Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Eye of the Tiger: Irish clothing brands open store

I prefer to leave fashion blogging to those in the know, but am always keen to promote Irish design initiatives like the new Blind Tiger Collective store. It's opening its doors this Saturday in Dublin city centre.

Set up by Irish streetwear brands to offer an alternative to multinational chain stores, the collective hope their new store in the Georgian gorgeousness of South William Street will help efforts to make this side of Grafton Street a fashion hub destination.

RWAAR: The Blind Tiger Collective is catwalk cool. I heart the stag t-shirt.

Describing why Blind Tiger Collective came about, Dualta Jones (organiser and co-owner of Project A Apparel) said: "I decided that small Irish brands like my own need to come together and help promote each other in a joint effort and stake a claim on our territory."

GRRR-EAT IDEA: Tony the tiger gets a makeover in this t-shirt from The Blind Tiger Collective, a group of Irish streetwear brands

Following on from their pop-up shop in December (see the timelapse video here), the brands at Blind Tiger Collective include Turtlehead, LadyUmbrella, ShittyFuture and Little Green Threads, many of whom create very limited print runs as low as 25 pieces.

It's brilliant to see this showcase of Irish design hitting the city centre. Go n-éirí leo.

The Blind Tiger Collective, 51 William Street, Dublin 2. 

Before and after: Living room gets a new lease of life

They say that when you first move into a house you should do nothing but familiarise yourself with the space and consider its best use. It's very easy to rush into decisions and purchases that you might later regret. We failed to heed this advice and bought a sofa too big and bulky for our sitting room. I also had shelves put up. The shelves were perfect, but they were in the wrong place, diverting attention away from the antique fireplace we later installed in the gap where one once sat.

While Eoghan was away on a worktrip, I finally decorated the bedroom. It was also the week where I had a few jobs done on the living room too. With the help of Painter Dublin, I took down the shelves and repainted the floor and walls in the same colours we had painted ourselves a few years ago; Dulux Light and Space Moonlight White on the walls (turned out a little yellower than I had predicted when contrasted with the new Dulux Brilliant White on the ceiling and woodwork) and Farrow and Ball's Downpipe on the floorboards.

AFTER: The Eames rocker by Vitra (purchased at Arnotts) perches on the floor freshly painted in Farrow and Ball's Downpipe. The painting is from Decor, Camden Street, Dublin 8.

Another job was to have period-style cornicing reinstated. Our house was built in the 1860s but other than the lovely wide floorboards no period details remained in the living room when we moved in. We had previously put in a Victorian-style four panel door from Victorian Salvage (especially important as we didn't notice the lack of a door until we sat down in the room for first time) and an antique fireplace (a design common to the area) from the brilliant Sugan Antiques. I had plaster cornicing made by the excellent Dublin Mouldings on Parnell Street and it has made the room complete.

Other than wall shelves and book-ends from IKEA, I didn't buy anything else for the room. Instead I moved things and changed around artwork by bringing some pieces that were hanging elsewhere in the house into the living room.

AFTER: New storage comes in the form of four white Lack wall shelves from IKEA, featuring nerdy colour-coordinated books. The period-style door came from Victorian Salvage. The space to the right of the door originally featured my two Panoramic Dublin prints by Andy Mac Manus which have now moved to the right of the fireplace
AFTER: The Billy bookends are also from IKEA, while the Flower Blossom lampshade is by Orla Kiely while the brown glass lamp is from Hicken Lighting, Lower Bridge Street, Dublin 8.
AFTER: Soppy 'E' and 'S' letters from Urban Outfitters. The S keeps falling off the shelf and scraping the floor whenever I bang the door!
AFTER: These were made by the father of a very good friend mine, Aoife, who is a wood-turner extraordinaire
AFTER: This curvaceous retro-style sofa was bought in Belfast (in Dekko, which sadly is no longer operating) a few years ago. Eoghan still mourns after the bigger yet bulkier sofa we originally purchased, which we now visit in Conamara. The grey cushion is by Donna Wilson, a lovely gift last Christmas.

AFTER: The G-plan coffee table makes the room seem bigger and came from the treasure trove Table Lighting Chair, located on Pleasant's Place (behind Camden Street near Cake Café), Dublin 8.
AFTER: The red cushion is by Ben de Lisi for Debenham's is inspired by the designer's own French bulldog Ella (not sure if it's still in stock) and the Multi Stem square lampshade is by Orla Kiely.
AFTER: I got this little side table for a song in TK Maxx about two years ago. It matches the floor. The clear glass ball lamp is from Hicken Lighting, Lower Bridge Street, Dublin 8.
AFTER: A close-up of one of our two Panoramic Dublin prints by Andy Mac Manus, featuring views of O'Connell Bridge

BEFORE: Too much to distract the eye with the shelves on either side of the fireplace. We put the mirror in our bedroom where the ceiling is higher.

AFTER: The removal of the shelves and mirror results in the less visual clutter, allowing the eye to focus on fireplace.  The new plaster cornicing by Dublin Mouldings helps the room to look its age.
AFTER: The antique fireplace from Sugan Antiques is simply adorned with just a pair of candlestick holders, which were a present. Having a working fireplace reinstated back in the room is a real privilege, especially on the cold winter nights. I was delighted when a friend mentioned that her parents' house in nearby Inchicore has the same fireplace surround.

BEFORE: No plaster cornicing. Another job I would like to get done in the future is to have the window shutters reinstated as per the other houses in our terrace.
AFTER: The view from the sofa. Waffles the cat is at his television - he spends hours looking out the window.
AFTER: Waffles on guard cat duty. If you like the owl cushion resting on the Eames rocker, check out my previous post.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Treasure trail: Font and type maps of Ireland

UPDATE: A very humorous map of Ireland has been brought to my attention (thanks for the tip-off, Caitríona).

One day last year RTÉ 2FM's Rick O'Shea asked listeners: which questions would you put on an Irish citizenship test? Twitter went into overdrive and the talented team at Fluffy Button later selected 99 of the funniest responses with the #citizenshiptest hashtag to create this gorgeous A2 poster. It costs just €9 (plus postage) and half the proceeds go to the charity Médicins Sans Frontieres.

My Eoghan is always giving out to me for buying too many prints and posters, but he can't possibly be angry when the #citizenshiptest poster arrives through the letterbox, as one of his tweets is featured on it!

Eoghan, twitter.com/rice_e, suggested:
Emotions are a) things that should be talked about b) things Americans have
(He's down near Limerick on the map!)

Other gems include:
  • Do you live in mortal fear of leaving the immersion on?
  • You need to get a relative to hospital urgently. Do you a) Ring an ambulance or b) Ring Liveline
  • When you're telling someone a great yarn and they implore you to "Stop", do you a) Stop or b) Keep going with gusto?
  • Pronounce 'The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste met Tadhg and Caoimhe on Aungier Street between the Dáil and Ranelagh'
  • How many g's are in 'ham sandwich'?
  • If a feature on RTÉ News reports that an incident took place at tea time, what time did the incident take place?
  • You see someone famous. Do you a) Approach them for a picture or b) Ignore them You wouldn't give them the satisfaction.

Forget confusing grid references or silly symbols, an eye-catching font is all you need for a well-designed map.

Here's maps of Ireland like you or your old Folen's geography book have never seen them before.

Just type in your destination:

GREEN ISLE: This digitally printed map of Ireland by Etsy's Fontmap (above and below) showcases the 32 counties in punchy citrus brights. Sized to fit A3 frames, it costs approx €24.52 plus delivery. Unfortunately, Laois has become Leix.

PLACE FAME: Is your hometown on this detailed type map of Ireland (available in sheer slate and deep sea green, above and below) by the excellent team at Bold & Noble? I can vouch for the high quality of their prints, having purchased their Ireland and UK type map before they created the Ireland-only version. Approx €51.70 plus postage. Fits into IKEA frames.

NO SHORTCUTS HERE: Jane Steger-Lewis of the gorgeous I Love Mayo painstakingly cut this Papercut Map of Ireland (featuring birds and shamrocks) by hand over the course of the month. It costs just €22 thanks to the current post-Christmas sale (usual price €35) plus postage and packing and suits IKEA's Virserum Frame. Custom colours are available at a higher price.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rebuilding: should you extend yourself further into negative equity?

Negative equity conundrum: when you've already lost so much money on your home, is it worth shelling out to improve it given you'll be stuck there for a lot longer than anticipated?

Our house was built in the 1860s. It's the bit that was built in the latter half of the twentieth century that's the problem. A large, flat-roofed lean-to houses our kitchen (complete with badly installed veneer units, sudden changes in floor level, no insulation or ventilation and floor-to-ceiling 'harvest'-style tiles) and bathroom (the walls are covered in a shiny black lino-like material that we are too afraid to rip off lest it takes the walls with them).

SLIDING DOORS: Wouldn't it be lovely to swap extensions and live in this one (above and below) in Foxrock by Moda Architects? I also covet the print of Sanna Annukka's Spirits of the North, which is hanging on the back wall of the kitchen. Photos via OnlineTradesmen.ie

Something needs to be done about the extension, as the roof is not going to withstand the elements for more than a few years. Then you're in a position where you must ask, should we just do the bare minimum (i.e. re-roofing a terrible extension) and do nothing to improve the value of the house or make structural changes that will increase its size and function, making it possible to live there in comfort for however long it might take to be in a financial position where we can move on?

HOUSE ABOUT IT? The rear of our home as it is now after Eoghan painted it white. This was a big improvement.  I'd love to knock down the extension and replace it with a two-storey number, complete with sliding doors. I'd like the original stone wall to the right to inspire any future work.

And if you're considering structural work, should you simply rebuild the existing ground-floor extension and leave the kitchen and bathroom at their present size, or go the whole hog and make it into a two-storey extension (as many of our neighbours have already done), changing your house from two-bed to three-bed and putting the bathroom upstairs? (These conundrums pre-suppose that the funding is available!)

The first thing we did upon purchase in 2008 was to dig out and terrace the back garden (our house sits on a slope), the level of which was about four foot off the ground. This was a huge job as we have no side or rear access that could bring a digger onto site, so the building team had to resort to the old-fashioned spades and wheelbarrow approach. Will post up a 'before and after' come spring when we've got the garden looking a bit tidier!

I confess that I already have one or two things bought for this extension, which are stored at my parents' house at present. Don't tell Eoghan!

Here's a selection of some fantastic extensions which I keep in my 'Maybe One Day' folder, aka Pinterest.

RAISE THE ROOF: This Dublin extension is by the talented Ailtireacht firm. The shadows created by the slats against the original rear wall are beautiful. I love the continuity of the bench inside and out. Image via Evdes

BEAM ME UP: I've had the pleasure of being inside this 1960s home in Knocklyon where young practice Carson and Crushell did a stunning retro-fit and new extension. It was open to the public as part of last year's Open House Dublin event. Image via Open House Dublin

PERFECT FROM A TO ZINC: I'm a huge fan of the zinc cladding of this Dun Laoghaire extension by Browne Architects. Photo: Browne Architects

STOREY-TIME: Flavio Lombardo Architects designed this striking extension in Sandymount. Image via Homedsgn, which has lots more photos

Monday, January 16, 2012

City slickers: Dublin-inspired design

Back in my newspaper days, I met Andy Mac Manus, a very talented Irish graphic designer and artist who is now based in London.

At the time, he had painstakingly created a 360 degree view of Dublin's O'Connell Bridge and I was so taken with it that he printed off a section of it (my walls couldn't fit the whole thing!). 

ART CAPITAL: Two prints from Andy Mac Manus's Panoramic Dublin feature an extremely detailed view of O'Connell Bridge and hang in my living room

Andy, who last month completed a masters in graphic design at the London College of Communication, gave me a choice of two and I couldn't decide, so I took both!

I am obsessed with all things Dublin and the Panoramic Dublin prints take pride of place in my sitting room. You can see some of Andy other's work and the original Panoramic Dublin on his website, http://cargocollective.com/andymacmanus.

Here's a selection of other Dublin-inspired beauties:

SKY DRAPER: The view of the Liffey from the Ha'penny bridge onwards in this Dublin skyline print (approx €16.12 plus delivery) by Etsy shop birdAve is available in custom colours. Designed to fit into the IKEA Ribba 8" by 10" frame.

SITTING PRETTY IN THE CITY: Inspired by the city's Georgian architecture, this lovely digitally printed Dublin cushion designed by Zoe Beck (approx €60 plus delivery) is available from the Hidden Art shop.

TREE HOUSE: Turned into a 'tree towel' after it became the most popular print from their Eight Tree Exhibition, the Dublin 8 Tree Towel by Red Dog the Store has been reduced from €18 to €14.88. 

DRY ME A RIVER: This romantic Dublin Love gocco print (approx €12.09 plus delivery) is by artsharkdesigns on Etsy

PUB TRAWL: Marketed as a gift for your man on St. Valentine's Day, this typographical representation of Dublin's pubs and landmarks by Bates Mercantile Co on Etsy costs approx €5.60 for a printable PDF

STOP THE LIGHTS: This stunning laser cut map of Dublin is a feast for the eyes and was created by Dublin-based design company Alljoy. It costs €48 and is available from the Irish Design Store.

WE BUILT THIS CITY ON ROCK (CAKE) AND ROLL: The Map of Dublin tea towel (€6.75 and made from organic cotton) is one of many design treats available from The Cake Café

CITY GUIDE: The gorgeous Dublin Landmarks notebook by Ursula Celano is made in our capital city and the landmarks featured include the Pigeon House, Liberty Hall and the Ha'penny Bridge. It costs €9.95 and is available from Ursula Celono or from Article, Powerscourt Townhouse, Dublin 2. Thanks for getting this for me, Nathalie!

TOTE-ALLY DUBLIN: Part of a range of Dublin-themed products designed by Designist in collaboration with Le Cool Dublin, this 100% cotton Love Dublin tote bag (€8.50) features tweets that trended on a particular day in 2011 which demonstrate why we Dubliners love our city.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Robot rocks an Teach

Forced to prove that I'm not a robot (easy mistake to make), I was asked to type in random letters to access my Gmail recently.

Usually, the words are nonsensical or abbreviated or muddled up, with a mix of caps and punctuation.

I was surprised to find myself being asked to type teach the other day.

But perhaps it was a fluke, or maybe Google think that using words as Gaeilge are just as annoying to type!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Home-owners with telly vision

Sky Plus has been my enabler for the past three years as it cleverly records every home renovation programme I can get my hands on.

I love the 'before and after' fixes provided by the likes of recent Ch4 offering The Renovation Game (surprisingly good daytime TV) and RTÉ ratings winner About the House (worth watching for architect Dermot Bannon's moments of pure petulance along with his stunning designs).

Despite its focus on house-buying rather than renovations, bar the odd re-visit (easy way to make a one-hour show by adding five minutes of new footage to an old episode), Location, Location, Location is still one of the best homes programmes on the telly after 11 years.

DIP INTO THE PROPERTY MARKET: Toby outside the home he found with partner Nadine on Location, Location, Location. The photo is from the couple's new renovation website,  The Shop Window

A new series kicked off last week and featured designers Nadine and Toby, searching for a non-traditional home. Their wish-list included a house that was wreck, ideally with a flat front (I presume this means no bay windows, etc), a 60ft garden and a 'good narrative'. The budget was £350,000 (approx €422,000) and the hunting ground was south-east London.

True to the 11-second rule, Nadine and Toby fell head over heels with a three-storey over basement (I think) commercial building which had been used in recent times as a place of religious worship by a group called the Universal Brotherhood of Speculative Mechanics. It was the first place Kirsty and Phil showed them and nothing else could compare.

Happily, the couple (whose previous home was testament to their skill and vision) are the now the owners and are documenting their renovation efforts on their brilliant website, theshowwindow.org

KNOCK KNOCK-OUT: Nadine and Toby have chosen Farrow and Ball's Downpipe shade for the front door, which looks great on the historic building. We have used this shade on our old floorboards in our sitting room and hall.
Photo: The Shop Window

It's a website I will be keeping an eye on as Nadine and Toby turn the historic building into a beautiful home.

Location, Location, Location, Thursday, Ch4, 8pm.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Word play

Top of the most-read list on the Guardian's website today is Charlie Brooker's suggestions for New Year's resolutions. He writes: "These are the things I want humankind to stop doing immediately, on the grounds they've been doing them too long." First on his list is an appeal to stop creating 'Keep Calm and Carry On' variants.

WAR OF WORDS: An original copy of the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster at Barter Books,  Northumberland, England. Image via Wikipedia

The iconic WWII poster, aimed at motivating the British public during those dark days (according to Wikipedia it was intended to boost morale in the event of invasion), has found itself brought back to life from fridge magnets to undies and subverted into other catchphrases *inspired* by the original. Even Amazon sells a copy of the ubiquitous poster.

In his typically cynical and humorous piece, Brooker draws his readers' attention to the fact that the design belongs to a second-hand book shop in Alnwick, Northumberland, England, called Barter Books, where an original copy of the poster was discovered some years earlier.

"It belongs on a poster, or a mug, or a tea towel sold by Barter Books. But not on a packet of condoms or a soft drink. Or a cushion. Or engraved on your baby's face. Every bastard's churning out "Keep Calm" merchandise these days. Check your attic. Someone's probably up there screen printing it on to a hammock right now."

WHAT A CARRY ON: Unfunny variations on the 'Keep Calm and Carry On'  slogan. Image from All Posters.

But there has been one positive to this nostalgia-driven commercial-athon: the rise in interest in catchphrase and slogan-based designs.

Irish designers have created their own striking typography-driven posters which are original in their own right. Here's a selection of my favourites:

PRINTS CHARMING: This beautiful 'Come Here to Me' poster (approx €15.32 plus delivery) is one of many designs available at Irish Etsy shop FunkyGibbo

TEA-MENDOUS: Mrs. Doyle's cuppa catchphrase has never-ending appeal in this poster by Jane Steger-Lewis of I Love Mayo (€22 plus postage and packaging). It also fits nicely into IKEA's Virserum frame, which is handy.

AP-PEEL TO YOUR BETTER SENSES: A line uttered by many mammies over the years. Available on sale for €50 with free delivery from Grand Grand Grand Grand

BLESS SUCCESS: A classic Irish blessing is immortalised in this poster (from €9.95 plus postage and packaging, available in two sizes and three shades) by I Love Mayo

COP SHOP: This motivational poster (€20) from Grand Grand Grand Grand comes in the appropriately named Guard Blue shade.