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Image from punypixel.com

Who says big change cannot start off small? We don’t believe that and neither does punypixel, a new clothing line just launched by a good friend of ours. punypixel starts with the premise that no step is to small, “no matter how puny”, so they are thinking big! punypixel’s primary mission is to help children around the world by partnering with organizations that help make a difference in children’s lives. With the launch of their line of super cool, socially and environmentally responsible kids clothing, they are taking their first step towards making this mission a reality. For their inaugural project, punypixel has teamed up with Cradles to Crayons. With every purchase you make punypixel will be helping to fund Cradles to Crayons’ mission of providing necessary essentials to homeless and low-income children.

Visit punypixel and help make a difference.

Way to go punypixel! We love the concept and all the PunyPixels, Leo, Irs, Sid, and Mike!

Image from TYIN

As architects we often find ourselves trapped in a world where the dollar sign rules everything we do and because of that we find ourselves designing only for people that can afford an architect. It is particularly promising therefore, to find an architecture firm who’s main mission is to help those in true dire need. For this reason, I found much inspiration in the work of TYIN tegnestue Architects, a Norwegian firm run by two students, Andreas G. Gjertsen and Yashar Hanstad.

TYIN has been working primarily in poor and underdeveloped areas of countries like Thailand, Burma, Haiti, and Uganda. Their strategy is to work with the local communities to build structures that fulfill a need within that community while promoting the development of skills, and utilizing local materials collected from the site or nearby areas. Among their many projects, they have created a series of structures for orphanages in Thailand. The Soe Ker Tie House project is a series of small shelters used as dormitories for an orphanage in Noh Bo. The small shelters basically house one sleeping unit, which is shared by the children and are clustered in an manner that creates shared outdoor spaces promoting a sense of community within the orphanage.

TYIN has also worked for another orphanage located north of Noh Bo. They have worked with the owner of the Safe Haven Orphanage to create a bath house and a library for the children. Utilizing local materials and innovative methods to address waste, TYIN has created a bathing facility that brings hygiene to the forefront as a means to fight disease and a library that helps to reinforce the importance of education and good ethics.

In my search for ways in which design can make a difference in people’s lives, the work of TYIN serves as a reminder that design should be for everyone. As designers, we have a talent that can be used for good and we should all reach out and make a difference in the world.

Learn more about TYIN tengnestue

Image from Nook Sleep Systems

As the waiting game continues, we decided we might as well keep slowly accumulating the items for our nursery, so that we do not have to buy everything all at once. Therefore, the next item on our list became a mattress. As part of our post placement study, once we are matched with a child, the social worker must visit our home to see that the baby has a proper place to sleep. So we decided to do a little research before jumping in and buying a mattress. We spoke to some friends that recently had babies to see what they would recommend. Some of the recommendations we received were as follows:

1. Buy something that is not too heavy, so that it is light enough to lift each time you have to change the sheets after there is an accident.

2. Buy something that is easy to clean, again because of the accidents.

3. Buy an organic mattress. Since infants spend most of their time sleeping, it’s worthwhile to consider investing in an organic mattress to ensure there are no issues of toxic off-gassing and if possible also try and get a mattress that is breathable, to ensure the baby gets a good air flow in their sleeping area.

Finally after doing a lot of online research and several trips to the store, we discovered the Nook Sleep Systems Pebble Mattress to be a pretty cool mattress option. Nook Sleep Systems is dedicated to innovation. They look at the entirety of the mattress to develop a cohesive holistic design. They have taken the time to make sure that their mattress is well designed, breathable, non-toxic and completely organic. The internal core of the mattress is made of natural latex which is an open celled material that maximizes air flow through the core (for breathability which will allow more oxygen to the baby, meaning a better night of sleep) and the natural latex is hypoallergenic, anti-microbial and anti-mites (no nasty bed bugs!). The inner core is wrapped with organic wool which is a natural fire barrier as opposed to the harsh chemicals used in standard mattresses. The surface is made up of eucalyptus fibers and cotton to help remove moisture and promote breathability, and the best part is that no vinyl mattress pads are required since liquids will bead on the surface of the mattress, and they come in cool bright colors as well! Nook Sleep System products are Made in North America (this time it’s for real, on manufacturer’s website!) and they even offer twin size mattresses. Hopefully, they’ll expand their line to include double, queen and king size for us adults to enjoy as well.

We are members of Zulily (an online designer discount store) and they had the Pebble Mattress on sale for half the price so we jumped to make the purchase. It’s quite an expensive mattress so if you are looking at purchasing it, we strongly recommend to see if you can find a great deal online.

Learn more about Nook Sleep System

Unfortunately we have a correction to make about our previous crib post. The Loom Crib is actually made in China. After publishing the blog we sent the link to the customer service representative we were speaking with at Nurseryworks and she informed us that the Loom Crib is not made in USA but in fact made in China. This was surprising to us since a few websites selling the crib listed it as Made in USA. So the lessen learned is don’t believe what online stores write about the products they are selling (peddling!) and make sure to ask the manufacturer.

However, now we have to decide if we can live with a crib made in China or find something else. A friend of ours found a good tip in the book “Baby Bargains” which basically said that 90% of baby furniture is made in China so if the furniture company is reputable then likely the furniture made in China will be fine. That being said there are companies that don’t use China to manufacture their furniture, for example Oeuf makes their cribs in Latvia. There are a few small percentage that still make their cribs in the USA and most of them are over $1000 price tag. El Greco cribs though, which are sold through Land of Nod, are made in the USA and definitely below the $1000 mark.

As for what we are going to do, we aren’t sure. We read through the safety data of Nurseryworks and they’ve never had any recalls on their products, they are doing their part for the environment, and the design is quite nice. We have not decided what we will do, so we thought we would put the question to you.

Image from Nurseryworks.net

Everyone knows, as soon as you have a baby, one of the major items to purchase is a crib, therefore it is one of the items you’ll probably spend the most time researching. This is typically a costly purchase, plus you have to make sure all the safety standards are met, so it makes sense to do your homework before you shop. When it comes to cribs we have heard all kinds of arguments for or against different kinds of cribs but for us this is an important issue, since this is where the baby will be spending a lot of time sleeping. We were struggling to decide if we wanted to invest in a more expensive crib or buy something less expensive from Ikea or Walmart. However, we soon found out that all the cribs at Ikea were recalled because of faulty mattress supports collapsing. This quickly eliminated Ikea cribs off our list. Our next option was Walmart but we were weary of similar quality issues and the cribs we liked, Baby Mod (sold at Walmart only, elsewhere it’s the exact same crib named Babyletto for $100 more) had nice modern lines but most of the reviews complained that the wood was too soft and was easily dented or worse could be chewed by the baby. Therefore one of our main goals was to try and find a good crib that was not made in China especially with all the safety issues for recalled products.

We set a few goals to help narrow our search: non-toxic crib, eco-friendly (if in the budget), made in the USA and if that wasn’t possible then simply not made in China, and finally a modern crib. We set a budget for $300-600, which made it pretty tough to find a crib that met our goals and is still within our budget, but we were convinced we could find a good deal online.

Oeuf cribs are marketed as eco-friendly cribs that are made in Europe and their most economical crib, the Robin crib, is within the upper tier of our price range. However, we were not entirely thrilled with the design of the crib, particularly the open slots on the side panels and the exposed hardware.

Nurseryworks cribs, a competitor to Oeuf, has the Loom Crib that meets our outlined goals and has a unique personal design. The Loom Crib is non-toxic, made of catalpa wood, which is a fast growing wood, is made in the US (after speaking to the manufacturer we were informed that we received misleading information from some of the online suppliers and the Loom crib is in fact made in China) just squeezes into our upper tier budget level. But, as architects, what really appealed to us was the design of the crib. With typical crib designs, we dislike the rigidity of the repetitive vertical slats that seem to recall prison bars. What we loved with the loom crib is how the designers took the government required minimum spacing of the vertical slats and had some fun with it! Instead of equally spaced slats, they are varied to create visual interest. If you select the natural or dark finish the slats and wrapping trim contrast with the white side panels and frame. The hardware is neatly hidden and it’s a convertible crib with 3 mattress positions. The best part we found was that you do not need to spend the hefty price for the toddler conversion kit since the crib does not require it (whereas most do to keep the crib stable) to remain functional if the front side remains open. You could then buy an inexpensive guard and put it under the mattress and once your toddler is ready for a twin bed, the crib could be used as a day bed and still look great. Additionally, Nurseryworks has been very responsive to any questions via email. We are excited for our find and wanted to share it with everyone.

Learn more about Loom Crib

Kala Rug Collection: Images Courtesy of nanimarquina

As we re-group from this week’s unexpected events, we thought this might be a good time to switch gears and share another wonderful find I discovered at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. This time our featured designer is the Spanish carpet manufacturer nanimarquina.

nanimarquina is a rug designer and manufacturer of exquisite handmade rugs, most of which are handmade in India, Pakistan, and Morocco using traditional hand tufted, hand knotted, hand loomed, and Kilim techniques. Their rugs are made with natural materials such as cotton, jute, and wool. Yet aside from making beautiful rugs, nanimarquina is also part of a group of companies working to make a difference within their industry by teaming up to help eliminate child labor in the countries where many of their products are produced. nanimarquina has teamed up with the Care&Fare initiative, to make a difference in children’s lives.

Care&Fair is a group committed to the fight against illegal child labor in the carpet production industry in the countries of India, Pakistan, and Nepal. The main goal of Care&Fare is to give children a chance in life, by providing them an opportunity to attend school and receive an education. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are  nearly 250 million children world wide still forced to work in various industries. It is therefore, rewarding to hear that designers like nanimarquina are stepping up to make a difference within their industry to help eliminate child labor. As a member of the initiative, nanimarquina contributes 1% of the income from rug imports to Care&Fair programs. Care&Fair in turn is able to finance schools, hospitals, and health programs for children in India, Pakistan, and Nepal.

The Kala Rug, is a project in collaboration with nanimarquina and Care&Fare. This collection was created from original drawings submitted by children in the Care&Fare schools in India. Proceeds from the sales of this rug will be donated to Care&Fare in order to help finance a school in India.

Learn more about Care&Fare

Learn more about nanimarquina

Specials Thanks to Benoit Anicet of nanimarquina for sharing their company information.

Image courtesy of so-ro cradle.

Earlier this year I attended the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York to take in the latest and greatest furniture products from around the world. After looking at hundreds of chairs, light fixtures, and tables, I came upon the most unexpected find. An amazing cradle designed not only to fit into any contemporary modernist aesthetic pallet, but designed primarily with the baby’s comfort in mind. Upon further discussion with the designer of the so-ro cradle, I realized that what made this cradle so unique was not just the beautifully crafted and designed cradle I saw on the floor of the exhibit hall, but also the amazing work that Ane Lillian Tveit has contributed in her dedication to the betterment of disabled children’s lives.

Ane Lillian Tveit was one of the designers featured in the Norwegian booth at the fair. When I first saw the cradle, I was immediately intrigued but I was not quite sure what it was. With its oblong design and sculptural quality,  I thought it looked like a cradle but it was unlike any cradle I had ever seen. Fortunately Ane Lillian, an occupational therapist by training, explained to me the theory behind her design. She said, “Babies love to rock” and I was a bit confused. So she went on to explain how different motions, when perceived by the baby, can create different effects on the baby’s comfort. For example, the forward rocking motion of a rocking chair can have a calming or soothing affect on the baby, while side ways or lateral motion can often cause dizziness or discomfort. The so-ro cradle is designed to rock in a forward motion similar to that of a rocking chair, unlike the sideways motion of typical cradles, providing the baby a soothing effect that helps them fall asleep. The cradle is also designed with safety in mind and made with natural materials. Additionally, it is also made to be easily assembled and disassembled for easy storage.

What is not easily apparent at foremost, is Ane’s other work, as an occupational therapist. Ane dedicates much of her work hours to help make better lives for disabled children in Moldova, Eastern Europe, often described as the poorest country in Europe. Her work there has helped countless children by improving their living conditions and by helping contribute to their integration in the Moldovan society. In 2011 Ane was awarded the Children of the Earth Prize for her extensive work in Moldova.

Learn more about so-ro cradle

See the video documentary of Ane Lillian Tveit’s work in Moldova. Please be advised the video can be quite emotional.

Click here to watch the documentary

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