Old Stuff

Today’s post is an article that was in the New York Times last week about repurposing old items.  enjoy

Finding Beauty in Old Things

The One for All storage system was inspired by the multicolored plastic boxes used to transport goods in Europe.
LoFi StudioThe One for All storage system was inspired by the multicolored plastic boxes used to transport goods in Europe.

Writing in Wednesday’s Times about the Repair Cafe in Amsterdam, where broken things find a new life, reminded me of a 2010 magazine story I did about Christiane Högner, a German designer based in Brussels.

Like Martina Postma, who dreamed up the Repair Cafe, Ms. Högner and her partner, the Belgian design researcher Thomas Lommée, have also thought a lot about how much stuff we throw out in contemporary Western society.

When I interviewed Ms. Högner, Mr. Lommée was putting together an exhibition about open design systems. He had collected several decades’ worth of electric plugs, from a 1930s French one to a modern Apple computer plug, and he pointed out that they all work in the same electric outlet — as opposed to, say, today’s cellphone chargers, which you throw out as soon the next generation of phones comes along because the new phones’ plugs have a different shape.

A line of "Dad" pillows designed by  Christiane Hoegner.LoFi StudioA line of “Dad” pillows designed by  Christiane Högner.

Ms. Högner grappled with the issue of waste all the more intensely because her profession is mostly about making more stuff. In her pieces, she often reuses what might otherwise be considered junk. One of her early products, the One for All shelves, repurposed the old plastic boxes that bakeries in Europe use to transport baked goods. For another, the Dad pillow, she took her father’s old dress shirts and gave them a second life as sofa cushions.

But while the environmental concerns raised by unnecessary waste are important to her, her interest in those old things is also aesthetic. She got the idea for the One for All shelf when she was walking by a bakery on the way to the Academy of Fine Arts as a student in Munich and was struck by the beauty of the multicolored boxes.

Likewise, she and Mr. Lommée decided to fix her parents’ old Italian gas stove even though the repair was nearly as expensive as buying a new stove. Why? They liked the old one. Simple as that.


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