Architecture in Business | Review: Shopify

Hi Everyone… Jenn here!

We’re big fans of businesses that innovate and create business for others, even better when there’s quality of life and morale among the employees. We’re doing a special blog post about a company called Shopify. If you haven’t heard of it we highly recommend you check out their website. In a nutshell, this business helps create e-commerce websites and takes a very minimal percentage from those company’s sales in compensation. Their process is easy and fantastic for those eager to jump into their business but have no idea where to begin selling.

So why mention Shopify? Well, my husband David works for a company who is building their new headquarters (100k square foot of office space), located in our National Capital. This past Monday I had the luxury of being invited to an open house for his work employee’s families before Shopify employees took occupancy only a few days later. I wish I could post the many photos I took (legality reasons…boo!), however their Twitter account as well as Linebox on Facebook (the Architect) has been posting sneak peeks of it. They have some very fun ideas and I love that each floor seems to have a relevant theme (ie: one floor looks like the great Canadian outdoors full of the most adorable bean bag bears as chairs and gorgeous hand scrapped log walls). David had told me that they [the CEO’s and Architect] had gone to Google headquarters, along with Amazon and few others to feel inspired for their new space.

I’ve seen/heard some complaints from other business owners in response to Shopify’s headquarters…things like: “I’ve been in business for 30 years, this seems so juvenile” (since Shopify will soon have a slide into a ball pit in their cafeteria!) and you know what? To each their own. The world of architecture and design is changing for businesses across the world. With technology developing every day, people have become dependent on it, and especially those from my generation and those to come. I know how to disconnect, but I can and often feel lost if I don’t have my phone with me. The other issue is because we sit on the computer for hours on end, we often need to get up and move around frequently to ease our minds. The world of productivity is changing! I know I’m more productive in short spurts, as I become easily distracted… or there are certain times of the days where I feel more motivated to work. Business’s like Shopify want good and hardworking employees. But they also want their best work. Creating things like open spaces, nooks and “telephone booths” (there are at least 3 everywhere you turn all with their own theme!) for privacy to make phone calls or plugging in in a non-traditional space. Shopify’s office space gives people the option of working at their own pace because they want the best results. They have a yoga studio, a massage room, lots of spaces to sit (quiet or communal), and food always available. They even have showers there! Makes you never want to leave… see what they’re doing?

So, if you’ve owned a business that’s remained unchanged for 30 years, chances are you have older employees who (most likely) don’t like this dramatic change! And that’s okay. Large tech businesses like Shopify, Google and Amazon are catering to the younger generation now and using everyday technology to enhance the overall experience so they keep their employees longer. We all know that if we’re happy, we’ll do our best work, and want to come into work – right? I’m sure Government offices could certainly take a hint or two! 😉

Long story short, business owners of all kinds should start evaluating what type of world we live in. People want to be healthy, people want to use the best of what technology has to offer, but we also want quality of life and to be happy with where we are. If we’re happy with our jobs, we’re happier to clients… and if clients are happy, then you’ve got a client for life! And they’ve got friends! Unfortunately, a lot of companies prefer to look at their bottom line, and they forget what valued employees look like. People who work in a company that aren’t happy with where they work, often won’t recommend others to become customers/shop/employees.

Learn from Shopify’s business (or Google even) and see the difference between their success, and yours.

Sharing movement – Do more, own less.

#sharemore … So many can have use of so much more if only we could learn to share!! What do you own that you could share? I’d share my large yard with an avid gardener… Grow lots of veggies and bring them to the local food bank. Karma is a wonderful thing!!

Fortuny Fetish … Get Your Edwardian Style On

 

Scheherazade

It’s not enough that fabulously design rich TV shows like Downton Abbey have dragged my modernist butt into the past… but now I have to deal with my crush on Edwardian stylist Mariano Fortuny’s stunning designs.  New obsession… Design Gods please help me!!

 

We were so fortunate and grateful to have won an LED desk lamp from Ottawa lighting specialists #Arevco.  Last week we dropped by their lovely new showroom on Clyde Avenue at Laperriere to claim our prizes.  Upon our exit I gazed up and there it was… a stunning chandelier which is befittingly called “Scheherazade”.  How appropriate… a very mysterious and sexy character she is.

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Designer Mariano Fortuny was born in Granada, the ancient Moorish capital of Spain, into a family of artists in 1871.  Trained as an artist in Paris after he his father passed away, he was successful producing beautiful textiles exploring inspiration from Egypt, China, Persia, Greece and South America.  He patented inventions in engineering and lighting as well as fabric and textile designs.  Mariano spent a great deal of his design energy on the stage with newly invented electric light.  This expanded into lighting fixture designs that incorporated dyed and hand painted silks with glass beads and silk chords… inspired by East Asia and Persian motifs.

Scheherazade in Modern

Fortuny’s designs are simply elegant works of art.  Whether a scarf, dress, chandelier or lamp shade, Fortuny has made his way into our psyches… and video screens.  Next time you swoon into a period drama … say of the 1920’s … challenge yourself to see where the costumers and set designers have been inspired by Mr. Fortuny.   Season 5 of Downton Abbey here we come!!

Fortuny Lamp

 

Designs from the Mat… Hippies and Hemp to the Rescue

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I was called a “hippie chick” once. Well, probably more than once but at least one time that I specifically remember.  I took offence since I didn’t own a tie-dyed t-shirt or drive a Volkswagen Westfalia.  Could it have been that I let my hair grow too long??  What I didn’t realize at the time was that the person who called me this term was referring to my social and political outlook on life.  I should have thanked him for noticing.  I was born in the year that “Hair” hit Broadway, but my parents were the furthest from being Hippies.

On the other hand, our neighbours in Calgary, Alberta were Hippies. I played with their daughter and went on outings with the family in the luxury of a Volkswagen Westfalia.  One outing in particular may be responsible for my fascination and reverence for mid-century modern design … I may have been all of 5 years old.  We were treated to a visit to a custom build home in the middle of ranch country. The home had lofting ceilings, sky lights and spiral stair cases… all covered in moss green shag carpet… no, not the ceiling.  Giant pillows in paisley patterned fabrics, low tables and hanging lamps swagged from the lofty ceiling was all that adorned the grand main area.  Despite the serenity of the country side, I could not help but notice the oil well pumps cluttering the vista from the giant windows.

The Hippy movement of the 60’s and 70’s opened up alot of alternate thinking in the youth of the time. The use of natural products such as hemp were considered illicite due to it’s relation to cannibis sativa, commonly known as marijauna… or weed.  Hemp was a cash crop in the United States long before the country was even that… Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.  Growing industrial hemp in the the U.S. is illegal (although many states are moving to remove the restrictions). In Canada it is highly regulated… pardon the pun.  Check out the links below for a brief history lesson on why such a useful and environmentally progressive product was made illegal.  Hemp can replace the use of fossil fuels for plastics, energy, paper, concrete.  Wonder why wealthy industrial tycoons with interests in forests, metals and oil used their influence to manipulate the government and the country’s population??  Henry Ford produced his Model-T car with “hemp plastic” with an engine that ran on clean burning hemp oil (Ethanol) … where is this product now?? Mr. Ford’s friends at Standard Oil (J.D. Rockefeller) and the United States Steel Corporation (Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, and Charles Schwab) were not happy with Henry’s use of products.

Hippies embraced Eastern and indigenous peoples’ philosophies, home grown foods, natural products, social reforms, holding governments to task for their actions and sharing “Truths” amongst those who will listen and those curious to learn. Was there a dark age of knowledge that all that is good for us was burried? With the aid of the internet and those who wish to expose that which is wrong in the world, the information that has been hidden from us for hundreds of years is finally being revealed. Well, it’s probably been out there all along but we just weren’t programmed to hear it.  Remember the X-Files?? The Truth is Out There.

There is a growing interest and a resurgence in the philosophies and political views of the Hippie movement.  How can our future be anything but bleak with the continuation of a system that propagates unwellness for our air, water, food, animals and ourselves by pushing plastics, pollution and politics that create wars, famines and plagues? Hemp, the carbon negative resource of the past has the potential to replace the poisons of our current economic and political systems.  I’ll get off my soap-box now… back to the mat!!

VW

More Information:

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2012/12/05/how-hemp-became-illegal-the-marijuana-link/

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-other-cannabis-war-20140603

http://naihc.org/hemp_information/hemp_facts.html

http://www.hempcar.org/ford.shtml

http://higherperspective.com/2014/02/5-uses-hemp-show-legalized-immediately.html

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/4-ways-hemp-can-save-the-world/

http://www.treehugger.com/environmental-policy/perfect-plant-7-great-uses-for-industrial-hemp.html

http://hempethics.weebly.com/what-is-industrial-hemp.html

http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/industry-markets-and-trade/statistics-and-market-information/by-product-sector/crops/pulses-and-special-crops-canadian-industry/industrial-hemp/?id=1174595656066

http://beforeitsnews.com/blogging-citizen-journalism/2013/06/hemp-anti-bacterial-fabric-homes-fuel-and-more-something-that-all-americans-can-agree-on-2448220.html

Designs From the Mat … Finding Creativity in all the Right Places

Yoga Posture

My mat of choice, at one time not long ago, was in a dojo for martial arts. Despite the joy of punching, kicking and throwing others to the ground… and reciprocated… that practice didn’t allow for contemplative time not to mention the unexplained bruising.  Time and space that I use for planning spaces ended up being in bed at night when I should otherwise be sleeping soundly… not possible when working out spacial challenges and clients’ expectations. Fortuitously, an injury to my foot led me away from the combat arts.  The kinder, gentler me has taken to the yoga mat and found peace and a better time and place to be creative.

Besides reducing blood pressure, improving sleep or relieving body pain, mindfulness helps creativity.  Meditation quiets the mind and allows the brain more room for creative thought.  Everyone is creative, not just artist, writers or musicians.  We all carry out tasks in our daily lives that require us to think creatively to solve, improve, nurture or manage.  Finding a connection to your creative self is not always as simple as bruised toes.  Your journey will differ from anyone else.  There are studies to verify the positive aspects of all sides of the creative spectrum.  Find and nurture what works best for you.

Everyone’s creative process differs.  Even my own depending on what challenge I’m working on such as writing.  I prefer a busy coffee shop and a deadline to achieve my best work.  Then when I’m on the computer laying out spaces or drawing plans with AutoCAD, I want quiet, no distractions. Doing math… Do not disturb.

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” ~ Albert Einstein

Silence your inner critic. Talk your ideas over with someone who will listen but not be unkind to your thoughts.  Be creative with your love. Share it often.

I’m done writing… out of coffee … back to the yoga mat. I’ve got a new smoothie bar that needs some creative attention!!

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Power Windows … Musings of the obsession of windows in our lives

 

Window in Window

A window is a frame through which we see the world. Some views are full of wonderment, others frame that which is not so pleasant with our world. A window, unlike a door will only be looked through, never exited through… except in an extreme emergency… Actually and metaphorically.

For every new building I’ve ever worked on, the selection of the windows has been the main obsession for the project. I’ll use the word “obsession” a lot when referring to windows because it is a huge part of both the interior and exterior function and aesthetic of any building. Not to mention the large percentage of the budget they eat up. Designers of buildings since the beginning of recorded history have been obsessed by windows.

Norfolk Church

Early examples of window architecture are exhibited in every culture… from a hole in the wall adding animal skins, weaved grasses, wooden shutters to carved stone lattice. In ancient Far East, paper was used as a window covering. Small pieces of glass were developed in 100 AD in Roman occupied Alexandria, Egypt. Windows have allowed us the ability to see our enemy coming from afar while we stay protected within our abodes. The colourful stained glass of European churches has wondrously guided illiterate followers with pictured stories of the Bible. Later in time, the size of your windows exhibited the status and wealth of your family. Windows were covered in the interior with heavy draped fabrics… the more money you had the thicker and fancier the drapes were. The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles was a stunning showcase for France’s new plate glass technology of the 1680’s.

Store front

Store front

The agenda of windows has not changed much since ancient times, except we add energy efficiency to the list of reasons for purchasing the best windows that we can afford. Ancient designers knew the benefits of window locations. Not just adding vantage points in buildings for spotting marauders but strategically adding windows for best lighting of interiors, efficient seasonal heating and cooling from the sun’s rays and air flow throughout the interiors. The architectural term is “fenestration” which also includes doors in the category. Since the advent of structural glass and industrial steel in the late 19th century, fenestration such as skylights, glass floors, and mile high curtain walls have been made possible.

 

As well as real objects, a window is a metaphor, as in Queen Elizabeth’s proclamation that she “did not want to make windows into men’s souls”. Through romantic poetry and art, the window is a magic casement of symbols of hopes and dreams. That which appears outside the window seems to be better than what we have within. Modern day artist, film director Alfred Hitchcock was fascinated by voyeurism and used the window as a setting in his film Rear Window. There are whole books dedicated to the meaning of windows in dreams. University psych courses abound with deep meanings for windows. A certain company has made a fortune with a computer program using the name. Windows are deeply rooted in our collective unconscious… there is a reason why we don’t like windows behind our bed’s headboard!!

A window will determine a lot about an interior, such as how much air, light, heat, cold, view and much needed privacy one will or will not receive from their window. On the exterior, it’s all about aesthetics. For windows, they do not just following the rule “form follows function” but add a layer of status and metaphor to the mix… a perplexing thing they are. That’s why designers and architects love, love, love windows…. obsessed!!

Window Lattice

Bringing the Past to the Future

What does modernism mean? We have been blessed here at Nested Green Inc. with a couple of fabulous design projects that have had me thinking deeply about designs of the past.  Those techniques, shapes and materials that are considered “old fashioned” to some are really the base for the what many would consider “modern” design.  When I’m asked by clients “Do you do modern?”… I have to ask what they mean by “modern”.  Technically, with tools, materials and techniques, unless we are building a space the way the hardcore Amish society can, then it will always be “modern”… our building code insists on it.  As for aesthetically, modern design has an impressive history that is subjective to each persons reality and perception of what “modern” means. One of our projects is a renovation of a 70’s high-ranch on a lake in an up-scale community.  There are many directions we could take this lovely back split bungalow with a sliver of a view of the lake… embrace it’s 70’s roots? … reproduce a Hampton’s upscale vacation home?… or take it back to it’s origins of the 70’s style and go for Craftsman. The client chooses the direction, we follow the direction to make the dream a reality. Large windows, posts & beams, river-stone fireplace, sweeping lake-side decks… I’m thinking (hoping for) Craftsman. Craftsman Style The Craftsman style we know today has many inspirations at it’s roots. William Morris of England at the turn of the 20th century promoted a philosophy of “have only what is beautiful and useful in your home”… an idea abused by modern day mega-mass furniture co. Ikea.   Arts and crafts for the masses back in the day, ironically were mostly afforded only by the upper classes.  Then there are the American sources like Gustav Stickley for his furniture and later Frank Lloyd Wright’s stylized version of Arts & Crafts with his Prairie School of designs and philosophies.

“A craftsman is an artist or artisan who practices a trade or handicraft and creates beautiful (decorative) or practical (useful) objects and structures from natural materials with skill and dexterity using his or her hands.”(1)

A recent visit to a commercial furniture dealer who sell Herman Miller furniture (thank you Ben at OBI Environments in Ottawa) had me contemplating the effect that mid-century designers have had the industry.  Companies like Herman Miller and Knoll have been influencing the designs of interiors for 75 years… furniture and textiles with designers such as Eero Saarinen, Frank Gehry, Marcel Breuer.  Suzanne Tick, whom I met in San Francisco almost 15 years ago is a talented textile designer whose work is very  much up-holds the philosophies as such designing with textiles. (2)

Florence Knoll defined the standard for the modern corporate interiors of post-war America

Florence Knoll defined the standard for the modern corporate interiors of post-war America

So we ponder the term “modern design”.  What does it mean?  It is a subjective term but there is more to it.  Is it about idealism or is about acquisition?  What does it mean to be a modern person?  Is it about the ownership of technology and how we use it?  Isn’t everything that happens is in the future considered modern?  What if our future selves are left without our much depended technologies and luxuries?  If we embrace the lifestyle of our ancestors can we still be “modern”?  Well, we know there is no going back completely to the ways of the past unless that much advertised Zombie Apocalypse actually happens… But we know too much to return completely to the way things were long ago. Evolution is a much desired trait by all species.  Adapt, grow and pass it on… that’s how nature does it.  So one is compelled to giggle just a little when asked “Do you do modern? Smile… pass it on.

Saarinen's revolutionary Pedestal Collection debuted in 1958

Saarinen’s revolutionary Pedestal Collection debuted in 1958

(1) http://www.arts-and-crafts-style.com/craftsman-style.html (2) http://www.knoll.com/shop/by-designer/suzanne-tick http://www.knoll.com/discover-knoll/timeline Photo credit: http://www.knoll.com/designer/Eero-Saarinen

Clutter Out… Calm In… Removing the unnecessary to see the important.

Mud room, custom organization system

In northern climates, as the blanket of brown snow recedes, thoughts of Spring bring with it a sense of re-birth and a chance to start life anew.  Spring also signals the time when many of us look around our winter encrusted entryways and dread the scraping of mud and salt off the floor tiles.  Piles of lone mittens, out-grown boots, sports equipment and water-logged school reports may also be a burden needed to be dealt with.  There’s a reason why “Time for Spring Cleaning” is on everyone’s lips and minds, whether you are the one designated to perform the task or not.  Clearing out the clutter, especially after being shut-in for what seems like an eternity, not only removes the safety hazards that have been building up but allows for the calm and restful feelings that an organized and clean space brings to us.

The physical act of removing clutter from your life is quite simple, there are a multitude of web-articles that will list how you should go about the task.  It is the mental aspect for many that becomes the challenge when deciding to throw-out or donate perceived precious items.  When beginning a lifestyle change like loosing weight, you would clear out your pantry and refrigerator of toxic and negative food, this is true of our possessions too. IMG_0519

The front entry of your home is a great place to start your new diet.  When we come home at the end of a long day at work, the last thing we need to be greeted with is clutter.  “That which clutters the floor, clutters the mind” I always say… usually to myself.  We contemplate, “How did it get this bad?”… “Didn’t I just clean this yesterday?” … “Why is the cat napping on my favourite scarf?” … and then we look for someone to blame… one may scream out the injustice of it all but no one listens… ever.  Then we formulate a plan so this never happens again… but always does.  It may seem like a useless task to take control of the mayhem but when your mother-in-law stops by unexpectedly and notes what a lovely floral display you have on the entry hall table… all is right in the world.

 

Gravel underfoot gone.  Lone mittens gone.  Salt stains… gone.  Sanity returns. Hellooooo Spring!!

#clutterlessnest  #nestedspringcleaning  #nestmess  #nestedsanity

 

 

 

got space? Are you having Emotional Interface with it? Whaaaaaat!!??

dave

It’s ok to admit it.  Everybody wants it.  In fact, in most places it is expected.  Emotional Interface, that is.

What is Emotional Interface you ask?  If you are a web-designer you are well familiar with the name and the concept.  What works in the virtual world should work in the real world too, no?  Architects and interior designers could learn a thing or three from our virtual design world cousins.  In 2010, Aarron Walter, Director of User Experience at Mail Chimp gave a presentation called “Learning to Love Humans”.  In his presentation, he says:

“Humans, though cute and cuddly, are not without their flaws, which makes designing for them a challenge. By understanding how the wet, mushy processor works in these hairy little devils, you can design interfaces and web experiences that will have them hopelessly devoted to your brand.”

Our ancient ancestors were very good at Emotional Interface.  For them, it was as simple as sitting around a fire pit, sharing stories, dancing, meditating and posting the days events on the cave wall.  So, if you have linked, shared or participated in a space then you may have achieved Emotional Interface. Human needs dictate that we require functional, reliable, usable and pleasurable spaces.  You know when one of these elements is missing in a space:  Where is the door?  Is this the right door?  Can I open the door?  Wow, the door opened for me!!  A positive Emotional Interface experience = pleasure.

Cave Painting Cartoon

Technology plays a huge roll in making our living spaces more pleasurable. From old tech like refrigerators and vacuums to new tech like the AI thermostat “nest”.  They all have a function that can make life a little easier for us. Although both creepy and awesome, the “nest” thermostat learns your room temperature desired patterns so that one day you just leave it alone and it will just know what temperature you want your room to be.  It is kind of like raising a child… but then there is always the teenage years… “Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?  Dave, I really think I’m entitled to an answer to that question.” … or for the younger crowd … “The cake is a lie”.

nest-learning-thermostat-3

The spaces that you create for yourself tell the world of your values… you are visually communicating your brand as it were.  What are you telling the world about yourself?  Our cultural and social upbringing influences how we feel about the spaces we inhabit and our expectations of what they should give us. Restaurants are a good example of expectation of an emotional interface. Depending on the quality of the food and prices on the menu, we expect a restaurant to deliver an equal or better offering in service and the physical environment.  Food, service and decor are the Holy Trinity of a successful restaurant… just ask effing Gordon Ramsay!! … aaaaaand we expect it to work out or we give an unfavourable review and the relationship ends.  It is harsh, but like Mr. Walter says, designing for us hairy little devils is a challenge.

“Interior spaces are often the primary interface between users and the built environment and can have a marked influence on our sense of belonging, comfort, emotion and productivity.” Arqua Design

circular-living-room-design-with-fireplaces

Every element of design in our environment plays an emotional toll on our soul. The shape, size, colour and texture create a composition of balance, contrast, pattern, proportion and more … that’s a lot of combinations and permutations that could go horribly wrong!!  Be kind to the design!!  Know that everything evolves, the designers are taking note of what works and doesn’t and there is always another toy arriving to distract us from those pesky negative emotions and give us one more pleasurable experience.

“The only intuitive interface is the nipple. After that it’s all learned.” – Bruce Ediger

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