Scrub in Style

It’s toshikoshi time and in Japan that means furiously cleaning the house to welcome the new year sans dirt and grime.  In with the new and out with the old, right?  Here are some miraculous little helpers to make the purification process easier.

Spaghetti Scrubbers
Spaghetti Scrubbers designed by Hiroki Hayashi

These genius scrubbers are made from recycled corn cobs and peach pits. They are re-useable, require very little detergent and last a very long time. And they look positively edible!  Available at the Shop at Cooper Hewitt.

Kamenoko Tawashi
Kamenoko Tawashi (Japanese scrubber)

These Kamenoko scrubbers have been around for 100 years and are found in every Japanese kitchen.  Classically good design — simple is always best! Made from palm fibers and sold in an adorable paper wrapping that has the turtle brand logo on it.  Kamenoko means baby turtle in Japanese.  They’re kind of hard to come by here, but I’ve spotted these at Kiosk in NYC as well as at an Anthropologie store once though I can’t locate it on their website.

Natural Solutions Cleaning Kit from Green Depot

This is a great starter kit for the eco-minded cleaner, available from Green Depot.  It’s all the stuff your grandmother used to use, like baking soda and vinegar.  There’s nothing a little Arm & Hammer can’t handle!

I know, it’s all a bit daunting but I promise you there’s nothing like starting the new year off with a literally clean slate.  Just turn on BBC America and watch “How Clean is Your House?” if you need encouragement.

Books for Looking

Andy Spade of Partners & Spade

I stopped into Partners & Spade yesterday and had a little chuckle over Andy Spade‘s wall installation of framed clothbound books, which if I recall correctly, was titled something along the lines of “An Argument for Looking at Books Not Reading Them.”  Cheeky and so wonderfully in touch with the current book-fetishizing zeitgeist!  I noticed the other day while browsing an Anthropologie store that those gorgeous clothbound Penguins designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith which I’ve been coveting for ages had made their way across the pond and were now available outside of the UK.  It’s admittedly a tad depressing to see editions of Dickens and Hardy scattered between cashmere twin-sets and shabby chic hand towels at an Anthro store, as it pretty much confirms the crossover of the book from vessel for content to object for display.  The vast majority of these books will presumably live out their lives on a whimsically curated antique shelf, their glued spines never to be cracked.  However, given the current state of the book industry, I have to applaud any and all attempts to revive interest in literature even if the tactics used are entirely aesthetic.

Clothbound Penguin Classics designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith

As further evidence of the fetishizing of books, take a look at these amazing Book Lights by Design Studio MS in the UK.  Sadly they are currently only available with UK voltage plugs but I suppose I can always buy a converter.  I want, I want!

The Book Light (2009) by Design Studio MS

Continuing on this train of thought, the lovely photographs of book spines by Mickey Smith also come to mind, as well as the series of bookshelf illustrations by Jane Mount — both available on Jen Bekman’s 20×200.  Don’t have a bookshelf in your apartment?  Just put up some pictures of books and presto!  Nah, I’m just kidding.  Like Andy Spade’s collection of framed books, presumably this kind of book-inspired art appeals most to people who actually do read quite a bit.

Word Study by Mickey Smith
Bookshelf 20 by Jane Mount

To blather on even further, I was at a charity benefit the other day where limited edition art books were being auctioned off for thousands of dollars.  At those kind of prices they’re obviously more investment vehicle than actual thing to be enjoyed (imagine spilling coffee on your $4000 book!), but it really spelled out for me the reality that in the world of books, content has largely become divorced from the object.  Kraken Opus, which recently released a Michael Jackson Opus for a relatively cheap $250, quite literally describes their limited edition books as an alternative investment that helps to “diversify your wealth.”  I’m sure that while among these buyers of $4000+ limited edition books on everything from Arsenal to Prince will be die-hard fans who just want to own it no matter what, I suspect the majority of Opus’ customers never even break open the wooden crate it comes in and send it straight to their vaults to appreciate in value alongside their Château Margaux.  The only time I ever saw an Opus book was under a glass case at Heathrow and that particular edition (Super Bowl XL) weighed a whopping 80 lbs.  It takes “coffee table book” to a whole new level.  You probably need to be in the NFL yourself to actually turn the page so it certainly is not a book meant for reading.  So then what of the mundane task of reading?  We have the Kindle and Nook for that!

Kraken Opus' limited edition books

America, America

Photo by Jens Mortensen (NYTimes)

Seeing this fantastically patriotic sweater posted the other day by Tommy Hilfiger in the NYTimes’ T Magazine blog made me smile.  It’s apparently something his daughter found in a vintage shop in SoHo that is now on display in his Fifth Ave. flagship.  I wish I’d had this to wear last week when some friends threw me an All-American themed party to celebrate my recent attainment of United States citizenship!  All the iconic American brands were represented — Budweiser, McDonald’s, KFC, Oreos, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola — and of course, two types of apple pie (handmade and Mickey D’s rectangles).  As someone who once worked on a trend project around shifting perceptions of Americanism, it’s interesting to see how instantly these connections are made.  A lot of classic American brands currently seem to be fumbling their way towards identifying what the New Americanism looks and feels like.  One of the more interesting recent attempts that comes to mind is the Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign by Wieden + Kennedy.

The commercial makes use of a few stanzas by Walt Whitman, the most American of poets, in an unconventionally erudite effort to convey a wildly exciting youthful American energy–implying that Levi’s, like young America herself, is part of a historically rooted continuum, constantly pioneering into uncharted territory.  There is a certain nostalgia for all things Americana nowadays, and classic American brands like Woolrich, Filson, Red Wing and Bass are now cool again in ways they couldn’t have dreamed of a few years ago.  The new Budweiser American Ale is similarly capitalizing on this sudden popularity of Americanism.  I’m sure I will get a lot of flack for saying this but it really is fascinating how quickly the image of America as a brand turned around after 8 years of a semi-apologetic and embarrassed stance under Bush.  Obviously the U.S. still has more than its share of problems under Obama but the overall boost in American pride since the change-over is truly notable from a marketing perspective.  God bless America!

Aside: Check out A New Literary History of America by Greil Marcus & Werner Sollors.  It’s a fascinating (and gigantic) collection of essays on the history of our great nation.  Not your typical reference book, it really captures the richness and vitality of American history in an eminently readable way.