Sunday, 14 November 2010

You light up my life

Remember when the extension was being built, and we discovered that the architect had forgotten to add any lights to the drawings? Well we thought we'd get by with some well placed uplighters and lamps. Turns out that a large body of glass and the pitch darkness of night will swallow up light. We considered getting an oversized Anglepoise lamp to help matters when we're eating dinner - having the halogens on isn't the best solution, and neither is peering into dimly lit plates. We tried stategically placed candles (ok, but not ideal when the table is covered from end to end with food and booze), and finally agreed on that Livingetc featured design staple, the Arco floor light.

I've been to the Castiglioni studio in Milan so I have a huge appreciation for the designer and his influence. Sadly, I don't have £1,350 to buy a modern day reproduction of his iconic light. Obviously, if I did I would've definitely shelled out over at Heal's but as it happens I found the best homage to the original on eBay via Contemporary Furniture Clearance. You can bid from £159 or buy one on the spot for £169 - it arrived with us two working days after I paid (via courier) and an efficient chap called to say he'd left it on the door step. The marble base weighs 64kgs so no-one was going to nick it - we had to unpack it in order to stick a wooden pole through the iconic hole just to get it inside.

Once assembled the lamp looked right at home - these photos don't do it justice, but the height is perfect in our extension, and the quality of the finish is unbelievably convincing. I've seen terrible silver effect shades, bad arcs and shoddy "marble" in other copies but this, thankfully, was the best £159 we've spent in a while. It even came with handling gloves so you don't put finger prints all over the brushed aluminium when you assemble it.

The marble base is an excellent place to leave the laptop when we're not using it (I'm not keen on leaving the laptop on the table as the heat that thing puts out is intense) and as a happy coincidence, the shape and patterns of the lamp shade compliments our uplighters.

(Apologies for the cheesy title but I'm fond of word play and song lyrics. I should point out that this is in reference to the Debby Boone version and not Westlife/Whitney Houston songs of the same name.)

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Art for arts sake

After nearly two years of extreme procrastination, we finally have two photographs up on the walls. The problem was that these photos came ready mounted and had a long strip of wood fixed to the back. They were designed so that the opposite bit of wood cut at the corresponding angle could be attached to a wall, and thus the photo would sit flush. We visited several picture framers and wood merchants in the last two years with no luck. Everyone knew exactly what we wanted but no-one actually sold these wood strips.

Eventually I had a light bulb moment when I remembered that our pal Jason worked at the White Cube gallery as a technician - fitting artist's works professionally! He was only too happy to help and in about half an hour, had measured up and fitted the bits required.

A major problem that Rob and I have is despite a general consensus on all things design and interior related, we don't see eye-to-eye when it comes to art. I like to have things up that I like to look at, he prefers something with a story and even likes the idea of investment pieces (to that end, he has two very collectable pieces gathering dust somewhere in New Zealand that will probably be ruined from damp by now...) Anyway, I happened to like these photographs which were from the Design Awards exhibition that Wallpaper* magazine had a couple of years ago - and they were only a tenner each. So there's the story to keep Rob happy and I really like these photographs.

The one was taken at the John Lautner Sheats Goldstein residence in Beverley Hills - and the speakers projected on the right hand side are the 'Katamari 01' by Giyanze, which won best domestic appliance. It's a bit difficult to see but there's a guy DJing in the foreground so the photo looks in tune sitting above my decks.

The other photo was taken in LA and features the Panna chair for Moroso by Tokujin Yoshioka, who won best domestic furniture designer. I like this because it reminds me of my first trip to LA, the outlook was eerily similar, though fortunately there wasn't a creepy guy sitting on an expensive chair...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Waste disposal


A few weeks ago the Observer magazine's Lucy Siegle wrote a column entitled 'Can I throw out food and be green?' which touched on how UK households have reduced the amount of food we throw out by 270,000 tonnes per year. It sounds a lot until she mentions that actually we still throw out 8m tonnes - half of which is still edible.

Lucy advocates the use of Food Waste Disgester units in the kitchen, which was a bit of a relief as we've had one in our kitchen for years. After buying a Magimix juicer about ten years ago, I insisted on a FWD to deal with the ensuing buckets of leftover, inedible fruit pulp. It seemed a sensible way to deal with quickly rotting peel but I wondered if it was ecologically ideal.

A friend who's seriously into eco living said that we were doing the right thing - at the time we were living in a flat so had no compost options, and it turns out that putting bio matter into London's sewers is actually good for them. Also, as Lucy Siegle points out, the FWDs create 10x more electricity than they use.

Now of course we live in a house where we could run a compost bin, but still prefer the FWD. The 30+ comments on the Guardian website in response to this article were quite something to read - nearly all of them echoed each other in the view that it's never OK to throw out food, that people should buy less and re-use everything.

Obviously very few of these people have kids - I can't speak for small boys, but my two girls rarely empty their plates. I've tried smaller portions, mixing things up for variety, you name it, but there is inevitably some mucky leftover on their plate that won't get eaten or saved for the next meal.

It's not like we're bulk buying food then chucking it when it goes past the best before date. All the stuff that goes into our FWD is stuff we wouldn't be eating - be it vegetable peel, inedible leftovers, teabags, coffee grinds and the occasional culinary disaster. It's incredible that not one of the commenters thought of this, instead advocating chickens & pigs (great in theory, not so great in some parts of London) and retro-fitting compost to apartment blocks. Geez people. Relax. Having a FWD sounds like a better option than just throwing food into landfill.