Monday musings – the power of materials in design…

It has been quite marvellous just how many excellent programmes have been on the gogglebox recently about design, the context of design and the design process. And very interesting programmes too – we have had an insight into the linking of psychology and design with The Men Who Made Us Spend and last week saw the culmination of another great mini series on BBC 4 – Everyday Miracles – the genius of sofas, stockings and scanners, which looked at the links between design, designers and materials.

toolbox materials Of course, it seems rather a given that designers can only create real stuff within the realms of what exists to build it from, but this programme showed exactly how much of a difference material advances had on designers and subsequently, design and engineering.

The invention of better quality steel has resulted in bridges that are more elegant, whilst the advancement of manufacturing processes has allowed designers to engineer and design ever more delicate looking structures with incredible structural integrity.

As well as aesthetic alterations, the continued advancement of materials has created huge social changes too. The invention of the pneumatic tyre in 1888 by Dunlop (after advancements in rubber manufacture) allowed the hard rimmed bicycles to be updated, increasing their speed, manoeuvrability and essentially, rideability, opening up travel to women and allowing people to ride longer distances, faster. No longer was travel restricted to those with the upper classes.

Now, of course, it is material advancements that have allowed us to build lighter, faster bicycles for racing – a bike built for speed in anything other than carbon fibre is almost inconceivable. The invention of the material is so ideally suited to the cause that we tend to forget that it is a relatively new invention.

But this will always be the way. Every week there are new, advanced, experimental materials created which inevitably will become the standard for products and experiences of the future. Without the partnership between new products, designers and new materials we would never create anything truly groundbreaking.


weekend words – a little spark of madness…

Today on weekend words we have a little quote from the marvellous Robin Williams. We were very saddened at his passing as many of our fondest memories are connected to the incredible character, wit and genius that formed his very being. So today we have one of our favourite Robin Williams quotes – and one that is highly relevant to not only creatives, but anyone. Don’t lose your little spark of madness…

one little spark of madness

(illustration by claire potter design)

weekend colour inspiration – grey and green…

Time is ticking by – and we are nearing the time when we will finally be moving to our new studio – an old toilet block that we are currently converting. As expected, our existing studio is filling up with stuff for the new studio – things that we have sorted out and new things, such as ten peace lilies, a gumball machine (for a secret project – details soon) and more spring bulbs than the average garden centre. But, we are also re-doing branding for the studio (as you may have noticed from our new logo) and sorting out colours for the building. It will be a symphony of grey and green. Just like this rather wonderful image we spotted over on Behance by Nicolai Boye Broderson…

grey and green U

The dark grey is a great foil for the brights over, with the chartreuse being grounded a little in it’s acidity and the mid grey providing the ideal centre point for the image. This is rather how the new studio will feel, with dark grey elements brightened by both lime green braided cable and plants. The mid grey will come in with galvanised steel fittings…

All in all – grey and green is a winning combination – traditional with a little spark…

(image by Nicolai Boye Broderson)

SPOTTED – looking up at Brighton Museum…

Last Bank Holiday Monday, we decided that we would have a day off, so of course, it rained in supposed Biblical amounts. And even though it was very tempting to just sit in and read, we thought we would venture out to do a typical rainy day activity in Brighton – we went to Brighton Museum.

Brighton Museum

Now, as a Brightonian, I can honestly say that I go to Brighton Museum at least three times a year, which is not too bad. It is an excellent museum that is also free, and has a good mix of both permanent collections and temporary collections too. Some design, some art, some local interest pieces and a very interesting collection of Ancient Egypt artefacts too. But when you visit a museum, it is not just the stuff on show that can provide a visual feast – you need to remember to look up and down as well.

The main entranceway to the Brighton Museum is quite marvellous – a cavernous double height vaulted space with a set of Artichoke lights providing sculptural illumination. The architectural detailing is quite wonderful and the grey colours are soft and delicate.

Most visitors miss this view from the ground floor, but (hopefully) notice when they go across the cafe balcony, or between the galleries at the opposite end. From this level the space looks very different, but I prefer the view from the ground floor – appreciating the height of the building and the shadows cast by the lights.

This is not just true of Brighton Museum, but of many buildings – instead of just looking down, or at eye level, take time to look upwards as well. This is also the view advocated by studio friend and inspirational arts and culture consultant Cara Courage, who started the LookUp project in 2013 – a photo journal of permanent architectural details across Brighton and further afield that are at least one storey up…

So when you are out and about – do not forget to look up.

(photo by claire potter)

wednesday walls – a cor-ten steel fence…

Ok. We are bending the rules just a touch today with this fantastic image. Not strictly a wall, today’s post is all about a fence. Constructed from cor-ten steel, the fence has a beautiful rusted appearance and allows it to blend rather beautifully with its location whilst still being a modern take on a fence.corten steel

Designed by Mikyoung Kim, the fence mimics the patternation of the oak leaves which are found on the site of this private residence in Massachusetts. The use of the cor-ten steel means that the structure is still fully stable even with the rusted appearance and does not require any coatings or paint. Even though using a weathering steel such as cor-ten is not the cheapest of options for a project, there is little ongoing maintenance required for the material which is protected by the outer ‘rusted’ layer, which cuts down on both cost and time implications.

It also gives a very lovely shifting colouration which is hard to get in metal but often found in wood, allowing it to feel as natural as possible. It is quite an acquired taste however, with some feeling that cor-ten steel just looks like rusted steel (which of course, it is), but we think that it is a highly versatile material.

And there is nothing wrong with a little rust eh?

(image via

SPOTTED – the first winter violas – chocolate cake with edible flowers…

We had a day off yesterday for the Bank Holiday, when, of course, it rained, but at the weekend we had our village fair in the dappled sunshine which was excellent. It is lovely to meet up with neighbours and friends and have a good old chat on the village green with a slice of something decadent from the cake stand. I did, however, miss out on grabbing a slice of the cake I made – a chocolate cake with edible flowers – with the first of the new winter flowering violas and pansies.

chocolate cake with edible flowers

We love using edible flowers in our recipes – in salads in summer, and in ice cubes, but the best way is to top a dark and lush chocolate cake with edible flowers.

Plus, the dark chocolate ganache of the cake sets the colours of the flowers off beautifully. We chose violas and pansies, which have a beautiful range of colours, shapes and sizes and look very sweet on the cake. The purple also goes very well with the chocolate (and the scattering of purple edible glitter too).

We used both violas and pansies on the cake, including the smooth variety and the new ‘ruffled’ pansies, which gave a bit more interest. And if you pick the flowers, they will produce more, so do not hold back for edible decorations for your cakes.

Fancy something else for your own chocolate cake with edible flowers? Why not try (the very last) rose petals, both wild rose / japanese rose or your own from your garden, or perhaps a bright and brash fuchsia ballerina flower – or the fruit pods?

And don’t forget lavender, which is simply stunning on (and in) any cake…

(photo by claire potter)

weekend colour inspiration – neon and grey trainers…

For today’s weekend colour inspiration we are looking very close to home – namely, with my new trainers – a bright vision in neon and grey.

neon and grey trainers

We know that these are not going to be to everyone’s taste, but my goodness we love them. These are the Nike ID version of the Free Run +2′s, which basically means that they are made to your exacting colour specifications throughout. As the only trainers that have really suited my feet for running, these were the ones I needed, but when it came to choosing the colours… well, that took a long time to decide.

But, really, the reasoning that I applied to designing these shoes followed the same logic as we do when we are designing anything in the studio.

First of all, what has the least amount of options, colour wise? For the trainers it was the bases, so I chose the bright neon yellow option. For an interior, this could be the colour of a key piece that needs integrating, such as a sofa or piece of art.

Then, I chose the background colour – which, in all honestly was never going to be any colour apart from grey. This helped to calm down the base and provide a neutral backdrop for the highlight colours above. Think of this like a wall colour – something ‘grounding’ for your space.

Next, came the highlight colours above, so the blue and the green were added. These work well with the yellow neon and grey and add a bit of interest to the shoe. Without the blue, it could have all got a bit disco, so it is supporting the yellow without vying for attention – vital for a secondary colour. Think of the blue and grey as your room highlights, so accessories, throws, even a rug.

Last up were the final details such as the swoosh and laces – which are finished in the neon yellow to unify the base with the rest of the shoe. Think accessories again. The (cjp) on the tongue were a personal touch – this could be something you have made for your space or even something that you have attached a memory to, such as a print, or piece of art. Something that is yours alone.

So – there we have it. How designing a pair of neon and grey trainers follows the same logic as designing a space…

(photo by claire potter)

SPOTTED – the SLEEED chair…

We have a bit of a thing for chairs here at The Ecospot. In the sense that we see a lot of new designs for them and yet, surely by now, we have invented every possible combination for sitting down? Plus, as we are filling up with more and more things, do we really need another design for another chair? Well, occasionally, yes. The SLEEED by Centimeter Studio chair is quite an interesting one too.

Sleeed chairs by Centimeter Studio

A new concept in stacking chairs, the SLEEED chair slides horizontally into the back of the next leaving a gap of only 50mm in between each one, rather than having to be lifted one atop the others like most stacking chairs do. They can then be slid along the floor on a sledge like rail system and stacked vertically, meaning that the real time action of collecting and redistributing chairs is likely to be much quicker.

Sleeed chairs by Centimeter Studio

Plus, it is a one piece design, being injection moulded, which minimises waste during the manufacturing stage, making it much simpler to create and more eco friendly than other chairs.

Sleeed chairs by Centimeter Studio

So, perhaps there is room for another chair in this world – especially as it is so efficient and space saving as the SLEEED.

(images via Dezeen)

Wednesday walls – Silver Pines wallpaper by Little Greene…

Today on Wednesday Walls we have an absolutely beautiful wallpaper indeed, which is not only stunningly delicate, it has a lovely masculine edge too. The Silver Pines wallpaper by Little Greene is quite wonderful…

silver pines wallpaper

Part of the Oriental Wallpaper collection, Silver Pines is joined in the mix by two other colourways, Blue Pines and Golden Pines – the pattern to all having been drawn as an abstract from a 19th Century silk Kimono.

Close up, it certainly does look like pines, however, at a distance, the fluffy plumed tops of the trees feel rather like clouds. The Silver colouration feels like a moody sky too, adding to the atmosphere of the pattern.

Plus, as well as being rather beautiful, the Silver Pines wallpaper, and all the wallpapers of Little Greene are either FSC or PEFC registered and printed with non toxic pigments.

For a feature wall that requires that hard to achieve mix of both masculine and feminine, you could be hard pushed to find a paper as beautiful as the Silver Pines wallpaper.

(image via Little Greene)