>> Grace Bonney is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and the founder/
editor of Design*Sponge (
designspongeonline.com), a website devoted
to design. She also runs a national series of Biz Lady Meetups, designed
to connect women who run design-based businesses.
DIY puts a new spin on classic design.
As I opened my laptop and got ready to values. For Johnson, it was important to support
start the day, I caught the subject line of my local, independent artists whenever possible.
first email: “George Nelson would totally hate you.” “So many stores are carrying affordable, more
Not words anyone wants to read when welcoming a professional, and cuter supplies these days,” she
new morning, but I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. says. “With options like that, I’d much rather build
Recently, there’s been a debate between DIYers something on my own than splurge on something
and design enthusiasts over whether it’s appropriate that isn’t necessary. I loved George Nelson’s Minia-
to create handmade versions of classic, high-end ture Chest but [I’d rather] spend $1,400 supporting
designs. As a design blogger I see projects like these independent jewelry designers [whose work I would
every day, and over the past four years I’ve seen an keep in the chest] than on the storage piece itself.”
exponential rise in their popularity. Whether the motivation is based on financial or
While sifting through entries from a DIY contest ethical concerns, the message is clear: to create
I held on my blog, I came across a particularly inter- something with your own hands is about feeling a
esting project from clothing designer Angie Johnson sense of accomplishment. Even if inspiration comes
of Headquarters Galerie in Montreal. Inspired by from a high-end design, the final result is a piece of
George Nelson’s classic Miniature Chests, Johnson furniture that reminds you of the hard work that you,
decided to create her own version using a little the maker, put into the world.
elbow grease and inexpensive parts she found at
Ikea. I admired Johnson’s creativity and the level
of personalization she’d achieved on a tight budget. MATERIALS
George Nelson’s original design runs around $1,400,
while Johnson’s project cost just over $100.
Despite some angry emails chiding me for posting
the project, Johnson went on to win fourth place in
the competition, supported by a large number of
readers and DIY fans across the web.
Johnson’s success represents a shift in the design
world. For some time, crafters have eschewed pre-made, cookie-cutter products, but now seem to be
rethinking these mass-market resources, modding
them into creations of their own.
Sites like Ikea Hacker (a blog devoted to showcasing “hacked” or customized Ikea items) and the rising
popularity of projects like Johnson’s are further proof
that DIYers are interested in putting their own stamp
on the products they bring into their homes.
Whether you paint, upholster, or hack inexpensive
materials into something special, this trend in DIY
culture boils down to a desire to reflect personal
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