Friday, May 2, 2014

On The Rails


Photo courtesy Flickr

I crashed in a skate household recently and spent a few minutes with mine host discussing the footed practice rail that sat in the entry. He said a welder friend had put the thing together from ordinary steel stock for about a sixth of the price of a ready-made unit.

Some years ago I noticed bright yellow rails in a catalogue and spent long minutes daydreaming about how to use them indoors. They look like freestanding foot rails designed for a bar in a mid-Sixties wall-of-glass high rise. I ventured to the skater that I had thought the catalogue rails would make a good base for a sleeping platform. Lash a set of display industry powder-coated steel wall grids to them (industrial-grade hook and loop tape cushioned with washers would work), top with thick memory foam self-inflating air mattresses from The Great Big Hiking Co-op, and you’ve got a multi-purpose rig that knocks down, is easy to ship, and recycles. The grid/mattress array could be finessed to work as a standing screen. A pre-fab memory foam mattress topper will cover the mattress boundaries and can be rolled up during the day to serve as a bolster. Use hook and loop tape for temporary securement. If the mattresses and topper are covered with interesting textile sleeves, they'll look like "real" furniture, if that matters.

Skate countered that that was a good idea, but he prefers the look of weathered raw steel with a bright ground edge. That’s exquisite. Though the concept adds rust to the equation, it’s not an insurmountable limitation.

We spent a few additional moments discussing the virtues of skating’s fun box. A straightforward rectangular model not only can be skated, it makes a good back rest, worktop, or sleeping platform. One might also be adapted to serve as a bookcase or room divider.

Give the kids what they want. There’s no telling what they’ll give back.

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More after the jump.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Dream Come True

Photo courtesy Flickr

One of the staff at my regular hardware store shared their vision of a new multi-story facility on the existing footprint. The wish is for generous underground parking and an in-store cafe’ featuring heavy-labor favorites like gourmet mac and cheese.

During a recent visit to San Francisco, I wandered into the Very Thing sans parking a couple of blocks from the high-end retail heart of Union Square. We sidled through the narrow aisles of a tiny iteration of a national hardware chain. The space, which could not be low rent, feels just like Seattle's resource, but somewhat brighter and safer. There's a mezzanine and a basement. The clever, modest display windows held coffee brewing options as sophisticated as any in the nearby national high-end kitchen chain whose flagship store is in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Nearly every yard of shelves triggered five minutes’ discussion of design history and possibilities. Best of all, the aisles were full of frisky, literate DIY characters intent on realizing whatever was on their minds.

The SF space is a couple of blocks from a BART station that connects any pedestrian customer to anywhere in the world with not more than an hour’s local travel time. The space in town will soon be as well connected as the one in the City. Perhaps Seattle will go for it, too. I’d be happy to temporize by shopping out of a trailer in one of the nearby parking lots. I can see a coffee cart in an enclosed entry furnished with a standing table for eating take-out from one of the countless nearby restaurants. Warehouses use pre-fab freestanding mezzanines that might make adding an extra floor a relatively trivial change.

Elementary reading in so-called scientific management techniques tells me that transportation is one of Mr. Toyota’s seven wastes. The right store in the right place becomes a radiating center of supply. With a cafe, it becomes a school.

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More after the jump.