Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Small Space Cooking: Brevill Ikon Panini Press


I love to cook. However I hate my kitchen. It’s just too small; we hope to rectify this problem soon by remodeling. In the interim, it is difficult adding new appliances that we do not have room to store.

I received my Brevill Ikon Panini Press for Christmas two years ago and I still love it. The Ikon is perfect for small kitchens its quite small at 15.5 x 12 x 6.5 inches. It is just the right size for cooking for two or one. It is heavy and well made. The outside is stainless steel and the cooking surface is cast aluminum with non-stick Teflon. The cooking is controlled with a variable temperature knob. There is a special “high sear” mode that crisps bread perfectly. Clean up is made easy by a removable drip tray, but the cooking plates are some times tricky to get clean as they are not removable.

The Ikon is perfect for grilling vegetables, chicken, fish and so much more. I can say I make an amazing Portobello on focaccia panini. The Ikon comes with a great recipe book and if you shoot over to the Williams Sonoma site or store you can get a great recipe for Peanut Butter Panini with Bananas and Honey.

If you have been thinking about getting a panini press, you can’t go wrong with the Ikon.

Small Space Laundry: LG Combo Washer Dryers


We all have dirty laundry. It’s how you get it clean that matters. I remember the days of going to a Laundromat. I remember them… I do not miss them. We have a washer and dryer that we have owned for ten years. I really have no complaints about the Kenmore units that I own. They are, however, ten years old and therefore not the most efficient options. They also live in the basement. It is my hope that we can purchase one combo unit and move it up from the basement.

LG makes several full sized washer dryer combo units. The LG units range from $1,300 to $1,900. With the space advantages aside, the LG units also have many other desirable features. These front-loading machines are generally well built and include high-end features like a stainless steel drum, a direct drive motor, steam wash and a ventless condensing drying system.

The machines also have a proprietary system called SenseClean that monitors fabric care as well as water and energy efficiency. The machines are also low decibel quite operating.

All the features and sensors make for highly energy water and space efficient machines. In fact, LG machines exceed Energy Star classifications by 39%.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Small Space Accommodations: The Pod Hotel


Traveling can be expensive. Paying a premium for spacious hotel rooms never made much sense to me. Most of the time when I’ve traveled it was to see some location other than the inside of a hotel room.

The Pod Hotel is changing the way we think about hotels in America. The Pod Hotel has been quite successful in Europe and now it’s catching on in the US. The first American Pod Hotel is located in Manhattan. It is not uncommon for a average New York hotel room to top $300 a night. The Pod Hotel has rooms as low as $89 with average prices around $180.

What’s the big deal with The Pod? The big deal is well small. If you stay in The Pod Hotel you will be staying in a room that is significantly smaller than major hotel chain’s rooms. The rooms are small, clean and well appointed. There are iPod docks and flat screen televisions. The smallest and least expensive rooms have shared bathrooms.

If you are traveling to New York this summer, check it out. If The Pod Hotel continues to be successful, there may be one coming to a city near you very soon.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Small Space Solar Solutions: Brunton Portable Solar Power


One of the origins of my small space living interest is backpacking. If you have ever gone backpacking you quickly realize the need to minimize everything. Everything you carry adds weight, weight that you have to carry.

With the prevalence of gadgets in our everyday lives, they have inedibility found their way into many hikers packs. It’s not unusual to see iPods, GPS, radios, cell phones and more in the backcountry. All that gadgetry requires quite a bit of juice — which brings us to power.

Brunton has been producing a line of solar backcountry products for some time now. The product line has been getting more and more refined. As these products become more refined, they also become more capable. Several products recently featured on bb Gadgets include the Brunton Solo 15 and the Brunton Solaris 52.

The Solaris 52 is the largest most powerful portable folding solar panel. The Solaris 52 is capable of charging most gadgets, including laptops. It is also capable of powering many devices like small televisions or an air compressor — quite an amazing feat for such a small device.

The Solo 15 is basically a portable battery. It can be charged from any of the Brunton solar panels or it can be charged from an AC power source. Once it is charged, the Solo 15 can be used to power and or charge other devices. It is not really a great choice for standard backpacking — at four pounds it is light for a high capacity battery, but I would not want to lug it.

These pieces together extend the long term off grid possibility for all sorts of off grid activities. They would be perfect for a small space off grid cabin. So whether you are trekking or just preparing for a post-apocalyptic world where just you and your iPod live Brunton has what you need to keep the juice flowing.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Small Space Japanese Dining Cube


I keep spotting this great Japanese dining set all over the web. I really wish I could read what they have to say about it, but alas I do not speak Japanese.

It is a beautifully crafted wood dining set comprised of two interlocking benches and a small table. The best part is that when not in use, the set closes up into a neat cube. The Japanese have long been dealing with limited space and subsequently they have some amazing solutions.

This set is just another in a long list of Japanese items perfect for smaller living. The set is listed at Dinos for $84,000 yen, which converts to about $820 dollars. Not cheap, but certainly not over the top either.

Inexpensive Flash Alternative: Light Scoop


If you have an expensive digital SLR then you know that that built in flash can make your pictures look terrible. There are conditions where a built in flash can be just what you need, but for the most part it tends to create unnatural skin tones and harsh shadows.

There are alternatives namely expensive external flash units. For example, you can expect to pay more than $250 for a fully equipped flashgun with a tilt and swivel head. There is no doubt that an external flash can do wonders for your picture taking skills.

Now there is an inexpensive alternative — Professor Kobre’s Light Scoop. The Light Scoop is an innovative angled mirror that slides into the hot shoe of your digital SLR. The Light Scoop bounces your camera’s built in flash off the ceiling so a more natural and less harsh light illuminates your subject. I’m actually impressed with how well it works.

There are very specific conditions required for the Light Scoop to function properly. The ceiling should be white or light colored. The surface you are bouncing off must also be fairly low — if the ceiling is to high, the light will dissipate too much to work well.

Below are two shots of a local band, Swagger Back at a local bar. The first photo, the top one, is with no flash; the second one uses the Light Scoop.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Small Space Living: 435-Square-Foot Apartment

Photo Credit Michael Weschler for The New York Time

A recent New York Times article “A Global Sweep On a Tiny Budget” by Elaine Louie showcases a fantastic Greenwich Village apartment.

The apartment, a 435 square foot studio, was transformed into a surprisingly spacious-feeling one-bedroom apartment. The project is an example of the remarkable possibilities in small space living. The entire remodel was accomplished with a $41,000 budget. Not inexpensive, but very reasonable for New York.

The apartment is able to achieve much in its relatively small space. The kitchen is open and nicely equipped. The living room appears more spacious than possible.

All in all it is another great example of living well in a smaller space.

Small Space Self-contained Kitchen


Italian kitchens have always been more sleek and stylish than their American counterparts. Many Italian kitchen components are more like furniture than our built in cabinets. It’s not unusual for Italian renters to take their kitchens with them when they move.

Dada, an Italian Kitchen manufacturer, produces the Tivali line by Dante Bonuccelli. It is a line of completely self-contained freestanding kitchens. The can be used as room dividers or backed against a wall. They are sleek modern kitchens, which can be concealed behind smooth sliding doors that fit neatly into pockets of the unit.

There are several variations of the design with color and equipment options. One even has illuminated glass shelves.

I’d love to be able to close some stylish sliding doors to conceal my current kitchen — then I’m not sure the dishes would ever get done.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Small Space Design Perfection: Oh! My Glass


So with the triumphant return of fair weather I am caught contemplating my summer rituals.

One such ritual is sitting on the patio after work as the sun goes down and enjoying a cold beverage. I have sworn off soda of all kind. I love juice, but it has a ton of sugar. I guess this year it will be iced espresso drinks, as I continue to use my Ascaso Dream. And there is always the old stand by San Pellegrino, the king of all mineral water.

I love to sip ice cold San Pellegrino. We buy cases of the pop-top bottles. One day while shopping I found the perfect San Pell drinking companion, the Oh My Glass by Propaganda.

The Oh My Glass is the perfect plastic drinking glass, just the right size. The kicker is the bottom has a built in bottle opener. So you just need the San Pell and with this glass and you are good to go.

Alternatively, you could drink any number of other pop-top beverages with the Oh My Glass, but that is another post.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Small Space Living Hits 100 Subscribers!

100 Subscribers!

Just some personal business — I noticed this morning while doing my ritualized Small Space Living maintenance that I had reached 100 RSS scribers. In this world of giant web sites and really big blogs it may seem like a small number, but it’s a big deal for me.

100 has been a goal of mine since. I added the RSS Chicklet to Small Space Living. If you don’t use RSS feeds, you should. It’s a nice way to have information you care about delivered to you. It’s likely your browser already has the ability to collect your subscriptions.

So if you have scribed, a great big thanks! If you have not, click the little orange button and help get me to 200.

Small Space Spring Cleaning: Dirt Devil AccuCharge


Well it is here— spring brings back blue days and fair. But I have a rendezvous with dirt.

Spring means spring cleaning and it’s that time again. We have been pretty on top of things around here so far this year, but some additional deep cleaning is always good. I’ve been looking at my old vacuum for some time now and I have come to the realization that it’s likely time to replace it.

If you are like me, then your vacuum always lives in a place — for me it’s a closet on the second floor. I hate lugging it up and down the stairs, but the first floor of our home gets the traffic and the dirt. I have been thinking of replacing or augmenting my vacuum with a light weight broom-vac or stick-vac.

Ironically, I received and email about the new Dirt Devil AccuCharge Sick Vac. It looks like a cool little vacuum. The AccuCharge Stick Vac has a fold away handle so its easy to store in a small space. It has a rotating brush that can be turned off for bare floors — its a sleek looking little vacuum.

By far the coolest feature — other than the low price of $59.99 retail — is the ENERGY STAR label. I’m not sure I have ever seen an ENERGY STAR rated vacuum. It works by using an intelligent charger that uses 70% less energy while charging twice as fast. Once the battery is full, the charger keeps the unit toped off so its always ready with a full charge.

I hope I’ll actually get to check one out soon; I’ll let you know when I do.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Small Space Kitchen Classic: Perfex Mills


What makes something a classic? Usually it is well constructed so it can stand the test of time. But just because something is well constructed does not make it a classic. We have an emotional connection to classic items. They possess some flair or style all their own.

Perfex mills are one such item. They are simple salt and pepper mills constructed of nickel-plated cast aluminum. The grinding blades are stainless steel so they can endure years of use. It’s easy to take every day objects like salt and pepper shakers for granted.
One need only pick up a Perfex mill to realize these are no ordinary shakers.

The Perfex mill is a classic object. These mills will likely out last their owners. I love them also because they are small objects perfect for smaller kitchens.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Small Space Spoon Clip


If your kitchen is as small as mine then you’ll appreciate this space saving device. I often find myself juggling utensils while cooking. I always seem to have a sauce covered spoon that I end up putting down in exactly the wrong place. I just don’t have the room when I have three of four pots or pans on the stove.

While shopping this weekend my wife picked up this item — the Tundeau Pot Clip Spoon Rest. She said it was perfect for our kitchen and Small Space Living. I hope she does not read this, but she was right.

The Pot Clip is an ingenious little device that clips on the edge of a pot and holds the business end of the spoon over the pot to nullify drips — so simple so perfect. Also, it is available in a wide assortment of colors.

If you have a small space kitchen this little clip is for you.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Small Space Driving: Mini Cooper Clubman


I need a new car. My Jeep still functions properly, but it is officially ten years old. I’m quite impressed with how well its held up but it’s time for something new.

I have been quite impressed with all the incentives lately as auto manufactures try to out do each other with interest rates and warranties. So I have been checking around for the best deal.

My wife and I love Minis and we are definitely in the market for a more fuel-efficient vehicle. We are also urban dwellers, so smaller is definitely better.

The Mini has much of what we are looking for except well its mini. We travel a good bit in the summer — especially to and from the cottage. Thus we need some cargo room. That’s where the Mini Cooper Clubman comes in.

The Mini Cooper Clubman is the 2008 version of the Mini Countryman, a sort of a mini Station Wagon. It is still petite at only nine inches longer the current Mini. But it also has some interesting features that make it a bit more realistic than the standard Mini.

The passenger side of the Clubman has an addition door that provides more direct access to the back seats. The back also opens — it has two smaller doors that hinge to the right and left rather than one large door. These rear doors also have offset hinges that allow you to fill the entire cargo area without worry of the doors sliming the opening. The rear seats fold down providing even more cargo area.

My favorite feature, however, is the gas mileage — 37 MPG is great. With prices starting at 20,000, the Mini Cooper Clubman is definitely a real contender for our next auto.

Small Space Caffeine: Ascaso Dream UPDATE


So I went out and purchased all the items I needed to be a professional home Barista. I headed out to Williams Sonoma. I was able to get a great steaming pitcher there, but that was about it. I did love the Apilco espresso cups they have, but I thought $76.oo for 4 was a bit steep.

Since I still needed a few other things, I headed to The Strip District — the commercial market area of the city where I should have gone to in the first place. I purchased very comparable espresso cups made by Schmidt in Brazil for way less than the Williams Sonoma cups — only a couple of dollars each. In the Strip I also found Pyrex shot glasses and a frothing thermometer.

I promptly returned home and started consuming espresso. The Dream makes quite a nice espresso. I was able to produce amazing crema, which surprised me in a home machine.

I made a mocha for my wife and I think she liked it. I’ll continue to update on the use of the Dream and let you know how it holds up.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Picnic Perfect


I love trunks of all kinds, especially large steamer trunks. There is something romantic and nostalgic about trunks. They remind me how even mundane things, like travel, use to be more elegant.

I also love picnics. So when I saw The Picnic Trunk by Pinel & Pinel, I of course fell in love with it. It is a rather large 37.4 inches high and it weighs a hefty 88lbs. It does have wheels to facilitate easier travel. The small space connection here is the amazing organization of the Picnic Trunk. It’s simply perfect utilization of space.

The Picnic Trunk comes fully equipped with everything you would need for a perfect picnic. I do mean everything: plates, silverware, ice bucket and even a truffle slicer. The trunk lid becomes a table and there are stylish folding chairs contained within.

This amazing trunk has it all and when your done it neatly stores all your picnic gear until you need it again. The only thing I can see that is missing would be someone to serve the food.

Small Space Digital Poster: RedPost


I’m sure you have a local coffee shop or grocery store that has a community bulletin board. You know, that magical place where everyone posts their multi-colored flyers and posters. Well RedPost is trying to change the way local advertising works.

RedPost sells the Sign Beta — a compact 19-inch LCD screen mounted in an aluminum frame with a full-blown computer on board. The Sign Beta can be mounted anywhere. You could mount it in your home and use it as a high tech digital photo frame. You could hang it in your business and use it as a digital bulletin board for digital advertising. This is the amazing part. You can update the Sign Beta from your PC with its WIFI connection. It can also be updated via an internet connection, again using WIFI, from a special web site.

Specialized software called Corktop allows you to manage your Sign Beta in several ways. Corktop allows you to manage what is displayed on your sign through a play list function much like iTunes. It also allows others to submit “flyers” to you online for your approval. You can offer your ad space free of charge or on a paid basis. Corktop manages the income, accepting payments and mailing you checks for revenue earned.

There is much to figure out here, but basically you buy the Sign Beta, set up your Corktop account and start selling or offering your sign space. I see this process helping local bands and family yard sales to go paperless.

It’s all very high-tech but these days what isn’t?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Small Space Kitchen Set: My Pro Kitchen


My kitchen is too small. I also have too much stuff. I need to divest myself of lots of unused kitchen items.

Recently I found My Pro Kitchen. My Pro Kitchen is a web site that sells the My Pro Kitchen Set. It is a set of 36 must have items for an instant well-equipped kitchen.

I find the idea intriguing — 36 pieces and the set really does include nearly everything you would need to cook a vast array of meals. I also like that the items are all from commercial restaurant suppliers. So you are getting good quality industrial pieces. Now don’t expect to see brand names in the set.

It’s a perfect starter kitchen set for anyone moving into his or her first apartment or home. The My Pro Kitchen Set is also a study in minimalism. If you could downsize your kitchen to 36 pieces, wouldn’t that be a great thing.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Small Space iPod and Gadget Charging Solution: The Sanctuary


So I like gadgets — cell phone, iPod, GPS, and more. In most homes there are at least two cell phones and often multiple ipods and a slue of other battery guzzling gadgets. So how do you manage all the chargers?

The sheer number of charger requiring gadgets in a standard home is mind blowing. Finally, BlueLounge has a solution. The Sanctuary is a sleek multiple unit charging station. Unlike other units, instead of just providing a power strip and cord organizer, The Sanctuary is the charger for up to twelve devices. So it’s bye bye to all those bulky AC adapters and chargers. I like that you could also now take a chargers that you use need frequently to another location, like work.

The Sanctuary is available in black or white and it’s a whole lot more stylish than the ball of cords it replaces. It would work well near your door or on a bedside table; there is enough room in the tray for your keys and wallet also.

Its about time someone came along and saved us from the dirty side of our gadget addiction and it looks like BlueLounge has done it.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Small Space Caffeine: Ascaso Dream Espresso Machine


I love coffee, specifically espresso. At one time I had a pretty serious habit, some days eight shots before noon. I have somewhat weaned myself off the juice. That is until now.

I just purchased an Ascaso Dream. I had the opportunity to purchase the machine at an obscenely low price. The machine retails for $850 – $700. I have found refurbish units on the web for $499. The unit I purchased was an open box, but when all was said and done I paid $160.49 — that’s a pretty good machine.

The machine is very highly rated on coffee geek — check out a review here. I have yet to fire it up; I just cleaned it and set it up. As soon as I am able, I’ll let you know what I think.

I am hopeful that more high quality caffeine will keep me bouncing around and writing more — we’ll see how it all works out.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Apartment Therapy Small Cool 2008


Way back in January I did a post on Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool 2007 contest. It is a marvelous event where owners and renters submit photos of their small apartments. There are prizes for the winners and tons of eye candy and free ideas for the rest of us.

The contest brings out the best of the beautiful small living spaces. Last year I spent untold hours scrolling through sideshows of some pretty incredible dwellings. The entire contest is just fabulous — there is no single place where you can see so many stunning small designs.

Well its that time again the 2008 contest is underway. This year the deadline for entry is April 14th. I am somewhat expecting that deadline to be extended, as there are not so many entries this year.

So far I love “Luca’s Surplus of Storage & Light”. It is truly a marvel of small space living. At just 400 square feet it certainly qualifies for small space, but the balance of light and perfect built-ins make it seem much larger. As amazing as it sounds, this tiny apartment has a walk-in-closet. I also love the built-in storage separating the living area from the bedroom. The wall of storage contains the apartments AV equipment, including a flat screen TV that can pivot to be viewed from either room.

I’m sure by the time Apartment stops accepting entries there will be some additional stunning spaces. I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Small Space Extreme Sports: Pen Spinning


Today I bring extreme sports to the small space dwelling masses. I know you crave having the space for an indoor basketball hoop or bowling lane of your own. Today I bring you a far cooler activity suitable for small space living.

Pen Spinning has not really caught on in the states as the competitive, don’t poke your eye out sport that it is. In Japan, however, it is huge. I am aware that not all, ok many, Japanese trends never catch on in the rest of the world, but I think pen spinning has merit.

Penz’Gear is now selling a two pack of specially balanced spinning pens complete with a DVD of tricks. If you are not familiar with pen spinning, you need to be. Do yourself a favor and watch the video at the bottom of this post.

The things these people can do with pens — yes pens — is just plain insane. Well I’d like to write more, but I need to practice. The next time you see me, I may well have ink all over my hands, but you’ll know why.