Wednesday, February 29, 2012

So Long...

Sunday was a bright, breezy winter's day in San Francisco. The sidewalks were bustling with shoppers and locals dressed in a wide range of layers, from t-shirts to heavy coats. This was to be my last visit to the city for a while, since I will be heading over to Krakow soon for a longer period of several months. 

I was on a mission to savor a delicious espresso at one particular cafe before leaving the Bay Area indefinitely. Despite being tucked away out of sight in a side street, Blue Bottle Coffee had a line out the door. This is not too surprising, considering how generally awesome they are. Perfectly crafted drinks and some good decor decisions are only part of what makes this particular Blue Bottle establishment a thoroughly pleasing Sunday afternoon stop. Luckily, we brought a camera to practice snapping photos. 


Waiting in line, eyeing the goods

Latte and cappuccino

The cafe's layout was efficient and welcoming, with wooden bars lining the large windows on two perpendicular walls as well as along the counter, and one large communal bench in the middle of the room. We also liked the placement of the espresso machine, making it so the baristas never have their backs turned toward the customers. The plain, bare surfaces and limited color palette allowed for open shelves that showed off an array of stacked ceramics, glass wares and paper sacks. The ceramics glazed in rich brown or white, like coffee and milk, looked especially nice against the cooler toned shelves (what color is that - robins egg blue?).

A major highlight of our visit to Blue Bottle was seeing their vintage glass-bulb siphon pots in action.  Basically, a halogen lamp heats water in a sealed glass bulb until the vapor pressure forces the water up a tube into the top chamber filled with tea or coffee grinds. The barista stirs the grinds with a small wooden paddle, and when the process is complete the heat is turned down allowing the liquid to filter back into the bottom chamber, ready to be enjoyed. 

Siphon Pots

Don't you wish you had these in high school chemistry class? What an enticing way to learn PV=nRT.


So long for now, Bay Area, and thanks for all the great coffee!

All images taken by me - Copyright 2012 Cozy City. Please cite if borrowed.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dream Office

This image of Swedish artist Mats Gustafson's home studio in Stockholm captures a certain effortless, balanced tonality and style that I think is actually pretty difficult to pull off. I'd say that this is pretty darn close to my idea of an ideal working space. I love the drawers with their subtle variation in wood grain, the desk, the lamps, the small piles of 'controlled clutter'. The clean white backdrop, the quality of light coming through the tall windows.

Image via Koolandkreativ

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ferrous Craft

Today I am admiring the beauty of Japanese cast iron wares from the Iwate Prefecture, where the traditional craft has been practiced since the 17th century. It is said that becoming a decent ironware maker takes at least 15 years, and becoming a master craftsman requires at least 40. It seems to me that the creators of these items are masterfully combining their understanding of the traditional craft with a rather modern appeal.

Nambu iron trivet and teapot by Roji Associates

Iron ornaments by Nobuho Miya for Kamasada : 1, 2 / 3

Yonabe Pot by Nobuho Miya for Kamasada

Made by the same casting methods since the 17th century, each piece can last more than a hundred years with proper care, and even if broken it can be recast. I think that 'good design' in today's world should aim for this kind of durability and functionality, while maintaining harmony with the environment in both the production and use of an object.

Bottle openers by : (clockwise from left) Nobuho Miya, Tadahiro Baba, and Tokyo-based Jurgen Lehl


In addition to being useful, these cast iron pieces also carry quite a bit of decorative value. They emit a sense of timelessness, and the feeling of being close to nature - especially when the iron is paired with other raw materials like wood, wicker, or stone.  You could think of these pieces as works of functional art, to be passed down through generations. 

Iron kettle (tetsubin) and trivet by Rikuchou Ogasawara

Images via Analogue Life and Emmo Home

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Source for: Cozy Loungewear

The habit was ingrained during my days of working in biochemistry and polymer research: Upon returning home from the lab each day, I'd immediately strip off all my 'contaminated' clothing in exchange for clean and comfortable house clothes. Today, even though I'm far away from lab chemicals, I still prefer to change into soft lounge-worthy apparel at home.

Oysho is an excellent source for comfy and inexpensive sleepwear, loungewear, and lingerie - although they don't have any stores in the US yet, there is at least one in Krakow and many more elsewhere. I like them especially for their soft cotton basics, but they're also good at subtle feminine details... and spunky cartoon-animal motifs if you're into that. 

Images: Oysho 1 / 2

Images clockwise from left: Oysho 1 / 2 / 3

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ancient Wool

[Local Bay Area company: Peace Industry, based in San Francisco, workshop in Turkey]

These beautiful, natural, chemical-free felt rugs look and sound too good to be true... yet here they are. The felting method by which they're made goes back to neolithic times in Central Asia, and was on the verge of obscurity when the duo behind Peace Industry revitalized it and brought it into the international market. Check the About section on Peace Industry's website for the inspiring story of their work, and in the meantime enjoy their handmade primitive-turned-modern designs:

Images : Peace Industry Collection

This kind of textile really strengthens the case for having only hardwood or tile floors in homes, partially covered with natural-fiber rugs and never permanent carpeting. If I ever get to build my dream house or dream cabin, at least one of these rugs will have to find its way in. Oh and those two snuggly pups below are more than welcome, too.

Images : Peace Industry Collection

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Browned Butter

Now that I've gotten in the habit of photographing some of my daily activities, this is what I was up to last night:



Tasting (just had to try one or five)

The butter for these cookies was first browned in a small enamel pot, which as I learned only works if the butter is heated to a high enough temperature (otherwise it takes forever). Funny thing about browned butter - the 'nutty' smell is weirdly similar to that of crayons. Maybe it's just me though?
The recipe was adapted from this one. I used light brown sugar instead of muscovado, and less of it. I also used regular all-purpose flour instead of bread flour. The chocolate chunks came from a bar of 70% Scharffen Berger, and I loved their uneven effect in the cookies - adding that little element of surprise.  Needless to say, these cookies will disappear quickly.

All images taken by me - Copyright 2012 Cozy City. Please cite if borrowed.

Friday, February 3, 2012


I'm both smitten and amused by these monochrome wall decals from ferm LIVING:

Image : ferm LIVING

Images : ferm LIVING 1 / 2
Edit: Those knit poufs in the above-right image are rather attention-grabbing, no? I'm pretty sure they are the same ones as these from CB2. ferm living also has square ones.

Images : ferm LIVING 1 / 2

I love the silhouettes' playfulness and simplicity, each one evoking a certain memory or association. The birds sitting on power lines could be music notes on a scale. The tree branch is reminiscent of my mother's favorite tree, the patchy sycamore (or plane tree). The 'hydrangias' actually look more like weeds that used to give me awful allergies... I like the idea of trapping them harmlessly on the wall (take that, pollen!).

There's also the nerdy part of me, analyzing how the sharp contrast between wall and decal stimulates our brains on a cellular level. Your visual cortex automatically approves.

[Local to Bay Area and Krakow : ferm LIVING products can be found in 9 different stores in San Francisco, 2 stores in San Jose, one store in Oakland .... and also one store in Katowice, near Krakow, Poland. See Store Locator.]

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Breathing Room

An inspiring remodel of an apartment in Singapore - it's amazing what knocking out a few walls and false ceilings can do. I'm especially a fan of the partially see-through bookcase, the empty space gives some breathing room to what otherwise could be an overwhelming wall'o'books. Wouldn't it be a fun challenge, starting with a 'cookie cutter' space and restructuring it to fit your own preferences? 

Image : Rupert Singleton via ArchDaily

Image : Rupert Singleton via ArchDaily

Image : Rupert Singleton via ArchDaily

Where they started:

Where they ended up: