I (heart) Wallpaper!

by Laura Knight-Keating

I am OBSESSED with wallpaper. I know I’m not alone. It’s been making a huge resurgence thanks to companies, young and old, who are creating wallpaper for the modern world. There is literally something for everyone – an amazing range of products, in terms of style and installation – from extremely adventurous to super conservative, temporary to permanent, textured, paintable, even glow in the dark!

Growing up we had this very heavy, completely overwhelming patterned wallpaper that covered our entryway, climbed the stairs, covered the hallway and as if that wasn’t enough – the same pattern was my parent’s bedspread and the curtains in our family room and on our patio doors. There wasn’t a single room in our house that didn’t have some view of this hideous (sorry, Mom and Dad!) pattern. Black background with huge coral flowers and teal green leaves with swirly vines. This bold and somewhat gothic paper replaced some equally frightening 1960s version that probably haunts the family who lived there before. The smell of old, wet wallpaper being steamed off our walls is forever burned into my sense memory. It was really enough to put a person off wallpaper for life. But then these came along…

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Accent walls, powder rooms, stair treads, inside cabinets, on the ceiling, behind shelving, on shelving – I even saw an image where someone had wallpapered their refrigerator! I applaud them.

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I would wallpaper everything. I know I’m a little late in my discovery. This trend has been growing for ten years or more. It just took me a little longer to throw off the 80s version. I also didn’t consider it initially because I rent my apartment and I wasn’t sure I wanted to invest the time and money on something I might have to leave behind. But then came these….

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Removable wallpaper! Somebody stop me.

Here are a bunch of my favorite places to stalk cool papers:

flavorpaper.com

wallsneedlove.com

chasingpaper.com

orlakiely.com

missprint.co.uk

hyggeandwest.com

flatvernacular.com

submaterial.com

michelevarian.com

astekwallcovering.com

TAG/Laura Knight Keating

 

LEGOS: Still good for your head

by Laura Knight-Keating

When I was a kid, we had two cardboard boxes, formerly cases of beer, filled with Legos. Aside from Star Wars action figures and board games, I would say they were the toy that all seven of us – and this includes my parents – would play with together. I can’t actually remember what we built but I remember my dad showing us how to assemble the bricks to get the maximum amount of stability and fighting with my siblings over the flat base pieces and the windows. My kids have built some astounding structures with their Duplo Legos and recently graduated to the regular size Legos. When they became interested in Lego, I was super excited – having such fond memories of building for hours with my family as a kid. I was surprised when I first started shopping for them that you really have to look hard to find a set of just bricks rather than a kit with a set of instructions.

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I know this isn’t a new topic. Parents and researchers have been saying for years that Legos are less creative now that they are sold as kits and attached to all sorts of pre-established characters and franchises. In some ways this is totally true. It’s been proven that building with a set of instructions forces your brain to work in a different way. It’s a skill – probably no less valuable – but it does put a damper on one’s ability to think and create more expansively. I’ll admit I was a little annoyed at first for a number of reasons. For one, my kids can’t actually follow the instructions and yet they want to have the product on the box so it is up to me to immediately assemble the kit – (there goes my creativity!). I also felt like, because the pieces are so specific to the kit, that there was actually no way for the kids to do their own thing.

You would think that in nearly five years I would have learned never to underestimate my kids’ ability to see things from all angles wacky. The product on the box, painstakingly assembled by yours truly, typically lives for about two days. Slowly, pieces are extracted to construct something new or I step on it one too many times and disassemble every creation in a fit of rage. At the Lego Store, there is a wall of choose-your-own Lego pieces that you can purchase for set prices in different size containers. There are regular bricks as well as levers, little console pieces and tiny circles and squares that my kids love to use to construct elaborate control panels. You can also for $9.99 assemble your own set of three Lego people – each with a hat and a prop. My babysitter finds it a little disturbing when my kids decapitate all the Lego people and build a tower of heads…I think it shows a lot of creativity.

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Kids love to build. Mine start with Legos but eventually add blocks or an old Fisher Price castle – before you know it one of them is showing me their “tire swing” which is really a silicon watch band hanging off of a precarious tower of lego pieces which is attached to something else with a rubber band. I think you have to work pretty hard to completely rob them of their desire to create. And of course, all humans are different – even from the tender age of 2 or 3. There will always be the kids that build towers of heads and the kids that follow the directions – in toys and in life. Either way has a multitude of possible outcomes – positive and negative.

What I can say positively is that when I hear my son say – “Vivi, lets build!” – it’s music to my ears!

TAG/Laura Knight Keating

Architectural Musings

photo: Robert Frank, “Elevator — Miami,1955”

 

by Laura Knight-Keating

Today I have a number of random thoughts about the city of New York. Some about architecture, some about other things.  I’ve lived here for the better part of twenty years and as I wander around the city streets I never stop wondering…WHAT are all these people doing?!  What is going on in all of these buildings? Why are you people walking so slow??

Whenever I enter a building I have never been in before – and for that matter even buildings I know and love – one of my favorite things is when the elevator doors open on a floor that isn’t my floor and I get this momentary glimpse into another world.  Random yoga studios, production offices, casting agencies, furniture showrooms, small design firms of all varieties and architecture offices tucked into 4th floors, 8th floors, 11th floors all over town. Sometimes the offices are so beautifully designed or intriguing in some way that when the doors open, I almost forget why I am even in this elevator – I want to hop off and look around!

There is no way I will ever know what everyone is doing in New York City and would I really want to know?  Probably not… The city is constantly evolving. This past fall, Lauren and I took this amazing lecture series at Cooper Union called The City Transformed: Part I. It’s all about New York City and how it grew from a haphazardly constructed fort on the tip of the island to the architectural masterpiece it is today. I am fascinated by the number of amazing buildings that have been constructed and demolished and constructed again all for the purpose of forcing the world to see us the way we want to be seen.

Our teacher was very fond of saying – ‘this is how we do things in America’ – we make something beautiful, we change our minds, we tear it down and we start over and make something even better. In the 19th century some massive, ornate, incredible buildings were built only to stand for twenty to thirty years before being replaced by new buildings – ‘this is how we do things in America’. That may have been true in the 19th century but thankfully now we make every effort to redesign, reuse and recycle our beautiful buildings. We have recently been working a lot in Brooklyn and the waterfront there is being totally reused and transformed. Check it out. And to top it all off, Spring has finally arrived. New York City…just endlessly fascinating!

Empire-Stores_resized

Studio V’s plans for Empire Stores on the Brooklyn Waterfront

Here’s the link to our class:

http://cooperunion.augusoft.net/index.cfm?method=ClassInfo.ClassInformation&int_class_id=2671

Search for inspiring Spring palettes on this super fun color resource. My first architecture friend, Amelia Falco, turned me onto it:

http://www.colourlovers.com/palettes/search

TAG/Laura Knight Keating

Built-In Envy

by Laura Knight-Keating

Can we talk about built-ins and how jealous I am of people who own their apartments and can have built-ins? I grew up in Indiana in a big house with a lot of built-in bookshelves and beautifully designed closets (actually designed by my dad – a lawyer who wished he was an architect!). When I moved to New York City at the age of 21, not only were there no bookshelves to house my gigantic collection but my room didn’t even have a closet. What?!

Ok so built-ins. There are tons of advantages to having built-in millwork in your home. Aesthetically, you get to design it to look exactly the way you want it to look – or you get to hire a brilliant designer like Lauren to design it exactly the way you want it to look. It can be inconspicuous and blend so perfectly that it seems like part of the wall.

Foyer_2 web

 

or super funky with punches of color and interesting geometric nooks:

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Either way, it looks amazing and fits seamlessly into the room because it has been built to be an exact fit. You never have to worry about it falling over when one of your toddlers decides it is a great idea to climb it – another bonus! It’s like the difference between buying a suit at a department store and having one tailor made. A designer looks at what you are trying to display, store,…maybe hide…and creates a piece with compartments to match. Whether its books, albums, your tv, artwork…baskets and baskets of tiny toys…everything will have its place and all that you – or anyone else – will see is a well-organized area that looks like it was born to hold your stuff (because it was!)

Since most of our work is in New York City where storage is usually in short supply, Lauren has perfected the art of designing built-in millwork. Hidden storage, work space, play space, display space, she’s done it all. Check out some of these:

 

 

built-ins 1

built-ins 2

The only catch is the expense.  Specifically conceived by an architect and installed by a millworker, it can be pretty costly – but well worth it in my mind.  I have always imagined buying a home that I would live in forever so to me millwork would be one of those elements that would really personalize my space and make it that much more special. But even if you are more practical than I, built-ins are a valuable asset to a space. Who doesn’t love lots of storage? and anything that sets your home apart can only be an advantage.

If you are like me, still a renter…am I alone in the world?!…here are some fun solutions to storage that can move with you:

 

TAG/Laura Knight Keating

Return to Riverside: China to NYC

by Audrey Choi

Riverside 66, the beautiful giant whale that landed in Tianjin, China.  My passion project for the past seven years. Although I have always wanted to work on small scale residential design, I was determined to see this unique and challenging project through. Finally the pretty images on paper became a reality.  It was truly an incredible experience to work on a building in such great detail and to finally see it come to fruition.  Especially after 7 years! And as it turns out, the giant whale brought me good luck – as shortly after construction was completed I joined the amazing LRA team and have been happily working on residential projects ever since!

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Riverside 66 photo: Tim Griffith

The grand opening for this mega retail complex took place this September and I am so proud of what my team and I accomplished.  Along the north, is the iconic glass shell, a sleek double-curvature form that is supported by 22 seven-storey high structural concrete ribs. Along the south, a beautifully composed series of open-joint stone display boxes.  Just so that you get a sense of the scale: the length of the building is equivalent to the height of the Empire State Building!  The design has definitely evolved during the years as it became more of a reality and as we mulled over every joint, reveal, mullion and corner.  It was important that it not only impressed from far away but also at the pedestrian level.  Attention to detail is so critical to me, in architecture and in basically everything I do, so I loved obsessing over every detail like a crazy person.  Obviously it was impossible to cover every inch of the project due to its sheer size and intense construction schedule but overall, I think our team did an amazing job!

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Detail shots courtesy of Jeff Kenoff (KPF)

When I joined LRA, I wasn’t sure how my experience working on large scale curtain-wall buildings would become helpful when designing apartment renovations.  But I’m slowly learning that my time at KPF has taught me so many invaluable skills that I can still apply to any project, no matter what the scale and scope. Now back at my desk in NYC, as I detail an apartment renovation on Riverside Drive, I can think fondly of my other Riverside project standing proudly in Tianjin.

TAG/Audrey Choi

From Opera to Architecture

by Laura Knight-Keating

At Lauren Rubin Architecture we are a group of women with a common interest in design. We all come from different backgrounds and we are different ages. Some of us have kids, some don’t. Some have one on the way (spoiler alert!). We are full-time and part-time, in school and out, Manhattan dwellers and borough dwellers, home owners and renters. What makes our firm unique is that we honor all the things that make us different and we try to make our work fit our lives – instead of the other way around. It’s unusual these days to find an architecture firm like ours and it makes our perspective and our individual approach to each project more personal, I think.

We just had our website redesigned (thanks Eric Perry Design!). We decided to add a blog. Everyone is super excited about it and we are all going to contribute.

The LRA Team

One week you might hear from me (Warning: topics may range. I’m not an architect in case I haven’t made that obvious…) and other weeks you will hear from one of my talented colleagues — including Lauren.

I’ve never written a blog before. In fact I’ve hardly even read any blogs before! On top of that I am one of two non-architects in the office so I guess it’s ironic and maybe a little funny that I am penning our first official post. I’m a theatre major. (I swear I will make my way back to architecture!) For a long time I worked for an opera company. Opera is one of those art forms people always say – you either love it or you hate it – and when I first started, I really hated it. You couldn’t avoid listening to it – it was piped in everywhere! Then one season I got the opportunity to perform in one of the operas – a small but pivotal role. The experience was truly magical and not only did I come to appreciate the art form but when I left there, I felt a real loss. I started working for a small architecture firm in Union Square. And just like the opera, I really hated it at first! The office was unbearably quiet – I didn’t understand what everyone was doing – headphones on and lines flying across their computer screens. I actually missed having La Boheme forced on me. I felt out of place. I was surprised by how technical architecture seemed to be having always imagined it as a wildly creative art form and architects as rumpled, gruff types with crazy hair and elbow patches on their corduroy jackets?! Wait, maybe that’s my Russian acting teacher…

 

 

Here nobody seemed to talk – unlike the opera where no one would stop talking. I felt most at home in the materials library where I liked the colorful pieces of cork and glass.

 

Clockwise from top left: cork flooring from aronsonsfloors.com; penny tile from nemotile.com, subway glass tile from modwalls.com, madras glass tile from nemotile.com

 

Gradually, I became immersed in the work – they were all talking – they just did it on google chat. I discovered how things actually get built. People’s lives depend on the technicalities. It turns out it’s just like the theatre – the freedom is found within the form. I learned what all those crazy lines represented and how those plans and materials transformed themselves into an elementary school classroom or a child’s bedroom and just like the opera, architecture wormed its way into my heart.

A decade later, I am writing my first blog post on a wonderful architect’s new website. My posts won’t be the most technical, I’ll leave that to the real architects but I will always share my ‘commoners view’ on the world of design and building. There is so much to look at and so much to say…even for a girl like me – who may or may not have any idea what she’s talking about!