27 December 2011

Modernist Architect Andrew Geller, dead at 87

Beach house by Geller. Photo © Alistair Gordon.

Andrew Michael Geller, modernist architect known for whimsical beach houses, died on Christmas day at age 87 in Syracuse, NY (my alma mater).

Despite having a passion for modern architecture and it being a major part of my professional life, I have never heard of Geller before. Shows what an amateur I still am; you learn every day. My guilt only subsided a tad when I found that even Triangle Modernist Houses' massive modernist archive didn't catalog him (yet) either. 

WSJ contributing editor, blogger and author Alistair Gordon published a book about Geller in 2003: "Beach Houses: Andrew Geller", and a lovely article named "Andrew Geller, Architect of Happiness, 1924-2011", which includes excerpts from his book.

24 December 2011

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a blessed and prosperous 2012!

Modern Home Christmas Decorations, Fort Lauderdale, FL. Photo ©tckaiser

Today is that most magical and ironical time of the year. It is the happiest and saddest of times, the most divine yet the most commercial. It is the spell when love or loneliness thrives or consumes. What is it about Christmas that opens up the heart of hearts and makes it more vulnerable?

Interestingly, the history of this holiday is in itself a paradox. Most Christians believe that December 25 is the actual day that Jesus was born, calculated nine months after the Annunciation when the Blessed Virgin Mary was singled out to be the Mother of Christ.

Some scholars have challenged this notion. They submit that in the 4th century, the Roman Church chose the day that coincided with the Winter Solstice, supposedly the birthday of Sol Invictus. They allege that the assignment of December 25 as Christmas day was a clever ruse to replace the pagan celebration called Bruma.

The universal theme remains the same whatever faith or country one belongs to. It is the ardent universal hope that the coming year will be better than the one gone by. The wish is backed by resolve to do whatever it takes to achieve ones definition of “better”, hence the ubiquitous New Year’s Resolutions.

As you celebrate this festive occasion, spare a thought for those who are unable to do so.

If you can, reach out and touch their lives in some way, no matter how small it may appear to be. It is the thoughts that count. And remember them in your prayers.

I wish all of you a very wonderful and blessed Christmas. Remember, its your choice!
Published originally at http://lifeisreallybeautiful.com/

09 December 2011

Home Security: Easy and Cheap Ways to Increase Your Home’s Security Based on Burglars’ Habits

I wrote on home security here before, but two events made me want to mention it again especially in the Holiday Season:

  • My sister and her husband became a victim of larceny. Without their knowledge or permission (!), their cleaning woman had brought a helper with a long rap sheet of arrests for drug dealing. He (or perhaps she with him?) stole irreplaceable items (hidden, but that didn't help). Even a $30 money box could have prevented this.
  • A really clever trick to scoop out burglary targets. This happened to me shortly before Christmas a few years ago: a neatly dressed man in a black SUV pulls into our driveway and says he's ready to take us to the airport now. My first instinct was to say "but we are not leaving until Wednesday". But I shut my trap just in time. Instead, I explained that we're not travelling anywhere over the Holidays. He apologised and left - one house less on his list of potential burglary targets. 

That in mind, here are some interesting tips from one of my favourite websites, Lifehacker:

Most burglaries occur between 10 am and 3 pm.

Burglars look for homes that appear unoccupied. Consequence:
  • If you're out of the house during those hours and are concerned about burglaries in your neighborhood, consider setting a random timer to turn the TV or radio on during those hours.
  • If you have a second car, keep it out in the driveway while you're at work. Or, perhaps you can rent your driveway during the daytime (besides making your home less attractive to thieves, you can make a few extra bucks. Win!). Park Circa is a website where people look for a parking spot, perhaps also in your neighborhood.
  • Schedule gardening services or other home maintenance services like window cleaning during those prime theft hours.

The typical burglar is a male teen in your neighborhood – not a professional thief – and 60 seconds is the most time burglars want to spend breaking into your home.

Enough security to thwart a regular person may be sufficient (and pros are difficult to deter anyways):
  • "My scary dog runs faster than you"-sign may be one of the most effective theft deterrents, other than—or in addition to—actually owning a scary dog. (Even a small dog prone to barking helps, though.) 
  • Regular "beware of dog" signs work too, especially if you add some additional supporting evidence of dog ownership, like leaving a dog bowl outside by your side door.
  • Deadbolt locks, bars on windows, and pins in sash windows may be effective theft deterrents. Make sure every entry point is locked.

Homes without security systems are about 3 times more likely to be broken into.
  • In lieu of actually signing up for a home security system, you could just buy decals and signs from ebay or elsewhere. Place the decals on your front door, where the majority of thieves enter.

Thieves enter through the front door, first-floor windows, and back doors, followed by the garage, unlocked entrances, and the basement (in order of popularity).

  • Look at reinforcing all of these entry points.
  • Make sure those points of entry are well lit (motion-detector lights are inexpensive and don't use a lot of energy).
  • Clear thief-hiding shrubbery close to your house.
  • Best places to put your security cameras: front and back door, first floor windows (Lifehacker featured quite a few DIY ones using old webcams or your PC.) 
  • Fake security cameras placed at those points might also be effective.

An average of 8 to 12 minutes is all a burglar spends in your home.

So make your valuable objects harder to find within those 12 minutes:

Protect your home while on vacation.
  • Make sure help from friends or neighbors includes little things like putting out garbage cans, getting mail, maybe even cutting the grass.
  • Don't forget the daily stuff like stopping newspaper and mail delivery, if you don't have someone picking those up for you.
  • Use a random timer on your indoor lights or TV.
  • Create a home inventory – for which there are plenty of good tools – and take lots of pictures of the place before you leave.

Got any tips of your own? Please share!

Via Lifehacker

02 December 2011

Impressions from Design Miami

Calling Design Miami an "appendix" to the annual Art Basel Miami would be unfair. 

The show, billing itself as "the global forum for design... in celebration of design culture and commerce" takes place in a rather large white tent erected in a parking lot next to the Miami Beach Convention Center. Once you found the entrance (on the north-east corner), you encounter an – at times stunning – collection of high-class pieces, albeit some with extraordinarily high-class prices. I'll get to that in a bit. 

On Tuesday, the show opened its doors, for collectors and the press. Easy to imagine what calibre of collectors get first dibs here. To the public it opened on Wednesday and runs until Sunday. If you're a modernist, you should go; details are here.  

Graciously invited (thank you very much, Brittany) to the Vernissage, which took place Tuesday evening, here are some scenes that caught my eye:

Wooden gazebo in front of the entrance by David Adjaye, 
winner of the show's Designer of the Year award.

A leather craftsman at Fendi. Yes. Fendi.
Melting Chairs at Industry Gallery.
Indescribable spatial feeling that can't be photographed (by me): a room-filling chandelier, made from white porcelain by Jenne Quinn. Todd Merrill 20th Century Gallery.
Detail of a large wall-installation by Jenne Quinn, Todd Merrill.
Room divider and art, made of lacquered wood, Galerie Seomi.
The most visitors, and the most styled ones to boot: Audi stand (official VIP transporter, 
with a fleet of A8 outside). Highlight: savouring Veuve Cliquot on a pressure-sensitive LED floor, by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. Turn-off: all-male bartender crew was hired purely on over-the-top arrogance.
Where do you meter the photo, on the brilliant white paint of the concept car or?
A Nakashima wall case and what the gallerist called either "wall art or a coat rack" by an unknown artist. Crappy photo–sorry. Great piece.
No, you can't faint into these: chairs by Jean Royere for the Queen of Saudi Arabia, 
ca. 1950. The pair for $180,000 at Magen H Gallery.
Extraordinary ceiling-mounted chandelier (isn't it, or is it a "lamp"?) 
by Jeff Zimmerman at R 20th Century Gallery.
The next cardiac arrest: stunning desk by Jean ProuvĂ© at Gallerie Downtown. Sold to a collector before the show for an undisclosed price. Asking was € 350,000.
Whimsical floor lamps by Studio Job, at Galerie Vivid from Amsterdam.

All photos ©tckaiser