Working Wednesday – Meeting Inspiring Product Designers

A few weeks ago I was in San Francisco for the Discover Zephyr event, and had the opportunity to meet and listen to two terrific product designers.  Despite the amazing dinner, and the fun wine country tour the next day, the chance to hear really good designers talk about the process of design was by far the highlight of the trip for me.

The first person we heard speak was Robert Brunner, who was the founder of Apples Industrial Design group, and has since gone one to achieve many awards and accolades for his product designs.  He is now lead designer and partner in Ammunition, LLC, as well as author of the wonderful, “Do You Matter?: How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company.”  He has designed an entire line of unique range hoods for Zephyr, which you can see here.

Design really is a passion for him, and he is very direct about his belief that you need to create a good customer experience, not just a pretty, shiny product.  The emotional bond the customer experiences with their purchase is absolutely key, a lesson he no doubt learned at Apple.

Although he was speaking to us about product design, everything he said could be translated to interior design too, and how we as designers need to create that emotional experience with our clients.

I was furiously scribbling down as much as I could of what he said, until I realized that each and every one of us was getting a signed copy of his book!   If you get a chance to read a copy – do!  It will change the way you look at the design process, and may inspire you as it has me.

Our next speaker was Fu-Tung Cheng.  I didn’t recognize him at first, but as soon as he started showing slides of his projects, I recognized his work!

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Book Review – EcoChi

In the world of green design, everybody brings something to the table.  Some people arrive with a primary concern about chemicals and other pollutants in our homes and workplaces.  Others are motivated by a love of the natural world and a desire to preserve it.  Still others hope to find a spiritual and life changing aspect to sustainability, which is where the book “EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience” fits in.

Guided by changes in her own life, Debra Duneier has created a business – and now a book – around her idea of EcoChi, a marriage of sustainable design and Feng Shui principles.  Starting with how she found herself in business as a Feng Shui consultant, and began integrating aspects of an eco-friendly lifestyle in her design, Duneier then takes us through a series of illustrative examples of clients and how she arrived at beneficial solutions to their design problems, using her trademarked EcoChi system.  Chock full of information on things as varied as tips to make your hotel room feel more like home, and how to use EcoChi to improve your family and romantic relationships, this book attempts to illustrate the correlation between Feng Shui, sustainable living, and environmental psychology.

This slim, but information packed volume is the perfect fit for those looking to combine an interest in sustainable living with Feng Shui.  Although this book does not contain images of the design work described, I’ve heard there will be a follow-up book, and I’m hoping that they will be included there.  It would definitely be an added benefit to see a spacial representation of the solutions described in the text.

Since I am not a practitioner of Feng Shui, I can’t attest to the authenticity of the advice she gives, but she does make many good points about sustainable design that could prove useful.  I’ve had several clients over the years that have been concerned with finding a balance between their desire for a “good flow of energy” in their homes, and the wish for environmentally friendly design.  I wish I had had this book to loan them at the time.

Visit the EcoChi website to find out more about the book, including how to purchase either the hardcover version, or the eBook.

Book Review – “Undecorate”

Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of meeting Christiane Lemieux, founder of DwellStudio, at a signing for her new book Undecorate: The No-Rules Approach to Interior Design.

I’ve been meaning to write a review ever since, but I couldn’t seem to tear my eyes off the pages long enough to write something. This book is chock full of amazing and inspiring photographs. The locations run the gamut from a wonderfully cluttered farmhouse in New York State, to a sleekly modern “country house” in Northern California, but all share the unifying factor of being unfussy. These are homes that are truly lived in, in the most wonderfully human sense of the phrase. The people who have invited us into their homes on these pages, have “decorated” for their own enjoyment, not ours, and that’s what makes the spaces so appealing. Whether you call the style “undecorated”, wabi sabi, or simply eclectic, it speaks volumes about the lives of the people who dwell there. Read the rest of this entry »

3 Great Online, (mostly) Green Design Magazines

The offices of interior designers, myself included, can often start to look like one of those before shots on a TV show about horders.  Stacks of cloth, rolls of wallpaper, flooring samples, books, and magazines litter every available horizontal surface.  How lovely that the rise of virtual magazines is allowing us a chance to dig ourselves out from under some of the mess, even if just a little bit.

Here are my favorite online magazines with an eye for sustainable design: Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review – “Made by Hand”

A loving ode to the art of learning from your mistakes.

In the enjoyable, well paced “Made by Hand”, author Mark Frauenfelder, of Make Magazine fame, tells lively DIY tales of chickens, honey, math and espresso.

Oh, and there is a bit in there about cigar box banjos too.

I’ve followed Mark via Make and BoingBoing for several years, and have always found his take on the DIY way of life to be funny and candid.  Much of what he writes about, even the part about the trials and tribulations of building a better hen house, is relevant to what is happening within the larger green design community.  After all, making things ourselves, out of materials close at hand, is surely more sustainable than purchasing a mass produced item from overseas.

With his honest confessions of failure, and spiritual descriptions of success, Frauenfelder gives us inspiration to live a simpler, more connected life.  But reader beware – you just might find yourself googling for instructions to make that cigar box banjo by the time you put down the book.

Book Review – “The Green Blue Book: The Simple Water-Savings Guide to Everything in Your Life”

I recently got a hold of a copy of  The Green Blue Book: The Simple Water-Savings Guide to Everything in Your Life, by Thomas M. Kostigen.  What a fascinating read!  Far from the usual “take shorter showers” guide to saving water (although that advice is, of course, included), this book takes a broader look at the problem by including information about the shocking amount of water it takes to, say, grow the cotton for a pair of jeans.  Or how about the water cost of a simple pint of beer?…

“Excuse me, bartender. The beer you just served me had 20 gallons of water in it.” You might be thought drunk if you said that, but it’s true.

The water we are talking about here is virtual, or imbedded water. It’s calculated by totaling all the water it takes to grow, raise, or manufacture something; it’s the water we don’t see in all the things we drink, eat, wear, and use in our lives. Turns out that this unseen water drains our supplies more than the water that’s right before our eyes. – Excerpt from “The Green Blue Book” Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review & Giveaway- “The Green Home”

Giveaway details follow are at the end of the post, but we suggest you read the review first!

When I first started to focus strictly on sustainable design five years ago, the pickings were thin when it came to green interior design books..  As in, there were exactly two books, only one of which was really any use.

Even as I watched the list of available books grow, I still considered writing one of my own, because I didn’t find anyone addressing the subject of green residential interior design the way I thought it should be.  Luckily, I never got around to it because Sunset Design Guides has just released the book I probably would have written (if I had the talent!).

Taking full advantage of Sunset Magazine’s wealth of images, author Bridget Biscotti Bradley has created an inspiring collection of sustainable design ideas and arranged them in her easy to understand book, The Green Home.  Assisted by a “design panel” made up of such green design luminaries as Eric Corey Freed, Kelly LaPlante, and Michelle Kaufman, Bradley makes a compelling case for the ease with which green design principles can be woven into any remodeling project. Read the rest of this entry »

We All Want to Change the World – ‘Design Revolution’

Today is a busy, busy day, but I wanted to quickly let you know about a great book I recently ran across – ‘Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People’.

The author, Emily Pilloton, is a force to be reckoned with.  Starting her non-profit, Project H Design, in 2008 with nothing more than $1,000 and a lap-top, she has taken her convictions and knowledge around the world to inspire and educate students and designers alike on the need for humanitarian product design.  Full of examples of creative, thoughtful solutions to everyday problems from water filtration to eating healthier portions, there is something to interest everyone.  As if that wasn’t enough, see what she’s up to now… Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review – “Downtown Chic”

“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” – Ben Franklin

Peppered throughout with quotes like that above, “Downtown Chic”, from Sixx Design, is equal parts inspiration, design philosophy treatise, and how-to book.


Robert and Cortney Novogratz began their path into the design world as passionate amateurs, seeking to convert a dilapidated brownstone in Chelsea into a warm and eclectic home in time to welcome their first child into the world.  Now, many projects (and six kids) later they have developed a thriving design business in New York City and environs.

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Book Review – Eco House Book

eco house book

I have always had a love for Terence Conran.  Perhaps it’s the simple, natural look of his company’s interiors and furnishings, or maybe it’s just the dreamy, spare quality of the photographs that populate the pages of his “House” book series.  Whatever the reason, I was delighted to find his latest design tome, “Eco House Book”, is focused on what I love best – sustainable homes.

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