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Three-Generational Home in Switzerland Ensures Harmonious Living

architecture modern residence
Daniele Claudio Taddei Architect completed the design of Autumn House, a contemporary residence in Switzerland that perfectly suits the living needs of a multi-generational family.

“Three generations, two cats and one dog living under one roof was a bit tight, so the grandparents decided to use a leftover corner from their property to get their own roof, building a house attached to the old one for themselves and their pets in this neighborhood adjacent the City of Zurich,” the architects said.

The idea was to have a vertical building wrapped in wood and annexed to the initial construction. A metal staircase in stainless steel connects the three floors of this new addition.
modern residence (2)
The Autumn House is accessed through the street level, which also doubles as a laundry room. On the ground floor, the living room can be fully opened up to the outside with foldable glass panels to the garden in the south. This brings the serene atmosphere of the garden inside, giving a sense of openness despite the relatively small size. It also adds some color and life to the clean minimalist design.

The second level faces the airy staircase and accommodates one bathroom and two bedrooms. One bedroom has a secret door leading directly to the granddaughters’ room, making babysitting very easy. “The project modernized and cleaned the look of both houses, giving them a distinctive face in this suburban surrounding form the 60’s,” concluded the developing team about Autumn House. [Photos and information courtesy of Daniele Claudio Taddei Architect]
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Best in Show: Highlights from the Top International Design Week Events

Image: Shore Rugs

Image: Shore Rugs

The top design shows for 2016 have come and gone, leaving those in the home design business with plenty of inspiration. What will you be seeing at retail stores near you soon? Here are some of the best in show products featured at the top international design events this year.

Maison&Objet Show

Image: Les Gambettes

Image: Les Gambettes

Les Gambettes Suzie Chairs

Design firm Les Gambettes rolled out their simple, retro-inspired, whimsical chairs in an assortment of vintage prints and colors. The inspiration behind their design choices is a tropical summer.

Maison&Objet’s next Paris show is September 2-6, 2016.

International Contemporary Furniture Fair

Image: Shore Rugs

Image: Shore Rugs

Shore Rugs

A finalist in the Best in Show category of the NYCxDESIGN awards, Shore Rugs are woven from durable silicone cord into bold, modern textures and color patterns. Designed for use indoor or out, they feel cushy underfoot all while looking fab.

Image: Luceplan

Image: Luceplan

Mesh by Francisco Gomez Paz for Luceplan

This flexible pendant is outfitted with LED lights that illuminate a room in a stunningly stark, architectural way. Besides being a finalist for the NYCxDESIGN award at the International Contemporary Fair, the Mesh pendant also won the prestigious Red Dot “Best of the Best ” for 2016.

ICFF’s next show is slated in Miami Beach October 5-6. 2016.

Stockholm Design Week

Image: Rörstrand

Image: Rörstrand

Inblue by Monica Förster for Rörstrand

Designer Monica Förster has taken Rörstrand‘s traditional blue and white china and given it a fresh, new twist. The patterns appear to bleed like watercolors on the crisp, white porcelain.

Image: Muubs

Image: Muubs

Muubs Bathtubh Riverstone

The Riverstone Bathtubh is a unique, organic bathtub. The hollowed boulder creates a majestic focal point in any luxury bathroom. The raw stone material appears raw and harsh on the outside but is soft and smooth inside. No two are alike!

The next Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair is February 6-12, 2017.

International Furniture Fair Singapore/ASEAN Furniture Show

Image: IFFS

Image: IFFS

Sit by Katarzyna Kempa

Young Polish designer Katarzyna Kempa took the best in show prize at the International Furniture Fair in Singapore for her Sit ergonomic office stool. Although not for sale to the masses yet, Kempa made many contacts in Singapore which may lead to a production run of her chair and other office furniture designs.

The next IFFS in Singapore is scheduled for March 9-12, 2017.

Dwell on Design

Image: Chandra

Image: Chandra

Chandra Shuffleboard Table

The Dwell on Design New York show’s top hits included Chandra’s Shuffleboard Table. The solid wood table has leather accents and doubles as a pub-style dining table and shuffleboard center. A special coating protects the table surface and ensures that the pucks will slide well. The table’s design features graphic, interwoven legs and a contemporary vibe.

Image: Lovesac

Image: Lovesac

Sactional by Lovesac

Another big draw was the Lovesac Sactionals introduction. Lovesac has evolved beyond a beanbag company and into smart, modular furniture pieces, like the Sactional. The collection pieces are deceptively well tailored with clean, contemporary lines. The sleek Sactional designs have removable, washable covers and can easily be configured into various shapes.

Look for the upcoming Dwell on Design Show, open to the public, from June 24-26, 2016.

Many of these products (or versions of them) are available online. Now that you’ve had an insider’s look on what the top stores and designers saw at the international shows, take inspiration from the latest trends to freshen up your space.

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Wood Accents Uplift Black & White Scandinavian Apartment

Scandinavian apartment

This lovely apartment in the center of Gothenburg, Sweden showcases an inspiring design and a playful layout. As listed on real estate broker Alvhem‘s website, the 791-square-foot crib takes up the upper two levels of a historic house that dates back to 1873. A living room ceiling height of 9.85 feet, a rustic brick wall in the bedroom and exposed wooden beams are just a few of our favorite features in this space.

Beginning in the entryway, a black and white color scheme with wood accents make the dwelling feel airy and inviting. The kitchen provides a soft and rustic ambiance, with a generously-sized wood dining table as the focal point of this room.
modern apartment (1)The living area is peacefully located overlooking an inner garden. Two chairs, a sofa and a variety of decorative pillows make this contemporary corner perfect for a tea break with friends.

Up the stairs is a versatile space, where a small desk allows for an improvised work zone while being able to keep an eye on what’s cooking in the kitchen. Located behind the staircase, the bedroom is arguably the most captivating interior of the apartment. There is ample space for a double bed, large dresser, and cozy reading area. A skylight brings light to the white-painted and plastered walls and parquet in oak. The brick accent wall serves as storage and gives additional character to the room.
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DIY Paper Weaving for Easy, Modern Art

freshome diy wall hanging

Welcome to our very first DIY on Freshome.

Today we’re going to do a bit of weaving. Recently, woven crafts have become a trendy way to decorate walls with colorful yarn and fabric designs in all colors and sizes. With a little practice and patience, they create stunning results.

I’ve done quite a bit of weaving myself. And while it’s simple and relaxing, it is also undeniably time-consuming and requires more materials than I have at the ready. It’s a wonderful hobby, but certainly not a quick DIY. 


And so this creative endeavor is brought to you in part by:

  1. 1. My love for easy DIYs
  2. 2. A stack of design magazines on the coffee table
  3. 3. These bare walls staring sadly at me


The DIY paper weaving artwork is a simpler alternative to its textile counterpart and calls for only common household items that I’m willing to bet you already have laying around.

For me, the hardest part of this DIY paper weaving is choosing the two pictures to weave together. Because I have too many magazines that need to be recycled, I actually used two pages from a Wallpaper magazine instead of printing my own photos. I also like the idea of taking two different pictures of homes and combining them — but that’s just me being a sap about home design.

magazine pages diy weaving

Whatever images you select, you can embellish them further by additionally weaving in ribbons, colored paper, etc. Another idea would be to weave two different book pages together. Oh, the possibilities!

DIY Paper Weaving


DIY Paper Weaving

For this project, you’ll need:

  • 2 photos of your choosing, printed to fit 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper
  • 2 sheets of blank 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper
  • A ruler
  • Pen or pencil
  • Scissors
  • 4 small binder clips
  • Clear tape
  • Optional: ribbon or colored paper

freshome diy wall hanging supplies

To begin, you’ll need to create your cut-out templates.

freshome diy wall hanging templates

With your two blank sheets paper, use your ruler to mark and draw the lines. The first page will be vertical lines that measure 2 cm apart.

freshome diy wall hanging templates drawn

The second page will be diagonal, so measure 3cm marks this time along the top and right sides, then connect the dots to create the lines. On the diagonal page, you’ll want to stop your lines at the last centimeter of space on the left and top sides. This way, you won’t cut all of the way through.

freshome diy wall hanging scissors

Once your templates are drawn, secure them on top of your pictures with binder clips. Cut along the lines of both pictures, remembering not to cut all of the way through on the diagonal image.

freshome diy wall hanging paper

Remove the binder clips and discard the templates.

diy wall hanging half woven

Now, you’re ready to start combining the images. Take a vertical strip and weave it through the left side of the diagonal image. You’re simply going over and under to create a lattice pattern. Once you’ve finished the first strip, make sure it’s pushed all of the way to the left and that the top and bottom edges are flush.


Take the next strip and weave the opposite pattern. If you started over-under on the first strip, then the second one will be under-over. Continue weaving with the remaining pieces.


Once you’ve finished your weaving, secure the edges again with binder clips.


Flip the entire thing over (a bit easier if you use paper that is sturdier than a magazine page) and use tape around the edges. I was surprised to see how cool mine looked from the back!


You can also trim off any excess paper to get your design to just the right size. Just be sure to have tape wherever you are cutting.


Turn your paper weaving back over and marvel at your piece of art. Lastly, you’ll want to find a frame and get it up on your wall.

Did you do this DIY paper weaving? I’d love to see your results and hear about how it went! Leave a note in the comments, or send us some love on social media.  


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The Best Solar Panels for 2016 — and beyond

In her book Bread, Wine, Chocolate, journalist Simran Sethi explores the idea of setting our tastes based on what is ethical. She gives the example of wild-grown coffee, which is gentlest on the environment but, when brewed, doesn’t match our typical idea of what good coffee tastes like. (It tastes “earthy,” or in other words, kind of like dirt.) But tastes are subjective, and they change throughout our lifetime. So, what if we made the conscious effort to shape them based on the changes we want to see in the world?

Sethi may have been writing about coffee, but this same philosophy can be applied to any area where big changes are waiting to happen — including energy.

Collage for Solar Panels

Source: Dwell (left); HomeWorldDesign (top right); SRS Energy via CNET (bottom right)

When you think of solar panels, you may not think of design. Traditional panels — those massive rectangles, black or blue and reflective, arranged front-and-center across your roof — can look severe or, even worse, like an afterthought, unrelated to the style of the rest of your house. But, like wild coffee, solar energy is good for the planet. And, unlike the artisanal beans at your local hipster cafe, it can be great for your budget too.

Best Solar PanelsSolarWorld, Canadian Solar, Centrosolar, Axitec Solar, Kyocera Solar
Best DIY Option: Grape Solar
Newest Technology: Dow, CertainTeed

Given these benefits, it’s worth thinking about solar energy and our subjective taste. Can we just learn to love the traditional panel? Or, will our demand for aesthetics, coupled with our growing interest in solar energy, drive researchers to find new alternatives to the bulky rectangle?

In Bread, Wine, Chocolate, Sethi’s proposition is that we vote, with our money and our behavior, for better options. Architect Walter Sedovic of the firm WSA Modern Ruins argues that we can do just the same with solar energy. “The thing that’s most important is for people to keep an open mind to look for opportunities to engage and embrace these technologies,” he told me over the phone, “because the more we use them, the more they evolve, and the more they evolve, the more we use them.” In other words, the more beautiful we find renewable energy, the more beautiful it becomes.

The best solar panels for your home are the ones you’re proud to show off.

“Some people, especially in a progressive town like Austin, want to have the bragging rights of ‘going green’ in the neighborhood,” says Andie Marsh, a home performance consultant at TreeHouse, a sustainability-focused home improvement company in Texas. “They want the panels to be visible but still clean and concise — which means no mosaic designs.”

If you Google “ugly solar panels,” you’ll find examples of block and mosaic arrays. The first, like Marsh says, are clean and concise, arranged in a tidy shape across all or part of the roof. The second can look patchy and random, two words that have probably never been part of any compliment. Mosaic installations happen when your roof has obstacles, like skylights, chimneys, or multiple levels, but an installer should be able to work with you to make your array look as neat and streamlined as possible.

If that’s enough for you to go solar, great news! Panels are still much more widely available than any of the newer solar alternatives, so if you choose them, it will be that much easier for you to research, not to mention find installers and manufacturers. As you shop around, you’ll want to get quotes and compare offers, and you’ll have many more options with panels than you would with more exclusive or emerging technology.

A full solar array, including panels and all supporting parts, can cost between $10,000 and $40,000, although the solar investment tax credit will save you 30 percent through 2019. If you aren’t ready to spend that much at once or take out a loan, you can still go solar without buying your panels. Many solar providers now offer leasing options, and companies like SolarCity and Vivint have come out with power-purchase agreements, or PPAs. Both of these choices let you go green without spending thousands of dollars up front. (Just keep in mind that with a lease or PPA, you won’t save quite as much money over time, and your solar provider, not you, will get to take advantage of any tax credits.)

There are a few ways to customize your solar panel look. Panels come in two colors: black and blue. The black ones are called monocrystalline panels, which means they’re made from single crystals of silicon. The blue ones are polycrystalline panels, which are made from many silicon crystals melted down, then poured into a cast. Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient solar choice, but that doesn’t mean they’re your only choice. It just means that you need more polycrystalline panels to generate the same amount of power you could get with fewer monocrystalline panels. So if you prefer the blue look, you’ll need a little more space on your roof to make way for those extra panels.

Depending on the slant of your roof, you might also be able to decide whether to mount your panels at an angle on a “tilt frame” or have them installed flush against your shingles. Tilt frames act like kickstands, lifting panels so they can point toward the sun at a different angle than your roof. Getting the right angle will help you catch the most energy from the sun, and this kind of installation will make your panels stand out even more.

Solar-powered Denver home

Source: Dwell

Ready for panels? Start with an installer.

Once you’re ready to buy your panels and turn your roof into the shiny power generator of your dreams, you can start by choosing a local solar installer. Customer service and accessibility are key, but also keep an eye out for solid warranties (you should be able to find ones that cover up to 25 years) and guaranteed credit (money back if your panels are not as efficient as your installer promises).

Don’t hesitate to ask potential installers for references from clients as well, and consider checking with a consumer review site like Angie’s List to make sure real people can vouch for the company you choose.

A good installer should have panels available from top-of the-line manufacturers. According to, a great solar panel should have:

  • A solid history: Since solar panels are a long-term investment and come with long-lasting warranties, you’ll want to be sure your manufacturer won’t fold before it can fulfill your warranty. A solid 10-year track record of business is where you should start.
  • At least 230 watts of power: If your panels aren’t powerful, you’ll need that many more of them to generate the energy you need, which means you’ll need more roof surface area and you’ll probably end up spending more money too.
  • An efficiency rating of at least 16.5 percent: For a solar panel, efficiency is determined by a panel’s power relative to its size. For the reasons above, small and mighty is the way to go.
  • Excellent customer service: If all goes well and the installer you choose doesn’t go out of business during the lifetime of your warranty, you’ll never have to talk to your solar panel manufacturer at all. But just in case you do need to work with the company, it’d better be friendly, helpful, and accessible.

Based on these points, the top picks are SolarWorld, followed by runners-up, Canadian Solar, Centrosolar, Axitec Solar, and Kyocera Solar.

Rooftop solar isn’t the only way!

Panels don’t even necessarily need to be on top of your house anymore. The 28th Street Apartments in South Los Angeles are an example of panels being installed vertically, on the sunny south side of the building. “Part of this affordable housing project is an historic 1926 YMCA originally designed by Paul Williams, the first African-American to be certified as an architect west of the Mississippi,” writes Alissa Walker for Gizmodo. “The building is a gem, both aesthetically and culturally, and it was incredibly important to keep Williams’ vision as intact as possible.” The vertical array mirrors the mesh structure on the side of the building, as if solar energy were part of Williams’ vision in the first place.

Solar panels on LA apartment

Source: Photo by Brian Lane via Gizmodo

If you don’t want panels on your house at all and have enough yard space, you may be able to opt for ground-mounted panels. Because this kind of array won’t require you to make holes in your roof, it’s also a great, low-risk place to explore DIY options. These kits range from small arrays to larger ones that could generate all the electricity you need, depending on where you live and how much energy you use. One of the leading manufacturers of DIY solar kits is Grape Solar, whose products you can pick up at big chains like Home Depot or Costco.

DIY solar panels

Source: Home Power via Pioneer Settler

The main drawback to DIY options is that you won’t have the help of an installer to figure out local codes and incentives. Mother Earth News lays out the steps for DIY solar well, and warns that putting together your solar kit will take more work than assembling an IKEA table. “You’ll soon become familiar with the websites of the companies that manufacture the parts — especially the ‘download manuals’ area,” writes the author. But this extra work will be worth it for some people: kits run about $5,000 to $20,000 and are eligible for the solar investment tax credit, making them much more affordable than panel arrays you don’t have to put together yourself.

Whether you want to shout your green warrior status literally from your rooftops or get your solar benefits from a secret corner of your yard, silicon panels will be the easiest to find, purchase, and install. But they are hardly the last word in solar energy.

Not into panels? Integrate solar into your home — starting with the shingle.

Since shingles and solar panels can already coexist on roofs, consider combining them into one thing that serves both functions: keeping the elements out of your house and bringing the sun’s energy in.

The solar shingle is already here. It’s not yet as widely available, or as efficient, as the solar panel, but it represents just the beginning of a new, growing trend of building-integrated photovoltaics, or BIPV for short. Like its name implies, BIPV is installed as the rest of your house is being built, so it’s really only an option if you’re ready to replace your roof, or if you’re working on designing a custom home.

When Chris and Diane Murphy began planning their house in Greenwich, Connecticut, a few years ago, they decided that “it was going to be green, and it was going to be beautiful.” For them, solar shingles were a natural fit.

Along with his brother Sean, Chris owns Murphy Brothers Contracting, which emphasizes that “building green is just building smart.” The home Murphy Brothers built, with Crozier Gedney Architects, is a perfect example of the kind of architecture that doesn’t work as well with solar panels: It’s built in a coastal colonial style, with not just one or two planes making up the roof, but at least seven. On this roof, the solar shingles are subtle, catching the light like patches of ice.

I spoke about Murphy Brothers’ philosophy with the company’s director of new business development, Michael Murphy (no relation to Chris and Sean: “We’re kind of like The Ramones,” he says).

Michael Murphy confirmed that shingles aren’t yet as efficient as panels because so far their main purpose has been to be a better-looking alternative, not a more powerful one. A typical 5kW installation can cut your expenses by about 57-74 percent. For this much power, you would need either about 22 panels or 84 shingles. Most people choose to put shingles on just part of their roof space, like Chris and Diane Murphy did. But it is possible to cover your entire roof with them for even more power and savings.

Because they do two jobs at once, solar shingles cost more than either regular shingles or solar panels would alone. But they’re also eligible for the solar investment tax credit and will pay for themselves in energy savings over time, if you don’t plan to move for a while. Chris Murphy wanted his home to be a shining example, to show his customers that “by spending about 15 percent more up front, they could save 50 percent per year on their energy bill.”

The big solar shingle manufacturers right now are Dow and CertainTeed (Murphy Brothers has been using Dow for about two years). Since shingles are built into your home and not added later, like silicon panels, you’ll be working with an architect and contractor rather than a solar installer. Michael Murphy also recommends bringing one more person into the mix: an energy consultant.

“I’d say the first person you’d want to go to is an energy consultant,” he says. “See if there’s someone that fits your philosophy with their practice, and then from there, if you feel comfortable, have them as part of your team. Then bring along the architect and contractor.” That way green technology will be part of the plan from the beginning, rather than an afterthought squeezed into a design later on.

Michael Murphy has been working in construction for 30 years. His thoughts on renewable energy and ethical consumption echo Sedovic’s, and Sethi’s too. “Because of the conversation about energy efficiency and making buildings more environmentally responsible, you see things trickle down into houses that are standard practice today,” he says.

“Look at the simple toilet. Fifteen years ago, every time you flushed the toilet, 3.5 gallons of water went down the tube, right? Then they said, no, you couldn’t do that; you had to cut that in half, so they cut it in half and had these toilets that were horrible, and people were flushing them three times, which was using even more water. But today, toilets are incredibly good, and they only use, in some cases, less than a gallon of water.”

You can think of solar technology as being somewhere in that last stage of toilets. It’s not only more efficient, imaginative, and affordable than before, but also, through research, continuing to get even better.

The solar future is a design paradise.

Alternative solar technology doesn’t end with the shingle. Like the deep ocean, it’s filled with bizarre, wondrous forms that stretch the boundaries of the imagination. Here are some of my favorites:

Ecocapsule photo

Source: Nice Architects via Slate

This egg-shaped tiny home is a dream inside a nightmare — your refuge at the edge of a post-apocalyptic universe.

Solar greenhouse

Source: Solardome

A man cave, a she shack, a retreat for a very small hippie commune, this geodesic greenhouse can do everything but keep your secrets from the outside world.

Photo of spherical solar cell

Source: Sphelar Power Corporation via Gizmodo

Okay, this next one is not so weird. It’s just a cheese grater lookalike that can harness the sun’s energy from any direction. Imagine a roof full of them, like robot skin covered in hives.

Photo of solar orb

Source: Rawlemon via Gizmodo

By day a friendly marble in the sky, this orb, which can capture light from both the sun and the moon, turns into the Eye of Sauron.

Researchers in China, proving that nothing is more poetic than science, have also just developed a solar panel that can generate power from humble raindrops.

Some of this new technology is available already (like the Ecocapsule, which sells for just under 80,000 euros), while some of it is still being developed with no release date yet in sight, like the solar orb. Much of it is made possible thanks to something called “thin-film” solar technology. While panels are made with silicon, thin film is made with several different compounds, particularly two main ones: cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS). Thin film is quite literally more flexible than traditional silicon panels, so it can take all kinds of shapes: windows, film you can apply to your windows — even paint.

Solar skylight

A semi-transparent solar skylight brightens the TGV high-speed train station in Perpignan, France.
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Thin film has been around since the late 1970s, when it made the solar-powered calculator possible. If you still have such a calculator, and not just a phone app, you’ll see it in that little iridescent strip at the top. Although it’s been around for so many years, it hasn’t grown as much as the solar panel because it falls short in efficiency. It has also been made with elements that are less abundant and more toxic than silicon. But that might all be changing now.

Just recently, thin film has begun surpassing silicon panels in efficiency. Researchers have also found new compounds, like copper zinc tin sulfide (CZTS), which are not only increasingly efficient, but also non-toxic and renewable.

Apart from the chemistry, one other complication about thin film, and the building-integrated materials it’s used for, is that it belongs to two worlds: solar energy and construction. These two industries have different codes and even different systems of measurement: The construction industry measures components in square meters, whereas the solar industry measures in watts. Being at an intersection, it also has fewer dedicated specialists at every stage, from research (where environmental scientists, engineers, and architects may not be communicating) through installation and maintenance (where you may have trouble finding an electrician willing to work on top of a high commercial building).

Despite these hurdles, demand is growing for alternative solar technology because of the many shapes it can take. Sedovic looks forward to a variety of spherical, cast, and even 3D-printed solar that exceeds what we can even imagine right now. “That would be fantastic,” he says. “That could truly influence our architectural vocabulary.”

The right conditions for going solar

When going solar, you have to consider the characteristics of your house — or your yard, if you go with ground-mounted panels. Beyond that, there are several important factors to keep in mind about your environment as well:

  • Temperature: This is counterintuitive, but solar cells are more efficient in colder weather. Just as your computer can slow down as it overheats, so can these cells. However, since colder weather probably means more snow and fewer solar days, each region has its pros and cons for solar energy.
  • Shade: The more big trees you have casting their shadows across your house, the less viable surface area you’ll have for solar.
  • Insolation: How much sunlight does your property receive? If you live in a perpetually-overcast region, you’ll have fewer solid solar days.

Both Michael Murphy and Walter Sedovic say that the northeastern US is not the most solar-friendly region, due to the complex roofs (with their gables and high chimneys), the old trees, and the number of gray days per year. For Murphy Brothers, this means solar is only one part of making a house energy efficient, along with building materials like insulated concrete and recycled-paper countertops.

For Sedovic’s firm, it means combining solar with other kinds of renewable energy, like wind, tidal, and geothermal. It also means the company rarely incorporates solar technology into its designs, except for buildings that are already off the grid, like lighthouses.

But Sedovic thinks he will have an exciting chance to use solar shingles soon. Right now, he’s working on a design for the restoration of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s Council House in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. The house was built in 1878, and then taken away by the US government 30 years later. Only in 2010 were the Muscogee people able to buy it back.

Oklahoma’s climate is better for solar than New York’s, and Sedovic thinks this might be the perfect chance to use new technology in a meaningful way. “I think that it also complements the Creek Nation’s own intellect,” he says, “being very forward-thinking in all the things that they do, in their social constructs, educational constructs, gender equality, and so forth. They are a really remarkable culture, and this would fit in well with that.”

As technology develops, we may be moving both forward and backward toward a gentler, more cooperative relationship with the Earth.

If you still don’t want to change your house or yard at all, check out community solar.

We’ve covered solar that steals the spotlight, solar that blends in seamlessly, and solar that hides from view, mounted on the ground. But there is yet another option, one even more unobtrusive than ground-mounted panels, and that is community solar. Otherwise known as a shared renewable energy arrangement, it entails using energy from panels located far out of view on a solar farm.

Community solar is still pretty new — there are only 89 projects in the US so far. But I’m interested in keeping an eye on it for several reasons: It not only escapes the question of aesthetics all together; but also presents the lowest commitment, and it’s perfect for renters. More options like this one could speed the spread of renewable energy and make the world that much greener.

The Bottom Line

There’s something magical about finding pleasure and virtue in the same place, like an antioxidant-rich glass of wine or The Daily Show. If you’re open to it, renewable energy can live right in this place. The more energy creative people — from scientists to architects — put into it, and the more we consumers demand it, the more it will flourish in unexpected and revolutionary ways.

“The sun is about as prevalent as a natural resource could come,” says Marsh. “Everyone could generate electricity from it if you showed them how. And we will only get better at harnessing it.”

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The World on your Wall with Customaps


Want to show off your travel bucket list, or keep a reminder of your hometown in a new city?  These custom-made maps are available as murals or posters, giving you the option of traveling the world in your living room or taking a little piece of home wherever you go.

Founded in Montreal, Canada, Customaps is the result of an unusual collaboration between a Parisian mural specialist and a Marseilles-based cartographer. With their combined areas of expertise, Customaps creates unique posters, murals, and pre-stick wallpaper of maps and satellite images, each detail tailored by the buyer down to the zoom-level, style, and font. The possible customizations are almost as endless as the locations.


Their resources for maps include NASA satellite imagery and local library maps. “Our passion is seeing the Blue Planet from above, as we feel that nature’s abstract beauty is only truly revealed from a bird’s-eye view. Satellite images bring a unique and new perspective of our planet.”


For customers who want to travel across time as well as space, maps of vintage locations are also available for purchase. “We are always in contact with our 18th-century cartographers, so don’t sweat it, we are constantly updating…more maps to come!”





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Graphic Designer’s House Blends With Its Natural Surroundings

architecture modern residence
Johnsen Schmaling Architects completed the design of a 1,855 square-foot modern residence located on the wooded eastern shore of Wisconsin’s Door County, USA. The project was envisioned for a graphic designer and her husband. It blends with the surrounding vegetation and offers a perfect retreat for artistic inspiration.

The architects’ objective was to achieve a smooth transition between the man-made structure and its natural context: “The building’s restrained exterior material palette is limited to charred cedar siding from Northern Wisconsin. Its textured, somber blackness is complemented by varnished clear cedar, dark-anodized aluminum, and glass.”
modern residence (1,1)
“Contrasting the building’s dark exterior shell, the interior material palette is dominated by white walls, white lacquered cabinets, and a gray polished concrete floor, all forming a deliberately neutral, serene backdrop against which the ever-changing tableau of the foliage outside can unfold,” the architects added.

The open-plan living room features minimalist furniture arrangements and a contemporary fireplace which descends from the ceiling. A wooden deck extends the living spaces outdoors, where the designed space flows effortlessly into the surrounding forest. The bedrooms are located upstairs, their position maximizing privacy and views. [Photography and information courtesy of Johnsen Schmaling Architects]

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Chalet Panorama in Quebec Overlooks Rocky Landscape

modern cabin (1)
Architecture Casa designed Chalet Panorama, a modern retreat located in Saint-Siméon, Quebec, Canada. The building is integrated into the rocky terrain, with the foundation supported by two concrete blades. This way, water flows freely underneath the living spaces. Moreover, the walls of cross-laminated timber offer protection from the seismic activity of the region.

“In an eco-responsible spirit, several components have been recuperated, among others, from an old convent,” the architects said. “Dedicated to rental use, the choice of having a single living level imposed itself to allow for simplified and fluid spaces. This in-row design has opened all rooms towards the river and created a strong segregation of the living and rest areas.”
modern cabin (2)
The interior design is minimalist, drawing inspiration from the surrounding landscape. Extensive use of wood, a fireplace, and large windows bring a warm feel to the living area. The kitchen and lounge are organized in an open plan; perfect for friend gatherings, this social zone can expand outdoors, thanks to a charming terrace that overlooks the river. [Photos and information provided by Architecture Casa]
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Livi Livens Up Potted Plants with Vertical Hanging Gardens

Livi, “a versatile planter for virtually any vertical surface,” reimagines how we incorporate plants into our lives. Instead of exiling dusty potted plants to unfrequented corners, Livi creates a vertical hanging garden. Herbs can be kept close at hand on the fridge door or kitchen window. Office windows can be brightened up with fun new colors. By using vertical space, plants can be incorporated into your home decoration in new and interesting ways.


Simple to use, the plants can either be planted directly into the Livi or with a small pot in the body. Each Livi comes with a pipette to water the plant. Excess water drains through the bottom of the pot into the base of the Livi.


Livi is a project of several San Francisco-based architects. The final product was created after collaborating with multiple designers and manufacturers. Livi went through several painstaking design processes to find the right human-centric design: 32 different prototypes were created, then user tested before the final design was certain. The goal of 25,500 on Kickstarter was fully funded earlier this month.


Livis are based on organic shapes found in nature and created from 100% recycled material. They make their climb using micro-suction pads. Created from an innovative nanotechnology material, they will adhere to virtually any vertical surface without leaving a residue. The micro-suction pads are easily reusable if the new surface is cleaned and prepared properly.









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International Flair at Home in this Stylish Singapore Apartment

The first thing you see when walking into this apartment is the piece “The Unveiling” by Irish artist Conor Harrington. Appropriate, because this piece in the entry serves as an introduction and unveiling of the rest of this stylish apartment.

entry 1

Located in Singapore, this apartment is both international and eclectic, featuring artists from all over the world. Many of the decorations are from the owner’s personal art collection. The interior could be described as whimsical, which would be fitting: the owner and designer, KNQ Associates, intended the blank canvas of the apartment to be a playful experiment and testing ground for style, material, and texture.

living rm 3

The space afforded by the 11-foot ceilings is put to good use, with a loft converted into an entertainment area. Museum-style track lighting increases the perception that one is in an art gallery. Certain soothing details such as soft features and warm neutral colors create a grounding, casual atmosphere. There’s also a fun dose of pop art: A handmade “Open” sign, built from a wine crate and neon wording, hangs from the loft and illuminatesdepictions of both Queen Elizabeth of England and Chairman Mao.

mancave 6

mancave 7

While the living space reflects the designer’s international art and taste, the master bedroom is simple white-on-white. The painting over the bed by Spanish street artist Pejac creates a calm focal point and adds to the contrast from the fun hubbub of the living space.

entry 2

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