Currently viewing the category: "DESIGN"


We recently read an article in the NY Times about designer’s frustrations with a lack of appreciation for good design. Its a common complaint by architects and designers that the subjective value of their work is overlooked. The risk and reward of design comes from its personal nature – taking a piece of your soul, putting it out there for the world and hoping it moves people. Architecture is about a creating an experience or emotion through the built environment. If you are a designer and need a reminder about why you got into this field read the full article.

Sometimes you stumble on a space that surprises you. We are notoriously addicted to boutique hotels. They offer cutting edge and modern design that you might not want to live with everyday (like a shower in your bedroom) but are fun experiments for a few days. At the Acta Mimic we came for the location and the playful architecture. What will brings us back though is little sunken courtyard at the back of the building, squished between its neighbours.

After sleeping in (as one does in Spain) or returning to rest your feet after a day of hiking the city, guests make their way to the basement for espresso. The heart of this space is the outdoor courtyard, tucked below ground, acting like a giant light well for the adjacent buildings. Perched in a simple chair in this space you are surrounded by Barcelona and not the built city but the people of Barcelona. The hotel side of the courtyard is shielded from view by a large graphic screen, with a pop-art, cartoon image reminiscent of a Gorillaz video. The other three sides of the courtyard surround you with the heart of the city, its people. From one balcony, the sounds and flashing lights of spanish cartoons flicker, a cat winds its way in and around the balcony rails. Overtop the white noise of whirring fans and rustling laundry, snippets of conversation, laughter and maybe even a morning disagreement echo into the courtyard. Windows are opened or closed depending on the time of day. Laundry is shaken and hung to dry from any surface available.

The smooth, almost sterile, simplicity of the modern architecture perfectly juxtaposes the pixelated fineness of real life. If you’re lucky, and we were, its sunny and warm. The mass of the buildings shield out most of the city sounds, creating a calm, serene space to do nothing but soak in the sights, sounds and smells of living in Barcelona.

Architect EQUIP Xavier Claramunt.

Tagged with:


Our most recent search for a new purse (they never seem to last) took us to M0851. A friend (or few) had told us about the amazing bags at M0851 and for a special birthday we decided to spoil ourselves. The range of styles and colours is fantastic so you’ll run out of excuses to treat yourself before you run out of drool worthy presents! The biggest selling point for these bags is that unlike most things we buy these days they get better as they age. If you visit the store ask the sales clerk to show you their bag. We did and wanted to buy their TEN year old bag for full price. The leather is so rich and supple but age gives it a beautiful patina and softness.

You will love these bags so much you will protect it earnestly but if you do damage it – they can repair the leather or lining at their factory in Montreal. As somebody who hates waste and feels guilty throwing anything away, even if its broken, this is money well spent. Cheers to the 10, 20 or maybe even 30 year purse!

Tagged with:

Location: Spain – Laxe
Designer: Ensamble Studio
Completion: 2010

Sometimes you stumble on a piece of architecture that has a beautiful simplicity. The truffle house by Ensamble Studio is one of these. It has an organic feel that is perfectly at home in it’s surroundings. Using topsoil from the site combined with concrete the exterior ‘stone’ walls were mounded atop a pile of hay. A calf named Paulina was brought in to eat her way through the interior mass of hay and unveil the interior space. The building’s skin emulates mineral formations creating the illusion of a runaway boulder whose cave like hollow makes way for a rustic and simple abode. We love the whimsy of the singular highly stylized window.

To this hobbyist it looks like the perfect place to escape the city. Just cozy up and grab a book to read by the fire.

For us Mini Hobbyists, there is nothing greater than a room full of pillows. Combine our free imagination with the ability to bounce and fall without pain and there are endless possibilities. Some of our favourite days are spent on the couch building pillow forts. Now, imagine bringing those traditional forts into the modern era with these additions.

D-light Huggable

Powered by four AA batteries and lasting for four hours, these pillows could provide a spooky aura when older kids are telling ghost stories or a warm light for younger hobbyists who are not fond of the dark. Imagine having your sleepover highlighted with an ambient glow for midnight snacks. The pillows also provide an interesting talking point when Mum and Dad’s friends come over for dinner.

Fruit iPod Speakers

On top of ambient lighting, of course, any modern pillow fort needs music! Now imagine that music is being pumped through pillows shaped like your favourite fruit. Soothing sounds for those sleepy moments or something a bit more up tempo for those day time forts! Really get the party going. Us Mini Hobbyists love to pump some Vampire Weekend through these pillows.

While last weekend was certainly one during which Laurenthehobbyist needed to be here in Austin, being the architect amongst the hobbyist family, you couldn’t miss the opportunity to see what people have done with amazing design-build projects around the gorgeous hills surrounding this lovely city. And so I set off, to take in as much of the Modern Home Tour Austin as I could…Without promising that my eyes picked up on all of the cantilevered details of the projects that I saw over the Modern Home Tour, the overall aesthetics of working with this paysage and the light that we experience daily in Austin definitely come through – not to mention the sheer pleasure of learning what people select for their art collections and getting a glimpse of they choose to live amongst these works.

The Modern Home Tour Austin is a remarkable feat when you think of the leap of faith that people take in opening up their doors simply for the sake of giving us a glimpse of what they have worked so hard to put together – but, which is, nonetheless, their home. Being someone who loves to host people yet, who is not incongruously someone who is nonetheless relatively private, and in particular, one who holds close her “preciouses” – those paintings, sculpture and books that have been painstakingly hoarded from around the world – I know this to be true: it would take a truly charming team to convince me to open my doors. Which is what I am sure the MHT ATX team must have in spades because these homes are truly stunning and something their owners must relish. To truly appreciate them, I didn’t do the whole list – but rather chose to do a few homes to do well and really get to know them.

First home up: 701 West Elizabeth

This house was such an interesting example of a way to build out privacy and light in a relatively close-knit neighbourhood. It also proved how it was possible to design a beautiful place to showcase art without much square footage – but by doing it right, with the right wallspace and light exposure, and of course proper lines from the critical points in the house.

Next up: 1119 Redbud Trail

What couldn’t you do with this house? Jay Hargrave designed and built this house from its initial bones of 900 sq feet and an existing pool. Built into the hills west of central Austin, this house is truly breathtaking. One of those structures where, even aside from its gorgeous location and Austin’s own spectacular lighting at the right times, the possibilities are endless…

As an example, what couldn’t you do from an office like this…? Exactly.

The infinity pool (shown in the first picture above) has been built in to really take the centre stage of the property on first glance – but on closer inspection, each room has been built and designed to truly speak for itself. The bones of the original 900 sq ft house still form a key part of the heart of the house – but it’s been built out to allow the couple who live here to really expand their lives within it.

Last home of the day: 4502 Balcones Drive

The front living room / library that you see jutting out from the photo below was a truly stunning room, situated to look out over the beautifully oaked, hilly countryside in front, while also providing the perfect canvas for a stunning metal bookshelf and some striking art set against well designed furniture pieces.

The architect of the Balcones Drive house, Elizabeth Alford, deserves all of the respect that she has received for this house. HerĀ Balcones house was featured on the 2011 AIA Austin Homes Tour and featured in Tribeza Magazine in October. Elizabeth is a principal in Pollen Architecture & Design with her husband, Michael Young, and partner, Dason Whitsett. Their 12th Street Studios’ project received the AIA Austin Honor Award in 2009, and the UT Austin 2007 Student Architecture Award. The project was published in Architectural Record Magazine in July 2007 and Detail Magazine in 2010.

This house was stunning, with such a beautiful integration of all of the elements around it. A large portion of the one side of the house was built out to use the outdoor space – the outdoor fireplace and yard – with the glass windows structured to slide back to enjoy the fresh air and open up the living space. One of the things that you can love most about a climate like this is precisely that: being able to enjoy your house with a full fresh flow of air in February while looking out onto your garden. Complimented only perhaps by the smell of the bbq in the early evening.

Tagged with:


When we saw this bike shelf for the first time we couldn’t help but appreciate the designer Chris Brigham’s inspiration. Any avid cyclist, the one’s who really like their bike and spend a lot of money on it, knows secure storage is an issue. They hate letting their bike out of their site. For urban cyclist, shared storage doesn’t quite cut it which means your bike ends up in the hallway, dining room, balcony. Not usually a storage solution your roommate(s) or significant other appreciates as much as you do. This combo bike rack and shelf is perfect for the bike commuter. A place to hang your bike and put down your keys and helmet at the same time. This attractive shelf could also double as makeshift rack for quick repairs. For those of us with really cool looking (and clean) bikes it can take your eyesore in the living room to a funky piece of art on the wall.


This video has been floating around for a while and we’ve seen it numerous times. It never ceases to make this hobbyist smile. We always picture an intern architect slaving away for hours on this video and yet dream of making one ourselves. Special thanks to Swiss designers Herzog and de Meuron and their team for designing 56 Leonard Street and giving us this week’s ‘video fun’. This playful 56-storey tower in New York sits on the corner of Leonard Street and Church Street in Tribeca. A fantastically well integrated sculpture by Anish Kapoor sit at the corner of the building at street level.


The Alegna line of sinks and tubs is exactly what this column is about – over the top design objects you want and great hobbyist finds you really shouldn’t live without. Alegna is the former. Nobody needs an Alegna sink or tub, the ones we have at home work just fine. But wouldn’t a bath be better in one of these gorgeous wooden tubs?

We are huge fans of natural materials and we drool over meticulous craftsmanship. The Alegna tubs and sinks are both of these things. Using techniques perfected over time in yacht building, wood is manipulated into smooth organic shapes that echo the hull of a boat. The seamless joints form a monolithic surface. The natural grain of the wood is used like a paint brush for careful pattern making. We are particularly infatuated with the Laguna Pure tub and sink, the meticulous graining swirls water down the drain – and all your troubles with it.


We love Charles and Ray Eames and apparently so does Ice Cube – so much so that he made this great video for the Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980 exhibit organized by the Getty Institute. Not many people know that Ice Cube trained in architectural drafting – watch his tour of LA and the Eames Case Study House circa 1949 (a personal faveorite). Enjoy…

For a little more info on this project check out this great article in the NY Times or via Pacific Standard Time.

Tagged with:



We have been in love with this chair for a very long time. We were very very close to buying a couple of the original vinyl versions for the patio this summer but the $400+ price tag made them a tough sell for a seasonal piece. With the introduction of the Leather Acapulco Chair version they have removed any reason not to invest this chair. We think this is the perfect chair for the home office or as additional seating in the living room. This timeless design of this 1950′s chair was inspired by a Mayan weaving technique and named after the famous pacific coast resort town. Its construction of powder coated iron frame and flexible leather make it durable while preserving its light, airy elegance. We love the contrast of the geometric frame and the soft, cozy woven seat. We have started saving for one (or two) of these chairs – for us it was love a first sight!