Monthly Archives: June 2009

Pennies For Your Thoughts – Aaron Bros Frames

Signature Collection from Aaron Brothers

Signature Collection from Aaron Brothers

The Penny Sale returned to Aaron Brothers last week, making it the perfect time to address the issue of art for your home and/or corporate office. I will be posting some specific ideas about custom, cheap artwork for your space in the near future, but for now, I wanted to get you the news about the sale since the company does not publish end dates.

Imagine a wall with a grid of frames, perhaps a total of nine perfectly aligned with pictures of your family vacations, amateur still shots, or news clippings of your work. Simple enough, right? Now imagine the price. Expensive! You can practically save half the cost for a project such as this with the Aaron Bros’ sale. I really like the Signature Collection that runs approximately $20 for an 11″x14″ format. Make a statement with a large scale concept or streamline the intent with a pair of complementary images that can be positioned only a couple of inches from each other.

While attempting to frame some memories, just keep in mind to have a solid theme so that the images look more like art than random snapshots at the last big party. I already have several ideas for you that will make for a few upcoming posts. Hung artwork is a quick and easy way to add some life to a usual sterile office. Take a leap and let me know what you decided to frame. Afterall, with a sale like this, we have pennies for your thoughts.

Check with your local Aaron Brothers for sale details. www.aaronbrothers.com

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Smokestack Boom Box

LaCie USB Speakers designed by Neil Poulton

LaCie USB Speakers designed by Neil Poulton

If you have a need for computer speakers, do your due diligence and research your options. You’ll be amazed by the vast selection of some really cool products out there. You may have to search hard, but you may find something better than what I select here. Again, I’m insisting that you check out LaCie’s selective inventory of design-conscious hardware like these USB speakers from the brilliant creative mind of Neil Poulton. I really like the nautical smokestack influence with its nice retro modern flair.

The cables are hidden below the speakers to keep things tidy. Connect to the computer for plug and play, no need for batteries or AC adapter. Use these to play some soft playing BGM (background music) during the day or celebrate an exhausting deadline by cranking up the sound to some Kool and The Gang. I’m sure you’ll get plenty of worth from these great companion unit for your computer..

As for the creator, Neil Poulton is a Scottish-born product designer living in Paris. He has several items available through LaCie, as well as award-winning products for Sony and Apple.  For more info about Poulton, visit his very simple web site at http://www.neilpoulton.com/

The USB Speakers are reasonably priced at $29.99 and can be ordered directly from LaCie at http://www.lacie.com/us/products/product.htm?pid=11112

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Green and Blue, Polished – Parsons desk

Parsons desk from West Elm

Parsons desk from West Elm

You might think that you’re limited to standard colors when choosing your home office desk. I know I did. My desk is a traditional black beast that I purchased during my post-college stint at Restoration Hardware when I had my first big boy apartment and zero furniture. Black, maple, oak, and pine were my limited options. Little did I know that you could take the piece to a refurbisher or painter and have it sprayed for about $90. In my opinion, the extra cost is great for something unique in your private space. Imagine the possibilities – a high-gloss candy apple red, a matte battleship gray, or a caramel brown.

If the task of coordinating the paint job seems too complicated, then try these great simple, streamlined wood desks from West Elm. The Parsons desk is available in polished white, polised black, chocolate, and my favorite, polished wheatgrass. I especially like that the gloss appearance makes for a very contemporary look and accentuates a space with a tailored finish. Equipped with two pencil drawers, use one for clutter, the other for your bluetooth keyboard.

Parsons desk in polished wheatgrass

Parsons desk in polished wheatgrass

The wheatgrass green color might seem a bit bold and risky, but pair it with light blue accents to stabilize its richness. Something about the color combination is very soothing to the eye and a great contemporary offering for a rather simple space, such as a home office. For those of you in apartment living, the quickest way of adding color is with your furniture. I remember wanting to paint my first apartment, but the landlord insisted the walls remain white and my wallet preferred it too. Find two colors that go well with each other and apply them to your living space.

Take a look at West Elm’s complementary rustic block side tables. One would be the perfect companion to the Parsons desk. Use it as a printer table or a side stand for displaying a great plant or floral arrangement. Personally, I would use the wheatgrass desk with the polished light pool blue table to anchor a wall as a focal point. The desk would be accented with light blue accessories that would complete the two color scheme.

Rustic Block Side Table from West Elm

Rustic Block Side Table from West Elm

I think it’s about time my black desk is delivered to my painter for something bold and exciting. Until then, I’ll dream in color, especially polished wheatgrass and light pool blue.

West Elm’s Parsons desk is priced at $299 and can be purchased online at http://www.westelm.com/online/store/ProductDisplay?partNumber=WE-PRODf099&storeId=17001&langId=-1&catalogId=17002&viewSetCode=E&parentId=WE-SH1FRNSKS&retainNav=true&cmsrc=WE-SH1FRNSKS

The Rustic Block Side Table is $99 and available at http://www.westelm.com/online/store/ProductDisplay?partNumber=WE-PRODf071&storeId=17001&langId=-1&catalogId=17002&viewSetCode=E&parentId=WE-SH1FRNSDE&retainNav=true&cmsrc=WE-SH1FRNSDE

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The World of Corporate Interiors

From Shaw Contract's Design Awards

From Shaw Contract's Design Awards

I thought you might find some interest in recent corporate interior projects that are currently up for Shaw Contract’s Design Is…Award. As I’ve mentioned before, I think office design is just as important as designing your own home. After all, you’ll spend more “awake” hours on the job than at your house.

As a kid, I fantasized about working in a skyscraper and dreamt what the place would look like. Little did I know that I’d some day work for one of today’s preeminent interior architects specializing in office environments. It was like working for a living legend, like the ranks of Florence Knoll. My office was prestine. White walls that floated off the ground, stainless steel accents, Calcutta marble, glass partitions, chocolate walnut furniture, custom workstations…it was awesome. It was indeed a sad day when I left the firm to help launch a magazine with my dining room opting as our base. I did find a way to take a cue of the corporate lifestyle to my new job. When overseeing the design construction of the new office space, I tried to recreate a cheaper version of the flagship.

Now, I call our guest room my office and it is quite different from the glory days of the corporate madness. Even though it’s a home office, I try to treat it like a loaned space that inspires productivity. Hopefully, you have a desk that fosters the same.

Go to Shaw’s web site to preview a sampling of corporate America and then rethink the way you currently work.

http://www.shawcontractgroup.com/DesignIs/PeoplesChoice

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The Personal Touch – Letterpress Cards

Letterpressed Cards at Target

Letterpressed Cards at Target

I’m not going to instruct you on etiquette, but I do want you to make an attempt at sending handwritten notes from your desk. Either at the home or corporate office, your desk is a personal space for conducting all types of business and there’s no excuse for neglecting the simple task of writing “thank you.” I found that no matter the basis of the relationship, everyone appreciates a note of recognition. In the same day, I’m writing thank you cards to my best friend who hosted a delicious dinner and to a business colleague for a job referral. When setting up your desk, buy some stationery that will add a nice accent while sitting on the corner of your desk.

I’m obsessed with letterpress stationery and usually pay a premium for it. The art of stamped graphics is a subtle but laborious process that adds a special flair to the art of correspondences. I’m happy to find that the time-old tradition is becoming quite popular these days for special occasion invites and celebratory cards. You can imagine how happy I was to find these thank you cards at Target. Truth is, the cards are actually a collection of stationery for affordable DIY weddings, but there’s no reason why you can’t use them for general notes of appreciation. The card, with an elegant script serif font in a basic black ink, is printed on a cream colored parchment paper that is quite suitable for women and men. What I like about these cards is the simple formality in design and how it complements an organized desk with grace.

The amazing price for these cards is $12.99 for a box of 50. Visit your nearest Target or purchase online at http://www.target.com/Thank-You-Flat-Panel-Cards-50-pk-Black/dp/B0014X0R3M/sr=1-10/qid=1245012862/ref=sr_1_10/182-7379767-7074128?ie=UTF8&frombrowse=0&index=target&rh=k%3Athank%20you&page=1.

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Mission Control – Home Habitat Desk

Steelcase Turnstone Home Habitat desk in Walnut

Steelcase Turnstone Home Habitat desk in Walnut

Well, does it really need to be said that the most important item to consider when devising a workplace solution, either home or office, should be the desk. I know that in most cases, this selection process is beyond our control. When hired to work for a company, the setting is already established. I do know of some unusual incidents where law firms today will provide an allowance for a partner to design his/her own space. I also know that many entrepreneurs and home office professionals prefer to have a dedicated space for conducting business. And for those of you who find an opportunity to start a full business operation with the need for professional furniture, first and foremost, let’s review your budget.

I’ve been fortunate to work in office environments that had custom and contract furniture installed for the staff. The beautiful combination of sleek work surfaces and well-crafted cabinets is a luxury most of us take for granted. I learned this lesson when handed the task to project manage and design the office space for my last employer. If I only knew what I know now. We negotiated some amazing deals for a business as small as ours, but still came well over budget.

We could have saved a fortune if I knew about this product by the contract giant Steelcase. From their Turnstone division, Home Habitat is a simple, yet elegant L-shape configuration desk, perfect for private offices and open workstations. The desk features a work surface that is 30″x 72″ with an 18″ wide pedestal file cabinet and a return desk measuring 24″ x 48″, providing an additional 8/sf of space. Available in three laminate choices, my favorite is the Chocolate Walnut; it reminds me of the mid-century office furniture Steelcase and Knoll produced for many large-scale clients. Arctic White is great for a streamlined look and the Winter on Maple is a crisp contemporary design – both work great for spaces that have little light.

What’s truly brilliant about Home Habitat is the price. You are receiving a well-constructed, well-designed contract furniture item for under $1,000. Dully noted, $899 is still a heafty price tag for someone just starting their small business or setting up a home office. However, I strongly believe in quality and you’ll find nothing less from a company like Steelcase. Furthermore, the design by Kirt Martin is timeless and will be a wise investment for your work needs.

I can easily picture this collection at use for a small boutique PR shop, a marketing firm, accounting office, or in the third bedroom that now sits as a home office for a real estate broker or graphic artist. In my case, it would have worked perfectly for a fledgling magazine. Whatever the job is, this desk is a great looking item that will impress. The collection lends itself to designing the space without having to do much more to the workplace. For anyone just starting out, think about the place you’re conducting work and make sure it provides a strong foundation for production. After all, this is mission control, right? The base that will send you on assignment and guide you back home.

Home Habitat in Arctic White

Home Habitat in Arctic White

Home Habitat in the color Winter on Maple

Home Habitat in the color Winter on Maple

Home Habitat is available at http://store.steelcase.com/go/products/detail/B-Home-Habitat/. It ships within 3–4 weeks.

For more information about its designer, Kirt Martin, visit http://www.turnstonefurniture.com/about/kirt.aspx.

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Stylish Stylos

Retro Pens by Kikkerland

Retro Pens by Kikkerland

There’s a song from Dimitri From Paris off his US debut Sacrebleu titled Une Very Stylish Fille that continues to play in my head while looking at these fantastic retro inspired plastic pens. The set of five black ink ball points from one of my favorite accessory shop, Kikkerland, is a must have. Avoid the drawer or cup full of Papermate pens provided by your local Staples. I will admit that even the Bic clear standard has improved its looks, but I’m such a fan of really unique pens, from the trés expensive to the cheap. Strategically positioned on the desk, these pens make for a nice statement without actual writing.

The fascination with pens stems back to my youth when I played “office” with my cousins and neighbors. It was such a faux-pas to have a pen in grade school when lettering was conducted with a clunky crayon. Why call it penmanship when you are taught first with a pencil? Frankly, I love writing and I especially enjoy notetaking during long exaggerated production meetings. At the end of the discussion, I’m back to the grind on my computer, typing away, longing for the cursive art of my own handwritten work. But enough of my neurotic issues.

I discovered these pens at one of my favorite gift shops in Los Angeles. Clover is located at 2756 Rowena Avenue in Silver Lake. Be sure to visit them if ever in the area. http://www.cloversilverlake.com/index.htm

You can also order them directly through Kikkerland’s online shop for $8. http://www.kikkerlandshop.com/4308a.html

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The Perfect Ending – Bookends

Bookends designed by Chris Collicott for Kikkerland

Bookends designed by Chris Collicott for Kikkerland

Every desk will accummulate several books, either for resource and/or inspiration. I’m a strong believer in treating your books with dignity and grace. Sure, we have our own madness and methods of highlighting quotes or jotting notes in the side margins of the page, but no matter how you make use of the publications, there’s something quite familiar with the display of stacked books on a desk. Be sure to add that subtle flair of distinction with bold artistic bookends like these designed by Chris Collicott for the creative shop Kikkerland Design.

Four different models are available in a resin stone, black finish. All are inspired by the industrial era of art and architecture, namely the construction details of Rockefeller Center in New York. I own a pair of these bookends. My favorite is Rosie the riveter, but the “pushing men” sit on the ledge my desk. Every time I look at them, I think of the simple precision that is seen throughout the machine age. Standing only 8″, the bookends add some personality to the workspace as well as a level of detail. Remember, the point to all of this is to create a work environment that keeps you inspired and invigorated.

Leaning Men bookends by Chris Collicott for Kikkerland

Leaning Men bookends by Chris Collicott for Kikkerland

Leaning Women bookends by Chris Collicott for Kikkerland

Leaning Women bookends by Chris Collicott for Kikkerland

Rosie bookend by Chris Collicott for Kikkerland

Rosie bookend by Chris Collicott for Kikkerland

Chris Collicott is a british designer who currently lives in New York. His work has been published and can often be found in many museum gift shops.

Be sure to check out Kikkerland Design and all of the items they offer for the office and home. I think you’ll be quite inspired. http://kikkerland.com

The bookends retail for $44 and can be ordered through Kikkerland’s shop. http://www.kikkerlandshop.com/

I hope you think it’s the perfect ending.

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Ultra Flat Ultra Cool

Flat USB Cables by LaCie

Flat USB Cables by LaCie

I want you to immediately switch out your computer supplied USB cables for these fantastic connections made by LaCie. The hip, colored cables provide the small amount of fun for the desk, while making it all functional with the ease of its flat design. Great for storing in your bag or wrapping it behind your hardware, the LaCie cables are offered in seven different interfaces: USB A to B; USB A to Mini B; USB A male to A female; FireWire 400 to FireWire 400; FireWire 400 to FireWire 800; FireWire 800 to FireWire 800; and eSATA to eSATA.

Commonly used to connect external hardware to your computer, i.e. printers, cameras, PDAs, etc., the cables add just enough splash to keep work interesting. The simple yet brilliant design comes from a French design group named Item. Each cable is prepped with a white strip for labeling, making it that much easier to keep your connections in order when deciphering the maze of wires on your desk.

Starting at $9.99, the cables can be ordered directly from the manufacturer with this link: http://www.lacie.com/us/products/range.htm?id=10045

Be sure to check out LaCie for hardware and accessories. The company is one of my favorite manufacturers for cool designs for the office. You’ll definitely see more of them here.

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