Plywood dreams

So here's a thing, when I was a much younger and more idealistic modernist, I used to have very material specific dreams. Not dreams of the deep R.E.M. sleep variety, more those kind of hazy, day-dreaming about the future kind. And in these visions, the future was mainly constructed from beautiful, crispy, graphic, engineered plywood. Recently I've made some steps toward the realisation of these material specific visions, our friends Aisling and Ben being the lucky beneficiaries in the shape of a bespoke home office fit-out. It was a long and involved design and build process, for both client and designer, completed over a period of about 3 months on and off. I'm glad to say that the clients are now happily installed and despite many cuts and bloody fingers from razor sharp mitred plywood and the odd technical challenge to be surmounted along the way my passion for both plywood and formica remain undiluted. I'm particularly proud of the engineering involved in the cable management channel built into the 3.2m desk top (a cable-shuck we'd probably call it up Monaghan way) terminating in storage fitted around the stair head which cuts into the room.  Therapy of sorts for my obsession.

Adventures beyond The Pale

So last weekend having been inspired by a book published by NIAH (National Inventory of Architectural Heritage), we set off on a mini architectural adventure to my home county of Monaghan, . We started at this stunning little corrugated steel Gothic church in the town of Laragh which in the 19th century was a local centre of the flax milling industry. The church was built in 1891 by the Mill owning McKean family, and was reportedly brought to Laragh by the mill owner and his wife from Switzerland where they had discovered and fallen in love with it while on honeymoon. The structure which stands atop a landscaped alpine inspired outcrop, is a stunning combination of finely crafted Gothic detailing in wood glass and cast iron and standard industrial grade corrugated steel (or wriggly tin as my darling wife calls it). Just a beautiful little building in a humble material made glorious with addition of carefully considered detailing. Lovely

Cast Iron Gothic air vents. 

Cast Iron Gothic air vents. 

Gothic Iron mongery

Gothic Iron mongery




I've been running in Phoenix Park recently training for a sponsored 20K, and came across this mysterious looking fortified building which I had never seen before. Its a abandoned military barracks complex called Magazine Fort, built in 1735 by the British army and subsequently used by the 'Free State Army' as a munitions Store.

Through the Abandoned Ireland website I also found these fantastic images of the interior spaces in the fort and I thought wow it looks amazing!! Vaulted arches spanning complex multi-faceted floor plans! But as it turned out the photographer had used a 360 Deg virtual reality camera to take navigable interactive images of the (only slightly) less impressive spaces.  

This however got me thinking about modes of representation and how this relatively new technology
has essentially enabled the presentation of entirely unique and (super real?) views of our environment which our front facing visual system limited to views of between 40-60 deg at a time otherwise precludes. 

Think how very different our whole conception of our physical and material environments would be if this was our natural mode of vision? The extra dimensions of complexity and relationality it would allow us to observe and appreciate. As a designer the possibilities and opportunities which would be both enabled and required in planning fully 3 dimensional spaces would be revelatory!

Irregardless of all the above they are also just really beautiful in their decrepitude. 

A Butterfly Bonus

This butterfly wing was hiding in the back of a vintage picture frame 
we bought on a recent trip to Sligo. Such a beautiful thing I just had to scan it in.
It was a bit grainy so I added a Photoshop Dry Brush filter, the rest is all Nature. 

New for 2013...

We've done some new versions of my Glacier cabinets for 2013. Based roughly on some of the ealy sketch models for the range, by rotating one the doors 90 degrees to create some new configurations of the existing sideboards and a new 4 door upright cabinet.They should be available from later this year.

Back to the old school...

I just found this lovely short film about a studio of old school sign-writers in San Francisco.

bohemia signs from Mission Local on Vimeo.

Really interesting  to see them talk about how the individuality of the writer comes through in the quality of the brush work and the way each individual's signature 'ticks' come through in the lettering....

Having hand painted a 'circus style' sign for my wedding recently (no quality comparisons are being made here!) I can understand the way he describes needing to build up brush handling skills and muscle memory to create lettering quickly and efficiently.

The thing I really noticed in my novice effort was how serifed fonts seem to flow naturally from the brushwork and you begin to understand somewhat how decorative flourishes, shadowing and details
have evolved from the flow of the brush and paint. Its a lesson to us all in this age of instant digital gratification - Quality takes time....long live analogue.

IDI Design Awards 2012

I may not have won and award this year (in fact I didn't enter anything) but did get a chance to be involved in a re-design of the awards trophies in my role as product design representative. Thanks to new awards sponsors HIMACS/James Latham ( I worked with one of their licenced fabricators Derek Deane to re-imagine the IDI 'Eye' in their solid white natural acrylic stone.

Both the section awards and Grand Prix were redesigned with the IDI logo and text incorporated. The results were unanimously well received at the ceremony held at the Sugar Club last night. Much back slapping all round. 

Lately I have mostly been......

…………..making display cabinets from old frames and keyboards. I built this for a jeweler friend of mine. The keyboard I rescued from an auction house as it was unsold and destined for the skip. The gilded frames were a tenner the lot. I hinged the frames to MDF boxes and put locks on them with glass front and back and built a drawer under the keyboard.  It took about a million man hours to put together and I totally destroyed my front room doing it but the results were totally worth it.

Behold the Comptometer

This beautiful object is a comptometer. It is an adding machine which is the predessesor of the digital calculator. According to wikipedia the comptometer was the first commercially successful key-driven mechanical calculator, patented in the USA by Dorr E. Felt in 1887. This fine example is by Felt and Tarrant the company set up by its inventor. I bought it for 10euro at an auction without any idea of its function. I just loved its combination of the technic and decorative in a beautifully sculpted package. It makes a very satisfying 'ding' too when the little handle is pulled to start a new calculation. Mmmm Lovely.


I did this birthday card for my other half yesterday and then got an email this morning about this new film about Charles and Ray Eames.
Was it just a coincidence or is it A SIGN.........?
Ill go see the film just to be sure.

Hands on

This is a design for a cast aluminium door handle I submitted for a DesignBoom competition
earlier this year. It didn't get shortlisted but I was happy with it and think it probably deserves another look at some point.... a 3d model next i think.


We had a fantastic day at the Helsinki WDC Design Challenge in the Woodquay venue on Sat.
Many thanks to the IDI and DCC for the opportunity to take part.
We had loads of fun with the brief we were given and as team No.(Super)8 of 12
we found our groove quickly and put everything we had into our
presentation on Sunday morning. Pathos, Inuendo, Song and dance.

Sadly we did'nt get to go to Helsinki.

But a heartfelt congratulations to the winning team led by Steve Mc Namara of Roji Design.
They came up with a really beautifully simple, concise and instantly accessible response to the brief.Worthy winners indeed, they will do us proud.

The pivot team have put together a really nice document of the event here.

Thanks to all involved.

Helsinki WDC Design Challenge

Looking forward to some good clean creative fun next Saturday with some good chums from DIT.
We've been selected as one of 10 teams to compete to represent Dublin in Helsinki which is World Design Capital for 2012. The team consists of myself, Philip Murray , Caroline O Connor, Rachel Murphy and Gillian Ni Casaide. Between us we've got a wealth of design experience to draw on, interior product exhibition landscape theatre TV and film design so no shortage of creativity. Saturday will be spent brainstorming ideas and putting together a concept to be presented on Sunday. Heres hoping.

A Capital Feast

Dublin is one of just 3 cities (from around 50) which have been shortlisted for Design Capital 2014, awarded by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID), the winning city (Dublin/ Capetown /Bilbao) will be announced this autumn.

As part of Dublin's pitch to the visiting panel of judges, a banquet was held at the Hugh Lane gallery on Thursday night, with the table featuring some of the best of Irish craft and design, curated by Jonathan Legge. I supplied 8 of my Vic and Bob grinders to the table setting.

The set up looked really great and by all accounts the event went swimmingly.

Fingers crossed for Dublin now.