Apr 4, 2014

Do-Good Design Stops By Makerhaus

What would you do if you were homeless?

The workshop begins. 
It’s a heavy question, and one that kicked off the Design-A-Thon workshop at Seattle’s Makerhaus earlier this week. The four-hour event, which drew an eclectic mix of industrial designers, woodworkers, tech developers, and other creative types, was focused on developing collaborative solutions to the vast issue of homelessness in Seattle.

I am interested in the humanistic problem solving potential of design,” says Regis Lemberthe, the organizer of the event. “The most important point to me is to not consider ‘humanitarian’ in the sense of ‘charitable,’ as in first world helping the third world, but in the sense of people working together towards bettering critical situations. And that can be anywhere.”

Lemberthe is part of Berlin-based industrial design firm A&Re Design Beta, who received a master’s degree in Humanitarian Design And Sustainable Living at Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. A couple months ago, Lemberthe packed a bag and set off from Berlin on his first trip to the United States.  He had set up a month-long residencies at Makerhaus and co-working spaces similar to Makerhaus in cities including Portland; Oakland, California; and New York. In most of those places, he  planned design-based workshops addressing social issues unique to each city. The Seattle event had more than 15 people sign up, making it Lemberthe’s first official workshop in the U.S.

Régis reached out to us and said, ‘Hey, I’m doing this experiment, traveling to a handful of cities across the United States, conducting these workshop,” says Ellie Kermery, co-founder and strategist of Makerhaus. “He’s prototyping in real time and he’s completely fearless. He’s not even formally funded, but he believes in empowering a movement by training others.”

The workshops are time-based, forcing participants to work under the gun. Each participant comes into Makerhaus and draws a slip of paper out of a jar. In Seattle, each slip of paper had a question related to homelessness. To illustrate the bevy of creative answers, there were markers, tubs of Legos, containers of Playdough, cardboard boxes.

Groups brainstorming ideas before building models.
From there, the 17 attendees brainstormed five crazy ideas to address homelessness: no rules, no restrictions, no budgets. The ideas were written on Post-It notes, then stuck to a wall, where the entire group clustered the ideas into groups with themes such as wellness, community, and food. Two people from each group presented the ideas, and the rest of the participants gave feedback. At the very end, the groups rotated, working to improve on a project other than their own. Ideas ranged from computer kiosks set up outside of libraries that allowed the homeless to seek medial advice and browse job listings, to traveling “Clean Machine” trucks that contained laundry and showering facilities.

People’s life experiences, jobs, backgrounds, and even travels made for lively and creative discussion during the entire process, and Lemberthe counts this as one of the important aspects of the workshops.

“You get many different sensitivities, points of views, areas of expertise. And getting such different people to work together can only yield interesting results,” he says. “We had designers, social workers, former homeless people and members of civil society of all sorts, and that confrontation of background enriches the debate.”

Two days after the Design-A-Thon, Lemberthe  was off once again in a green minivan that he bought upon his arrival in the U.S. He built a bed in the back and plans to road trip across the country while he encourages the design community to think beyond current disciplines.

“I get to introduce people to the process of social design without it being a tedious course,” Lemberthe says. “It's a fun and engaging event that let people interact and empathize with a given situation. Even if just for that it's worth doing.”

Clusters of ideas on how to combat various issues of homelessness. 

Above: two questions drawn out of the jar, and their answers created from Legos.

Mar 17, 2014

We Had Lunch at the Shop. Literally.

Peter Miller is a gracious host. Bustling around the kitchen underneath the office of architectural firm Suyama Peterson Deguchi (located behind Peter Miller Books on 2nd Ave. in Seattle) he urges me to sit down, make myself comfortable, and insists on preparing lunch himself. This simple act of preparing a meal is the inspiration for his new book, Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal ($24.95; Abrams Image, March 2014), in which he advocates for people for forgo fast food and take time to prepare and enjoy a good, healthy lunch. He’s been doing just that every day for more than 10 years at his eponymous bookshop.

“At our old space we didn’t have a kitchen,” he says, as he dexterously peels then slices an avocado for a mixed green salad with fresh feta cheese and an olive oil dressing. (For 25 years Miller’s shop was located at 1930 1st Ave.)“It got expensive for people to constantly go out to lunch, and people started bringing in things they had made at home. We’d sit down and eat lunch together, and it just evolved from there.” Miller says that you really don’t need a lot of time to make a great lunch at work. For me he pulls off a salad, fresh semolina bread with whipped butter and reheated pasta with peas, tomatoes and fresh basil that he’d made the night before in less than 10 minutes. All those years of practice have paid off: he’s an excellent cook.

“The key is to be able to use things that you have around,” he explains to me, as he pulls out plates and silverware, “and make sure you have good, high-quality ingredients. They make all the difference.” Peter Miller Books is close to the sundry stalls of Pike Place Market, giving him access to an abundance of fresh ingredients. His top recommended places to stop? Frank’s Quality Produce for veggies, DeLaurenti for various items such as olive oil, and Pike Place Market Creamery for cheese.

Lunch at the Shop has a list of kitchen items to have on hand for quick and easy lunchtime prep (i.e., salad spinner, carrot peeler, cheese grater), more than 45 recipes, and ideas for throwing together a meal using the shops in the neighborhood around your workplace. While he doesn’t have a favorite recipe or number-one tip, he does recognize that everyone runs at a fast pace runs at nowadays. The joy of sitting down with other people to chat and share food, even for just a few minutes, is a wonderful reason to have lunch at the shop, office, conference room, or wherever it is you may spend your time.

Be sure to stop by Miller’s shop to pick up a copy of Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal. I recommend dropping in around lunchtime.

Peter Miller in action, whipping up a delicious lunch in the kitchen below his eponymous bookstore.

Pasta with peas, tomatoes, and fresh basil.
Greens from Pike Place Market with avocado, feta cheese, and an olive oil dressing Miller made on the spot.  

Along with the usual set of necessary office supplies, Miller makes sure to keep mealtime necessities in his office.

The cookbook author serving up some salad. 

Mar 6, 2014

Q&A: Tom Dixon

Stacks of Tom's Dixon's cleverly titled book Dixonary, in which he talks about the inspiration behind his 30-year design career. 

The prolific British designer Tom Dixon has created more than 150 innovative products including chairs, lighting, leather accessories, tables, and candleholders. He has also published two books, The Interior World of Tom Dixon (Conran Octopus, 2008), and 2013’s Dixonary (Violette Editions), in which he talks about the inspiration behind his design career. And the man’s not done designing yet. Last week, Dixon wrapped up his latest tour—with stops at Inform Interiors in Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.—to display a host of new products for the first time in North America: Ball, Y Chair, Beat Light Brass, Etch Shade Black, and Cog. We snuck in some time with the British industrial designer before his talk in Seattle to learn a little about what keeps him cranking out the work.

When did you first become interested in design?

It all happened in a very accidental way. I was always interested in making things, pottery at school for example, but when I was younger, I was a musician [bass guitar] for a while. I had a couple of accidents and stopped playing, but in the meantime, I was making things [experimenting with metal, working on chairs and lighting], people started buying them, and then later on, people started calling me a designer.

There is a very specific “Tom Dixon” look. What inspires all the unique designs of your products?

My initial motivation was the joy of actually making things with my own hands. I like having ideas for products and seeing if I can see them through to fruition, and then seeing if people will actually buy them. I also really like the factory visits and encounters with the technicians, as well as trying to work out whether you can get a machine to do something different [in production]. The rest comes from contemporary sculpture, architecture, and engineering.  

What is your favorite piece from your collections?

I don’t have favorites of anything. I like diversity, but really I live in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction with what I’ve done—I don’t feel like ever cracked it, but that’s what gets me doing the next one.

Do you see a difference between contemporary British and American design?

I see a huge difference. I think it’s a good time for American design right now. It seems to be waking up a bit to contemporary possibility after being pummeled by midcentury modern and Martha Stewart—there’s nothing wrong with her, but that look is a little precious. On this side of things [America], the world of interiors was stuck for so long in the golden period of innovation, which was the ‘50s and ‘60s, but now with the new tools that link the digital and physical world for making things, there is a real awakening for unlimited possibility.

What’s next for you?

I’m designing a hotel with Morgans Hotel Group in London. It’s located by the Tate Modern and has 350 rooms, which is the biggest interiors project I’ve ever worked on. It should be open by August. I’ve also started playing the bass guitar again. 

Editor Rachel Gallaher with British industrial designer Tom Dixon.

Inform Interiors made custom temporary tattoos to reflect the pattern on the Etch light (above right).

A vignette of Tom Dixon furniture and lighting


Tom Dixon products displayed for the first time in North America. From above left: Etch Shade Black, Cog, Beat Light Brass, and Y Chair. 

Feb 25, 2014

Meet the Team: Rachel Gallaher

Ever wonder who's behind GRAY magazine? Well, we want you to get to know us a little better. That's why we're starting the Meet the Team series. Every week we will be posting a Q&A with one of our fabulous team members so you can get a peek at their inspirations, experience at the magazine, and how they got involved in the design industry. And if you have anymore questions, don't hesitate to leave a comment.

Photo: Catleah Cunanan

Name: Rachel Gallaher

Position at GRAY: Editor

What is your favorite part of working for GRAY?

All of the amazing people I get to meet. I’m incredibly social and I love conversing with thinkers, craftspeople, designers, and innovators. Our region is such a hotbed of creativity. At least two to three times a week someone will ask me if I heard of this artist or that architect, or so-and-so the fashion designer, and about 70 percent of the time they are someone new, or a fabulous up-and-comer. Many of the people I’ve interviewed or interacted with for GRAY have become very dear friends.

How would you describe the Pacific Northwest design and architecture scene? How is it different from other parts of the country?

There are no rules! I think that there is a huge amount of freedom in the Pacific Northwest because we aren’t tied to hundreds of years of certain architectural styles and buildings, which isn’t a negative thing by any means. This region seems to attract thinkers, innovators, and creative types across all fields who aren’t afraid to take risks or dive into collaboration with other designers.

How did you get into the design industry?

Like several people at GRAY, I started out at Seattle Homes & Lifestyles. I was just out of college and it was my first internship. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew that I wanted to write. I had always wanted to be a writer. Once I started dipping my toes in the world of design I was hooked. So when I got the call from Shawn asking if I was interested in being involved in this “idea to start a new magazine,” I said yes without hesitation and jumped in with both feet.

What is your favorite design era or style? Why?

I love midcentury modern. I think it has something to do with the defined lines and clean minimalism (I hate clutter and am constantly paring down everything in my apartment except my books—those just keep mysteriously multiplying … ). Despite originating from a specific era, I find the furniture to be timeless and easy to incorporate into many styles of décor. The colors are also to die for. Do I secretly want an avocado-green Smeg refrigerator? Um, who doesn’t?

Do you have any favorite GRAY memories?

Anything involving a studio shoot with our style director Stacy Kendall.  Whenever we get into the studio and start settings things up or moving them around, it always seems like the concept grows and changes—almost to the point where we’re asking ourselves, “Can we really pull this off?” And somehow we always do. Plus, she’s pretty much one of the funniest people I know.

What is your favorite section of the magazine? Why?

That’s tough, but I think it would have to be the fashion section. I love finding out about all the amazing talent coming out of the Pacific Northwest. Plus, I’ve gotten to play dress-up in more than a few designers’ studios.

What is your favorite space in your home? 

My living room. I spend a lot of time in there, and it’s the place where my friends and I just hang out, drink wine, and spend hours talking. Most of the items in there are from the Goodwill, but I’m known to have good luck there. I’ve gotten an industrial cart on wheels that I use as a coffee table, an early 1900s steamer trunk, two Italian brass-and-leather midcentury chairs, and an old record player. One of my favorite things to do is hunt for old records—I love to just put on some Led Zeppelin and sprawl out on the couch at the end of the day. You have to feel comfortable in your own space

Feb 13, 2014

Suits, Specs, and Fashion from Spain

As it goes in the fashion world, trends come and go, stores open and close. One week you’re standing on the corner in wide-leg trousers, and the next week everyone is running around in skinny jeans. In the past few months three new fashion destinations have opened in downtown Seattle, including Suitsupply, Zara, and SEE Eyewear. All the stores are right on trend, but they also carry classically inspired styles that ensure that these three are here to stay.

2429 5th Ave.
(206) 288-5040

The online eyewear craze has really caught on in the past couple of years. It’s quick, convenient, and companies will send you a selection to try on before you buy. But the styles are all starting to blend together—sometimes you'll see three people in the same room wearing almost identical pairs. SEE Eyewear in downtown Seattle offers a refreshing experience in a hip, easy-to-navigate space full of hundreds of completely unique frames including sunnies, prescription lenses, and reading glasses. Started in Detroit by a pair of brothers, Richard and Randal Golden, SEE brings in frames from around the world, made exclusively for the company, and offers them at competitive prices that include both frames and lenses, from $99 sunglasses, to prescription pairs that range in the hundreds. If you’re looking for something that you won’t see on anyone else, then SEE Eyewear offers an unparalleled selection that actually makes having to wear glasses a very fun thing.

Don't expect to pop in and quickly breeze through the selection at SEE Eyewear. Hundreds of glasses in all shapes and colors can leave you standing in front of the mirror for the entire afternoon (trust us on this one).

The shop is a streamlined space with white shelves boasting hundreds of unique glasses. Started by brothers Richard and Randal Golden (their father was in the optometry industry as well), the 5th. Ave. location in downtown Seattle features black-and-white family photos on the walls.

SEE offers everything from sunglasses to prescription glasses for adults and kids, as well as readers in a variety of prices ranges to fit most budgets.

1331 5th Ave.
(206) 212-0100

Just a block down the road from SEE is Suitsupply—a European import (the company is based in Amsterdam) that truly is a one-stop shopping destination for the trendy, PNW man. Stocked with a stylish selection of suits starting from $399, the retailer has a variety of materials (wool, linen, cashmere) and patterns (pinstripe, windowpane) in styles from a classic three-piece to a fashion-forward triple-pocket jacket. Aside from suits, the company also offers weekend wear, shoes, accessories, ties, and shirts. If you’re in a rush, Suitsupply has an in-house tailor to tuck your cuffs and handle your hems. Notable Seattle rapper Macklemore sports threads from the store, and several Seahawks player have been spotted suiting up for off-field play.

The unique jacket display at Suitsupply makes for easy browsing, letting customers compare different styles, materials, and details. Dark hardwood flooring and simple side-lit mirrors aren't distracting, and the curving racks create a visual flow through this section of the store.

The velvet suit on the right is the same style as the one Macklemore wore to the 2014 Grammy Awards.

A tall display of color-coordinated ties shows off the company's penchant for color and pattern.

Each Suitsupply store has an in-house tailor to make sure your purchases fit perfectly before your next big meeting. 

Westlake Center
400 Pine St.

It’s finally here. The day every Seattle fashonista has been waiting for—ZARA, the Spanish clothing chain, is now open in Westlake Center. The 8,200-square-foot building clocks in as one of their largest stores in the United States, and offers clothes for women, men, children, and babies in its black-and-white two-story space. The Seattle location is the first to have the newly re-vamped look, including slightly textured lined ceilings, simple straight lines, and uplit shelves close to the floor. The focus is on the clothes. And oh, what a selection there is. With pieces ranging from classic pencil skirts and mod yellow coats to sheer crop tops and caftan-like shirts for men, ZARA is guaranteed to shake up the Seattle fashion scene this year.

Bold patterns and fashion-forward cuts abound at the newly opened ZARA in Seattle's Westlake Center.

Details such as metallic embellishments take a plain white shirt to the next level.

Yellow is a big color this spring, and can be seen throughout the store.

The men's collections are inspired by different cities and countries around the world including New York, Paris, Africa, and the Middle East.

Feb 4, 2014

Meet the Team: Debra Prinzing

Ever wonder who's behind GRAY magazine? Well, we want you to get to know us a little better. That's why we're starting the Meet the Team series. Every week we will be posting a Q&A with one of our fabulous team members so you can get a peek at their inspirations, experience at the magazine, and how they got involved in the design industry. And if you have anymore questions, don't hesitate to leave a comment.

(c) Mary Grace Long photography
photographed at Jello Mold Farm in Skagit Valley

Name: Debra Prinzing

Position at GRAY: Landscape and Culture Editor

What is your favorite part of working for GRAY?

Being able to tell design stories that excite me in the pages of a beautifully-designed, professionally produced publication. I also love collaborating with a team of super creative storytellers to produce the best design publication in our region.

How would you describe the Pacific Northwest design and architecture scene? How is it different from other parts of the country?

People in the Pacific Northwest have a particular relationship to place. We have an emotional connection to our surroundings; we both possess and are possessed by the homes, the rooms, the furnishings, the artwork, and the plant-filled landscapes that we 
create for ourselves.

How did you get into the design industry?
My undergraduate degree is in textiles and for a few years I worked in the fashion industry. My first job out of college was as a junior writer on the staff of Seventeen Magazine in New York. After I returned to Seattle in the early 1990s, I gravitated to business writing at Puget Sound Business Journal. Because of my design background I ended up covering all the creative beats: retail, hospitality, media, marketing, architecture, and graphic design. That experience rooted me as a design journalist. In the past 16 years I have been an independent writer covering residential architecture, interiors, landscaping and floral design, including as a design columnist at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times.

What is your favorite design era or style? Why?

I have always loved Arts & Crafts for its strong connection to nature, its earthy palette and the celebration of organic materials used. In 1998, my husband and I worked with Robin Abrahams of Abrahams Architects to create an old-new Craftsman style home that totally reflected our love of this style. Then we suddenly moved to Los Angeles in 2006 and we had to sell that home. I swore I would NEVER live in a California ranch house, but guess what? We ended up living in a 1980's stucco and red-tile-roofed ranch. While living in Southern California for four years, I truly began to appreciate that architectural style, as well as its earlier iteration, the Midcentury modern home. Both architectural styles embrace the indoor-outdoor vibe, which speaks to me no matter what the climate.

Do you have any favorite GRAY memories?

It was so much fun to spend an afternoon last  summer enjoying a GRAY team lunch at managing editor Lindsey Roberts' parents home overlooking Puget Sound near Shelton. We rarely stop long enough to do something just to nurture friendships. So to me, it was a very special day, thanks to Lindsey and her mother Christy Rowe.

What is your favorite space in your home?

My office. It is painted Leaf green and I'm surrounded by a huge library of horticulture and design books - ceiling to floor, as well as my collection of vintage American vases. The room has three huge windows facing east. I rarely feel like it's work when I'm inside this space.

What has been one of the highlights of the past year for you?

Launching the "Slow Flowers Podcast with Debra Prinzing," a free weekly podcast about American flowers and the people who grow and design with them. It's available free on iTunes and to date, more than 6,000 episodes have been downloaded by listeners.

Dec 27, 2013

Train Travel for the Design Aficionado

Ride the new "Portland Express," a train car with iconic Northwest design elements.

By Debra Prinzing

Travel Portland and Amtrak Cascades last week unveiled the city's Portland Express train car, the first-ever design takeover of a passenger rail car for the Pacific Northwest’s route that runs from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Eugene, Oregon.

The retrofitted dining car is as cozy as a Northwest mountain lodge, outfitted with custom Pendleton Woolen Mills upholstered seats, wood-grain wallpaper, Tanner Goods leather coasters, oil paintings, mounted antlers and other accents from beloved Portland vendors. If you're inclined to peek under the tables—and we did—you'll find that the posts have been yarn-bombed with hand-knit coverings.

Outside, the train car has also been wrapped in graphic illustrations depicting all that's fun, weird, and wacky about Portland. Travel Portland tapped hometown advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy to design and execute the project.

Passengers will be able to ride the Portland Express from Jan. 6, 2014, through March as part of the city's winter travel promotion highlighting tax-free shopping, 52 craft breweries, and a culinary scene that includes restaurants, specialty shops and an entire month of $29 three-course menus in March.

If you book your Amtrak Cascades train tickets at least two weeks in advance, you’ll get 25 percent off already low prices—meaning a one-way trip to Portland starts at only $24 from Seattle or $47 from Vancouver. Learn more at Amtrak.com.

An entire Amtrak Cascades train car is wrapped with all the images that represent Portland's distinct personality.

"Portland is Happening Now," the message that Travel Portland is using to lure passengers from Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seattle to visit, shop, dine, and experience Portland this winter.

As part of the interior makeover of an Amtrak dining car, the seats were reupholstered with Pendleton Woolen Mills fabric.

Ordinary table legs get a distinctly Portlandesque makeover, yarn-bombed with hand-knit coverings.

Cozy as a Pacific Northwest mountain lodge, the Portland Express is tricked out with all things Portland.

Wood-grain wallpaper, Pendleton blanket window coverings, and a tiny hanging terrarium á la Portland. 

All photos courtesy of Travel Portland