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Modern Mistletoe by Kiel Mead

Along with his studio, Kiel Mead, a Brooklyn-based designer and the founder of the American Design Club, has created what he's calling "the best ornament of the holiday season—the only ornament that can guarantee you a kiss!" Like his many of his jewelry pieces, the ornament is cast in bronze from a real-life object—in this case, a specimen of a live mistletoe and a few choice leaves. "We do our best to hide the artist's hand and let the final form be as unadulterated as possible," says Mead. Here's a glimpse at the design process and the final product.
December 15, 2011
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Designed by Commune

I've had my eye on Commune's work for a while now, having first encountered their unique, quirky, modern aesthetic sensibility at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs, California, which they designed in 2009. The Los Angeles-based design collective, founded in 2004 by Roman Alonso, Steven Johanknecht, Pam Shamshiri, and Ramin Shamshiri, has branched well beyond interiors in recent years, designing commercial spaces, brand identities, and products—including the eight I've highlighted in the accompanying slideshow. If you're in L.A. you can scope them in person at Commune's West Hollywood concept shop, Community, open by appointment. Or you can order from their online shop here.
November 29, 2011
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Building a Prefab House

A highlight of reporting "A Simple Plan," my story about the Marmol Radziner-designed prefab in Ukiah, California (in our December/January 2012 issue, and online here) was sitting down with the residents and hearing about how the house came together on the site. Residents Abbie and Bill Burton worked with Marmol Radziner to design a two-bedroom, 2,200-square-foot house (with an additional 1,400 square feet of covered decks) for their rural site in Mendocino County. The house, made of ten prefabricated steel modules, took three months to build in the firm's factory—and just a single day to assemble on the site. The Burtons shared their snapshots of the on-site construction process, which they witnessed from lawn chairs on a neighboring hill. "It was instantaneous," said Bill. "We went from having just a foundation on our site to walking around our house a few hours later. You never see architecture come together like that." Here's a glimpse at the wonder of prefab.
November 24, 2011
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A Zero-Energy Community: Part 5

Project Manager Brad Liljequist chronicles the building of the zHome, a ten-unit townhome in Issaquah, Washington—the first multifamily zero-energy community in the United States. Part 5: How do ground source heat pumps and solar panels work?   Two of our most central technologies in achieving zero net energy are our ground source heat pump system (for heating and hot water), and our solar panels (which generate electricity). The two account for about 60% of getting to zero net energy, so obviously they play a key role.  Ground source heat pumps are a well-known technology, but are generally not mainstream, especially here in the Pacific Northwest. The system combines three highly efficient processes which together result in a system which over three times more efficient than a typical forced air furnace. The slides give a good narrative to how the system works, but if you’d like more details, check out the ground source system sign from the zHome education signage—it is the second sign in sign package one. Solar energy, surprisingly, works quite well in the Northwest—solar panels here put out about 70% of the solar energy of a panel in Sacramento. Solar energy quietly is becoming more and more cost effective, with prices coming down and efficiency going up. Currently solar panels convert about 15-20% of the solar energy hitting them to energy—quite efficient when you consider that photosynthesis is only a half a percent efficient! Also, solar panels are quite durable—many panels from the 1970’s are still functioning well.  There is little to go wrong in them. Given how little maintenance they require (simple occasional  cleaning) there is a huge amount going for them.  
November 16, 2011
Some of the "Stage 2" pieces on display at Matter's booth at Qubique.

Max Lipsey's Acciaio Series

Of the many reasons I wish I could have checked out Qubique, the new furniture fair that debuted at Berlin's decommissioned Tempelhof airport last month (and which Sally McGrane reported on through a slideshow here), one of them is this exhibition of young designer Max Lipsey's work, presented by the New York design shop Matter.
November 7, 2011
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Highlights of Dwell Design Lab

This past weekend I attended Dwell's first annual Design Lab, which took over a raw penthouse space in the new Millenium Tower in San Francisco's SOMA district and spotlighted 13 local designers. (My colleague Diana Budds offers a good overview of the event here.) After a festive, Kim Crawford Wine-fueled Friday night reception, I spent Saturday afternoon wandering through the show, chatting with the designers about their work and their display spaces. Here are a few of the highlights I spotted... 
October 31, 2011
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Hôtel Americano, New York City

Carlos Couturier and Moises Micha have ten hotels in Mexico under their brand Grupo Habita, but now they’ve stepped out of their comfort zone to build a hotel in New York City. What makes Hôtel Americano unique from prior projects? There is not much color and no art, a far cry from their previous hotels, known for their contemporary art pieces. For the hoteliers, neutrality meant no distractions and no competition with the bounty of art already in the area. Hotel Americano pushes boundaries, working with small spaces and making special features like the rooftop pool and restaurant functioning in the cold of winter as it does in summer days. "It's not about trendiness," Couturier explains. "Everything is about the architecture, the interior design..."  
October 31, 2011
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A Zero-Energy Community: Part 4

Project Manager Brad Liljequist chronicles the building of the zHome, a ten-unit townhome in Issaquah, Washington—the first multifamily zero-energy community in the United States. Part 4: A new approach to stormwater management. Water and salmon are iconic in the maritime Northwest. The Puget Sound basin has for decades been a hub of innovation in stormwater management, with a goal of protecting these icons. Recently, a movement has been afoot to change how stormwater is managed. In past years, stormwater for new development was typically collected in large vaults or ponds and then released at a set rate into local streams and lakes. While this strategy has had success in reducing impact to local water bodies, it requires large infrastructure, and also is not always effective in limiting runoff impacts. zHome embodies a new stormwater management strategy called "low impact development," which takes a more site-driven approach, where water is detained and returned to the ground right on site. Our stormwater benchmark requires that the same amount of rainfall be reintroduced to the ground as fell there in the site’s original forested state. We employed a number of strategies to achieve this.  zHome also has been "Salmon-Safe certified," the first residential project in Washington State to achieve this standard. Salmon-Safe’s mission is to "transform land management practices so Pacific salmon can thrive in West Coast watersheds." This independent certification ensures that zHome’s stormwater and landscape management systems are ecologically sound and safe to aquatic resources. Click through the slideshow to learn more about zHome's strategy, and click here to watch a video about the cachement system.
October 26, 2011
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Recycled Paper Lights

I recently came across the work of Pia Wüstenberg, a German-born designer whose recent obsession is transforming piles of waste paper (posters, magazines) into striking pendant lights and tables. First she rolls them around a tube, laminating each sheet on top of the other with a glue-based mixture. Then she uses a woodworking lathe and carving tools to shape the piece, much as a woodworker creates a turned bowl.   For further insight into her working process, check out this video:   Processed Paper from pia wustenberg on Vimeo.
October 20, 2011
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