Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Bento Club

Molly-Ringwald---Breakfast-Club-Photograph-C10103186


What is a bento box? A bento box is a Japanese lunch box — well basically a lunch box. Bento boxes range from mass-produced disposable fast food boxes to high-end wood and lacquer boxes. You know, Molly Ringwald’s lunch box in “The Breakfast Club” — that was a bento.

Bento boxes are produced in such an amazing variety; some are plastic kids boxes some are metal thermos like jars. One such box is the Mr. Bento by Zojirush there is even a flicker group featuring only photos of Mr. Bento lunches.

There is a lot to like about bento lunches. It’s more than a meal. There is a real design element that goes into creating tasty lunches, which are also visually appealing. Check out bento boxes on flicker, you will be amazed at the sheer beauty of some of these lunches. So if you want to join The Bento Club pick one up there available everywhere online.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Small Space Fitness

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We all know how important it is to exercise. I never seem to get to the gym enough even though I can walk there in two minutes. The best way to ensure you workout frequently is to have the equipment in your home. How do you manage fitting workout equipment into your small space?

Dumbbells are a fundamental part of any strength-training program. They can be quite bulky — if you have ever been to the gym you know how large a set can be.

Powerblock has very efficiently solved the space issue when it comes to fitness. With one small adjustable set of dumbbells and the combination a folding bench-rack, you can have a full gym in your home. Dumbbells are so efficient that it is possible to get a full body workout in 20 minutes.

There are other brands of adjustable dumbbells on the market, but none have the cost to weight ratio of Powerblocks. With sets fully expandable to 130 Lbs each, it is possible to get a very heavy-duty workout.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Vintage Belt Floor Mat

ting_belt_mat


I love this Vintage Belt Floor Mat. It is a leather mat made by gluing vintage bets to a reconstituted leather backing. Knowing how much I love recycling and upcycling, this mat gets high marks from me. The mat's vintage leather belts have such rich natural tones, they make a wonderful warm addition to any home.

I also like the idea of trying this as a DIY project. I always see racks of vintage belts at thrift stores — I think I may attempt to make my own.

Multi-Function Furniture

sofaSQUARED-1


When you live in a small space every piece of furniture you own must be scrutinized. Each piece of furniture must prove its worth.
Does it fit your d├ęcor, is it too big and will is serve a purpose?

If you are able to find a piece that fits, looks great and can serve more than one function, then you have achieved furniture bliss.

MFINITY has just such a piece, the Sofa Squared. This is a true multi-functional furniture piece. The Sofa Squared is a sofa, daybed, storage chest and a full-sized bed all in one. This is not a small sofa at about 80 inches. But its size is more than made up for by the multi-function of this wonder.

The Sofa Squared is constructed from multi-ply birch veneered plywood and high density foam cushions. It is not inexpensive at $2,995, but all that multi-function comes a cost.

sofaSQUARED-2

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bug Labs

bug


CNET calls it “The Lego of Gadgets.” A very captivating idea, Bug Labs has created an interactive mini Linux-based PC. This micro PC, the BUGbase, is the center of it all. It is gadget-sized device with a variety of ports and buttons. There is also an assortment of snap on modules including a camera, a motion detector, LCD screen and a GPS receiver. All of these modules can be added to the BUGbase to create costume gadgets.

An example could be to use the base with the camera and motion detector and writhing a script that tells the device to snap a photo and email it to you whenever motion is detected.

The best part of the BUG is the DIY aspect. It is really just an assortment of raw electronics designed to interface with limitless opportunities for the owner. Currently the device is being offered for sale with the recommendation that you understand JAVA script. With new modules in development and the open source nature of the development, soon you will be able to buy one and download hundreds of applications.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Holyoke Cabin

hive 1


Paul Stankey, cofounder of hiveMODULAR has, with the help of his brother, begun the construction of a cabin. The Holyoke Cabin is situated on a 40-acre parcel originally purchased by his father and uncle and intended for hunting. Paul, his brother and their wives decided to build a weekend home on the property. The resulting structure is a fantastic example of recycling and green building. The two main anchors of the cabin’s structure are twenty-foot shipping containers. I have seen many examples of container structures, but there is something special about the good old-fashioned ingenuity and simplicity of this one. Constructed primarily by the two men, the resulting cabin is striking.

When the Holyoke Cabin is finished, it will have a 12v lighting system with a small array of solar cells and gas lighting for backup. They also intend to collect the rainwater to feed a cistern for a grey water system.

I will keep you posted as they update the project — I can’t wait to see how turns out.

hive 2

Thursday, January 24, 2008

DIY Concrete Kitchen Countertops

Counter 1


We love DIY. I find that I am often capable of doing things and making things I would normally think are beyond my ability. That’s the Joy of doing it yourself. You are often rewarded with accomplishment as well as the product of your effort.

I have mentioned that our kitchen is need of a remodel. If you have ever shopped for a kitchen, it is often that the countertops are the most expensive part. I have even looked at Ikea kitchens where the countertops they displayed were far more expensive than all the cabinets and appliances combined.

Today I was browsing Instructables, a really great DIY site, and I found this great tutorial on making your own concrete countertops. There are a multitude of sites that have info on concrete counters and many books available. It's great to see the result of one man's efforts and gives me hope that this is something I could possibly do. Check it out — it's a great and rewarding way to save money, and everyone loves a good project.

counter detail

More Small Space Pets

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Last week we talked about cats — this week it’s fish. I have always liked fish and have had several aquariums. For a time, I even had a mini reef tank with living corals and more life than you could imagine. Aquariums are not for everyone. Salt-water tanks — particular reef tanks — require a good bit of upkeep and a healthy dose of knowledge. They can however be a very rewarding hobby. I sat for countless hours staring into my reef tank each time noticing some new life I had previously missed — they are a joy.

Spacearium has some of the most incredible aquariums I have ever seen. They solve many problems by eliminating the need for a stand; the tanks are mounted into the ceiling. The mounting system is also used to pipe the water to and from the tank for remote filtering. Allowing the bulky filtering system that is usually mounted on or under the tank allows for a light airy feel to their tanks. The whole set-up is great. The price tag is not for the meek — prices start over $4,000.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Combination Appliances

LTM9000 c


In my small kitchen, counter space is a real limited commodity. My wife and I hope to completely overhaul the kitchen at some point, but there is a long list of other more pressing issues in this small, old house.

So currently the strategy is purchase high quality small appliances that can fill the need and free any space they can. The LG LTM9000 is one such appliance. It is a compact, well made, combination appliance. It combines a microwave and a toaster — two appliances most people use often — in one small package. LG has impressed me more and more recently; they have been producing some very high-tech electronics lately. If you find yourself wanting for more space in your kitchen or are tired of stowing the toaster in a cabinet the LG LTM9000 is for you.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Small Space Nomad

TXC 1


There is something romantic about the thought of a nomadic existence. Traveling around the world, seeing the sights and bringing home with you! We have all seen Airstreams and various other travel trailer options. This is something totally different. The TerraCross “Home on Wheels” manufactured buy UNICAT has it all.

These are some of the most remarkable living and traveling options I have seen. The exterior looks a bit like a European delivery truck or perhaps a military vehicle. But the inside is a marvel of small design; they remind me of high-end yachts. Not sure I exactly want to know what the price tag is.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Starbucks Gift Card Coasters

vday coaster


Ok, so in addition to being a super eco-friendly product, this post is pure shameless self-promotion. I want to be honest right up front and say that I make these coasters and sell them on Etsy.com. My wife and I sell several handcrafted items that we produce in our home. Crafting can be a fun and rewarding experience.

These coasters are made by cutting spent gift cards and arranging them in mosaic patterns. They are then laminated to cork creating quite functional coasters. You can now protect your furniture and the environment at the same time. Most gift cards are not recyclable so finding alternative uses for them prevents them from ending up in landfills.

Flawed Flock 200 craft

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tivoli Audio

combo


Music and talk radio are big parts of my life. I find myself listening to the radio and/or music far more frequently than watching TV. I even record late night radio shows so I may listen to them later, then again, that’s a post for another day. But what stereo is right for your small space?

There are several options, but today I’ll start with one of the more high-end ones. Tivoli Audio has a wealth of products designed to perfectly complement living in small spaces. These are far from budget options, but it is rare to find form and function so perfectly matched. I first noticed Tivoli Audio when they introduced the RadioCombo — a decent 3-piece system. You can add a Model Subwoofer and have a very complete audio system that is big on sound and elegantly designed. Also, you can easily attach your personal flavor of MP3 player.

Recently Tivoli Audio has released the newer Tivoli Audio Music System, which is a one-piece unit. More advanced than the earlier units, it is similar to the Bose Wave Radio. These newer units also have a newer price tag ranging form $999 to $1200. Not for everyone, but if size and style matter and you can afford them you will not be disappointed.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pacsafe Dailysafe Backpack


If you’re like me, you have stuff. Ok I’m unabashedly a gadget guy. I have it all — Laptop, iPod, GPS and so much more. I don’t often travel with it all, but sometimes I need stuff. So the problem when you travel: how do you bring all your stuff and not worry about who is doing what with it in the hotel room.

Pacsafe has solutions for all your travel needs. They make a complete line of travel friendly, slash proof, lockable and snatch proof bags. The dailysafe is one such bag. It is small enough to be easily carried and large enough to stash quite a bit gear. It is not possible to easily cut through the Xomesh panels that protect your stuff. It also has a snatch proof teather that allows you anchor the bag to objects in your hotel room like the bed frame or pluming fixtures. With such features, it nearly impossible to heist your valuables.

If you travel — or even if you live with unsavory roommates — it’s a great way to protect your investments.

Small Space Sleeping Solutions

not a futon

If your small space is one room like many urban efficiency apartments, then sleeping is a problem. It’s really an age-old problem. Several practical solutions are to leave your bed in plain view and work with it or your or best to integrate it into the design and flow of your space. Another solution is a Murphy Bed — really the best solution if money is no object. A third and the most reasonable solution is a piece of double duty furniture like a futon. The problem with many futons are just god-awful.

There are some great looking alternatives to the usural suspects. One such option is the apt City Sofa Bed. Notice they carefully avoid the word "futon"? Its not a futon is a sofa bed. It is a great option billed as a 24-hour piece of furniture — one of the best-looking futon, err, sofa bed I have seen. Not exactly cheap at nearly $1,600, but the value of purchasing quality cannot be overstated.

Check out apt; they have a great selection of modern furniture.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Small Space Pets

litter


So do you have a pet in your small space? I do. I want to first inoculate you against preconceptions by saying I’ve always thought of my self as a dog person. I had several average dogs as a younger person and one wonderful Doberman. As an adult I have tinkered with several small pets, think small aquariums and the like. I currently have a cat.

We picked her up one night while sitting on our front stoop, a beat-up, half-starved kitten. I could go on and on and tell you how Koneko is easily the best pet I have ever had, but that’s a post for another day.

Today I have a fare more grave issue to discuss. My dear friend is dead. No not my cat, her litter box. Sorry if that got you going, but this is dire. I have owned a Littermaid for over 2 years. I’m not sure if you are aware of this most amazing invention so I’ll tell you. It is an automated, low-maintenance and self-cleaning litter box. The LitterMaid is outstanding. It has a sensor that tracks your cat’s trips to the box and several minutes after each visit it rakes the box and deposits the waste in a plastic receptacle with optional charcoal filter. Mine has worked flawlessly, more or less, for over 2 years. There were a few snafus along the way, mostly my fault, I said low-maintenance not no-maintenance. There is a marginal amount of filling changing the receptacle and general tidying up require but the LitterMaid does the heavy lifting.

So breaking after 2 years is kind of a bummer but when I think how it has kept my house clean and most importantly odor free I’d buy it again in a heartbeat. In fact I think I will. There is a new updated model the LME9250 with even more features. It now has a more easily removable steel rake, a built in ionic air filter, and my favorite a timer to set a time when it will not clean like while I’m sleeping. It also looks generally better built; the mechanics look to be more concealed which will make for easier cleaning. One drawback is the size it’s just big but you can stash it somewhere out of sight like a closet and almost forget you have it. I said almost.

Oh and here are pictures of Koneko just to prove she is happy and healthy.


Wired Prefab Spread

loftcube


Rob Beschizza at WIRED has a nice article covering smaller modular dwellings. Some are newer designs with not much information available just yet, the rest have been around for a while now. I am constantly reminded by the high costs of these designs, although the Katrina Cottage is a reasonable entry at $35,000 for 308 square feet. Most are just insane. I am acutely aware of the design and technology involved in the production of these structuWired Prefab spread.res. But it just seems to me that most modular homes today are designed to be playgrounds for Architects; not affordable modern dwellings for the masses. There has to be some middle ground of great high-concept prefab structures that don’t cost double the dollars per square foot of conventional construction. Well I’ll keep looking, but for now enjoy the article but don’t faint when you see the prices.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Book Review: Small Urban Interiors

small urban interiors


A new book review is up for Small Urban Interiors: 500 Solutions for Living . Check it out on the Book Reviews page.

MacBook Air

air

Slim is in. And Apple’s new MacBook Air has the skinny. At a mere .76 inches and 3 pounds it is thinner than even the Eee PC. Apple's new object of lust the Air is yet another upping of the ante by Apple. With gadgetry lately is seems like everyone is playing catch-up with Apple. The iPod, iPhone, and now the MacBook Air, Apple is truly on its game.

The MacBook Air is a 13 inch 1.6 GHz or1.8 GHz slim laptop. It comes with 2 Gig ram, fairly impressive for a slim machine. The Air also has super fast built in 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 EDR. If you don’t get all the geek-speak I’ll sum it up: slim on size, but far from slim on power. The power of the multi-touch trackpad adds so much function to the standard touch pad. Borrowing innovation from the iPhone screen, with the ability to pinch, swipe and rotate by simply moving your fingers, it's genius.

There are some shortcomings. No optical drive, ok this is easy to overcome. The Air ships with software that lets you borrow drives from other computers with Wi-Fi. There are also USB optional drives available. Apple was the first major computer company to drop floppy drives, so this not so surprising. The biggest flaw I can see is the 5-hour battery. I know, 5 hours that’s great. But wait, it’s not removable so that’s it. I also hate that when the battery dies and you know it is off to the Apple Store with your Laptop. These relatively minor issues aside, the MacBook Air looks amazing. With Microsoft’s Vista faltering, the sky is the limit for Apple.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

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Jay Schafer of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company has been living in small spaces for some time. Since 1997 he’s has been dwelling in the tiny homes his company produces. The smallest structure current available on the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company site is the 70 square foot Biensi. These dwellings are true marvels of efficiency. They use propane for cooking and heating with solar options available for an even more off-grid experience. The Lusby model looks amazingly spacious for 120 square feet. The more I see truly efficient small spaces the more I realize how little is needed to live comfortably.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Asus Eee PC Now in Colors

Asu EeePC colors


If you are unfamiliar with the diminutive two-pound Eee PC it’s a miraculous little laptop. Packed into its small frame is a seven-inch 800x480 screen, a 900mz Intel mobile processor, 512 MB ram, and a 4 or 8 GB SSD hard drive. The operating system is a customized flavor of Linux, although hackers have already installed Windows XP. Asus intends to release a Microsoft OS version in the near future. The Eee PC is intended to be easy to use for children and individuals unfamiliar with PC’s. It has a streamlined tab-based interface with tabs for the internet, work, learn, play, and favorites.

The Eee PC is travel friendly and small enough to fit into many everyday bags. Although it lacks the power needed for heavy-duty processing of images and video, it would certainly make a great travel companion. As very viable option for a small space PC perfect for internet browsing and email, the Eee PC is a steal at $300 to $499.

Construction Junction

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Every Sunday I will attempt to post at least one entry focused on recycling.

This being the first one, I thought I’d start with a local favorite. Construction Junction is a local architectural salvage yard and so much more. There is a bit of everything at Construction Junction. It really doesn’t matter what you’re looking for; chances are you’ll find it there. They have every thing from used architectural elements to new building materials, and so much more. On any given day you could find everything from furniture, pianos, statues, and the list goes on.

Construction Junction is great for so many reasons, but I love the thought of buying items that have history. To add a period door to your home, for example, instead of buying a newly manufactured one is a cheaper and more rewarding experience.

Not just for the homeowner, there is truly something here for everyone. I suggest you check out you local version of Construction Junction soon. Not all such salvage yards are non-profit like Construction Junction, but they all allow us to reuse cast off items. That’s a good thing.

These salvage yards are located all over the country in big cities and small towns. If you have never been to one, look around and I’d bet there is one near you.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Book Review: Space: Japanese Design Solutions for Compact Living

space


A new book review is up for Space: Japanese Design Solutions for Compact Living check it out on the Book Reviews page.

$2,500 Mini Car The Tata Nano

Tata

At $2,500 the Tata Nano or “the peoples car” is set to become the new Volkswagen Beetle. Although smaller than the Beetle, technology has allowed for some innovations over the German version of “The Peoples Car”. This 4-door, 5 passenger mini car has a 2-cylinder 634cc rear-mounted engine. It is expected to get 50 MPG. Though I’m not sure we would actually see this vehicle stateside, I think Cadillac Escalades would roll right over it like a speed bump, it’s set for release in India.

I am already hearing about the environmental impact flooding the roads of India with a million of theses buggers a year, that’s the intended production number. I also can’t help but to think, how can we cast the first stone; at least they are flooding the streets with small cars.

Still it is quite a marvel that in today’s market that a company could sell a vehicle, all be it a small one, for $2,500. I am sure this car will enrich the lives of many.

Lounge TV

So ok you shelled out 4,500 dollars for your Eames Lounge Chair, now what? There is only so much you can do while sitting there and still look classic. How about watching the tube for a while -- well tubes being out, how about the LCD. HANNspree USA has come up with the beautiful Lounge 37" coincidence, I think not. Also available in 26" and 32" this HDTV capable flat screen wrapped in bent plywood and supported by polished aluminum legs is a perfect paring with any mid century modern furniture.

Small Space Travel

dwr airstream

I have always loved Airstream travel trailers. They are an American classic; they conjure up images of 1950’s family vacations. The sleek aluminum lines have always looked futuristic to me like some sort of torpedo on wheels roaming the highways.

Now just to make us lust after them even more, Airstream has teamed up with Design Within Reach to design a 16-foot tribute to modern design. Designer Chris Deam has put together a fantastic piece of classic Americana. It can all be yours for just under $50,000, but oh the places you could go.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

The World of Etsy

Etsy has been around for a couple of years but I’m still surprised buy how many people don’t know about it. Etsy is a site like EBay but it’s not an auction site. The sellers set the price and the best part is that nearly everything is handmade. There is a section for vintage items but the vast majority is handmade. One thing I have noticed is that most of the items are of exceptional quality and reasonably priced. I have found in my Etsy adventures that most sellers are honest craftsmen -- yes that’s right, people that actually care about the things they produce.

You could buy this whole room of handsome minimalist modern by Lunar Lounge Design furniture for less than a single piece from Design Within Reach.

The miniHome

MiniHouse


The miniHome is a unique little structure. It is somewhere between ultra hip prefab home and a doublewide. This diminutive dwelling really is an amazing feet of design and architecture. The miniHome integrates all the newest in sustainable home technology in one clean ready to live in structure. It has passive solar panels, solar panels, led lighting and composting toilets. All this and it is a travel trailer although not intended for continual travel placing and relocating it are quite simple tasks. All and all it is a well laid out and comfortable looking space for its mere 340 square feet. It has one of the most workable kitchens I have seen in similarly sized dwellings.

Designers Andy Thomson and Dan Hall and Northlander Industries are ramping up a production run to begin in the spring of 2008. So often we see stunning designs that are just that designs that never go into real production. Well the miniHouse is available now so if you are interested check it out.

miniHome

Check out the miniHome on HGTV.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Apartment Therapy Smallest, Coolest Apartment Contest

So Apartment Therapy is a great site. It is filled with all sorts of fantastic stuff. There are cool products; great ideals and photo tours of some pretty spiffy apartments. Once a year they have the Smallest, Coolest Apartment contest 2007 was the 3rd annual contest. It is an amazing collection of beautiful living spaces. So yes I know it was last year but I’m looking forward to this years entries and looking back one more time. If it’s new to you check it out.


Here is the link to the 2007 contest page.

This is a walk through video of one of my favorites “London Urchin's Jewelry Box”.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Book Review: Living Large in Small Spaces

Living Large in Small Spaces


A new book review is up for Living Large in Small Spaces check it out on the Book Reviews page.