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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What’s So Sweet About New York?

November 6, 2017

When you think maple, you probably think of Vermont and those little leaf-shaped candies. But at the end of the Eighteenth century, one man was on a mission to make the Empire State the maple state. Gerrit Boon, who had been a sugar refiner in Holland, came to upstate—way upstate—New York with dreams of turning its abundant maple forests into a vast plantation for making maple sugar. Continue Reading…

Design

An Unfolding Story: The Shape-Shifting Ollie Chair

October 26, 2017

*Editor’s note: The Shape-Shifting Ollie Chair is coming soon to our assortment. Be the first to get it by pre-ordering here.

“I like creating objects that move and change and don’t always stay what they seem to be,” says Ollie chair designer Jess Banks. Transformation is everywhere you turn at her studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It starts with the building itself. The jaw-dropping space of the New Lab, where Jess and her team develop their kinetic designs, was once part of a shipbuilding mecca. The space is now a high-tech entrepreneurial hub. “It’s really amazing to think of how we’re based in a place that was running because of war, and I’m allowed the freedom and luxury to create new ideas,” she reflected. This is just the sort of place you’d expect to find a chair that unfurls from a two-inch-thick rectangle of aluminum and wood tambour—and transforms back again with a gentle pull.

We visited Jess to discuss design inspirations for her shape-shifting chair, the personalities behind it, and why she doesn’t call it a “folding chair.” Along the way, we learned more about tambour and discovered why the former Comedy Central employee looks forward to buying toothpaste. Continue Reading…

Design

Coffee Brake: The Manual Three-in-One Coffeemaker

October 21, 2017

Coffee can be a complicated thing. Unless you’re drinking decaf, it signals speed and gulp-and-go morning motivation. It’s no accident that many American offices provide a steady stream of java, as if to say coffee equals productivity. But the slow food movement has put the brakes on preparing this fast-lane beverage. “Slow coffee is really asking folks to consider coffee as something more than just a caffeine jolt,” says Manual Three-in-One Coffeemaker designer Craighton Berman. Brewing methods like pour-over and French press that predate auto drip and K-cup coffeemakers have made a comeback. You could easily end up with a cabinet full of coffee paraphernalia, but Chicagoans and slow-coffee devotees Craighton and his wife and design partner, Emily, have a solution: a brewer that combines two manual methods with an insulating double-walled design.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What’s Another Word for Piles of Printed Procrastination?

October 2, 2017

 

 

Whether it’s just a few volumes that you couldn’t resist or a formidable tower threatening to topple over and crush you with its wordy weight, there’s actually a name for your pile of unread books: tsundoku. This Japanese neologism describes the habit—some would say admirable, others would say pathological—of accumulating books that may never actually be read. The term is a playful mash-up of words that wonderfully describe the habit: tsunde (to stack things), oku (to leave for a while), and doku (to read). Roughly translated, the combination denotes a pile of printed procrastination. Some would argue that, read or unread, tsundoku. is a noble pursuit because well-designed books are objects of beauty in and of themselves. But if you do get around to reading that deluxe edition of Moby Dick that’s been adrift in the tsundoku doldrums for 12 years, just be careful if it’s at the bottom of the stack.

Prologue Epilogue Bookends | $40

Design

Material Matters: The Warmth of Wood

September 27, 2017

Actor and avid canoe builder Nick Offerman once said, “How lucky my life is that I have two arms, and two legs, and ten fingers with which to make things out of wood.” Such dedication to this organic, flexible, and renewable material is nothing new. Wood has been a favorite of architects, builders, and designers for millennia. Technically speaking, it’s cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin. Unlike metals and plastics, wood is versatile, structural stuff that can be grown. Plant a seed or acorn, wait a few decades, and you can build yourself a house, a ship, or a cuckoo clock. From ancient Japanese temples to the flowing furniture of Scandinavian modernism, wood inspires an amazing variety of design. Not surprisingly, you’ll find it in many corners of our collection, where makers draw out its inviting qualities to infuse their work with natural beauty. Thanks, trees! Continue Reading…

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What Singer Blocked His Own Stairway?

August 30, 2017

If the Buggles are to be believed, the radio star is dead as a doornail. But in the golden age of FM, you could count on a couple of things: DJs who all sounded a bit like Wolfman Jack, and hearing Stairway to Heaven every five minutes (which is incredible given that the song is over eight minutes long). But KBOO, an independent radio station in Portland, Oregon decided to do something about this overexposure. As part of a pledge drive, KBOO promised that if they met their goal, they’d never spin Stairway again. Continue Reading…

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: How Well Does the Bard Dispense Profanity?

August 10, 2017

Our copywriter, Eric, checks out some Shakespeare silliness.

There are more things in heaven and earth…than are dreamt of in your philosophy

Having played a certain infamous, misanthropic card game a few times, I was curious about whether our Shakespearean version—Bards Dispense Profanity (BDP)—would provide a similar level of smutty, giggle-inducing fun. Or would it be a tedious, highbrow take on a very lowbrow phenomenon? Only one way to find out.

This report is inspired by our long-running Gift Lab series, but I took some poetic license with the scientific method. After all, Will would want it that way.

Now, once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!

 

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What Planet Is Too Hot to Handle?

July 10, 2017

Just in time for summer, the search for exoplanets—worlds beyond our solar system—is heating up. Literally. Astronomers have discovered a planet that’s beyond blistering. It’s almost as hot as the surface of our sun and even hotter than many other stars. More than twice the size of Jupiter, gas giant KELT-9b boasts a daytime temperature of 4,300 °C. For comparison’s sake, the hottest planet in our solar system—Venus—averages only 460 °C and the hottest spot on earth is Death Valley at a pitiful 58 °C. “You call that hot?” say imagined retirees living on KELT-9b.

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