The Incidental Purchase

Because Ros has a bit of a book fetish we have run out of bookshelf space. There are just slightly over two thousand books hanging around in our 2 bedroom flat. There are also 350 of my DVD’s which take up valuable book space. Consequently it was necessary to buy more space… cue a trip to Ikea to buy DVD shelves for the hallway media overspill zone.

Whilst we were there we remembered that we needed a new liquid soap dispenser for the kitchen. What we found were these…

They’re called Limmaren and come in a 4 pack containing a dispenser, a bottle, a jar and soap dish, all really nice thick glass for only £7.99 which is about $11 – I think this a pretty good bargain. I really like the look of seeing the liquid soap inside the bottle, and the pump mechanism sucking it out when the top is depressed.

The blue soap also throws quite pretty shadows on the white tiles too!

They’re just cheap and stylish – bonus!

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Sickness Remedies

I’m very sick. I’m not dying or anything but I do feel like utter crap. So perhaps in order is a look at the design and history of several ‘remedies’ that are supposed to make you feel better.

First up: Lucozade

When I was little Lucozade was one of things that my parents gave me to perk me up- a sort of treat for being ill. I remember when I was about 12, had bronchitis and laid in bed for about a week guzzling antibiotics, my daytime TV viewing was interrupted with my grandparent delivering copious quantities of the bright orange liquid and insisting that I drink it all ‘to keep my strength up’.

For those that don’t know, Lucozade is a bright orange liquid that is essentially carbonated glucose syrup. If you drink a whole lot of it, you can get yourself on a sugar high. For a long time it was marketed as a health drink, and then a specialist sports drink, however now its aimed more at the general soft drink market. If you’ve never tasted it before – its tastes a little bit like Irn-Bru – if you’ve never tasted that, its a bit like the neat syrup used in Coca-Cola lever or wand dispensers. (If you use a self service soft drink dispenser in a McDonalds for example, that involves pushing your cup against a lever you can actually get sweeter coke by pushing the lever only very slightly so that just syrup and not carbonated water comes out).

I’m not sure it has any medicinal value whatsoever, but I reckon that if you consume your entire recommended daily allowance of sugar in one gulp you’re gonna feel awesome for a bit regardless of how ill you are.

Perhaps if we all drink enough of it, it’ll re-energise the economy!

Its even good for police officers who’ve accidentally travelled back in time to the 1970’s (Life On Mars, BBC).

Number two: Coca-Cola

I bet Coke isn’t used to being number two, after all it’s the worlds number one soft drink except in Scotland where it loses out to the aforementioned Irn-Bru (Made in Scotland from Girders)

Anyway, it used to contain cocaine, but now its just the flavour from the ‘spent’ leaves, and a whole bunch of caffeine. Like Lucozade it was originally marketed as a health drink, but now its pretty much widely accepted as a tooth rotting, expensive way of consuming vast amounts of sugar. Point of fact: in the UK it contains actual sugar, in the US its all about the high fructose corn syrup, I’ve tasted both and its definitely a different taste.

I’ve exhausted myself typing so I’m going back to vegetating.

The Supermarket

This post is slightly in tribute to the magnificent Camille from archiveslives – when she came to visit we had a poke around a couple of our local supermarkets to compare American/Canadian food packaging with our own.

As I have just bought a new camera (more on this to come) I needed something to take pictures of – well why not take pictures of my weekly food shop? So I did. Its even actually relevant because they’re are plenty of design decisions that go into packaging…

An overview - costing £29. We also put the car through the car wash for the princely sum of £4.

Anyway, so this is what we bought to last us the week, i.e. too much. Oddly the most expensive item was the jar of peanut butter. There are quite a few varieties of peanut butter but I rather thought that the version with chocolate chips was probably an indulgence too far.

Food packaging is also about the balance of colour, I’m sure that perception of anticipated taste is probably based on the belief that green is fresh, red and oranges are spicy, and yellow is chips, and chips are tasty – people don’t eat blue food though (here’s a challenge, see how much entirely blue food packaging you can find). So when designing the packaging for a particular product the designer will need to choose the colour and artwork based on which tastes they want to invoke in the buyers imagination.

Beetroot (reduced!)

Exhibit number one – fresh beetroot.

As a supermarket, how do you convey a message that something is natural and wholesome – in fact, something that was probably dug up this morning and delivered to the store on the back of a tractor? In this case, Sainsbury’s has chosen a blue elastic band with a simple purple tag.

Robinsons Barley Water - no one earth knows exactly what this is...

So this is something called squash – now it turns out that Americans don’t know what squash is (other than the vegetable). When I was in Moldova, Andy helped himself to a nice big full glass of undiluted apple and blackcurrant squash. He’s pretty hard core, but even he couldn’t handle it. (Squash is concentrated cordial that needs to be diluted prior to consumption).

I’m not sure that anyone really knows what barley water is, but I think it gives the fruit flavour a nice smooth outcome. Anyway, so this bottle is full of nice yellows, and evocative farm imagery. I guess its trying to stir feelings of hearth and home and in fairness it works quite well – I always associate Barley Water with my grandparents – my grandad always used to have an illicit supply of barley sugar boiled sweets – these were like cocaine for kids, I’d do anything for one. Delicious.

Tea!

Ros is officially addicted to teas like this, and she doesn’t even have an excuse because its not even the caffeinated ones so its not a chemical addiction, but a psychological one and I think the latter is more disturbing.

This is a fruit tea, its big, bold, red and bursting with flavour, at least that what the packaging says anyway – I’ve always found the taste of such teas to be disappointing.

A pot of peppercorns

I know what I said about blue – but this has only a small blue band…

This little pot of peppercorns has lots of white which indicate purity, and simplicity and the little pestle and mortar is probably trying to suggest that if you buy these you’d instantly have a Nigella Lawson like, open, bright country kitchen.

Anyway – I hope you’ve enjoyed the little tour through my food choices – if anyone else has any interesting packaging examples let me know! Have a relaxing Sunday.

Kitchenaid – The World’s Prettiest Kitchen Appliances

So you’ve read my post on Smeg Fridge/Freezers and you’ve ploughed a grand into buying one, yet you’ve still got money to spend?

Well, let me help.

There’s a company based in Ohio (thats owned by Whirlpool, but we’re ignoring that) that hand assemble the most glorious looking kitchen appliances known to mankind.

First up is the humble blender, designed for perfect kitchens with orange juice on tap, croissants at the ready, and eggs boiled to utter delectable delightfulness, its a must for budding TV chefs or show-home owners everywhere.

I suspect also that it never ever makes a mess and probably even loads itself into the dishwasher – for £200 I’d expect nothing less.

Next up is the paragon of chic luxury living – the espresso machine. If you’d like to turn your morning coffee into more of a ritual than a spoonful of Kenco and boiling water then look no further. This coffee machine is guaranteed to make you suave, sophisticated…… and Italian. Actually even better – Italian American.

If you really want to go totally all out then don’t forget to buy a burr grinder….but in case you were worried, they do a beautiful one of those too.

So now when you invite your 20-something £100k a year Jaguar driving mates around to your pokey little cheap flat you can offer them one of 12 different grinding settings depending how smooth they like the crema.

In all seriousness though, they are gorgeous little things, the surround isn’t plastic, its cast iron, and the see through bits are all pyrex glass. They’re quality products and they even have proper toggle switch! Everyone likes a good toggle switch!

Furguson Hill Speakers

Ok so after talking about a whole bunch of stuff that I want, I thought that it wouldn’t be too ostentatious to discuss something which I already own.

A few years ago I saw an article in Macworld about a new set of iPod speakers that were made from acrylic bent into horn shapes. They had a promotion on for readers whereby you got a free subwoofer otherwise priced at £299 so I bought the whole package instantly.

The sound quality is like nothing I’ve heard before or since, crisp and clear but with enough power to make things interesting. People have described the experience as thought the band or orchestra were actually in the room with you. They not so good with rock or ‘busy’ music, but for jazz, classical and soul they’re stunning.

I guess what drew me to them was the horn shape, its modern, clean, (and transparent) whilst also harking back to an old style gramophone. They always remind me of the ‘His Masters Voice’ dog.

Here they are in the publicity shot, unfortunately my desk is not so chic.

And thats what they look like in my lounge (I’m using them as Apple Airplay speakers).

Now, if your super-rich the company also make man sized speakers for extremely trendy loft apartments in London. I’m sure they’re not that strict as to their usage, but you get the idea. They’re really quite something. The price is quite something too at £10,000 a pair.

More details here

Smeg Fridge/Freezers

To complete the trio of posts for each of my design categories I present the following on the glory of SMEG fridge/freezers.

Let me just lay out my cards, I don’t own one of these so I don’t know if they work as good as they look – but I do know that I would really very much like one.

I could try and justify my fridge lust with some fancy verbiage, or poetry, but I think that in this case pictures are worth more so here goes:

Just look at them. They’re beautiful. I really like that chunky 50’s aesthetic. From a design perspective they’re often integrated into modern kitchens as a sort of nod to retro-futuristic hopefulness.

Also, they just look a bit different from the usual white/grey boxes that the vast majority of us have. They allow a bit of colour in the kitchen without looking gaudy or out of place.

Of course, they also cost well over a thousand pounds so it’ll be a little while before I get one! There are other things on my list first!

Pictures and more details can be found at apartmenttherapy.com

PS retro-futuristic…. that might well be an oxymoron.