For all of you who have the desire and ambition to grow your own vegetable garden this summer, but don’t exactly know where to start, this is a really simple and useful infographic that will help get you going in the right direction:
When I was invited by KCADC to cover Kansas City Design Week 2012 for Inhabitat, I must admit, I knew very little about the city and its culture. I have some friends who had spent some time here, and have talked about how great a town it is; but beyond these casual mentions of KC, and my amateurish knowledge of its Jazz and BBQ roots (thanks to Ken Burns and Anthony Bourdain, respectively), I had no discernible notions about the city and its people. So once this opportunity came my way I was beyond excited and ready to take-in all that Kansas City had to offer. In between attending Design Week events and happenings, I was able to explore and photograph a small sampling of what makes Kansas City so incredibly unique.
Moshe Safdie’s steel, glass, and concrete poetry that is the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts:
Yesteryear’s heart of Kansas City industry and culture, the beautifully haunting, mostly deserted West Bottoms corridor – currently in the infant stages of a renaissance:
First Fridays is a monthly event in the Crossroads Arts District where thousands congregate to gallery hop, listen to live music, and eat and drink locally from food trucks and street vendors. Basically, it’s one big, happy party:
According to Anthony Bourdain, Oklahoma Joe’s is one of the 13 places you should eat at before you die. I waited in a line that wrapped around the outside of the building (it’s inside a gas station, mind you) for an hour and fifteen minutes, spent $12, and was finished eating in just under 10 minutes… and I’d do it all over again. Yes, it was that good:
I was fortunate enough to get a private tour (in Darryl Hawkins‘ sporty convertible) of some of Kansas City’s most sustainable residential architecture:
I hung out a lot at The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art and the adjacent award-winning Bloch Building modern gallery space designed by Steven Holl Architects:
And of course I would be remiss if I did not tour the Boulevard Brewery, aka, Craft Beer Heaven:
At the end of my short visit, I felt like I saw so much of what defines Kansas City – but I know there’s so much more to it than that. The people here are proud, hard-working, and have a Midwest warmth about them that is unique to Kansas City. Everyone I met went out of their way to help me and teach me about their home town. The arts and culture here is vibrant and flourishing, with museums, art schools, theater, great restaurants, and incredible live music every night of the week. If Chicago is the quintessential American City, this Paris of the Plains known as Kansas City is its younger brother. Just over an eight our drive (or eight hours by train) from Chicago, it’s a trip you should seriously consider making if you’ve never been. I’m certain you’ll be pleasantly surprised and, like me, leave wanting more.
The National WWI Museum
It’s been a long, long, long time
How could I ever have lost you
When I loved you
It took a long long long time
Now I’m so happy I found you
How I love you
So many tears I was searching
So many tears I was wasting
Now I can see you, be you
How can I ever misplace you
How I want you
Oh, I love you
You know that I need you
Oh, I love you
- John Lennon
Happy Earth Day 2012
When you enter the property of Charles & Ray Eames in Santa Monica, California, you pass a stacked cord of firewood, a shed of old tools, potted plants in clay jars, and a multitude of mulch-covered paths. There is nothing particularly remarkable about the landscape but, by virtue of their very proximity to the Eames’ house, everyday objects acquire a unique charge that can only be described as Eamesian. The Eamesian touch is tempting to describe, but best left for the images to speak for themselves. ~Michael Neault
A friend of mine who’s in the business of hocking cool furniture recently joked that if he heard one more person describe a piece of furniture as “Eames style,” he would absolutely lose it. I suppose if you’re in the industry and have a respectable knowledge of the expansive catalog of Mid-Century modern design and its designers, hearing something described as “Eamesian” without valid explanation could be a little grating on one’s intellect. The Eameses were undeniable rock-stars of furniture design (and textile design, and gadget and toy making, and film making, and advertising, and branding, etc.) in their day – but in the age of the internet and the revival of all things mid-century modern, their legend has grown to epic proportions – so much so that rapper Ice Cube is even cruising on the Eames’ plywood-made bandwagon.
Despite their ubiquity and iconic status, as a designer I still hold a strong reverence for the work and philosophy of Charles and Ray Eames. How can one not, as a visual artist, or even a person of academia for that matter, respect their mission to educate and communicate through the power of design? Their endless curiosity and experimental approach to everything they touched has undoubtedly changed the way the modern world thinks, works, and lives. And though their philosophy to only take from Mother Earth what is necessary, and their quest to “bring the best to the most for the least” has not fully been realized (their licensed products are, let’s just say, pricey), this utopian-minded thinking was ahead of its time in the midst of the splurge and excess of late 1950′s and 1960′s consumerism.
On a recent trip to the West Coast, I was given the opportunity to take a private tour of Case Study House No. 8, or more commonly, the Eames House, by a former employee of the Eames Office and an old friend of Charles and Ray. The home and studio rest on a hillside in the affluent neighborhood of Pacific Palisades, just north of Santa Monica, with vistas of Santa Monica Pier and the ocean just beyond the towering Eucalyptus trees that were left untouched per the revised design for site. The modest buildings, though not organic in material (steel and glass) or shape (a box), somehow exist in harmony with the leisurely maintained coastal nature surrounding them.
The interior was remarkably preserved the way Ray had left it, except for the living room, which was on loan to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for their California Design, 1930–1965: “Living in a Modern Way” exhibit. In its absence, the Eames Foundation cleverly recreated a 1951 Japanese tea-party the Eameses had hosted in the living room, where guests like Isamu Noguchi, Shirley Yamaguchi, and Charlie Chaplin dined and talked about current projects, and about life (oh, to be a fly on that suspended Hans Hofmann painting!).
As I walked the grounds photographing the meadow where the Eameses played and picnicked, and also the exterior architecture of the simple but beautifully designed home and studio, I began to understand on a deeper level their life’s work and philosophy. From the eclectic compilation of worldly objects scattered throughout the home, to the lush foliage of the adjoining patios, to the ingenious musical tower made of xylophone keys, wood, and plexiglass, 203 North Chautauqua Boulevard truly is a must see whether you’re a fan of the Eameses furniture, or simply appreciate their contribution to modern thinking about design and its impact on the world around us.
To learn more about the life and work of Charles and Ray Eames, check out the very informative PBS documentary film, Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter, here.
This year, the warm weather beat Opening Day to the punch with record breaking March highs all across the country. These unseasonably tropical temps have already inspired wine and cheese get-togethers on balconies, jazzy rooftop soirées, and rockin’ backyard BBQ’s (hooray!). But who are we kidding? April hasn’t even arrived yet – so you still have plenty of time to get your outdoor space in lounge and/or party mode this Spring, and Matter & Order is here to help. The following outdoor-living tips will set you in the right direction and have you saying prost! skál! or salute! under the sun in no time.
#1 Know Your Space: When shopping for outdoor furniture, make sure you write down the dimensions of the space before heading out the door. This will help avoid buying too large or too small of pieces for your space (for instance, remember that you’ll need between 40”-50” of spacing around a dining table to accommodate not only the chairs, but the space behind the chairs as well). Also, ask yourself what the primary use of this space will be. Will you frequently entertain family and friends? or will you only be using the space for leisurely afternoons in the sun? Knowing the parameters and purpose of your space will ultimately help determine the type and amount of furniture you will need.
#2 Buy Quality Furniture: Outdoor furniture is made from all sorts of materials and of varying quality. Wrought iron is probably the longest lasting, but it frequently needs to be repainted and in most cases does not work with a modern aesthetic (not to mention how heavy it is!). Wicker or wood furniture adds a bit of warmth, but is not always the most durable, fading and changing colors easily. Then there’s recycled plastic, which is long lasting, weather resistant, good for the environment, and made by several reputable manufacturers in a variety designs. If you go this route, Matter & Order is in love with Loll’s outdoor furniture and accessories line (Loll chair pictured above). It’s durable, hip, and comes in a number of different colors and styles for small and large spaces alike. Made in Duluth, Minnesota from 100% recycled HDPE (high density polyethylene, or the plastic used in milk jugs, detergent bottles, etc.), and 100% recyclable themselves, Loll’s products will not only add a splash of color and modern panache to your space, but you will feel good about helping the environment for years (or decades) to come. You can purchase Loll products at DWR, Room & Board, or directly from Loll Designs.
#3 Add Greenery: This is the key to completing any design, especially those outdoor spaces. Although it can seem daunting given the number of plants and the many purposes plants can serve – from ornamentals or flowering plants for color and aroma, to fruit, vegetable, and herb producing plants for those home cooked meals, to grasses, ivy, and trees for added privacy – Matter & Order suggests a few simple steps that will help you get started on the garden of your dreams.
Balconies & Rooftops: First and foremost, check to see if there are any building rules or restrictions to growing your rooftop or balcony garden. If you have the green light, the second thing to consider is the direction your elevated outdoor space faces as this will help determine which plants will fair best in all the varying conditions, like sun exposure and wind. The next step is deciding what kind of garden design you want. Just as Matter & Order enjoys mixing furniture styles to create an interesting space for our clients, we also like to mix it up in the garden to achieve the same effect. Try a hanging or stationary container with marigold flowers and tomato plants or eggplants (as seen above). Not only will the marigold flowers add a beautiful and rich pop of yellow-gold against the tomato’s reds and eggplant’s dark purples, but it will help fend off common insect pests that are attracted to these delectable fruits.
The final to-do before heading to the garden store is evaluate the outdoor space with the existing furniture to determine how many containers and planters to buy. If space is limited, you can always grow vertically with wall mounted or hanging trellises and panels. You can find these and all your other green thumb needs at Matter & Order’s two favorite gardening stores in Chicago: Sprout Home for modern gardening accessories (like the Boskke Planter pictured above, made from recycled polypropylene), and Jayson Home for the more traditional and classic designed garden accessories.
Backyards: For the fortunate who live in this great city and surrounding suburbs who can walk out the back door and step onto fertile soil, the sky is the limit for what you can do with your exterior space. We like to add architectural elements to backyard gardens. Start by choosing a linear plot of land, either along a new or existing pathway, or along a fence. If you have the space, try to incorporate curves and bends into the landscape. Plant perennials like Coral Bells and Hostas, and add some Shrub Roses around ornamental grasses like a Karl Foerster feather reed grass (pictured above). You’ll not only add dimension, and increase color and height variation to your garden, but you’ll be lulled to sleep watching and listening to your backyard sway gracefully in the summer breeze.
#4 Have fun: As the saying goes, gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration. But really it’s all about having fun and learning. If you’re willing to do this, then you’re already on your way to creating your very own Garden of Eden, regardless of the size of your outdoor space!
For more outdoor-living tips, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Day of St. Patrick! Press play above the rainbow to hear “Off to California” by Micheál Shannon, Buddy Flanagan, and Kevin Griffin – which is a fitting tune as we’ll be off to California next week to take a private tour of the Eames Case Study House No. 8, and explore the culture of the LA coast. Look for this on Matter Observed in the near future!
And though antithetical to this very moment in time (you, on-line, absorbing even more information), we give you a few apropos quotes from one of our favorite authors of Irish blood:
“But we are living in a skeptical and, if I may use the phrase, a thought-tormented age; and sometimes I fear that this new generation, educated or hypereducated as it is, will lack those qualities of humanity, of hospitality, of kindly humor which belonged to an older day.”
“One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”
- James Joyce
Now get off Facebook and Twitter and Matter Observed and go out and enjoy this beautiful (green) day!
Kansas City Design Week 2012 hosted designer, writer, curator, and educator Ellen Lupton, where she humorously introduced an insightful new exhibition surveying graphic design over the past decade titled, Graphic Design: Now in Production. The traveling exhibit will be at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum on Governors Island in New York from May 26 – September 2, 2012.
Barry Phipps has been working as an artist since his days at the Kansas City Art Institute where he toured with the experimental band, Mudhead, and along with Archer Prewitt (The Sea and Cake) and two other KCAI students (Mark Greenberg and John Upchurch), co-founded the influential avant garde group, the Coctails. Between 1988 and 1995, the foursome recorded and toured the United States and abroad, playing music and making posters, t-shirts, buttons, dolls, and other hand-made merchandise to promote the band’s concept and identity. After the Coctails disbanded to individually focus on other creative pursuits, Barry started the Tight Ship record label where he has produced and recorded music at his North Branch Recording Studio in Chicago for both established and aspiring musicians alike. He also founded Beep Media, Inc., a collective of talented, young DJ’s spinning sounds from a meticulously curated library of music for weddings and special events.
In 2005, Barry and the Coctails regrouped to support the Pixies on their reunion tour before setting out on a reunion tour of their own in Japan where they have a cult-like following. In 2007, Barry delved back into fine-art with a gusto, starting his eponymous photography business, Barry Phipps Photography. Since its inception, he has traveled all over the United States and overseas (including Sweden, Italy, and most recently France) capturing the most delicate and precious moments in a way that more resembles a Henri Cartier-Bresson or Vivian Maier print than your stereotypical wedding album photograph. From his deliberate technique, to the equipment he uses, this “fine art” approach has garnered him a standard-setting reputation in the event and wedding photography industry, with many now following suit.
This short documentary merely scratches the surface of Barry Phipps’ story as a photographer, musician, and multimedia artist. To learn more about Barry, follow the links below.
What a year it has been.
From starting Matter Observed way back in January, to taking on several exciting interior design projects with Matter & Order; traveling near and far, including a last minute trip to Italy covering the Salone del Mobile for Inhabitat, to welcoming two beautiful new members into the extended family. There were ups and there were downs, as can be expected in any calendar year – but it was a good year. A challenging year. I learned a lot in 2011, and for that I am so very grateful.
As we bid 2011 adieu, I want to thank everyone who has supported me and Matter & Order through kind words of encouragement, and also thank those who took the time to read Matter Observed posts (over 6,000 visits to date!). I cannot express in words how much this means to me. In the year ahead, I will strive to design more, discover more, and write more, and of course share all of it with you on Matter Observed!
So I raise my proverbial glass, wishing you and your family the very best for 2012.
Happy New Year!
Chicago Home + Garden‘s second annual Chairs for Charity was an overwhelming success, with thousands of dollars raised for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Last year, Matter & Order participated with our submission, The Happiest Man – a vintage valet chair from the 1950′s. This year, we covered the event for Inhabitat and had just as much fun. Click here to read all about the event, and see the amazingly creative and inventive chairs from some of Chicago’s top designers.