Best of the City 2009: Design


Best Flowers: Sweet Nest Bouquet from Rose and Radish

If sorry seems to be the hardest word, let a Sweet Nest Bouquet from Rose and Radish—a delightful pairing of fresh flowers in a collectible Nymphenburg porcelain vessel —do the work for you. The Hayes Valley retail store recently closed its doors, but its art-driven perspective continues on its Web site, now featuring an online gift registry.

Best Kid's Room Accessories: Clive + Sunshine Collection of Stuffed Animals

Recent SF transplant Jennifer Muskopf’s Clive + Sunshine collection of stuffed animals takes the form of less-traditional toy creatures: hairy water buffalo, squirmy octopi and one wrathful cheetah—judging solely by his furrowed expression, of course, and not from his utterly adorable polka-dot coat. Barney, who?

Best Design Contest: Architecture for Humanity’s Open Architecture Challenge

Thanks to Architecture for Humanity’s 2009 Open Architecture Challenge, which invites the global design community to create winning blueprints for safer learning environments, 10 million classrooms worldwide will be overhauled in the name of the other L word: literacy. Now that’s designing like you give a damn.

Best Domestic Design E-Tailer:

Mill Valley–based furniture e-tailer puts its national pride on display with a new Made in the USA shop on its Web site, highlighting the work of such domestic design companies as Flavor Paper, Dform (whose Pucci Drum pendant lamp is pictured above) and NorCal favorite Alex Marshall Studios. All that’s needed for this 100-percent American buying experience is a Lee Greenwood serenade every time you hit the “add to cart” button.

Best Pillows: Lotus Bleu

Consider the new infant pillows by Hayes Valley design shop Lotus Bleu portable slumber inducers for fussy babes. Covered in graphic boho-Asian patterns by Parisian designer Muskhane, the cushions, which have a flat profile compared to regular sleeping pillows, are valued as much for their style as they are for producing z’s. 327 Hayes St., 415-861-2700.

Best Kitchen Configurations: Nilus De Matran for Design Within Reach

SF architect Nilus De Matran had commitment-phobes in mind when he created his 2009 kitchen series for Design Within Reach. The portable modular system (pictured above) forms L-shaped, U-shaped or island-based configurations on a whim, and the lack of external hardware on the cabinet fronts maintains the sleek, inconspicuous visage emblematic of true players.

Best Local Stationery: Hello!Lucky

Sabrina and Eunice Moyle’s local letterpress company, Hello!Lucky, has introduced a new digital-printing service that creates custom-designed stationery in just five days (compared to two weeks for traditional letterpress orders). The winsome designs recently caught the eye of fashion designer Zac Posen, who collaborated with the sisters on his Fall 2008 runway invitations. Lucky is right.

Best Real(istic) Estate: SoMa's Cubix Yerba Buena High-Rise

The industrial-style studio apartments in the new Cubix Yerba Buena high-rise in SoMa may measure in at a diminutive 250–350 square feet, but in an era that values mini–carbon footprints, we think that inhabiting one of these tiny dwellings—priced from $225K—could fulfill your lifetime requirement of eco undertakings (though your continued recycling, car sharing and water conservation efforts are greatly appreciated). 766 Harrison St., 1-877-CUBIXSF.

Best Design Book: San Francisco Kitchens (Paumes)

Never mind that the new book, San Francisco Kitchens (Paumes), is written almost entirely in Japanese. The best reason to thumb though a copy is to jealously ogle the charming hearths of 21 local creative luminaries. Illustrator Lisa Congdon’s wall-mounted galaxy of colorful melamine dinner plates is functional art, while the flower chandelier in artist Wendy Tetsu’s kitchen is a good reminder that everything (eventually) comes up daisies. Apparently, good design is a universal language. Available at Urban Mercantile, 85 Carl St., 415-564-2248

Best Design Discussion Series: EcoSalon

Eco-architect Michelle Kaufmann’s new discussion series, EcoSalon, gathers the movers and shakers of the Bay Area’s green-design industry in the name of—you got it—the environment. With the likes of NYT columnist Allison Arieff and Branch Home’s Paul Donald leading lively banter about the importance of planetary first aid, we have high hopes that the invitation-only events will inspire a little less conversation and a lot more action.

The Futurists: Mike+Maaike, Designers of T-Mobile G1 Phone
Local industrial-design superstars Mike Simonian and Maaike Evers imbued the T-Mobile G1 phone—a.k.a, “the Google phone”—with a simplicity akin to a Google search: A main screen slides away to reveal a QWERTY keyboard, and an angled navigation panel—like a skateboard kicktail—features a familiar trackball for smooth cursor maneuvering. Simonian calls the design “intelligent, honest and humble,” values that have proven triumphant for the duo—the G1 was named one of Time’s Top Five Gadgets of 2008. Read more...

Best Architectural Book: Phaidon’s Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture

Phaidon’s recent Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture beautifully showcases more than 1,000 of the world’s most innovative buildings, including three impressive local works: the copper-clad de Young Museum by Herzog and de Meuron, the SF Federal Building by Morphosis and 1028 Natoma by Stanley Saitowitz. The latter is a residential structure whose street-facing windows are sheathed in an aluminum privacy grating. Way to represent. Available at William Stout Architectural Books, 804 Montgomery St., 415-391-6757.

Best Boutonnieres : Fritts Rosenow

Local floral designer Erin Rosenow’s new line of bespoke boutonnieres, Fritts Rosenow, is designed not with the ordinary bloom and spray of baby’s breath, but rather with miniaturized vintage cars, cuckoo clocks and poker sets. Our favorite? A lapel-sized, faux-taxidermy deer head from the “Outdoor Club” collection. Welcome to the dollhouse.

Best Notebook: Large Format Moleskines

If you’ve got an old-school Moleskine, you’re part of a legendary group of artists, naturalists and writers (including Picasso, Chatwin and Hemingway) who’ve been jotting down their life observations in the little black books for two centuries. If you’ve got one of the iconic brand’s new large-format folios, you’re keeping company with the likes of ID stars Michael Graves and SF-based FuseProject’s Yves Béhar, who use the A4- and A3-sized, FSC-certified pages as dream catchers. Feeling the pressure? Available at Kárikter, 418 Sutter St., 415-434-1120.

Best Radio Design: John Van Den Nieuwenhuizen's Hidden Radio

Recent SF transplant John Van Den Nieuwenhuizen designed the 2.75-inch-tall Hidden Radio with an intuitive operation: Lift the lid on the solitary speaker to increase volume, and rotate the lid to tune the radio. With no dials or antenna to blow its cover, the gadget, available later this year for $120, is bound to elicit more than a few interesting reactions. Our first impression? “Hey, nice air freshener.”

Best Architecture Confab: 2009 Architecture and the City Festival

The theme of the 2009 Architecture and the City Festival (September 1–30) is “Everyday, Design,” celebrating the ways in which architecture impacts our daily lives. This year’s home tour features a brilliant, 840-square-foot paradigm of adaptive reuse: Boor Bridges Architecture’s Ames Alley Cottage, formerly a tap-dance school. Hoping to see an overindulgent Pac Heights monstrosity on the roster? You heard it here first: Trusted sources say that this year, “showboats” are persona non grata.

Best Designy Keepsake: Geography Collection by Petaluma's Cat Studio

Alcatraz T-shirt? No. Hand-embroidered, one-of-a-kind pillow depicting a crafty-cute map of San Francisco? Yes. Each pillow in the Geography Collection by Petaluma-based Cat Studio is threaded by hand, which may make its owner loathe to recline on it, but that’s OK: They’re meant to depict recent travels and urban favorites. If San Francisco is too obvious a choice, check out Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Carmel or a darling Lake Tahoe version. Your visiting East Coast in-laws deserve no less. Available at Limonaia, 1506 Vallejo St., 415-440-9700.

Best Antique Shop: The Perish Trust

Taking their cue from the Slow Food Movement and the locavores that live it, Rod Hipskind and Kelly Ishikawa, proprietors of the Western Addition’s latest antique shop, The Perish Trust, source “odds and ends from dead or dying industries” from their personal collections as well as thrift stores and flea markets—all within a 100-mile radius. The result is a moody menagerie of time-worn antique furniture, old-fashioned typewriters, rusty garden tools and curious vintage scientific instruments. Lobotomy, anyone?

Best Hotel Lobby Design: The Good Hotel

The Good Hotel, located on a seedy stretch of Seventh Street in SoMa, opened last year to rave reviews for its earth-minded MO, but don’t let us bore you with all of the usual details (reclaimed-wood bed frames, blankets made from recycled soda bottles, LED lights). What we’re really excited about are the Thomas Wold originals in the lobby: the Berkeley designer’s Piecemeal table, for example, made from an old skateboard and salvaged swivel-chair legs.

Best Cards: Lea Redmond’s WSPS (World’s Smallest Postal Service)

Screw those rambling Victorian love letters with their traffic jams of sentimentality. Artist Lea Redmond’s WSPS (World’s Smallest Postal Service) challenges the lovelorn to concentrate their emotions on an inch-long piece of paper. For $8, the Berkeley resident will transcribe the truncated messages with a microscopic pen tip and tuck the note into a miniature envelope with a dramatic red-wax seal. Be still your bleeding heart.

Best Eco-Conscious Chair: The Flat Chair

Academy of Art University grad Sara Paculdo is doing her part to keep those pesky foam peanuts out of our landfills. The Noe Valley resident designed the Flat Chair prototype (pictured above) as a statement against extraneous shipping materials. The laser-cut foam seat is designed to be packed flat and assembled into its full, curvaceous form in just four easy steps. We can see the headline now: “Local Girl Trumps IKEA.” Brilliant.

Check out our other 2009 Best of Picks

Eat + Drink • Design • FashionDayNight

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