Sunday, 22 August 2010

Bountiful harvest!

My Mum and I have been gathering plums in our garden. We have one big plum tree and one 'sucker' (that's the word my Mum uses, I'm not sure what she means). We gathered everything two short people could reach with a big pole, and left lots of high-hanging fruits for the birds. We couldn't believe it when we walked away with three full baskets!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

London Room: Bedsets I can't afford

Very soon I'll be moving into a bedroom in London to do my MA degree, so I'm planning how to decorate the room as beautifully as possible for as little money as possible. My Mum scored some amazingly cheap second-hand furniture for me, which I'll be blogging about as I repaint them. For now I'm thinking about colours and textiles as a nice kind of brain candy.

Right now I'm thinking about bedsets. While I'm not going to go for the cheapest option available, I still have a very tight budget. Sadly, as I look on the internet I find a huge variety of beautiful bedsets that fit the style and colour palette I have in mind perfectly that I simply cannot allow myself to spend the money on. To assuage the pain, I thought I'd dump a few of them here to feel like even if I don't own them, they're making their mark on my territory in some way.

The Seaside Savvy quilt by Le Attiser is $139, and is handcrafted using traditional block printing methods from the Thar Desert of Rajasthan in India. I'm happily jumping on the big turquoise bandwagon, but since my bed is next to the window I want it to be dressed in white to reflect the light into the room, so this pretty turqoise on white pattern is perfect.

Anthropologie's Crowned Crane bedding set would have also been perfect for me in that the origami folds would be a great contribution to the 'big, fluffy cloud' effect I'm hoping for. Unfortunately, the duvet alone is £148. Maybe in another life.

Devon seersucker bedlinen from the White Company is also a very tempting option for me, especially since now that it has 30% off it's almost within my budget at £42 for a duvet cover. I love love love seersucker, whenever I see it I want to reach out and touch it (this is sometimes awkward when it's in a man's shirt).

The Perch Pillow is of course only a pillow and not a full bedset, but I think the colouring and style suit me really well. Unfortunately it's $100 plus shipping, so I'm going to have to let this one fly away.

Monday, 16 August 2010

5 lovelinesses in Israel

I'm about to leave Israel after spending most of my summer vacation here, mostly relaxing but also, as a stroke of luck, volunteering at the Design Museum I wrote a post about a while back. I'd like to make a habit of keeping track of the good things about a place, especially somewhere like Israel that is not entirely unjustifiably stereotyped as being a land full of crazy angry people yelling at each other all the time. So I thought I'd list some of the nice places where I've enjoyed sending my time. I've definitely forgotten something (and I've omitted a wonderful wedding I attended) but here's a quick rundown off the top of my head.

Jaffa Station Compound used to be a train station in the Ottoman era (apparently that's when the Turks had a lot of land, not when large swathes of the middle east were covered in plush fabric buffets). Recently it was renovated into a shopping and eating complex, and the beautiful old architecture has attracted some wonderful shops. My boyfriend's super sciency family were enthralled by the shop full of puzzles and toys, and I was incredibly delighted to find a charming antique shop full of old academic-looking doodads and vintage Eames and Le Corbusier chairs (one day I'll have great photos of it to show you as my boyfriend's ridiculously amazing photographer sister was there).

Tazza D'Oro coffee house in Neve Tsedek is a really cute, charming and homely coffee place with pretty good food. I've been there twice and the second time my boyfriend was disappointed with his meal, but I got the risotto balls and I ... dare I say it ... I had a ball. Ouch. Sorry about that one. Anyway, the Neve Tsedek neighborhood is really lovely, and is only going to get better the more it is renovated. It's such a breath of fresh air when you're in Tel Aviv to suddenly step out of the maze of high rises into an area full of eclectic stone buildings. It's sort of like stepping back into the real world after the virtual reality of bauhaus. Being from Yorkshire, I like a good trip to a scenic place to involve food or drink in some way, so Tazza D'oro made me very happy indeed.

Holon Design Museum is as nice as I was expecting it to be and more. I had a great time volunteering there, the gallery staff are almost all students of design so they have great insights about the exhibits, and the exhibits themselves are wonderful. The current exhibition, senseware, is a beautiful, futuristic white space filled with experimental designs using advanced artificial fibers. It gives you an image of a future where the personality and intimacy of craft is present in mass-manufactured goods through innovative use of charmingly tactile materials. Particularly amazing is the Fukitorimushi, which Engadget wrote about during the Milan incarnation of the exhibition. I want to take it home!

Mineral beach: the web link really doesn't do it justice. Every time I come to Israel I have to go to the Dead Sea. I love travelling through the cinematic scenery of the desert, and being able to just lie back and relax looking at the blue sky and golden hills. I've never been to another part of the Dead Sea but apparently Mineral Beach is pretty unique and something of a hidden treasure. I'm told that to experience the Dead Sea you usually have to lie in a separate, designated pool, because most of the sea is being used for mineral extraction. At Mineral Beach there is no sign of industry, and somehow it's always deeply quiet even though there are other people milling about. They also have massage and a hot sulphur pool, which makes it all the better.

Onami: I've been staying in an apartment in the centre of Tel Aviv, a stone's throw away from Haarba'a street, which is home to a large selection of extremely good restaurants. Of the ones I've tried, Onami is by far my favourite. Tel Aviv has a huge number of Japanese restaurants, but Onami is the only one that really tastes Japanese. On the sushi menu they have the usual nigiri and hosomaki and temaki, but also chirashizushi and inari, which are both delicious and homely dishes that seem to me to be unfairly overlooked by other restaurants who probably take their lead from the Californian model of Japanese food. Their miso soup is made with red miso paste, which is always a way to win my affection, and they serve kanpyo, which isn't always available elsewhere. Details like this make the place wonderful for vegetarians and fish eaters alike, and I've loved popping over there for midnight supper a couple of times.

More added to the blog roll

I'm a bit slow, and have only just found these amazing design blogs on the blogrolls of other design blogs I read. How many times do you think I can say blog in one blog post? Blog. Here's the links.

Desire to Inspire: Pretty photos of pretty homes.
Decor8: Shopping, window shopping and sometimes art.
The Brick House: Amazing modernistic home renovation
Style Files: Pretty photos again.


Sunday, 15 August 2010

Embee - Upside Down (Feat. Maia Hirasawa)

This video makes me so happy. I gotta get me some of those floating oranges for my room in London.

Thursday, 5 August 2010


After I complained that Hebrew writing is horrifyingly ugly, my computer has come back from repairs with a shiny new keyboard ... with Hebrew characters on it. Now I have to see them every day, in all their lumpy, awkward glory. The only possible explanation is the revenge of a wrathful omnipotent one who doesn't like His holy language to be insulted. Oops.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Anticonsumerist Design

I just came across a graphic design company called Thought Bubble, whose goal is to use beautiful infographic design to contribute towards positive social change. Here's a great example of their work:

In ablog post about this video, Suz explains that part of her reason for featuring Micah White was her long-term admiration for Adbusters, a group who produce satirical billboard ads to make us rethink the lifestyle and self-image sold to us by advertising. Adbusters, she says, was her first piece of solid evidence that you can work in design without contributing to consumerism.

This makes me think of two things. First is a conversation I happened to be having last night, where I told an Israeli about the relatively complex identity politics at play in consumerism in Britain. He commented that I had a grin on my face as if I thought consumerism was a good thing. I said that on the contrary, I think it's horrifying, but I have a kind of odd admiration for it because of its immense power to manipulate people and destroy the planet. I compared it to the shared feelings regarding the military that my boyfriend and I had spoken about earlier that day - we are both vaguely pacifists, but we both get a deep sense of joy and awe from anything that reminds us of the army, be it tanks, guns, or chairs lined up in a regimented row like soldiers. Consumerism is a weapon of mass destruction, I said, but a weapon of mass destruction is impressive and even beautiful if you look at it from the point of view of an engineer.

Secondly, I haven't yet figured out when design became an elitist tool of the corporate hegemony. The designers of the Bauhaus movement used to talk about mass-production as a liberating technology that could deliver beautiful, quality, comfortable goods to the masses at a price they could afford. Henry Ford described mass production as making the cheapest goods possible for the highest wages possible. Yet somewhere along the line, beautifully designed, mass-produced objects became expensive, wages and working conditions became barbaric, and the meaning of clean, modernist design became a symbol of economic and cultural privilege. Adbusters and Thought Bubble are both groups that believe that aesthetically beautiful and on-trend design can and should be a force for good in the world, something that everybody benefits from. Aesthetics are after all not a base materialistic pleasure, but something spiritual that should connect us to others. I hope that similar groups will pop up in other fields of design as well.

Monday, 2 August 2010


There's an entry on designer chairs coming soon, but I still have to source one of the photos so for now, a rant about halloumi cheese. Or more broadly, our traditional ways of naming food products is completely bent out of shape.

I love halloumi. As a vegetarian (who doesn't think about rennet very much), it makes a great meat substitute when preparing some middle eastern and mediterranean stew-type dishes, and it is of course wonderful instead of meat in a burger (a la Nandos). However, two bad experiences with unfamiliar Halloumi cultures have led me to be more wary of this delicious food than I would like to be.

Specifically, I like Halloumi because it doesn't melt, so you can fry it, and it tastes salty, so you can use it like chicken. When fried it has a caramelised crispy outer layer and a soft, melt-in-the-mouth inner core. I think many people would agree that this is Halloumi at its best.

It turns out that some people consider Halloumi to have some other place in the culinary world apart from satiating vegetarians. Example number one: I went to a gourmet cheese shop in Cambridge, bought their Halloumi, and got home to find it crumbly and smelly, rather than bouncy and salty. I was appalled, it ruined my meal, and as far as I am concerned anything that ruins a meal of mine is truly evil.

Example number two is photographed above. This Halloumi was bought in Israel, so it is perhaps surprising to learn that it has no chutzpah or sense of survival. Almost immediately upon impact with the pan it melted into a soupy, sticky mess, like any other cheese would. I simply cannot see the point in Halloumi if it's going to behave like all the other cheeses. It's not like the other cheeses, it's better than them, that's the point! What happened to you Halloumi, you used to be cool.

If the word, 'Halloumi,' doesn't actually always mean, 'bouncy in the mouth, solid in the pan,' then personally I need cheeses to be renamed to avoid confusion. I would happily buy, 'Bouncy solid' cheese and use it in the same way whether it is Halloumi or Paneer, I probably wouldn't buy, 'Salty melty' at all ever whether it was Halloumi or cheddar or whatever else, and if I did buy, 'Crumbly smelly,' I would know better than to put it in a tagine. Screw these fancy foreign names for foreign cheeses. I want them translated into a language I understand.

Androgynous chairs

While travelling around England I visited Chatsworth house, and spotted this new addition to the Cavendish family's collection. These 'Enignum' chairs by Joseph Walsh are so beautifully designed, even my traditionalist boyfriend loved them. The angling of the seat, the way the back supports your spine without pushing your shoulder blades forward, and the lovely suede textile make the chairs very comfortable as well. It has the masculine appearance of Panton's S chair viewed from the front, but the styling and materials are more organic, and the curvy cut-out in the centre (which boost the comfort on the spine by the way) give a feminine balance to the piece. This gives the chair some cuddly, chilled out yin-yang that makes me feel all happy and warm inside.

I delayed posting this for a while, but then I saw this chair's antithesis in Tel Aviv's Habitat and I had to point out the comparison. Check out this handsome fellow:

This is a De Sede chair, so it really shouldn't be ugly, but there you go, we all have our bad days. I'm sure it's just my personal opinion, but this bulky hunk of leather precariously balanced on a cantilever base looks like a rugby player in stilettos. Then again, I'm sure some people are into that. Here's De Sede's hilarious excuse for inflicting such a thing on the world:

Variety is ensured by this elegant chair-cum-armchair programme. Whether in attractive freestanding cantilever design or as a traditional chair with lacquered or natural wooden legs, the models in this programme imbue every room with an aura of distinction and represent the epitome of enduring worth.

In other words, it's a rugby player in stilettos who happens to also have a massive trust fund.