PopUp Hotel Rooms Inspire Cabin Thinking

Last October, 22 temporary hotel rooms popped up around Mannheim, Germany, as part of the Hotel Shabby Shabby event for the city’s Theater der Welt festival. Designers were invited to build temporary cabins in unexpected locations using found or recylable materials, for a strict 250 pounds (less than $400) budget. It yielded a many ideas for building…

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Dive into A Flower for the Meaning of Life (Pollan)

After we found this intimate image of blossoms by Maria Robledo, we came across this extraordinary passage from Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World. He describes what we are seeing when we look deep into the blossom of a flower. It has deepened our view mightily of even the most ordinary…

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The Wonder of Room-Size Shadow Boxes

Our friend Susan Dworski recently email us a link to artist Anila Quayyum Agha‘s room-size shadow box with this note:  Sally – this is pretty fabulous. So simple a concept, so detailed the craft, so profoundly spiritual the effect. And she is right. ‘Intersections’ is large-scale shadow box composed of Moorish patterns suspended in the middle of…

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Real “Jell-O” in Endless Flavors

It was a revelation when I tried making a homemade “Jell-O”: it had a beautiful color, with a flavor that was intense, vivid and REAL. It was so simple to make I wondered why there was instant; it’s little more than fruit juice jelled with unflavored gelatin, has very little sugar and no additives or colorings. I’ve found it has as much appeal to adults as to children; I serve it for dessert at dinner parties. Here’s the basic formula and three favorite iterations.

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Birthday Wishes for a Beloved Improvised Life Contributor

Today is photographer Maria Robledo’s birthday. We have been secretly celebrating her birth all day, counting our blessings that we got to know her and enjoy all the beauty she finds and sends so generously our way, like the wondrous riff of instragrams we published a few days ago.  In her honor, we send her this fabulous, little virtual…

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Max Lamb: 40 Inspired Chairs + His Philosophy of Making

 (Video link here.)  “Exercises in Seating” at the Salone del Mobile furniture fair in Milan, is an exhibit of 40 chairs British designer Max Lamb has made over the past 10 years,  from elemental thrones in stone to boxy wooden chairs and and geometric stools cast in sand. It inspires serious chair lust and illumination into…

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Meditation in A Surprising Modernist Ozarks Chapel

For many years, we made a study of sanctuaries of various kinds — from the icon-rich imagery of a Franciscan Church to Buddhist monasteries. Ultimately we found that being in Nature was the best way to center ourselves, clear our head, connect with something bigger. But we had never experienced a chapel like ThornCrown, designed by a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright, in the deep Ozark woods…the unlikely brainchild of a retired, rarely-churchgoing alcoholic schoolteacher.

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DIY Beautifully Chalky Limewashed Walls

When friends renovated their NYC brownstone, they made wonderfully varied walls — high-gloss painted walls next to beautiful flat, chalky ones achieved by careful plastering — that made the rooms incredibly beautiful.

I copied their high-gloss walls in my Harlem space, but wondered how I could achieve the chalky effect of plaster myself. The answer recently presented itself in a great DIY by Justine Hand for Remodelista.

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Storage Solution: Puzzle Box Thinking

When enlisted to design a compact tea shop in a limited  footprint, Brazilian architect Alan Chu created a giant puzzle box whose color blocks unfold to reveal its wares. Seeing it unfold gives us lots of ideas for maximizing our own storage spaces, and making them visually appealing. With each panel that is opened, the…

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