Design Wire May 2023

A new modular piece of playroom furniture made from recycled olive pits called the NONTALO STOOL allows children and parents to change the shape of the seat to suit their mood or activity. Developed by design duo ENERIS COLLECTIVE and Barcelona-based biomaterials company NAIFACTORY LAB, the chair is composed of REOLIVAR, a biocomposite made from olive pits, which is then formed in molds to reduce unnecessary waste. Inspired by children’s construction sets, the Nontalo stool is made up of six parts: three large, P-shaped pieces and three long rods that slot into the central opening of the other pieces to hold them in place. Designed to bring play, spontaneity, and sustainability together, once it has reached the end of its life, the stool can be composted or returned to Naifactory Lab to be recycled.


Think a plaid, checkerboard, or tartan car could only exist in your children’s effervescent drawings? Think again. BMW’s latest concept car, the I VISION DEE, is equipped with programmable and customizable color-changing body panels and hub caps. Using 32 colors of E-INK—a technology most recognizable in e-readers like the Kindle—BMW believes its electric vehicles will soon sport this chameleonic characteristic, once they’ve figured out how to ensure the panels can withstand rigorous driving, as well as the bumps, pebbles, and bugs a car encounters on a typical drive. According to an article published in Fast Company in January, BMW’s concept is far from landing in dealerships, but the customizable ideas are beginning to take shape in some production vehicles.


EAST PINE, the Portland-based interior plant design company known for their design, installation, and maintenance work with high-profile clients like Austin Street Brewery, Après, and SeaWeed Company, has joined forces with HAY RUNNER, a Portland design, construction, and real estate firm founded and led by SHANNON RICHARDS. Services include not only residential and commercial interior plant design but also repotting (what East Pine founder AMALIA BUSSARD and plant care specialist SARA KOSICKI refer to as a spa day for weary-looking plants) and recurring plant care services to keep clients’ plants looking beautiful and healthy in their own spaces.


MAINE ARTS ACADEMY, a charter school for the arts currently located in Sidney, recently purchased a 69,615-square-foot building in Augusta from Maine Veterans’ Homes. According to Mainebiz, the new location, on 8.9 acres near the Capital Area Sports Complex and Viles Arboretum, is about six times larger than the MAA’s current facility. The free public high school that focuses on music, dance, theater, and visual arts and educates students from over 30 districts statewide, will move in after its lease in Sidney expires in June, with one of its goals being to grow from 225 students to 400.


Move over old, mismatched Tupperware. HELLERWARE, the iconic, stackable 1960s dinnerware, has returned to market. Originally designed by architect MASSIMO VIGNELLI in 1964 and manufactured in Italy using bright yellow melamine resin, the colorful and compact plates, bowls, and mugs were licensed for production in the United States by ALAN HELLER, who introduced a range of bright colors for mixing and matching. Last year, after being bought by John Edelman, Heller made plans to bring back the iconic dishes in white, the rainbow colorway having been mostly out of production since the early aughts—until now. MOMA DESIGN STORE has relaunched the collection in six vibrant colors available in six-piece sets. According to the design blog In Unison, the inspiration for the Compasso d’Oro Award–winning design came to Vignelli when he saw a client using plastic molds to make Mickey Mouse ashtrays. The plates and mugs are made with straight sides and a small lip on the bottom, creating a straight, tall stack that maximizes storage space.


BUREO, a company based in Oxnard, California, that makes all of its products—including sunglasses, surf fins, and even Jenga sets—out of recycled fishing nets, has launched a first-of-its-kind skateboard. THE MINNOW, a 25-inch cruiser made with Bureo’s NetPlus material and 30 percent veggie oil wheels, is manufactured in Chile with the support of local Chilean fishing communities. The manufacture of each board prevents more than 30 square feet of PLASTIC FISHING NETS—proven to be the most harmful form of plastic pollution—from entering our oceans. By creating an incentivized program to collect, clean, sort, and recycle fishing nets into reusable material, they also have created employment opportunities for local workers and funding for community programs. Other industry-leading companies like PATAGONIA are jumping on board, incorporating Bureo’s material into their own products.


The restaurateurs behind Mi Sen Noodle Bar and the former Cheevitdee have opened MITR, a new, 20-seat restaurant on outer Congress Street serving grilled Thai street food. Cofounder WAN TITAFAI, who lived in Thailand when she was young and has resided in Maine for many years, designed the space herself with both classic Thai and modern New England interiors in mind, such as high ceilings and dinnerware brought in from Thailand paired with crown mouldings and pop art painted by her husband John Paul. “We used antique furniture alongside some furniture and booths that we custom-made,” Titafai says. “I believe once people step into the space, they will feel the love that we put into everything.” As for the food, Titafai recommends ordering the homemade curry paste with rice, salmon, and Thai herbs, wrapped in banana leaves and grilled.


After three years, researchers from MIT and Harvard University, alongside laboratories in Italy and Switzerland, may have discovered the answer to why ancient Roman concrete structures, such as the 2,000-year-old Pantheon, have stood the test of time while our modern concrete structures crack and crumble just a few decades after being built. The secret? It’s a combination of one ingredient—calcium oxide, or lime—and the technique used to incorporate it. According to Fast Company, the study was recently published in the journal Science Advances. Professor Admir Masic, an MIT professor of civil and environmental engineering and an author of the study, explains, “When lime clusters are mixed with cement and water at a very high temperature, the water around them evaporates, and the clusters, which would have otherwise dissolved, remain embedded in the material.” This means that when water later seeps into the cracks, as it eventually will, instead of causing more corrosion, the lime clusters dissolve and fill in the newly formed cracks like glue. Thanks to this discovery, a new deep tech start-up called DMAT launched in the United States at the end of last year. The company’s core product, D-LIME, a self-healing concrete, is made with the ancient technique in mind, adapted for modern times.

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