21 December 2011

Combat Christmas chill

Gift ideas that come to mind as best fitted to combat the Christmas chill with: blankets from Iceland (by Vík Prjónsdóttir), matches and fairy tales.

Snow Blanket 
Shield of Wings (below)

20 December 2011

Bernadette's doubtful comforts

These two videos were both directed by the Berlin-based studio A Nice Idea Every Day. The first one is the official music video for 'Bernadette', a song of IAMX (album 'Volatile Times', 2011). The second one is the official music video for 'Doubtful Comforts', a song of Blue Roses (album 'Blue Roses', 2009).

19 December 2011

IKEA hacks

Apparently, roughly one tenth of Europeans has been conceived in an IKEA bed.
The mere fact that IKEA is so incredibly accessible to a regular joe, helped build a widely shared perception that an IKEA household appears generic and impersonal. It does, too: were you to purchase all your furniture, objects and accessories from Droog, your household would look impersonal and, yes, generic.

All above photographs showcase IKEA households, in our desire to inspire. You haven't seen those lovely elements in your catalogue, you say? That's because you haven't. The images above are of IKEA hacks: unique objects derived from the mass product. The key is to realize that an IKEA product can also be used as material (especially considering its price): it's a LEGO block of sorts. The mass product is there for you to personalize and repurpose: in the words of IKEA Hackers, you can »break into the IKEA code of furniture assembly.« If so, the sky's the limit where your IKEA household is concerned.


We're not all natural-born IKEA hackers with hammer and nail always at the ready. In the meantime, IKEA has become such a constant in our lives that a whole myriad of satellite businesses has developed in its orbit specializing in just that: creating options for you to personalize your IKEA furniture. A few suggestions:

Bemz is a Swedish company making custom designed fabric slipcovers for IKEA sofas, armchairs and other furniture. I recommend dressing up this sofa, and this bed.

Mykea is a Dutch company making custom designed stickers for IKEA furniture.
The possiblities are endless. There are even furniture makers offering to add custom-made doors to your IKEA cabinets (see REDO). 

18 December 2011

Christmas songlist for the laid-back, pagan and kinky

Gem's selection of Christmas croons:

Santa Baby, by Eartha Kitt

Baby, It's Cold Outside, by Sammy Davis Jr and Carmen McRae

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, by Annie Lennox

O Come O Come Emmanuel, by Belle & Sebastian

Winter Wonderland, by Radiohead
(you may want to move a minute ahead with this one)

In order to see the 25 best Christmas songs of all time as ranked by the professional musicians themselves, press here: as it turns out, the best Christmas song is, perhaps unsurprisingly, exactly the one that always scored the highest among the anti-Christmas anthems.

14 December 2011

2012 feature: Champagne

Who knew I'd ever fall for Dutch champagne? Head over heals, even. Zarb is a completely new champagne brand developed but a year ago by THEY (see at theyhaveawebsite.com). 'Zarb' means bizarre in French slang and Zarb is exactly how I want to travel to 2012.
I welcome any concept that makes champagne 'an everyday tradition, like brushing your teeth or losing your car keys'. The website kindly reassures us that Zarb champagne is best served everywhere, anywhere, here, now: may it be at our ex-partner's wedding, at confession or while riding a mermaid.
Napoleon said it all: in victory you deserve champagne, in defeat, you need it.
The two bottles featured above are from Zarb's special art edition: the latter was designed by Tjep. and the former by La Bolleur. [Press here in order to see the other inspiring bottles from this edition.]
If interested in buying, you are best advised to do so on Thursdays. That is when Ivan is working, Zarb's 'employee of the month and fastest bottle picker'.


The 'Lucky Building' in New York City: "[a]nd who would want to crash a plane into such a friendly looking building...," indeed.
New York City skyline received this makeover from Tjep., a Dutch design studio formed by Frank Tjepkema.
(A while ago, Gem featured another Tjep.'s project.)
Note that dot: not 'Tjep', but Tjep. is the name of this studio with a dot on elegance, technology and poetry.

12 December 2011

Training table manners

De Tafelwip (loosely translated: 'the courtesy table') is a playful, if slightly scornful Dutch design by Marleen Jansen. If you are going to be so rude as to leave the table before everyone has finished dinner, you will cause the other diner to crash down.

11 December 2011

Bookshelf porn

You may be acquainted with individuals who read ebooks. You may even have befriended one or two such ereaders. Chances are that you yourself are such an ereader. We, however, still indulge in books in a trashy way.

We frequent libraries and bookstores, and we carefully plan our interiors to accomodate the beloved books. Over the years, we moved from one to another jurisdiction, house, job, lover. Old LPs, casettes, magazines, letters, dear gifts were more often than not lost along our way. Usually, it is only the books that make it. Each a story in its own right, they link us to our past.

And so it can hardly come as a surprise that our bookshelves are something between a shrine and a peep-show. Our books may seem accidental to an innocent bystander, but we who selected them know better. We indulge in scanning the libraries of people we know to get to know these people better.

We may have entered the sexy boudoirs of those who persuaded us to come up for a nightcap, but we hastily departed when we found their poor books or, even, no books at all. I know a man who fell under a spell of his (now) girlfriend, when he saw her bookshelves: she pins little green curtains on each individual shelf to keep books safe. How could one possibly resist that?
Photographs featured are all taken from Bookshelf Porn, a photo-blog showcasing only the best photographs of bookshelves: the ones that are nothing less than 'porn for book lovers'. Highly recommended. In the coming days, we will select and feature bookshelves we crave for.

Variations on normal

Foam sculptures

Nosing the smartphone while having a bath (featuring Wilcox himself)

A chair swing (featuring Wilcox being swung by his dad)

Honesty stamps

A measure-tape diary

There's a big chance that you've already come accross Dominic Wilcox. His war bowls are by now a classic on design blogs. He is, however, more an innovator than a designer. Wilcox's amazing blog, Variations on normal, is really a little factory of innovations. In his own words: his blog is "a place for the sketchbook thoughts, ideas, and inventions of me, Dominic Wilcox." It is hard to believe that this is a one-man factory: there seem to be no Oompa-Loompas there cheerfully slaving away.
For those of you that could honestly make use of that honesty stamp, it comes in eight variations:
I sincerely apologise for all the trouble I've caused.
In all my life I've never met anyone as beautiful as you.
All I ask for is one last chance.
I know in the past I've found it difficult to say these words but I LOVE YOU.
What do you mean I'm always too busy?
I swear on my mother's grave I'll never do that again.
You are by far the most talented person I know.
You're right, the key to a strong relationship is communication.
Very handy.

While some of his sketchbook innovations made it in the real world (see Wilcox's webshop), others may never come about. Unfortunately, because it is exactly the latter that are amusing to no end. We're shamelessly applying a handful of his sketchbook ideas in our daily routine.

09 December 2011


Herbert A. Millington
Chair – Search Committee
412A Clarkson Hall, Whitson University
College Hill, MA 34109

Dear Professor Millington,

Thank you for your letter of March 16. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me an assistant professor position in your department.

This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of candidates, it is impossible for me to accept all refusals.

Despite Whitson’s outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at this time. Therefore, I will assume the position of assistant professor in your department this August. I look forward to seeing you then.

Best of luck in rejecting future applicants.

Chris L. Jensen

06 December 2011

Jazz noir

Amidst all the Britnies and Justins we have forgotten all about it. What makes for really good music? It's quite simple, really. A really good singer and a really good song.
But then there's a whole different brand of music. Which secret ingredient sets such music appart from really good music? We don't know. We only know how to recognise it: we find it irresistable. Play it again, Sam... A person dear to me finds 'Back It Up' to be such irresistable music.
Indeed, the song and the singer fit the bill. Caro Emerald, a Dutch conservatory trained jazz vocalist, is a really good singer. And the song, written by David Schreurs and Vince Degiorgio, is a really good song.
There is that rare chemistry there between the singer and the song, too: apparently, it took only one take. The song even has a cinematic quality to it. As you listen, Humphrey Bogarts are hiding at every corner.
And as for the secret ingredient... Ever since the single came out in 2009, the listeners do exactly as the song instructs: they back it up and do it again. Even the lyrics read as a manual for manic listeners:

Gimme some of that funky
The kind that the Duke used to play
And make it more swingy

And then give me some hornay
You know the bub-pu-pa bub-pu-pa-bay
Come on, give it to me
Hmmm hmmm

Slam that bass and make it sing
Give those strings that rip 'n zing
You know zactly what I came here for
Back it up and do it again

I believe this song is one of the most cleverly crafted songs I've come accross.
As one reviewer has put it: Caro finds her charm in a fairly obvious way; she takes the heart-pounding, smoky-lounged, crowd-whistling side of jazz and makes that the backbone of her music. In other words, Caro gave center stage to jazz I call 'jazz noir', vocal jazz from the movies that always feels like guilty pleasure... Hollywood jazz forever associated with bar noise, smoking, femme fatalles and men with hats. Hats off to Caro.

04 December 2011


A cloud umbrella

Pillows blanket

Back-to-nature speakers

A sea-wave sound chair, a rocking chair...

... giving out the sound of waves and providing you with the illusion of a beach...

All above featured products were designed by Studio Joon&Jung from Eindhoven in the Netherlands. The designers, Joonsoo Kim, Jungyou Choi and Hyunwook Lee, are originally Korean and graduates from the Design Academy Eindhoven. Their unique blend of Dutch and Korean approaches to design makes up for a delightfully unexpected portfolio. It is becoming more apparent by the day that also in design Asia is the new frontier.