Design Wire November/December 2021

After receiving a green light from the Portland Planning Board back in August, the redevelopment of NORTHERN LIGHT MERCY HOSPITAL’s State Street campus is under way. The hospital aims to be out of the space in December, when the partnering Portland-based real estate development firms, NEWHEIGHT GROUP and REDFERN PROPERTIES— along with ACORN ENGINEERING, RYAN SENATORE ARCHITECTURE, and ACETO LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS— will begin renovations. The 1940s-era building will be adaptively reused to include 165 market-rate residential units and ground-floor commercial and community-oriented spaces; the existing emergency wing and surface parking lots will be replaced with a woonerf (a Dutch-inspired “living street”); and two new buildings will provide roughly 95 affordable housing units for residents earning less than 50 percent of the area’s median income.

Celebrity clothing designer HUNTER BELL has released her first home collection, including printed placemats, napkins, tablecloths, and aprons. Created in collaboration with cooking instructor MARCIA SMART, the capsule’s patterns are pulled from Bell’s favorite prints from her fall 2021 line and are inspired by the West Texas landscape. Bell, who loves to entertain, told House Beautiful in September, “Expanding my brand to ‘dress’ the table, so to speak, felt like the perfect step for this season in my life.” Each item is available in primary red and blue block prints as well as a quilted patchwork, and they range in price from $48 to $150.


Born from the desire to address fast fashion and the lack of craft education in school curricula, MAIJA NYGREN, a mother and master knitter, created ALMABOREALIS, a hands-on knitwear company in Edinburgh, Scotland. Nygren’s “Convertibles: Clothes That Kids Can Make” have been shortlisted for the DEZEEN AWARDS 2021 in the Wearable Design category. Convertibles invite children between 4 and 12 years old to assemble their own clothing using a puzzle of colorful, knitted Scottish lambswool panels, a chunky wooden needle, yarn, and an easy-to follow manual. The clothing, which is biodegradable by nature, is designed to grow with the child, with extra panels that can be added on as needed. The circular economy brand caters to adults too, with kits for creating larger hats and scarves.

IKEA instruction manuals are not something anyone typically gets excited about— they’re more likely to elicit fear, in fact. But that’s about to change. The brand’s Canadian branch has recently created manuals that show how to upcycle some of the company’s popular products, helping to breathe new life into old furniture that might otherwise end up in the landfill. The store’s ubiquitous blue shopping bags become hanging planters, a squat wooden cabinet becomes a beehive, a plastic bag holder turns into a cleaning caddy. According to Fast Company, IKEA has committed to becoming fully circular by 2030, meaning they will design products using only renewable, recycled, and recyclable materials. Repurposing past purchases is one easy way for consumers to jump on the waste-free bandwagon.

Working from home may have become preferable to many over the past two years, but not everyone has the ideal setup for it. The DENIZEN ARCHETYPE is here to fix that. At 90 square feet and equipped with a 27-inch 4K monitor, webcam, whiteboard, adjustable standing desk, mini-fridge, and small lounge area, the portable “smartpod” is designed to create a productive office environment wherever you want to work. Built to require minimal foundation and permitting, the 100 percent recyclable prefab can either connect to utilities in a code-compliant way or run on battery power off-grid. Worried about your snow-smothered backyard? The Denizen comes with a fully incorporated HVAC system to ensure comfort in warm or cold climates.

Ground has been broken on what is to become Maine’s tallest building. At 190 feet, 201 FEDERAL STREET will feature 263 market-rate apartments, commercial space on the lower level, and a 1,500-square-foot sky lounge as well as a courtyard with 16 new trees. The 18-story, 180,000-square-foot project is expected to take two years to complete and will create around 250 jobs throughout that time. According to Mainebiz, KEVIN FRENCH, chairman and CEO of Scarborough-based Landry French Construction, signed on as the construction manager earlier this year and says he is anticipating the apartment building to be completed on time and on budget.

Sometimes a product comes out that makes so much sense it leaves us wondering how we don’t already own one. Such is the case with NEST CARE INC’s new toothbrush. Winner of an iF World Design Guide Award and a Red Dot Design Award, the all-in-one system contains a sterilization module with two UV-C LED lights that sterilize the brush in less than a minute, toothpaste that dispenses at the push of a button, and a magnetic stand that holds the brush upright while in sterilization mode. The brush comes in four hip colors and can be ordered as either manual or electric.

PORTLAND DOWNTOWN, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit downtown improvement district, is asking the city to allocate a portion of the $46.3 million it received from the federal AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN ACT—which was created by President Biden to provide relief to American people and businesses during COVID-19—to bring more permanent public restrooms to downtown Portland. Anyone who lives in Portland can weigh in on how the money should be used by taking a survey on the city’s website. If you’d like there to be more places to find relief without having to buy a meal first, select the “other” category to advocate for public restrooms.

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