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New Prospects

A Brooklyn architect shows what a little elbow grease, a healthy dose of naïveté, and a decade can accomplish.

Architect Jeff Sherman, of Delson or Sherman Architects, has more guts and gall than your average home renovator. In 2000, strapped by a “very finite budget,” he bought a wrecked row house in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, that had been used as an illegal breeding kennel. Over the next ten years, working as his own general contractor and builder, he transformed the scariest building on his block into a high-design home, all for about $100 per square foot. “I’m a little wary of the construction-on-a-dime myth trumpeted in the press,” says Sherman. “Construction (Read More…)

Bless This Desk

The right workspace can transform your creative life. Dwell puts six desks to the test.

Now that you’re expected to work from almost anywhere—your sofa, an airplane, a rickshaw in Kathmandu—and your “desktop” fits in the palm of your hand, are actual desks still necessary? We thought it over, called in six of our favorites, and came away answering, emphatically (Read More…)

Hecho en Oaxaca

An experimental shop in Oaxaca, Mexico, is resuscitating the region’s ancient crafts traditions and bringing indigenous artisans’ designs into the 21st century.

In 2006, inspired by Oaxaca’s plethora of indigenous communities, who, says industrial designer Gustavo Fricke, “inherit craft traditions that are older than Columbus,” Fricke opened blackbox. To stock the shop, located in a colonial house in downtown Oaxaca city, Fricke and other designers collaborate with local artisans to create stylish, contemporary objects in time-honored ways. By spotlighting native talent—from city and village alike—Fricke and shop managers Roberto Vega and Rosario Martinez Llaguno hope to provide a sustainable livelihood for Oaxaca’s underemployed artists and craftspeople and, as Fricke says (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…)

Model Behavior

Monica Förster takes a hands-on approach to furniture design. In her Stockholm studio, she whips up a flurry of tiny paper models—“3-D sketches”—that rival their full-scale progeny for beauty and craftsmanship.

“The computer is a tool; I can’t do without it,” says Förster. “But the nice thing about making models is that in the process of doing, I’m more open to mistakes—maybe I put the tape in a way that I don’t intend, but it shows a new possibility. In a computer everything is perfect. When I make models, it’s intuitive and rough: I take a flat piece of paper, I cut it, I tape it. It’s very quick. I find it very refreshing.” (Read More…)

A Platform for Living

Setsumasa and Mami Kobayashi’s weekend retreat, two and a half hours northwest of Tokyo, is “an arresting concept,” photographer Dean Kaufman says, who documented the singular refuge in the Chichibu mountain range. “It’s finely balanced between rustic camping and feeling like the Farnsworth House.” Designed by Shin Ohori of General Design Co., the structure—Setsumasa bristles at the word “house,” since his desire was  (Read More…)

The Cheap Seats

There are lots of handsome chairs out there, but sitting beauties that cost $250 or less are a rarer breed. Our picks run the gamut from traditional (the wooden, Shaker-inspired Salt or the Thonet-designed Era, the quintessential cafe chair) to the downright futuristic (we’re looking at you, oddly anthropomorphic Dr. Yes). We sat, swayed, shook, stacked (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…)

All Together Now

When Svetlin Krastev and Dessi Nikolova had their second child, they saw two options: Go broke buying a bigger apartment, or renovate their existing 620-square-foot home. Because they loved their central Murray Hill location—Krastev can walk to work in 15 minutes, which means more time with his kids—and also because they themselves lived with their parents in tight quarters in Bulgaria, the decision came easily. However, to answer the not-so-simple question of how the space would work for four, they turned to Ferda Kolatan and Erich Schoenenberger of su11 architecture + design. (Read More…)

Consumer Retorts

Chris Houston, the charmingly curmudgeonly owner of Modern Artifacts in San Francisco, is not your typical retailer. Though his shop is packed to the rafters with an eclectic and highly covetable range of vintage furniture, lighting, art, and craft, Houston takes a slow and thoughtful approach to retail and commerce.

At his workshop in the East Bay, he works with a fleet of California artisans—platers, refinishers, caners, upholsterers, framers, lacquerers—to impeccably restore the pieces he sells both online and in his shop. Dedicated to the credo of “less is more,” he recently got rid of his cell phone (Read More…)