Unusual shapes, different design and a splash of whimsy and fantasy.
The best modern design has a timeless quality. The bent plywood Mag Table 2000 from Pfeiffer Lab fits the bill. Gracefully curved lines form a low table surface with storage for magazines, perfect beside a reading chair or as a nightstand with a platform bed. Put on its end, the piece becomes a simple laptop stand. Beautiful and smart. V.M.
$200 in birch; Canoe, Portland; canoeonline.net
These sculptural glass lamps by husband-and-wife duo David and Melanie Leppla are available at The Real Mother Goose in Portland. The handblown lamps add a dramatic focal point to any room. Part of the artists’ Kyoto series, the lamps are inspired by the simplicity of the Japanese aesthetic. Their fluid, natural shape mimics the simple design of stones. E.H.
These Japanese-designed WASARA party kits bring haute couture to single-use tableware. Made from tree-free materials like sugarcane fiber and bamboo, the green products are biodegradable and compostable. The kits include round or square plates, bowls, tumblers, utensils, napkins and even compostable waste bags for cleanup. Hassle-free and eco-friendly parties are now attainable. E.H.
$44 for eight settings, $249 for 50; branchhome.com
Pull up an imaginative chair. This Spineless Chair is made of embossed leather book spines. The upholstery is printed with text from those same books. Transparent, bulletproof “glass” is used for another chair. Decorative dimples and starburst cracks are evidence that the material lives up to its name. A third chair is formed by digging a shape in the ground, filling the hole with concrete, digging it up 30 days later, and using that to cast a mold for a resin chair. Benjamin Rollins Caldwell of South Carolina custom-makes each BRC Design Network piece. It’s art you can sit on. No surprise they have prices to match. V.M.
Spineless Chair, $20,000; brcdesigns.com
Construct a grown-up version of a cardboard clubhouse. The softwall+softblock modular wall pieces unfold from about 2 inches wide to 15 feet long and can be stacked and connected with concealed magnets to create freestanding walls. The honeycomb paper and fiber pieces are lightweight, flexible and surprisingly sturdy. The tallest pieces stand 8 feet. The shortest ones can serve as seating. V.M.
$160 for 16-inch paper stool, $950 for a 6-foot- by-15-foot partition; cloth and lighted versions are more; molostore.com
Transform your plain mixer into a unique work of art that will cheer you up each day you spot it on your counter. Nicole Dinardo of Snohomish, Wash., custom-paints KitchenAid mixers in a huge range of styles. Get a subdued pattern to match your favorite vintage tea towels, or turn your child’s artwork into a permanent fixture. Her airbrush technique allows her to work with the mixers’ tricky curves while creating your new favorite kitchen gadget. E.H.
We’ve tried saving our wine corks for various DIY projects but never get around to using them. Plus, now that we’ve seen the vintage wine-cork letters from The Country Barrel, we know our crafty chops could never measure up. The Eugene company artfully arranges the words and designs from recycled wine corks into beautiful and intricate monograms, the perfect gift for newlyweds or to display on your own dining room wall. E.H.
Angle of repose
Recliners get a bad rap. Too often they are associated with grumpy old men who patch upholstery with duct tape. But recliners can be elegant and comfortable. Milo Baughman first designed furniture for Thayer Coggin in the 1950s. The walnut and leather recliner glides backward as a hidden footrest rises. V.M.
$2,800; Design Within Reach; dwr.com
Avery Thatcher felt honored to be invited into the township homes of some of the poorest people in South Africa. She was touched by their hospitality and impressed with their aesthetic. The walls, ceilings, floors and furniture of those simple lean-tos were often completely covered with brightly colored canned-food labels.
“They were really beautiful and interesting, and really got my wheels turning,” says Thatcher. “It was pattern on top of pattern on top of pattern. The entire wall, floor to ceiling, might be covered in pork and beans.”
With a background in the arts, Thatcher has patched together jobs in film and theater productions while “working in various crafts” including painting, sculpting, print and tile making. She launched Juju Papers in Portland in 2010. Each 15-foot-by-27-inch roll is printed to order and sold through her web site and interior designers.
“The response has been really great,” she says. Most of her residential orders have come from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland. While some customers wallpaper entire rooms, others have bought small amounts for accent walls, or even to decorate room dividers with pops of pretty pattern. She recently took the business to an international trade show and piqued the interest of several interior designers.
“I don’t know yet how the cookie will crumble,” she says of that venture. “I’m still at the figuring-it-out-as-I-go stage.” V.M.
$165-$200 per roll; jujupapers.com
Made of No. 2 plastic, the Ty shower curtain by Grain won’t off-gas in your home like most shower curtains. Also, its breathable fabric more easily fights off mold and mildew, and it can be recycled when you’re ready for a change. We especially like the DIY version that comes with a permanent marker, so you can customize it to fit your bathroom decor. E.H.
The classic game card remade in glass is just the thing to hold some change, store house keys or serve a snack during — what else? — a game of Bingo. V.M.
$10; Portland Art Museum gift shop, Portland; portlandartmuseum.org; admission not required to shop
Let a tiny tiger hold your keys. Drape necklaces over a zebra’s neck. Slip your rings on an elephant’s trunk. The Pack Rack consists of seven tiny plastic animal heads mounted on reclaimed wood like a vegan’s hunting trophy. The artist “made the other halves into magnets,” say Woonwinkel shop owner Erica Essink. “So no tiny animal tushes are clogging landfills.” V.M.
$58; Woonwinkel, Portland; woonwinkelhome.com
For more than 30 years, Bob and Corina Neher have been making hand-decorated pottery at their studio, Clay in Motion, in Milton-Freewater. Their ergonomically designed hand-warmer mugs come in right-handed and left-handed versions for early fall mornings when you don’t want to get out of bed. Add more pep to your morning cup of joe with the fun, brightly colored mugs. E.H.
A leg up
Treat your Ikea furniture as a blank canvas. There are entire blogs dedicated to reworking ubiquitous Ikea furniture into something new. If you don’t want to go the DIY route, instantly upgrade your furniture with PrettyPegs. The Swedish company makes gorgeous legs for Ikea sofas and beds, so you can make sure your furniture perfectly matches your personal decor style. E.H.
Outdoor storage options often seem like a catch-22 — either they hold a lot and are ugly, or they look good but aren’t very useful. Brookbend solves that problem with their teak storage buffet box. The lid folds out into a table or hangs down if you’re short on space. Part of the lid can even be removed for use as a serving tray. You could store seat cushions or kids' toys in the box, but why would you when it can be converted into a bar for all your late summer fetes? Fill the included removable poly tubs with ice, throw in your favorite Oregon microbrews and enjoy the outdoors. E.H.
The product designer who streamlined the ornate Louis XV chair, to a crystal clear polycarbonate “ghost” chair, brings his minimalist style to the bath. The Axor Starck X Waterfall by Philippe Starck incorporates an overhead shower, six body showers, three shut-off valves, a thermostat and a handheld head shower in one streamlined, wall-mounted unit in sleek chrome or brushed nickel. V.M.
Don’t take this lying down. Or do. Dornbracht offers a home version of a luxury spa treatment with its horizontal shower. Choose from several preprogrammed, choreographed water dances that vary in temperature, intensity and quantity, designed to energize or relax. V.M.
$35,000; Chown Hardware, Portland; chown.com
In the lap of luxury
Upgrade your everyday routine with a luxurious pestemal from Indigo Traders in Portland. The traditional Turkish bath towels are flat-woven of Turkish cotton. If you doubt their absorbency compared to a thick terry-cloth towel, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Harking back to the 15th century, the towels may be compact, yet they remain soft and absorbent. They require less energy than regular towels for their gentle laundering, and, perhaps best of all, they get better with use. E.H.
Get the boot
Put a bouquet of fresh-picked flowers from the garden in one of these little ceramic rain boots by Wildcat Lake Pottery for a floral arrangement certain to make a splash. They’re made in Washington but appeal to webfoot friends everywhere. V.M.
$35-$43; Oregon Historical Society museum store, Portland; ohs.org; admission not required to shop
In the details
The tiniest things can make or break a room. If you can’t find cabinet knobs and pulls to suit your taste, create your own with HobbyKnobs. Owner Leilani Norman made customized knobs for over a decade and then decided everyone should get a chance to design their own. Decoupage the simple flat knobs with scrapbook paper, or glue on small items for a 3-D effect. Whatever you do, you’ll end up with finishing touches for your room that are truly unique. E.H.
The Fleur a Joure crochet pillows from Proud Mary add the perfect nautical touch to a sofa or bed. Proud Mary began when owner Harper Poe volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in South America. Her love for the bright textiles she came across there inspired her to found a sustainable design business promoting social change. Proud Mary, based in South Carolina, partners with artisans in developing nations to create handcrafted products that are socially and ecologically responsible. The Fleur a Joure pillows are handmade by the Bamako cooperative, a group of 110 Malian women who are proficient in the crafts of crochet, embroidery and sewing. They use locally grown organic cotton and natural dyes to create their wares. E.H.
$144; four colors available at proudmary.bigcartel.com
Bang! Boom! Cuppow!
Easily washable, durable, and classically cute, humble mason jars are a brilliant reusable cup — until you try bringing your iced latte in the car and end up spilling it all over yourself. Enter Cuppow. The reusable, BPA-free little tool attaches onto wide-mouth canning jars to create simple, spill-free travel mugs that you can use over and over. E.H.
Fish out of water
Add some whimsy to your dinner table with a GurglePot. The fish-shaped pitcher comes in 22 colors reminiscent of Fiestaware’s iconic designs. The best part is that it isn’t simply a pitcher shaped like a fish — it also makes hilarious gurgling noises while being poured. The modern update on European “glug jugs” can be used as a sculptural vase or to delight children and adults alike at family dinners. E.H.