Inspir-admiration: Nervous System

I have been a fan and follower of Nervous System—an experimental design studio that "focuses on generative design methods using both algorithmic and physical tools to create innovative products and environments"—for quite some time. Like many people, I first fell for their natural phenomena-based line of jewelry, below. Nervous System continues to be one of the most impressive product design studios I've met.

Not only do I love the beautiful products they create, but am just as intrigued and in awe of the inspiration and process behind their work. Founders Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse-Louis Rosenberg merge their collective academic backgrounds in architecture, biology, and mathematics with a fascination of the "complex and unconventional geometries" of natural forms. They further open up the exploration of these forms to their customers through interaction with the algorithms behind the forms, allowing them to create unique instances of art.

This year, I was very happy to see that their body of work now includes housewares, which are amazing! It includes porcelain dinnerware that is "the result of a computer simulation of reaction-diffusion, a natural patterning process that creates the dots and stripes seen on the skins and shells of many animals from tropical fish to zebras and leopards". They are also creating some beautiful 3-D printed nylon lamps, such as the Hyphae lamp that they explain: "inspired by the vein structures that carry fluids through organisms from the leaves of plants to our own circulatory systems, we created a simulation which uses physical growth principles to build sculptural, organic structures." And, not to mention, they cast amazing light patterns, as shown below:

I look forward to seeing how this new housewares line expands, and whatever else this terrific duo conjures next. Based on all the fantastic exhibit designs they have done for their trade shows, and a commission they are working on, am I sensing a new furniture line on the horizon? Hint, hint, Nervous System!

Sourcing Nervous System:
• You can purchase their products in their online shop.
• Stay tuned to their activity, cool videos, and speaking engagements on their blog.
• For a real treat, check out their inspirations and behind-the-scenes images on Flickr.

(Photos: all photos used in my design in this post are property of Nervous System)

Coast Modern Screening

I'm proud to announce that the design/art/culture film series I pulled together with colleague Tracy Swyst for AIGA Boston last year is in full swing again this season—now in partnership with the MFA BostonWe are very excited to be screening Coast Modern on November 7, 2012 at the MFA's Alfond Auditorium. Director Gavin Froome will be there as well, all the way from Vancouver, for a Q&A session after the screening.

2013 Goals: A World of Good

We've been formulating a terrific, creative, philanthropic initiative behind the scenes at Ourhaus that I hope to nurture and grow over the course of 2013—and beyond. For one assignment for my online blogging course with Decor8's Holly Becker, we were asked to talk about our goals—as related to our blog content—for 2013. And it just clicked that I had an answer to this assignment all along. Actually, for a long time. My goal is essentially to do philanthropic work in conjunction with home product design and decor, and one way will be through highlighting and helping global artisans, particularly women, who are creating wonderful things for the home. And I'd like to form some great blogging opportunities and brand partnerships in the process.

I have decided it's vital to simply start walking the walk and developing things over time—get over the less-than perfect iteration process. A great thing does not have to hit the world at once like a meteor. One of my favorite quotes in this regard:

So, let's start bringing more good into the 'haus!

For example, I'm really loving the "World of Good" concept and fair trade ornaments from Crate & Barrel. I appreciate knowing about the people behind the craft and that they are benefitting in some way. I've even adopted this "World of Good" phrase as a mantra for developing my ideas in 2013.

This year, they have sourced a small collection of holiday ornaments from artisans around the world "in collaboration with fair trade organizations"—partnerships that will empower and fund initiatives in each of the countries of origin. And just in time for the holiday season, wouldn't these make such a great win-win holiday gift for all??

“Inspired by traditional African huts called vibanda, this miniature replica
was handcrafted by women in remote Kenyan villages.
In these small rural areas, the homestead is clustered with mud huts
where multiple generations of one family live together.”

“ earn a sustainable income and work toward economic
independence to provide their families with food,
clothing, housing, healthcare and education.”

Set of 3, $29.95:

“Handcrafted exclusively for us in the Kashmir region of India,
our papier-mâché 12 Days of Christmas Ornaments give joy…and hope.

Set of 12, $39.95:

Also from the Kashmir region of India (not shown),
Set of 6 (assorted), $24.95:

"Our alpaca creatures are hand-knit by local village women
in the rural Lake Titicaca region of Puno, Peru, in
collaboration with a fair-trade organization."

I love these Alpaca ornaments. They had me at "chubby penguins"!

Set of 4, $39.95:

Set of 3, $29.95:

Set of 3, $29.95 (not shown):

Side note:
I do not get paid by brands like Crate and Barrel to write about products, inspiration and good cause initiatives (yet!), I'm simply inspired by the philanthropic link between design and home decor products and great causes, and hope to grow this aspect of my blogging and design career further. I hope you enjoy what I bring to the table!
Outstanding in the Field

I'm sure many of you can agree, your travels and celebrations are really an extension of yourself and your home. I see no separation between them. In that spirit, one of our favorite gift-giving ideas is to give people "experiences" that we can share with them. Milestone birthdays are an excellent opportunity for these treats, but the idea is great for any occasion, or when you just feel inspired to get family and friends together for something really special. There were many milestone/decade birthdays in our family in 2012, so we had a few opportunities to partake in this new tradition. For my in-laws' 70th birthdays, Christopher and I purchased tickets for the four of us to attend the coveted Outstanding in the Field farm-to-table dining experience. 

Outstanding in the Field was founded in 1999 in Santa Cruz, CA, and is described as a "roving culinary adventure" where they have set a long table at farms, sea caves, mountain tops, greenhouses, museums, and more around the country. Their mission is to re-connect people to the origins of their food by sourcing fresh, local ingredients prepared by guest chefs from area restaurants, all reminiscent of each event location.

I love to present these gifts to people in unique ways that offer a sense of the event and that build anticipation. For my father-in-law Peter, I created an invitation book using a 4x6 Noci book cloth "brag book" from Kolo. I removed the plastic photo sleeves from the pages and pasted in prints of pages I designed to present the concept and invitation, as well as photos that I collected from the the OITF web site. I highly recommend the albums as a way to present something intangible.

Not wanting to present the gift to my mother-in-law Cheryl in the same way, I decided to create something that seemed to be reminiscent of the farm-to-table dinner experience. I simply purchased some kitchen items from Homegoods and tied the designed cards to the small cutting board. (It's also easy to wrap cookbooks in cloth napkins or tea towels for a similar effect).

Our local dinner took place in Maine in early September at a terrific farm. The cocktail hour with passed appetizers, and the long dining tables set for hundreds of people with food served "family style", creates a terrific community party where you have the opportunity to meet some of your fellow dining companions. Enjoy our album!

I really love this idea of serving from boards. A great rustic idea to take home for serving at a nice autumn dinner.

Thanks, all, for an unforgettable experience!

Credit Goes To:

Design and photography seen here: Jodi Vautrin and Christopher Scott of ourhaus 
The crew of Outstanding in the Field
Mary Ellen & Austin Chadd of Green Spark Farm
Chef Andrew Taylor of Hugo's, and Eventide Oyster, Co. Portland, ME
John Hennessey of Winter Point Oysters, West Bath, ME
Dee Dee Germain, Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, ME
Michael Burke & Steve Kao, Pine State Services
Caldwell Farm, Turner, ME
Maine Lobster Direct, Portland, ME
Upstream Trucking, Portland, ME
Stonecipher Farm, Bowdoinham, ME
Freedom Farm, Freedom, ME
Thirty Acre Farm, Whitefield, ME

Readers, feel free to share your gift experiences that you have given, received, or would like to, in the comments section!
Taking it to the Next Level with Decor8
It's Fall! Time to learn something new!

I've redesigned the ourhaus blog and sharpened my pencils in great anticipation for the "Blogging Your Way Bootcamp" online class starting this week with the one and only: Decor8's Holly Becker. She's joined by guest teachers Jeanette Lunde and Nicole Balch, so this is going to be amazing. (Click the badge over in the right column here to check out their other upcoming classes.)

I have several ideas I want to launch from this blog platform, so I look forward to all the great ideas and tips I will learn from Holly & Co. in order to take things to the next level.

Stay tuned for plenty of more projects and initiatives here at Ourhaus with some Blogging Your Way things mixed in.

{ Of course, using one of my favorite Russel & Hazel Binders to organize class materials. }

AFTER: The $1,000. (or so) Bathroom Makeover
The master bathroom renovation has been done for a while—we've been intending on posting these after photos for some time! Plus, we're still adding some small finishing touches.

If you want the background story, you can read the Before Story as well as an In Progress Story that has much of the product and paint information. I've also posted the "before" photos here for an instant comparison.

Enjoy the tour!

We'll be installing a glass tile backsplash to protect the wall behind the sink (sample shown below). We don't want something to contrast and stand out, and this provides a nice texture and light reflection without making too much of a statement.

Although it was “temporary”, I'm not sure how we lived with this:

We created the stepped storage unit by cutting 2 of the 3 MOLGER Shelving Units in Birch that we bought at IKEA (It reminds me of spa teak!). We decided on the stepped design so the shelving unit didn't appear so solid and dominating against that wall. We also chose "open" shelving for the same reason. It graduates nicely to just below sink height. Check out how Christopher created this clever "IKEA Hack" here.

Because of the weird configuration of pipes behind the sink, we were unable to accommodate what is supposed to be a second drawer on this GODMORGON sink cabinet. So, we removed the bottom drawer, cut a piece out of the bottom to accommodate the pipes, and simply used more of the storage bins to hold everything. 

I'm looking forward to getting some of these apothecary-style storage jars for the shelves:

(Image from Crate and Barrel)

Love the GRUNDTAL stainless steel hangers that come in packs of 2.

 Towel bar is the "Latitude" II Satin Nickel hardware from Bed Bath & Beyond.

Towels shown are the Organic Woodgrain Towel from West Elm

Print from All Posters—art by Rex Ray

Branch shower curtain from CB2 is no longer available, but these are cool alternatives:
Fan Coral from CB2
Tree from Urban Outfitters or BBB
Tuuli by Merimekko

We're very happy with it.
It's clean, uncluttered, looks refreshing, and it didn't cost a fortune.

On to the next project!

About Us

Christopher Scott and Jodi Vautrin are the husband and wife team behind Ourhaus, where they chronicle their adventures in home improvement, decorating and travel. After purchasing a unique loft space just a few miles north of Boston, they began photographing and writing about their projects and it blossomed into a creative outlet and platform.

When they’re not home improving, Jodi spends her days as a freelance creative director & designer with a focus on user interface and interactive design, and is an entrepreneur at heart. She serves on the board of AIGA Boston as Vice President of Emerging Ideas & Events.

In his professional life, Christopher is the Technology Director for a multi-service ad agency based in Harvard Square. In his private life, he enjoys tinkering in all its forms, whether it's rebuilding the Ourhaus home network (again), fooling himself into thinking he knows how to fix home appliances, or trying to unravel the mysteries of the guitar. He also flies planes, performs open heart surgery and sings at bar mitzvahs (though not all at the same time).

They share their “haus” with their adorable, highly food-motivated chocolate lab, Lucy.