31 August 2008

Good InSinkErator story

This is an InSinkErator Evolution. If It's possible for a garbage disposer to be sexy, this thing is and then some. It is the Cadillac of disposers and worth every penny. I specify them for a reason.

My good friend Tom bought a swank apartment in Chelsea last year. It's in a new, uber modern building and it's packed with the kinds of stuff I fantasize about putting into someone else's home. His place is gorgeous, all clean lines and European appliances.

Tom had a party on Sunday afternoon and after his guests left, he started cleaning up. He did the dishes and once the sink was empty, he flipped the switch for is glorious InSinkErator Evolution and it started growling and grinding very loudly. The Evolution is a nearly silent machine when it's running, so he knew something was down inside his disposer that shouldn't be down in his disposer. Consummate Manhattanite that he is, he resigned himself to calling a plumber the following morning and didn't think much more of it.

Tom has two friends I'll call Jim and Jerry. Jim and Jerry are getting on in years and Jerry is starting to show some unmistakable signs of dementia. This must be heartbreaking to watch, as he was once a brilliant captain of industry and in the last years of his life he's been reduced to a shadow of his former self.

Tom got a phone call Sunday evening from Jim, and he informed Tom that there was a "minor emergency." It seems that Jerry left the party earlier that afternoon without his lower denture and last remembered taking it out to rinse it in the kitchen sink. In an instant, Tom knew what had fallen into to his InSinkErator.

You have to excuse the rinsing out the dentures in the kitchen sink thing when you consider the source, but still...

I told the slick and smart Manhattanite Tom to get out a flashlight and to look into his disposer. He did, and with the help of a pair of kitchen tongs fished out what remained of a $4000 lower plate. In the process of this delicate surgery, Tom learned that "the flappy thing" in the bottom of his kitchen sink detached to make cleaning easier. So Jerry's out a denture and Tom didn't need to call a plumber on Monday after all.

So remember, if you have an InSinkErator, the "flappy things" pop on and off. Just so you sound like you know what you're talking about if it comes up, those "flappy things" are called baffles.

30 August 2008

Paris is burning

“Paris is done, Miami is done,” he said. “ St. Pete is wide open.”

That's is a quote from an actual Frenchman in last Sunday's New York Times. And he's talking about my St. Pete, not that other one on the Baltic either. The Frenchman in question is the Leon-born Raphael Perrier who, along with his wife, opened the fantastic coffee house Kahwa earlier this year. Kahwa is two blocks from me and is a site where I've written this very blog on more than one occasion.

Let's see, I've written this blog at Kahwa before; and last weekend, the New York Times mentioned Kahwa. I'm going to have this be yet one more example of that Newspaper's attempts to speak to me directly. I'm here guys! And yes I'll write for you. It's OK, just pick up the phone and call me already.

OK, now that that's out of my system, back to the article. The whole thing is a love letter to my beloved, adopted hometown. This is the second time in about a year-and-a-half that they've written a nice feature about this place. This is good!

29 August 2008

New product from Method

This is a new dishwashing detergent from the great folks at Method. Like every cleaning and grooming product these people make, Smarty is non-toxic. It's non-toxic, well-designed, cleverly advertised, priced appropriately and best of all, it works. Smarty is made without phosphates or chlorine, something new and lo-o-o-o-o-o-ng overdue in this product category.

The addition of phosphates to detergents has been going on for ages. Phosphates in your detergents are what feed the algae blooms that make the Bay murky and they turn the Gulf of Mexico green. Stop using phosphate-containing detergents and fertilizers already. The fertilizer thing is a topic for another day, but in the meantime, get thee to Target and pick up a tub 'o Smarty and give it a trial run.

28 August 2008

Smarter choices, closer to home

My quest for Kirei Board and other, sustainable products that I am committed to using in my projects has led me to another supplier of green products and this one's even closer to home. Eco-Smart is a Sarasota-based resource and supplier that's turning into a real find. I am increasingly impressed by their commitment to the guiding principles of sustainability and they beat a price quote on Kirei that I got from another supplier. I am impressed. Here's how they describe themselves on their website:
Eco-$mart, Inc. was founded in 1993, in Sarasota, Florida, inspired by the creation of the Florida House Learning Center, a green living demonstration project jointly developed by Sarasota County Cooperative Extension service and the nonprofit Florida House Institute for Sustainable Development (I4SD). Eco-$mart's mission is to bridge the gap between understanding and applying sustainable development principals.

Eco-$mart, Inc. provides a number of services to facilitate sustainable living. We act as a distribution source for "green" construction materials, and offer free consultations to home owners, building owners, architects, developers and contractors. The nonprofit I4SD provides guidance regarding selection of these sustainable construction systems.

Eco-$mart, Inc. assists contractors and developers to take advantage of the free public relations and marketing power provided by programs such as EPA ENERGY STAR, SunBuilt and Engineered for Life, as well as promoting those businesses on Eco-$mart's affiliated media resources such as Earthzone TV and the Environmental News Network.

Eco-$mart, Inc. has also created ways for individuals and organizations to get personally involved and benefit from helping to spread the word, through our Agent and Referring Partner programs, as well as our Green Investment opportunities.

Our goal at Eco-$mart, Inc. is to help people to live and work in buildings that are healthy, efficient and cost effective. We firmly believe that once people understand what choices are really available and the impact of those choices, they will likely choose to design a better future for themselves, and for the planet.

If you are in the market for building supplies or if you are considering building a new home, please take that short drive across the Skyway Bridge and talk to my new pals at Eco-Smart.

27 August 2008

Neat stuff from old stuff, capitulo dos

Here's some more stuff from the artist I profiled yesterday, Rodney Allen Trice. He has a really admirable philosophy behind the things he's doing and I think he deserves some attention and praise for it. Here's his website again.

From his website:

Ultimately, his work is about ordinary objects – and people, and places — that really aren’t so ordinary when you look at them the right way. His embrace-and-celebrate attitude is in part a reaction to his fear of ordinariness as a youth (“a fate worse than death”). Now he’s learned to celebrate it. “In the ‘fabulous, kiss, kiss, darling, love that dress ... Versace?’ world of art and design,” says Trice, “I hope my work emits a ‘get down off your high horse and sit a while’ feel.” From a focus on furniture and lighting, his work has recently expanded into hats and accessories, which are more about wearable hardware than anything else. His awareness of our need to conserve the Earth’s resources has grown significantly since this endeavor began about 12 years ago.

A ceiling fixture made from a toaster

Oil lamps made from light bulbs and some wire

A ceiling fixture made from a fan cage

A lamp made from a measuring cup and a kitchen timer

A ceiling fixture that was once a punch bowl.

And my favorite, a wall sconce made from a rat trap and some copper screen.

This seals it, all hail Rodney Allen Trice!

26 August 2008

Oh and by the way

Don't forget that it's election day today in Florida.

Neat stuff from old stuff

On Monday, the kids over at Apartment Therapy ran a quickie story about a New York based artist, lighting designer and furniture maker named Rodney Allen Trice. Trice owns and operates a studio called T.O.M.T. and T.O.M.T. devotes itself to finding new household uses for discarded household items. Here are some highlights:

A ceiling light made from paper cocktail umbrellas.

A chandelier made from glass punch cups and the copper tubing from an old refrigerator.

A ceiling fixture made from old kitchen canisters

A table made from crutches and steel wire

This is a riot! A cocktail cart made from a walker the artist dubs "The Johnny Walker."

End tables made from old luggage

This stuff's clever and attractive. It's a great combination. Check out the rest of his collection at his website here.

25 August 2008

Here we go again

My weekend idyll is supposed to take place directly above the "AM" in "8 AM Fri" on the National Hurricane Center's map. Argh. I'm flying in and out of Exuma which is underneath the "8." This is going to be an interesting week.

They bought it!

Last week, I wrote a shameless plug for Google's SketchUp here. I drew the bar above using SketchUp because it was too complicated for my "professional" software to handle. Well, call this a success story because I sailed through my presentation and they bought it. Woo-hoo. All hail SketchUp!

Oh, and the wall and bar supports are going to be made with Kirei board, which I plugged shamelessly a couple of weeks ago here. Life is good!

Kirei board is available through the sustainable building products supplier Indigo, in Gainesville.

24 August 2008

Sunday funnies

Sol y sombra

The San Francisco Department of the Environment recently went on line with something they're calling the San Francisco Solar Map. Find it here. It's a pretty neat idea. The idea behind the map is to begin to get a sense of the sheer number of photovoltaic solar installations that are scattered throughout the city. And what it does too is allow someone to go see where a rooftop installation is in his or her neighborhood and then go see firsthand how unobtrusive a rooftop solar installation can be.

If you look at the map from pretty far back, you can get a feel for just how many solar installations there are.

Here it is a little more zoomed in.

And here's my friend Jim's street --one of his neighbors has a rooftop installation.

San Francisco has set a goal of being host to 10,000 solar rooftop installations by the year 2010. That's pretty amazing, but when I consider the source, it's not really surprising. However, about the last place on the planet I think of when it comes to sunshine is the great City by the Bay. San Franciscans will never admit it, but coastal northern California has some of the most overcast skies I've ever experienced. I'm talking weeks spent behind a veil of clouds and fog so dense it makes me lose my will to live. Don't get me wrong. San Francisco's a gorgeous city and I'm eternally grateful that I can make my weather-related generalizations from first-hand experience. But still, San Francisco's not the place to go if you're on a quest for endless summer. Yet, somehow, they make solar work.

In today's St. Petersburg Times, there's an article about Florida's Public Service Commission and their lackluster attempts to meet Governor Charlie Crist's ambitious alternative energy goals. To paraphrase the PSC:
Florida energy companies are resisting a more ambitious renewable portfolio standard, arguing that it would drive up costs for customers because the state does not have good potential for wind or solar power.

More from the Times article:
Among the new draft provisions: Any new renewable energy projects must not exceed a 1 percent increase in cost to consumers. Renewable energy advocates accused the PSC staff of adopting a double standard, pointing out recent requests by utilities to increase consumer charges by more than 20 percent for construction of new nuclear plants.

I'm confused. Why is it OK to jack up my rates to pay for a new nuclear power plant (and jack them up in advance of its eventual construction) but solar and wind projects have a 1% rate increase cap?

I'm confused too by the assertion that Florida doesn't have good potential for wind or solar power. I can sort of see the wind thing. Florida seems to lack prevailing winds --the winds change directions too much for a turbine to work efficiently. But the solar thing mystifies me. I've heard it before, that Florida's doesn't have good solar potential. But I've never heard that assertion made with any kind of evidence to back it up. It's almost as if its a forgone conclusion that solar won't work here and it makes no sense to me. Anyone? Anyone? Why won't it work here?

23 August 2008

Saturday Funnies

This video is a hoot.

Stop Motion Spaghetti Cooking - Watch more free videos


This is the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. I can't think of another recent building that thrills me as much as this one does. I love New York and that museum seems to take everything I love about New York and compresses it into one glorious spot on West 53rd.

On the end of my desk sits this coffee cup. I bought it at MOMA a year-and-a-half ago. Before Starbucks invaded the Isle 'o Manhattan, every cup of coffee sold in the city came in a paper version off this cup. It amuses me.

MOMA has a great online store and they've added to it significantly for fall. They sell gorgeously-designed and reasonably priced objects that are either reproductions of works in their galleries, or pieces inspired by the museum's holdings. It's a way to bring a little New York into your life and for those of us out in the provinces, a piece will have to do. Check it out.

22 August 2008

Mid-century classic furniture meets prosthetic leg

I came across this on Apartment Therapy this week and I couldn't pass it up.

I love the work of Charles and Ray Eames as I've said before on many occasions. In 1956, the Eames' released their Eames Lounge and Ottoman through Herman Miller. Herman Miller still produces them now, but in 1956, the Eames/ Herman Miller combination hit pay dirt and released an instant classic. This chair is a design icon for obvious reasons. Designers go ape over it still and it remains as popular now as it was at the time of its unveiling.

An industrial designer named Joanna Hawley took her inspiration from the Eames Lounge and Ottoman and used that inspiration to design a prosthetic leg while she was a design student at Carnegie Mellon University. Hawley partnered up with Kayhan Haj-Ali-Ahmadi, a pre-med student. Kayhan's knowledge of anatomy and Joanna's design skills combined to terrific effect and the fruit of their partnership speaks for itself.
When I think of prosthetic limbs, If I think of prosthetic limbs, the idea that they should be beautiful never occurs to me. When it comes to medical devices, I always assume that function trumps form every time. Who says they can't work together? Clearly, not Joanna Hawley.

In her own words and from her website:

Prosthetics generally lack humanity, style and grace. Often, they look much like landing gear and make the wearer uncomfortable, self aware, and sometimes depressed. By channeling the Eames' use materials and iconic style, we designed a leg with Steve McQueen in mind. We sought to convey a creative use of positive and negative space, a balance of materials and a reflection of the wearer.

I corresponded with Joanna Hawley a bit the other day and I asked her why a prosthesis? Here's what she had to say:
Today's generation is faced with the Iraqi war, particularly the reality of soldiers coming back without limbs. Diabetes is also the leading cause of amputees in America, which is a little known fact. Finally, as an Industrial Designer, its my job (and passion!) to think of ways to improve people's lives. All these reasons simply rolled into one very intense and exciting project. I've always been a huge fan of Ray and Charles Eames (as you can probably tell by the rest of my work) and I wanted to give this prosthetic a very eye-catching aesthetic. I know veneering can be polarizing, but so far people seem really excited by the possibilities. And really, that's what the point of the project was, to identify the possibilities in the future of prosthetics.

Get this woman an award.

21 August 2008


Someone who goes by the name of Globalnomad left a comment here yesterday and he mentioned a rental house a little farther up the coast of Cat Island from where I stay. I followed the link to The Cat Island Boathouse. Wow. What a place! Check this out:

I think you have to have spent some time over there to realize how truly remarkable the kitchen in the Boathouse is. Getting your hands on those kinds of building supplies when you're on an island in the middle of the Atlantic is an undertaking I don't want to contemplate.

Here's a map of the entire island nation of The Bahamas. You can see pretty clearly how its location relates to Cuba and Florida.

This is a close up of Cat Island itself. Fernandez Bay Village is marked about three-quarters of the way down the west coast of the island. Pigeon Cay and Flamingo Point are a bit farther north on the same coast.

So thanks Globalnomad, you've given me a new place to go exploring next week. And in the meantime, go look at The Boathouse's website. If there's a heaven, it looks like Cat Island, trust me.

Espresso madness

Dwell's kitchen blog is running a review of the new Jura Capresso ENA espresso makers and that's all well and good. Jura Capresso makes countertop, automatic espresso machines if you've never heard of them. There was a time in my life when I would have lopped off an arm gladly in exchange for a Capresso of my very own. If you've never seen one, just go into a Williams-Sonoma or a Sur la Table and ask to see the most expensive coffeemaker they have. The Jura Capresso automatic machines retail for anywhere from $2300 to $3400 dollars. That's a lot of dough for a cuppa joe. It's a lot of money and the machines are anything but compact --they eat up a lot of space on a counter top.

The new ENA line is meant to be a remedy for the size and price barriers their regular lines present for a lot of people. So the ENA line is only 9-1/2" wide, and its prices range from $899 to $1199. That's still a lot of money for something that will hog up my counters.

An alternative I used to see in a much better light is the built-in espresso systems made by companies like Miele and Gaggenau. It would be easy to think that as built-in machines, they would cost more than the Capresso countertop models. Well they don't surprisingly enough. They average around $2500 for the machine itself and then you have to figure in the added expense of building the thing into a wall or a line of cabinetry.

Either of those options is a huge amount of money. Now, I specify the Miele built-in systems all the time and I would love to see a study of the habits of people who buy them. I have a feeling that those machines don't get used very often, certainly not often enough to justify their expense. I'll admit that my theory might come from my being cheap, but I'm not so sure.

Now I love espresso with a passion that frightens me sometimes. Just give it to me plain, no contaminants. I drink it in the morning in lieu of brewed coffee, and I can no sooner envision a life without espresso than I can a life without sunshine or oxygen. So what do I do? I love espresso, but I like the idea of not spending three grand on a coffeemaker just as much.

The answer comes in humble form of the Bialetti stovetop espresso pot. The Bialetti Moka was invented in 1933 by Italian industrial designer Alfonso Bialetti. The design of the thing is iconic to say the least. It still made the same way, works the same way and looks the same way that it did in 1933. I paid $25 for my Bialetti and I use it every day. And with that I throw down the gauntlet and challenge any of these countertop or built-in machines to a duel. My $25 machine makes the best espresso on the planet. Don't believe me? Bring your $3000 coffee maker over to my place and we'll have a brew off.

20 August 2008

Another shameless plug for SketchUp

I spent the better part of the morning designing a huge, open floor plan kitchen for a lovely couple from Dunedin. They want something interesting and contemporary, so I took their architect's renderings and shifted things around a bit as I am wont to do. Now, I want to show something interesting but in order to work in my industry, I'm compelled to use a truly inferior piece of software called 20/20. I've complained about 20/20 before, so I won't add to my list of public grievances. Not too much anyway.

My quest for an interesting kitchen started with an inspiration photograph. Here's my inspiration. I'm love the supports below this glass bar, and I really like the idea of sheathing a knee wall in bamboo veneer as has been done here.

Now a knee wall is usually a structural thing that adds support to an island or a peninsula. As a structural element, we usually hide them. But in this case, the designer drew attention to it, so much so that it's arguably the focal point of this peninsula. So for my interesting kitchen assignment, I want to take the idea of this exposed knee wall in a peninsula and apply it to an island. Two islands in this case. Easy right? Wrong.

I work with some very expensive professional software called 20/20. 20/20 bills itself as "the world's leading interior design software." You need to have a license to buy it and operate it is how exclusive a proposition this software is. You'd think that with all that exclusivity, I'd be able to render something resembling the back of this peninsula to show to my clients. So you'd think.

Here's the best 20/20 could do after about four hours.

20/20 can't draw a curve on something that's standing up, like my bar supports here. It can't apply a bamboo veneer texture to my wall or supports. I can't show the curved glass bar. Not only can it not do most of what I want it to do, my system crashed three times trying to get it as far as I have. PATHETIC. So now I get to tell a client during a presentation "Ignore those straight supports, let's pretend they're curved like in the picture I showed you. Now pay me $40,000."

That's clearly an unacceptable scenario. So my next option would be to hand draw the rendering above. However, that would take me the next two days to complete and I need to show my ideas to these people today.

So, I launched my FREE copy of Google's SketchUp and banged out this in about ten minutes. Now I ask you, how can software that cost three times as much as the laptop I run it on be trounced so soundly by software that's free for everybody? How does that happen?

19 August 2008

I'm famous!

The kids over at Apartment Therapy are running a little sumpin' sumpin' I wrote about Bahamian getaways. The story's complete with the studliest photo ever taken of me in all my 43 years. Thank you JD! Check it out here!

Let me quote myself:
Here are some shots of a slice of heaven I'll be returning to in a week.The Out Islands of the Bahamas are for the most part an undeveloped Eden about an hour's flight east of south Florida. My friends and I rent the same cottage every couple of months on Cat Island at a resort called Fernandez Bay Village. I use the term resort loosely....

There are no hot stone massages or organic meals. Rather, there is a 40-mile long, virtually uninhabited island. There are beaches with no foot prints on them, reefs that aren't charted, nights illuminated by the stars, and a blissful quiet that turns my overworked brain into jelly...

Nothing to do but kayak, dive, swim and read. Ahhhhhh. Having no telephone, no internet acess, no television and zero contact with the outside world for a couple of days is the ultimate tonic; even if it's bitter at first. Having all of that plus daily maid and turn-down service is almost too much to bear!

Keep calm and carry on

I was reading through Apartment Therapy's weekend postings this morning and I came across this kitchen:

Austin-base graphic designer Alyson Fox opened her home to the editors of Apartment Therapy and I for one, am glad of it. It's an interesting room but what really caught my eye was the poster hanging to the left of the cooktop. What a great directive for life in general and today in particular.

It turns out that Keep calm and carry on was a British propaganda poster commissioned in 1939 by the Ministry of Information in the lead up to war with Germany. A couple of souls at Barter Books in London found an original and proceeded to reproduce it and sell it on their website. It's a pretty cool thing all around. A vintage feel, a way to touch history and a firm yet kind directive for every day living. It's a killer combo.

So as we gear up for today's arrival of Fay, let's remember to Keep calm and carry on.

18 August 2008

Yes, yes, let's talk about the weather

Apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan.

All this talk about impending storms got me thinking about snow globes. Well not really, but it reminded me of these beauties I first came across on Apartment Therapy.

Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz are a Pennsylvania-based husband and wife team who gang up on the humble snow globe and drive a dagger into its heart. Precisely what art is supposed to do if you ask me. But check these things out. Who would think to take something so wholesome, so simple, so aw shucks American and turn it on its head? These things are brilliant. Beautiful to look at and painstakingly constructed.

Their art comes in two species; the globes themselves and then limited edition photographs of the globes. If you'd like to inquire about their art, you can contact the artists directly here. Or you can reach their representatives at the P.P.O.W. Gallery in Manhattan.

I'm going to start giving an award periodically: Kitchen and Residential Design Blog Award. Future generations will come to call it the KaRDB Award. I predict that in time, winning a KaRDBA will carry the kind of cachet that a Tony or Drama Desk award does today. So with that said, I hereby grant the first KaRDBA to Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz.