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Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Christmas Trees for Tree Huggers

Becky

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Recently, a friend posted this on Facebook:

just curious to know why environmentally conscious people buy real Christmas trees? am i missing something?

I think she was; surely the carbon footprint of manufacturing, shipping and eventually disposing of fake trees is worse for the environment than tree farms, where trees are grown as crops, right? It’s ain’t exactly clear-cropping trees off a mountain (the one complaint I found about these farms is that some use pesticides, otherwise, what’s not to love about them?). Give us your two cents in the comments section.

However, there are some other solutions that should really satisfy the tree-hugging crowd either way; those that upcycle materials like bottles, cans and even over in Belgium, those throwaway extra pieces of china that no longer match anything. Here’s a peek at some very clever tree reuse projects.

1. Design Boom recently posted a 30′ -high tree in Brussels, Belgium, composed of  over 5,000 donated pieces of blue and white china. The tree is by the design firm mooz and it is super cool:

2. Over on Flickr, another lovely tree is made of bottles was beautifully shot by Flickr member gdanny:

found via rubyreusable

3. Here’s a living room tree made out of just-the-right shade of green glass bottles:

4. This outdoor beer can version could bring in a pretty penny at the metal scrap yard:

3 and 4 have been labeled “redneck Christmas trees.” I think we can come up with a much nicer name than that, though it’s eluding me at the moment, because “beer hugger tree” is not a great tagline. Let me know if you come up with a better name for them in the comments section!

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Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Designer Interviews: Sharon & Ted Burnett of Strand Design

Becky

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Hey All, today we’re chatting with Sharon Burdett, co-founder, along with Ted Burdett, of Strand Design. Thanks so much to Sharon for sharing a little more about how a career leads to designing furniture at your own company, choosing recycled and recyclable materials, producing goods locally, and hip-hop night in Florence …

Please tell me a bit about your background – what led you to creating Strand Design?

Strand Design was created out of our desire to work together on collaborative projects, and became an actual company three years ago when we both decided to pursue these collaborative projects on a full time basis.

The first project that we created together was a line of reclaimed vinyl bags that we called “Tree Theory.” We sourced almost all of the components from the waste stream, literally taking vinyl billboards out of the dumpster, and cutting seat belts out of cars in the junk yard. It was messy, and very fun. Since that project, we’ve continued to produce designs that utilize recycled materials, or can be recycled easily (i.e., no “monstrous hybrids”) but we don’t feel that the designs should have a specific “green” aesthetic; we want the designs to speak for themselves.

Strand Design Birdhouse Floor Lamp


What preceded the Strand Design phase of your lives?

Ted has been designing, creating, and making things from the moment he could hold a pencil in his hand (that the pencil was made from old-growth lumber would become an issue as his awareness of and love for the natural world matured).

Ted’s relentless curiosity, lust for life, and desire to create led to an equally curious education — anthropology, fine woodworking, and environmental ecology at The University of Wisconsin at Madison; dinner parties and hip-hop night at the Lorenzo de Medici Art Institute of Florence, Italy; and, finally, The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where he received his BFA in Industrial Design in 2004.


Ted’s design career began in soft goods at California Innovations’ Chicago office. There Ted was drawn deep into the world of product design on a massive scale, simultaneously enchanted and challenged by cost engineering and development trips overseas, high stakes design presentations for large retailers, and the ultimate challenge of trying to design products for six year old girls … luckily, there was foosball and the most amazing coworkers to help him cope with the stress.

In addition to his work at Strand, Ted is an instructor in Industrial Design at UIC. He loves it there.

Strand Design Better Dog Spotlight

As for myself, though fascinated by just about everything, a passion for writing and image-making led me to study graphic design over biochemistry, philosophy, psychiatry and poetry …

I received her undergraduate degree in graphic design from California College of the Arts in 2000, where I had the good fortune to learn from and work with some of the best designers in the profession. After graduating from CCA and working in The Bay Area for a few years, I headed back to Chicago to earn my MFA at The School of The Art Institute Chicago.

Before starting Strand with Ted in 2009, I worked as an in-house designer for the international fashion company Oilily, then at RGLA, one of the top retail design firms in the country, and I freelanced for several boutique design firms in San Francisco and Chicago.

When I’m not at Strand, I can be found practicing yoga, reading books, or eating chocolate. Sometimes all at once.

What’s your workspace like?

Our workspace is in an old warehouse in the west loop of Chicago. We are lucky to have a large amount of space, and we’ve been tweaking it continuously for the last three years. We have our prototype workshop in the basement of the building, our office on the ground floor, and our storage and assembly space on the top floor.


Tell us a bit about your neighborhood.

We absolutely love our neighborhood. It’s an exciting and almost bizarre mix of different businesses. The west loop is home to some of the most respected restaurants in the city, great galleries and boutiques, and packed in between all of these “tourist friendly” destinations are old meat packing shops and food wholesalers that have been around for decades. It inspires us both to think about how much the city changes, and how many layers of history are present simultaneously.

Strand Design Basket Lug Trug

Tell us a bit about designing sustainable products and some of the sustainable materials, processes and/or technologies you employ.

There are many reasons that we are committed to sustainability, and some of those reasons may not be as obvious at first as others. As designers of objects, we are certainly interested in reducing the environmental impact of the objects that we make, and this can be seen most clearly in our material choices.

• We use urban lumber or reclaimed lumber instead of wood from forests

• We use locally fabricated steel because of steel’s almost endless ability to be recycled,

• We use recycled rubber and recycled plastics.

• We also design our products with the intent that they can be disassembled into their component parts, which facilitates recycling as well as ease of repair.

Strand Design Eleven Side Table

In addition to our commitment to responsible sourcing of materials, we’re passionate about producing our designs locally. We work with local manufacturers, many of whom have been in business for decades, and the relationships that we have forged with these great local companies have a huge impact on the quality of our work. In addition to supporting the local economy, we truly believe that we can produce better products here.

Strand Design Tripod Table/Stool

Where did the name Strand Design come from?

The name Strand Design came from the very first collaborative project that Ted and I did together almost a decade ago. We were experimenting with carbon fiber jewelry, and the tiny fiber “strands” are just so amazing looking! The name just came from that moment of inspiration and we stuck with it.

What’s next for you and your company?

Slow and steady growth, and collaborations with other designers are on the horizon.

Thanks so much to Sharon Burdett for visiting with us today! Click here to see all of Strand Designs’s current line.

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Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Guest Post: DIY Ideas to Freshen Your Throwaway Furniture

Guest

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Hi Everyone! We know you may be over here shopping for new furniture, but here at Design Public, we love to mix old and new. So while you peruse for the perfect wallpaper or a new big boy bed, consider pieces you may already own to go with them. Here’s Alex Levin , a writer for Granite Transformations (a green remodeling company that advances sustainable construction practices reducing waste and recycling, such as using broken Skyy vodka bottles to make countertops), with some helpful hints about how to re-use and repurpose. take it away Alex!


In today’s economy, replacing outdated, broken or just plain ugly furniture isn’t always affordable. Furthermore, tossing old furniture also costs the earth. Learn to look beyond the finish of a piece of furniture to reveal the construction, design and material underneath. Here are some ideas to get your started.
Potential Projects:
Lightening up old pieces: Worried that your dark brown antique buffet table will look out of place in your new home – but you love the shape? Paint it a bright bold color that will play off other items in the room and throughout  your home.
Freshen up a wardrobe: Strip, sand and paint one white for child’s room. Add funky hardware (knobs and pulls can be changed out as your kids grow up).
Reupholster a sofa or chairs: Choose a fabric you like, and find a matching glossy paint for the wood frame and legs. You’ll need ribbon and adhesive glue to keep it in place, upholstery tacks and a staple gun.
Wooden tables, desks and cupboards. Whether you want to paint or sand down to restore the original finish is up to you. Kitchen cupboards gain a whole new lease of life through simple repainting, while desks can look completely
different through a coat of gloss and a new stencil design.
Getting Started
1. Evaluate your existing furniture. Make necessary repairs; fix wobbly legs, fill cracks, and take care of any other structural problems.
2. Look at the finish. Assess if you need to strip and sand before refinishing/painting.
3. Gather supplies. Round up everything from the dust cover to protect the floor to the paintbrush. You may need to purchase a few safety items, like gloves and goggles.
4. Choose a workspace. Factor in the weather, ventilation, and upcoming  in-law visits.
Upcycling: Repurpose an Old Item  to Make Something New
Here are a few ideas:
  • Place an old door atop two filing cabinets to create a hard-working desk.
  • Turn plastic bottles into chandeliers
  • Make an Adirondack chair from old baseball bats
  • Turn an iron into a bedside lamp for a unique retro look
  • Transform a clawfoot bathtub into a sofa
  • Turn a discarded dishwasher drum into a modern coffee table
Refurbishing old furniture is easier than you think, and is also a lot of fun. A few quick fixes can help your inherited old pieces fit into contemporary surroundings, save you cash and save the planet.
Images:
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Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Environmental Tuesday: An Upcycling Double-Entendre

Becky

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I was really glad we received an email from Carolina Fontoura Alzaga. She makes elegant, Victorian-style chandeliers out of recycled bike parts. I love to see projects where I have to look really hard to figure out what the parts were in their former lives.

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Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Environmental Tuesday: Recycling Wine Corks

Becky

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Yes, at random, Environmental Tuesday is back. As I’ve been decluttering, I have not been able to toss out the mason jars full of wine corks I’ve collected for years. I never really intended on making a corkboard out of them (though this is a good idea and a great way to recycle them), but I could not bring myself to add them to a landfill even though I was trying to purge clutter like crazy. Perhaps I sensed that there was somewhere out there that would take them all along, because…

…There is a great new organization called ReCORK by Amorim that combines two of my favorite things, WINE AND SHOES! They want your used corks. Started California wine country in 2008, ReCORK is partnering with restaurants, wineries and airlines to collect used corks so that they can be reused in products like floor tiles, building insulation, automotive gaskets, craft materials, soil conditioner and sports equipment…and SHOES! In particular, they have partnered with a shoe manufacturer called SOLE to make shoes out of the wine corks.

A quick glance at how it works: Check the ReCORK site for drop-off areas in your city and take your corks. If you don’t have a drop off area, ReCORK will send you a shipping tag, however, in order to keep carbon footprint down and not erase all of their good efforts, they want 15 pounds of corks at a time. Atlanta, even though I first read about ReCORK in the AJC, according to the site, we don’t have any drop off centers yet! Atlanta restauranteurs and wine shop owners, how about it? You may sign up just to recycle your own corks, or to be a collection partner, so that people can drop off their corks with you.

By the way, if you have any green resources or ideas you’d like us to spread the word about, please let me know in the comments section. I’d love to revive this series.

all images via ReCORK.org

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