Articles and Essays


Books and Special Projects

 

Selected Articles

The Real Cost of Rip-Offs

Knockoff furnishings may be cheap, but for the design industry, they come with a heavy price.

Here’s how a designer makes money: One day she dreams up a chair. She spends months developing the concept, selecting materials, devising the exact curve of the arm, the dip of the back. Satisfied with the piece, she works with a manufacturer to produce it. The manufacturer refines the design, invests in tooling to build it, promotes it, and gets it (Read More…)

Long Island Found

When the Fisher family’s 1960s Long Island beach bungalow started to crumble, they sought an architect who’d preserve the home’s humble roots and mellow vibe, while subtly bringing the place up to date.

In the summer of 2007, Charlie and Rebecca Fisher noticed something odd about their weekend house, a boxy 1960s cottage in Amagansett, Long Island: “When the washer was on the spin cycle, the whole place would shake,” says Rebecca. That’s when they knew they couldn’t put it off any longer. It was time to renovate. (Read More…)

Profile: Thomas Phifer: Light on the Subject

Don’t be fooled by his mellow, self-effacing demeanor: Architect Thomas Phifer is a master of his craft, designing daylit, minimalist buildings that meld the ideals of classic modernism with 21st-century innovations.

Thomas Phifer is one of the most subdued architects you’ll ever meet. Sitting in his all-white New York office in a navy suit, reclining diagonally in a straight-backed chair, he speaks in a low and measured tone. When he’s being pensive—–which is most of the time—–he closes his eyes as he talks and bobs his hand gently in front of him like a conductor, as if coaxing out words. To hear him better, I lean in, block out the blaring car horns outside. In this way, he is like his architecture: exquisitely (Read More…)

My House: Startin’ Spartan

When Jay Atherton and Cy Keener met in grad school at the University of California, Berkeley, they discovered in each other a rare constellation of common interests: minimalist architecture, rock climbing, and “not talking.” After graduation, Atherton moved back to his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, and purchased a downtown lot. Wanting to build a house, he asked Keener—a pro carpenter, then living in Colorado—to help with design and construction. Six months later, “His house became our house,” says Keener. “It became obvious the only way it would get built was if I shared the mortgage.” Atherton cackles: “I suckered him down here.” (Read More…)

Splendor in the Grass

The San Francisco Patient and Resource Center, or Sparc, is not your average pot club. There’s no peephole or scary-looking security guy, no skunky couches or blackened windows. Instead, a collegiate “community liaison” stands by the door answering questions from passers-by and checking membership cards and paperwork. (There’s no fee to join, but you need a doctor’s recommendation to enter.) And with its minimalist oak tables and benches, and jazz on the stereo, Sparc could easily be mistaken for a Japanese teahouse. Welcome to the medical marijuana dispensary of the future. (Read More…)

The Skill Set

Indian artisans are breathing new life into old traditions.

jaipur

If you close your eyes and block out the visual cues — the red ocher 18th-century buildings, the brightly colored bazaars, the monkeys scrambling maniacally over the dusty rooflines — you would still know you were in Jaipur, India. The country’s center of traditional craftsmanship has a distinctive soundtrack (Read More…)

Profile: Terunobu Fujimori

A modern eccentric with an architectural sensibility drawn from ancient Japanese traditions, Terunobu Fujimori designs projects that are exercises in playful experimentation and sophisticated craft.

fujimori

One of the first things you notice about the Japanese architect and architectural historian Terunobu Fujimori is his voracious appetite. His particular brand of hunger extends not only to food—which he devours swiftly and animatedly, crumbs flying Cookie Monster–style—but also to an ardent intellectual curiosity (Read More…)

Oaxaca Gets Real

My best-laid plans were scrapped the moment I arrived in Oaxaca City. “You want to see the real, authentic Mexico, right?” asked Alejandro Ruiz, one of the city’s most renowned chefs, as he giddily steered his SUV through narrow cobblestoned streets (Read More…)

The Lake’s Progress

Could a Northern California backwater become the next Napa?

lakecounty2My first glimpse of Lake County, California, was a flash of silver through the trees. Clear Lake, the second-largest freshwater lake in California, shimmered and rippled in the sharp afternoon sun. Two hours into my drive north from San Francisco, the familiar sights of Napa — winery-lined roads, faux Italianate tasting rooms, chichi shops — had given way (Read More…)

Captain Kangaroo

Australia’s answer to the Galapagos Islands makes a giant leap forward.

“People always tell me, ‘Finally I feel like I’m in Australia,’ even if they’ve been in the country for weeks,” Craig Wickham said as we barreled down a red dirt road on Kangaroo Island. Wickham is tall and graceful, with tan skin and a salt-and-pepper buzz cut. He grew up on (Read More…)