Baby, It's Cold Outside
It's winter here in New England and it seems that we're all about "cozy" right now. And I do love winter. The snow is so pretty. The air is crisp and clear. The smell of wood burning stoves and fireplaces fill the air. Being forced inside makes life feel a little less hectic and more introspective. "Home" becomes that much more of a retreat to relax, plan and catch up. The things that make up a cozy home are on my mind, so I stopped in my digital tracks when I saw some of these beauties online. Check out these lovely, modern takes on a traditional craft from 3 designers:

I love how the quilting by Comma Workshop is achieved through hand written, script-styled stitching. The original poetry and stories depicted are all written by the quilt designer herself, Kerry Larkin. These would make great baby and wedding gifts, too—they will custom-quilt wedding vows!

I know these quilts are already getting more buzz than a 21 year-old on New Year's Eve, but I, too, think they are absolutely brilliant. It's all about the mix of something soft and organic with geometric imagery and texture. Soft-Maps are created by Haptic Lab, founded by Emily Fischer, a Brooklyn-based architect and designer. They are such a great idea and the execution is fantastic. The inspiration for the work is just as great: "Soft-Maps started in 2002 as an academic experiment in tactile wayfinding; the quilts were inspired by Emily’s mother Peggy who had begun losing her eyesight from complications of glaucoma".

P.S. You can even buy your own DIY kit!

When I first saw (and bookmarked) the work of Denyse Schmidt, I remember being struck by how unique it was in the context of a very traditional, folksy craft. I really love her reinterpretation of the quilt. It'll fit right in the modern home, but still exudes that handmade quality. And it's nice to learn that Denyse is a fellow Massachusetts native with a background in graphic design!

If you have a favorite example of modern reinterpretation of a traditional craft, do share it with us!

Preserve & Protect the Eames House!
I just saw this on the Herman Miller Lifework blog today and wanted to share this lovely idea and cause!  The Eames Foundation is selling these wonderful prints in an effort to raise $150,000 towards preserving and protecting the Eames House for another 150 years.

The Challenge from the Eames Foundation states:

"After Ray’s death, the Eames family shared and cared for the Eames House and grounds, always mindful to safeguard their authenticity for the future. Now, the Eames Foundation is ready to preserve the house as it existed when Charles and Ray lived and worked in it for the last, most prolific half of their lives. This includes not only conserving the house for the future but also celebrating and transmitting the legacy and philosophy of Charles and Ray."

You can purchase these prints and learn more about what they hope to accomplish here. Let's help preserve this amazing historical landmark and the legacy of two of the most influential thinkers and designers of our time!

Getting Organized: "Tray Chic!"
Ah, the new year! This is the time of year when I participate in one of my favorite sports of all time—and I say this with absolutely no sarcasm at all—getting organized. I love it. I feel at peace when everything has a place and is IN that place. I want to find things I need and not be up to my ears in clutter. Ugh! I can't function that way. Not everyone likes this task—I absolutely get it. But you see, I'm here to help. Lean on me, friend.

When people ask me how I stay so organized, my general mantra is "A place for everything and everything in its place"—a quote which is attributed to both Benjamin Franklin and Isabella Mary Beeton from The Book of Household Management circa 1861. Setting up little "systems" around the house has the biggest return on your initial time investment. It may seem like the last thing on earth you want to spend your time doing, but it really pays off on the other end when you can focus on your life and getting out of the house on time. To help you, I'm going to offer organization ideas in little weekly chunks. This is the way to succeed at any big task, right?

One day recently, I simply needed to put a new box of plastic bags in this kitchen drawer and it was a mess. I got so annoyed and cleaned the whole thing out (plus a tray in the garage that held the overflow) in about 20 minutes. And that is how this post was born.
1. Buy a drawer bin/organizer
for all those small, common things you need all the time: pens, tape, scissors, post-its, rubber bands, etc. I just found a cool silver cookie tin in the holiday stuff that I never used.
2. Only keep what you need in that drawer.
Here I just kept a notebook, some food container labels and a neat pack of these letterpress wine bottle gift tags for when we are running off to a dinner party with a bottle of wine.
3. + 4. Make essentials easily accessible.
I keep all the bags and wraps needed in the kitchen here and tear the tops off so I can just reach in and grab them. I also keep frequently used medications and vitamins in the kitchen drawer (the room where we take them, anyhow).

We can never fully obliterate clutter, but we can easily keep it under control and not let it take over every working surface in the house. I had this tray out during a holiday party and decided to keep it there in the corner of our L-shaped kitchen island. Whenever there are things that are waiting to be fixed or put away, they go on the tray. It's in view, but the mess is corralled. I love this idea for any room in the house. This tray above is from IKEA years ago, but I have plenty of other favorites:

Sources: Wood
01. Herman Miller Select Nelson Tray
02. Fold Tray by OFFI 
03. Birch Tray by Pia Wallen (no longer available)
04. Vintage Danish Teak Trays

Sources: Metal
05. Alessi Tralcio Muto Tray by Marta Sansoni
06. Stainless Steel Bar Tray
07. Georg Jensen Continuity Tray by Henning Koppel
08. Kaleido Trays by Clara von Zweigbergk for Hay

Sources: Laminate & Lacquer
09. Marimekko Trays
10. Lacquer Trays from West Elm
11. Vitra George Nelson China Cup Tray
12. Angela Adams Trays
13. IKEA Stockholm Tray
14. Dolores Colores Tray by Maria Holmer Dahlgren

Good luck and do your task this week! You will feel better, I promise.

Home Techonomics
Happy New Year, everyone!

As our minds here at ourhaus turn toward organizing, getting ducks in a row and improving on ourselves and surroundings, innovative products that help us do so begin to beckon.

A well-appointed home is one that is not only comfortable and beautiful, but runs efficiently and with the smartest technology available. This topic of home automation is getting hot and the inherent cross-section between design beauty and function is near and dear to my heart. When I am not blogging about or working on home renovations and style, I am designing user interfaces (UI Design) and interactive media (stemming from my background in graphic design). Many of my colleagues and I are always buzzing about products that use very current technologies and have incredible user-interface designs that melt the barrier between people and technology, making tasks easier and goals achievable. It's what I strive for in my own work.

Here are some must-have home devices that have caught our attention over the past year. It's pretty awesome that these are no longer "future predictions", but products and solutions that can be part of our homes and daily lives right now. And it seems, everyone wins with these.

"The learning thermostat"
Founded by Tony Fadell

Isn't this beautiful? And simple? Yet it does so much of the necessary hard work to keep your energy use minimized. We hate programming our thermostat and it seems that when we override the program for a custom temperature, it never quite works well—and we end up throwing off our plan to conserve energy and save money on our energy bills. According to Nest, a correctly programmed thermostat can save you about 20% on your heating and cooling bills. That's no small potatoes!

Needless to say, Nest is high on our 2013 list for sure.

Nest programs itself as it learns your patterns of heating and cooling usage, when you do so, as well as when you are away from the house. As an added bonus, a green leaf appears on the screen to show you when your temperature setting is actually saving energy. Nest says that changing the temp just 1 degree can save up to 5% on your energy use. There is nothing like a device that can learn your patterns to better serve you and also provide you feedback so you can adjust your behavior accordingly for desired results.

As if that isn't cool enough, the experience loop is completed by the ability to control nest from your smartphone and iPad, as well as review your energy usage report on the web app—all via beautifully designed data visualizations and infographics. This allows you to adjust your house temperature going forward if you want to save more money or learn why and when your consumption was so high and what you can do about it. Smart. Smart. Smart.

"Listen to your world, talk to the Internet"

Developed by two MIT media lab grads—David Carr and John Kestner—and funded on Kickstarter, Twine is a small square, rubbery device with wifi capability and built-in sensors. It has the ability to notify you—via Twitter, text, email, or Pebble Smart Watch—on the status of various environmental conditions it "senses" in your home.

What is so great about this little device is its adaptability. It comes with built-in functionality, sure, but it is left somewhat open-ended so that users can adapt it to the things they want to track and be notified about around their home. Twine comes with a built-in temperature sensor and a motion/vibration/impact sensor (accelorometer). So, you can be notified when your laundry is done or if it is nice and warm at your vacation house. You can also addon additional sensors easily. Add the moisture sensor and Twine can text you if your basement is about to flood. Add the magnet sensor and attach to a door so you can get a Tweet when the mail is delivered or a text when your dog escapes out of the back door again!

Twine is controlled by their Spool web app where you introduce it to your WiFi network and set up rules—then it gets talking to you. The application instantly detects Twine and the sensors it has (both on board, and any new ones you add on). No programming is necessary. You simply set up certain "rules" for it to read and alert you when those "rules" have been detected or violated. Such as: "WHEN moisture sensor gets wet, THEN text me: "Basement is flooding again!".

You can check out David and John's other products and work on their company site, Supermechanical.

Pet Tracker

We've considered this multiple times for our dog Lucy who has the tendency to, let's just say, catch a scent and kind of wander off looking for it. Not once, but twice, we have gotten calls from people who have found her separated from her dog hiking group. We've cringed to think what could have happened if she hadn't run into those nice people who looked at her dog tag and called us.

The Tagg pet tracker is a subscription-based GPS service that links to a physical collar device worn by your dog. The dog's location and activity information is accessible by a mobile app so you know where Fido is at all times. It's a pretty cool extension of the home automation model, especially if you are as nervous about the effects of implanting chips in dogs as we are (aside from health controversies, chips also do not alert you directly or tell you where your dog is via app).

by Philips

I love this concept. Sometimes you just want to control your lighting without installing a hard-wired, expensive system that is overkill for most of us. This one is as easy as just picking the lighting and lamps you want in the system and screw the light bulbs in. Fire up the app and you're ready to control them. I like that this product is scalable. You can choose the number of bulbs you want in the system based on the size of your home and customize them to your own mode of living.

The Hue home lighting system consists of: Philips LED light bulbs (that can display a wide range of white tones to full spectrum color), web and smartphone apps that allow you to control your lighting, and a "bridge" device that allows the apps to talk to the bulbs via your wireless network:

The apps provide an easy-to-understand gateway to controlling the system. With the Hue app, you can select from a series of pre-tested Light Recipes designed for specific activities like relaxing or concentrating on a task.

This feature is pretty fun: you can take or select any existing photo on your phone—say, that gorgeous sunset on your last vacation—and have Hue adjust your lighting to the specified colors to create a lighting mood. And speaking of vacations, you can adjust your Hue lighting from anywhere if you decide you want more lights on at night, as an old timer would have done.

Interestingly, there is an online Hue community generating A LOT of coloring and light recipes from photos and even Kuler that are shared. So, if you haven't been to Paris yet and you want to emulate a night setting for dinner, there you have it in the shared "recipes".

by Scanomat

Why, yes, the iPhone CAN make coffee...when paired with this machine. OK, I admit, this one is pretty aspirational. But I am a devoted coffee drinker. I love it. It is one vice I will not be giving up anytime soon. And if this company is telling me I can brew coffee out of a sleek, minimalist counter top appliance by the touch of the iPhone screen, I'm listening. I'm intrigued. (But for now, I've still got my feet firmly planted in French Press love land). Scanomat makes some serious commercial automatic cappuccino machines, but this one is the sleekest and most high tech by far that fits just as easily in a modern home as it does at a restaurant or hotel.

The impressive kick to all of these devices is they have been designed to be quite simple and clear to use. These selected products aren't just about impressive technology and the feats of engineering that they are—the creators have thought the product all the way through to the end-user: you and me. You may think that should be a given (it should), but that has not always been the case with household products and consumer electronics. It is really great to me to see the demand become higher and higher for products that are clear and intuitive to use and that are beautiful to hold and live with. I hope this approach becomes the norm.

The other impressive factor that really must—and is—becoming a given is how the experience comes full circle in the ability to control the devices and track their results through web and smartphone apps that we are already accustomed to using. The visual data they deliver is made more accessible to the average consumer through excellent information design, data visualization, and intuitive user-interface design. This will give these products an edge in the marketplace. It also places the power and control of these devices (and of our homes, our health, our goals, etc.) into our own hands.

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.