user's helmet, messenger bag, etc. The top shelf has a cut-out, allowing end-users to run the cord from a cell phone (or anything else) down to an outlet for charging. One concern: If one wheel rests on the floor, cleaning the floor becomes slightly more difficult than if the floor is left bare.

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Fluo makes wall-mounted bike hooks for a specific subset of bike owners: those who like minimal design, own a light sports bike (with a top tube), and have a wall that will work with its dowels. They're suitable for walls made of brick, concrete and masonry, for those ready to break out the hammer drill; they will not work with drywall. This is another design that would make me nervous if children, pets or earthquakes were likely to disturb the bike.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |   3 Apr 2014  |  Comments (2)

Compar-Mobili-OMBO-umbrella-stand.jpg

Umbrella stands find a place in homes, offices, and retail establishments. They seem like such a straightforward item, but actually a number of design decisions come into play.

For example, let's look at the Ombo umbrella stand from Com.p.ar, designed by Alberto Arter and Fabrizio Citton. It's made from black lacquered steel, covered with regenerated leather—so it should wear well, but it's definitely an inside-only item. And while it's a beautiful design, it won't work for people who use compact collapsible umbrellas rather than traditional full-sized ones.

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Compare that to the gorgeously curvy Narcisco umbrella stand from Tonin Casa, designed by Davide Bozzini. It's made of powder-coated steel, and comes with a number of cautions [PDF]: don't expose it to sunlight, don't expose it to the elements if it's kept outside, and watch out for "dangerous objects" which could cause scratching—not the umbrella stand for household with small children. This one is also intended for traditional umbrellas only.

Area-Delic-Elic-umbrella-stand.jpg

The Elic umbrella stand from Area Declic, designed by Antonio Lanzillo and Carlo Martinengo, is made from polyethylene produced by rotational molding. This is a super-practical design for end-users who aren't opposed to plastics. It's UV resistant, and OK for outdoor use. (But at only 8.8 pounds, and with a relatively high center of gravity, I wouldn't leave it outside in high winds—although, polyethylene being shatter-proof, at least it wouldn't break if it did fall over.) It has two spaces, one for short umbrellas and one for tall ones; if the end-user doesn't have short umbrellas, the short compartment could certainly be used to stash something else.

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The Aki umbrella stand from B-Line, designed by Rodolfo Bonetto, is another one made from rotomolded polyethylene. It can be used indoors or out; as B-Line says, "It has no problem with water." Since it's only seven pounds, it's another one I wouldn't leave out in high winds—something we get a lot of in my part of the world.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |  20 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)

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You know those desks you see in magazines and on design sites—the immaculate ones with not a cable in sight? I don't have a desk like that, and my clients don't, either. We have laptops, whose power cables slither to the floor when we unplug them. My clients often have desks which don't face the wall, so the unsightly tangle or pile of cords that might otherwise be somewhat hidden down the back is instead in clear view. And since most desk designs ignore the cable issue, we're left to deal with it through various aftermarket products.

A number of those products are designed to ensure that cables not currently in use don't slip to the floor. The one above is the MOS—the Magnetic Organization System. The magnets in the MOS will hold most cables in place, but there are also magnetic cable ties for any cables which need some help.

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The MOS itself is held in place by a layer of non-sticky micro-suction padding. If you're designing (or using) a cable organizer, this might sound like the ideal way to affix your product to the desk—and in many cases, it is. Sewell even sells its AirStick tape, used in the MOS, as a separate product for other mounting uses. However, the MOS needs a clean, flat surface for that suction to work, and it won't work on something like unfinished wood, which is porous and doesn't allow the suction to form.

Also, think about the other materials you're using, not just the connection method. For example, the aluminum MOS looks fantastic—until it gets scratched up by metal connections at the end of a power cord. (The MOS also comes in plastic.)

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The Bluelounge Cable Drops each hold a single cable. These attach to the desk with an adhesive, which means the drops cannot be repositioned—end-users will need to carefully consider where they want to attach them. Although Bluelounge provides instructions for removing the adhesive, people might still be hesitant about using this on an expensive desk or an antique one. And one more design consideration: These come in a variety of colors, including white—darker colors might be a better choice for a finish which can absorb dirt.

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Sumo, also from Bluelounge, is described as a paperweight for your cables. Like the MOS, it uses micro-suction pads to stay in place and can be repositioned as needed. There are two grooves underneath to help keep the cables in place. This raises another design issue: How large of a cable should the device accommodate? Some people have said larger cables don't fit in the Sumo very well—but a product designed to accommodate larger cables might not grip smaller ones firmly enough.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |  13 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Previously: Part 1 - Hooks

Do you (or your interior design clients) want an easy way to hang up coats, scarves, bags, towels, aprons and more? Then hooks are the way to go. And rather than getting multiple single hooks, you may want a wall-mounted rack that provides those multiple hooks in a single product.

The Eames Hang-It-All is the most well-known wall-mounted coat rack, but numerous other designs are worth some attention. The Leaf hanger from Miniforms is made from laser cut sheet steel. Each hanger has three hexagons, and each of those is a different distance from the wall, making it easier to use all three at the same time.

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Some hooks are designed to flip down for use—so there's nothing rough for anyone to brush against when walking by. The Knox products from LoCa are a nice example of this style.

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Of course, you could go vertical as well as horizontal. Since the hooks are right on top of each other in this design, it may not work well for multiple long coats. But it could be just fine for a warm winter hat, a scarf and a coat—or various other combinations. To provide a lot of hooks in a small space, LoCa has an angled design with hooks on two sides.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |   6 Mar 2014  |  Comments (1)

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Hooks are one of my favorite organizing products—and my clients love them, too. It's just easier to throw a coat over a hook than it is to put it on a hanger—and easy is good, since it increases the chance that the coat (or whatever) isn't going to just get tossed on the floor. So hooks are worth considering for your own work spaces, as well as for end-users who may find them handy.

When I say "hook," you may think of classic hook designs, such as this double hook and robe hook—which are both perfectly good and useful, but there's no need to stop there. The opportunities for innovation within this basic form are nearly endless.

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For example, here's the Kangaroo hook, cast of aluminum, designed for Cascando by Robert Bronwasser, in collaboration with Sander Brouwer.

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Or consider this CNC router-cut wall hook from Grain, made from a block of ash.

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Some hooks are designed for easy installation, without the need for sheetrock anchors, etc. (More on installation issues later.) Unihook from Pat Kim installs with a single nail—but due to its clever design, which spreads the load downwards along the wall from that one nail, it can hold an amazing 10 kilograms of weight (about 22 pounds).

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |  27 Feb 2014  |  Comments (3)

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Previously: Part 1 - Blocks and Wall Racks

While knife blocks and wall racks work well for many kitchens, not everyone has the counter or wall space for these items—and people with pets or young children may not feel comfortable with some of those products. So how else can we solve the knife storage dilemma?

In my own kitchen, I store my knives in a drawer, using an in-drawer knife organizer—my cats get into almost everything, but they haven't learned to open drawers. Of course, people with small children will need to ensure those children can't reach (or open) the drawer.

The organizer above comes from Rev-A-Shelf; it's designed to be trimmed, as needed, to fit various drawer sizes and to accommodate the number of knives needing to be stored.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |  20 Feb 2014  |  Comments (4)

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When I work with clients to organize their kitchens, knife storage is one of the issues we tackle. Everyone has different needs and constraints—but fortunately, designers have given us numerous options to help meet those needs.

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The Toro Legno (Kitchen Bull) shown above is a fanciful item: a knife block with 10 slots, a book shelf and a cheese board. For those with the necessary countertop space, it could be a great way to keep multiple items close at hand—and that cheese board could perhaps serve as a cutting board, something most people are more likely to need quick access to. The Toro Legno is made from renewable plantation pine, which may appeal to end-users with ecological concerns.

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But let's back up a minute, and start with the basics. The slanted, slotted knife block, so commonly used, has numerous advantages: It can store a lot of knives, it makes them easy to grab, and it will usually fit under the upper cabinets. Such blocks also tend to be heavy enough, with a low enough center of gravity, that they are unlikely to fall over. One disadvantage is the slots may not match the knives the end-user has, unless the knives were bought from the same manufacturer. Looking at knife blocks from some top name brands, you'll see some variations. The 25-slot knife block from Wüsthof has rubberized feet to help keep it in position. The one from Henckels, on the right, uses horizontal rather than vertical slots for the steak knives, in order to allow the handles on all the company's cutlery to fit.

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You can take the same basic design and give it a very different look, as Wüsthof does with this knife block.

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  20 Feb 2014  |  Comments (1)

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No matter how modern, chic or technologically-forward you may be, everyone loves maps. Innate sense of navigation, likelihood of travel, and taste in worldly-looking decor have little to do with it—we just like to see space laid out, made more understandable, even as we stand still. Maybe it's a cultural value, the image of a globe carrying classy clout or educational nostalgia. Or maybe it's biological, an animal instinct to get the highest ground and the best available intel. (For more ascientific theorizing on the mind ask me how I feel about infographics. Or knolling.)

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Whatever the rationalization, the behind-the-scenes look at the bespoke globes of Bellerby & Co. triggered my own love of old maps. According to founder Peter Bellerby, desk globes are still in incredibly high demand, but until his arrival on the scene, only one other company was making them (or at least by hand) as well. Bellerby started out in 2008 by trying to make a globe for his father's birthday (hey, how hard could it be?) and wound up spending over a year (and every subsequent year) working out the kinks in the incredibly labor-intensive process. His accidental move into the odd niche was apparently well worth the effort—their fans now include Martin Scorsese and the Royal Geographic Society.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |   6 Feb 2014  |  Comments (2)

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Are you designing an office for someone who needs a good way to hang drawings or documents on the walls—for reference while working on a project, or just to keep frequently used papers readily accessible? Does you own office need that kind of product? Or are you designing products for those with this kind of need? Here are some of the many ways to use the walls effectively while accommodating various personal styles.

Bulletin/cork boards, and the pushpins to go with them

Bulletin boards have one downside—you wind up with tiny holes in the papers. But if that's not a concern, they can work quite well. Note that anyone with pets or small children will need to be careful about how the pushpins are stored.

Bulletin boards can be made interesting in a number of ways. For example, you might cover them with fabric, as Pulp does.


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Or you could use an unusual shape, as with this flower from Three by Three and this map from Luckies of London. But if you want to make the most use of limited space, you'll want to keep the shape somewhat close to a square or rectangle.

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Another option would be to put the cork board in a colorful frame, as Maine Cottage does.

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Posted by Michael DiTullo  |  17 Jan 2014  |  Comments (2)

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Michael DiTullo is the Chief Design Officer at Sound United, Polk's parent company.

There is an old story about Picasso that goes something like this: A young woman recognizes old Pablo on the street and exclaims "OMG! You're Picasso! Would you draw me?" He replies "but of course!" and quickly scribbles something on a piece of scrap paper. Offering the sketch to her he simply states "That will be $25,000 madam." Shocked, she responds "What?! It only took you 30 seconds!" To which Picasso explains, "On the contrary, it took my entire life to make that drawing."

That simple notion—to encompass everything we have learned in over 40 years of making great audio in a single product—is the concept behind the Hampden. Polk got its start in Baltimore by a small group engineering majors from Johns Hopkins who loved music so much they started making speakers by hand. Beautiful, wooden cabinet speakers. The brand spent decades perfecting the art of making great home audio for those who shared their love for music.

This project began like most projects in our studio: as a simple user insight. While people love music just as much as they did in 1972, they now enjoy it very differently. We wanted to create something that brought our sound to the desktop with USB and Bluetooth connectivity and built off of our recently launched Polk Heritage Collection of speakers and headphones. We stated with an open competition amongst our designers. Our studio is set up similar to an auto studio where multiple designers participate in the research, ideation and design phases of a program. As the concepts are winnowed down through the design phase, the creator of the winning design becomes the lead designer of the project. I prefer running things like this because it becomes a very democratic way to assign projects. Designers being naturally a touch competitive typically ensures a relatively even distribution of projects.

Polk-Hampden-Concepts.jpgSome of the initial concept directions

Polk-Hampden-Sketch.jpgCameron Nielsen's selected thumbnail sketch

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