Tag Archives: design

Chop Style: Pocket Knives

It’s time to talk about knives. It’s time to talk about knives because we’re in the market for a new one before we go back overseas. We never really thought we’d be the type to carry a knife around everywhere we go, but over the years we’ve come around to the opinion of Gentlemanly Means, and we’re almost never found without one.

The makers and retailers of pocket knives would have you believe that their products can be elevated to the level of talismanic objects; heirlooms passed from generation to generation, the old romantic notion of this was Grandpappy’s GI knife and he used it to cut his way out of a POW camp in Korea and all that. That’s entirely possible with a quality knife… if you don’t lose it first.

Our favorite knife to date... the CRKT Carson M16. Approximate actual size.

We lose knives all the time. As the GMP post points out, it can be tough to find the right intersection of price and quality, because you have to buy thinking you’re going to lose it sooner or later. We can hardly keep a knife longer than a pair of sunglasses, and usually end up having to buy a new one every 12-18 months. By now we’ve formed a pretty strong opinion, and knife shopping doesn’t take nearly as long as it once did.

For us, less is more. We’re not a fan of the Leatherman multitools or the top of the line Swiss Army models. That’s just too much steel. We want one blade- and we want that blade to feel large in the hand and small in the pocket, and be designed in such a way that it matches a suit as well as everyday jeans.

the first knife we really liked was ta Buck Nobleman, which served us quite well until it ended up at the bottom of the bay. It drew a lot of compliments, and our only real complaint about it was the lack of a belt clip, a feature we really like. (Tip, most belt clips are easily removable.)

We replaced that with a Gerber EVO Jr, which was a crappy piece of junk that fell apart in hand in less than a year. Last Gerber knife we’ll ever buy.

Our most recent knife, and quite possibly our next knife, was a Columbia River Tanto. We bought it for less than half of the $50 price tag on the website, and it was worth twice as much to us. It did absolutely everything asked of it, sharpened up nicely, and looked as good as it felt clipped to the pocket when not in use. In fact, throughout our travels we’ve probably met half a dozen others carrying knives from the CRKT EDC series, and every one swears it’s the best knife he’s ever owned.

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Best Bets: Using Books as Home Decor

When we moved into the Chophouse about a year and a half ago, we were basically starting from scratch. We had moved around so much previously that we had accumulated very little furniture, and what we did have was in desperate need of replacement. Since then, we’ve been slowly figuring out how to fill up all this space.

Roommate moved in and brought his furniture, then moved out and took it away again, so we’re in the strange position now of having a completely bare living room, while at the same time being ready to put the finishing touches on most other rooms. In just about all of our rooms, those finishing touches are going to include books.

Books should fit into a living space organically, without dominating the room.

Incorporating books into design is nothing new, and there are any number of ways to go about it. Sites like Book Decor and Books By The Foot will even sell you books in bulk to suit any design aesthetic you like, from goatskin covers to shelves arranged by size or color, or even books wrapped in custom covers. Just don’t try to actually read them though, since they’re selected solely for appearance and may not even be in English.

We see this as a tacky, slothful solution, and prefer a more organic approach. Books should say something about their owner, and need to pull their weight in any design scheme by actually being functional. If it’s not something we’d want to pick up and idly look over on any lazy Sunday afternoon, then it’s just not worth having around.

Aside from the library of novels in our home office, we’re envisioning a few choice vegetarian cookbooks living in the kitchen. It’s nice to have some fresh ideas for dinner close at hand, and trying to double check something on a smartphone while three burners are going and your hands are sticky is never a good idea.

The wine rack in our dining room has shelf space on it as well, perfect for a couple of cocktail compendiums and a book or two on wine. After all, no home is really complete without a copy of Imbibe! or The Modern Drunkard, is it?

We’ve got some stubborn empty space atop the wardrobe, and we’re thinking the bedroom would be the ideal spot to house a collection of the Harvard Classics or a vintage encyclopaedia set, easy enough to acquire on eBay. We’ve also got two nightstands and have been thinking of a floating shelf or two, which would be perfect for stacking a couple first edition hardbacks.

Of course, we’re still pretty far away from putting finishing touches on the living room, but there’s no end to the possibilities. Here’s a few we think we could live with throughout the house:

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Best Bets: Decorating With Flowers

Years ago the Chop spent a couple of months out in Seattle, and perhaps the biggest point of culture shock in the Emerald City was the near-universal habit of buying fresh flowers regularly. Maybe it’s a direct result of the mostly dreary weather there, but Seattleites go around buying flowers like Parisians buy baguettes.

As a city, Baltimore is not particularly floral. We tend to buy most of our flowers in connection with funerals or anniversaries, and even with a recent increase in the presence and awareness of urban gardening on public and private lots, the vast majority of that soil has been given over to vegetables. Flowerbeds in public parks and flower-potting in streetscapes remains minimal.

Daffodils look great in Cylburn Arboretum... or in your living room.

We grew up in a house where fresh flowers were seldom present. When they did appear indoors, they were always meant to sit in the same heavy crystal vase on the dining room table. Over time, they began to achieve the same effect as a Christmas tree; they were around to mark an occasion and they had a great effect when first placed there, but with each year that went by and each day they sat in the same spot they were just too easy to get used to, and were eventually overlooked almost entirely.

Now that we’ve got a house of our own with plenty of space to decorate we’re discovering that flowers are the best way to keep the home looking fresh as time passes. If the warm weather we’re enjoying recently has you thinking floral, here are a few tips to get the best of your buds.

  • Buy different flowers each time. Daisies are nice, but if all you ever buy are daisies, you might as well just buy a picture of some daisies and be done with it. You’re better off just going for whatever is in season, or whatever has been marked down for a quicker sale. This way you get variety without having to think too much about it.
  • Have a few different vases handy. It’s best to have about 1 vase for every room in your house where you might put flowers. If you have a studio with a kitchenette, 2 is enough. If you’ve got six rooms plus a good size bathroom and a screened porch, get as many as 8 vases. They don’t need to be expensive, and a few of them should be plain and understated for moving from room to room. (Thrift stores are a great source for plain vases.) Make sure the sizes and shapes are different to accommodate different flower varieties.
  • Flowers in each room, not every room. It’s just too much work to keep flowers trimmed and watered in every room at the same time. Keeping them in one room at a time minimizes work while maximizing appeal. Dress out the table for dinner guests, or put them in the bedroom on date night. Try to keep them in the room in which you’ll derive the most enjoyment from them in any given week.
  • Make buying flowers a habit. Perhaps no one loves flowers more than the Dutch, and in the Netherlands flowers have a regular spot on the shopping list next to bread and milk. We in Baltimore would do well to be on a first name basis with our neighborhood florists, or make the flower cart a regular stop on our weekly trips to the grocery store or farmers’ market.
  • Don’t be afraid to grow your own. It takes good timing, a little knowledge, a lot of work, and a bit of luck to grow flowers from seeds. If you’re not possessed of all of the above though, you can still grow flowers successfully, barring a garden-digging dog or any neighbor kids running roughshod over your yard. Nurseries and home improvement stores have thousands of types to choose from, and will be happy to help you find the best type for you. Most places even sell flowers in biodegradable, plantable pots keeping the work required at a minimum.

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Pop-Up Shop and Show @ Charm City Art Space Today

It’s SPRING, Baltimore. You may be thinking that it’s not Spring, that it is in fact monsoon season, but we assure you that Spring has most positively sprung. Do you know what that means? Eh? Eh? Do you? It means that you need t-shirts. But not just any t-shirts will do. You don’t want to be shelling out good money to support some California pervert playing grabass with underlings, or buying a t-shirt which is not the thing that it is a t-shirt of.

No no. Not a bit of it. You want a one of a kind, thoughtfully designed, hand printed t-shirt made by a talented local artist and offered at a fair price. And that’s exactly what you’re going to find today at the Charm City Art Space. Marking the closing of the Rough Language show at the Hexagon, the goods from that show will be offered for sale around the corner at CCAS. We didn’t get a chance to see what was on offer over the last month, but from what we’ve heard just since we got home, it was pretty impressive, and worth your consideration when it goes up for sale today from 1 pm until 6 pm.

Goods from the Rough Language show go on sale at CCAS today. 1-6 pm.

You might think you want to get there early for the best selection, but the smart money says roll in around 5:30 for maximum haggling advantage. You can spend the money you save on a nice round of drinks over at Joe Squared or Club Charles, and walk back around for the 7:00 show. And you will want to stay for the show.

We went to a show there featuring locals Pianos Become the Teeth shortly before we left, and at that time we took the attitude “Meh, let’s go around the corner and watch another band. These guys will play again soon.” Well, soon is now. They’re playing again and we’re not going to take them for granted this time. We’re going to watch them, because they are great at what they do and they deserve a great crowd listening.

Sharing the bill tonight is Connecticut’s Make Do and Mend, who just released their first proper full length this fall. We predict they’ve got a very bright future ahead of them selling songs to video game developers, web-based advertisers, minor filmmakers and the like. See them in a garage now, because in a few years you’re going to be saying “Oh, that band again. Hmm.” They’re on the right track by being on their way to this year’s South By Southwest, no? That’s not to say we approve or disapprove of their sound, it’s just what we see in our crystal ball.

Also sharing the stage tonight are Diamond, Balance and Composure, and Invitational. And you’re invited. See you there.

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Charm City Art Space is at 1731 Maryland Ave in Station North.

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Chop Style: How to Shop at Target

You can ask any woman and they’ll all tell you the same thing… you can find some really great stuff at Target.

It’s no accident either. Whereas their main competitor Wal-Mart seems to purposefully sell the most generic, basic and bland sorts of items across the board and across the country, Target’s designer fashion program is consistently on-trend, versatile, and affordable, and is not only key to their business model, but to their success as well.

Whether it’s through partnerships with big name designers like Jean Paul Gaultier or Alexander McQueen, nationwide agreements with labels like Mossimo and Converse, or just hiring talented, sensible designers into their house label, design sensibility and reasonable prices make Target almost impossible to ignore.

It's hard to go wrong in a pair of Levi's.

Unfortunately, as with some other stores, women seem to have it much better than men in the aisles of Target. The Men’s section in every Target we’ve ever seen has been underwhelming, to say the least. Not only is it relegated to a small corner of the store, but it often looks more like it’s full of overgrown boys’ clothes than anything an actual man would wear. Still though, if you choose carefully it is possible to come away from Target with a few great pieces of clothing without spending much money at all.

The main thing to keep in mind is that you are in fact a man, and not an overgrown boy. This alone will rule out entire swaths of the men’s section very quickly. Once you get past the many racks of giant hibiscus printed board shorts, cargo shorts, and crummy graphic tees you’re on the right track.

While you’re at it, you can also skip right over any and all dress shirts, slacks, jackets, suits, shirts or anything that one might wear to an office. This is not where Target excels, and you’d do much better to pick these up elsewhere. Despite the partnership with Converse, the men’s shoe section can’t hold a candle to an actual shoe store. Once you’ve gotten past all this, you’re left with what is generally regarded as weekend wear.

Great for outdoor parties because it attracts women... and barbecue sauce.

As with any large chain, Target selection is dictated by volume. The good news is that everything is seasonally appropriate. You won’t find yourself buried in cable-knit sweaters in July or perusing shorts in December. The bad news is that sizing is at it’s most basic and is very limited. Most menswear in Target stores is labeled S,M,L, or maybe XL. Jeans run from about 30″-40″. If you’re accustomed to ‘big and tall’ shopping, you can likely stay out of Target entirely.

For the rest of us, it is crucial to keep in mind a rule you would follow at all times: Don’t outfit yourself entirely from any one store. We put that in bold italics because it’s important. It doesn’t matter whether that store is Target, Banana Republic, or Brooks Brothers. Buying too many clothes from one source shows through on the street, and it never looks quite right.

100% cotton and flat fronts. What more do you want?

What you’re looking for at Target is typically solid basics like a pair of Levi’s or Wranglers (mind the Brett Favre dad-jeans though, there are plenty of those around), some flat-front chinos or a casual button up or polo. It can also be an outstanding source for certain accessories, most especially socks, belts, boxers and hats.

The hat selection is much better than you’d expect, but keep in mind that it’s very easy to look like a total shart in a hat. Don’t even try it if you’re under 30, and eschew any shred of irony.

Several types of polos, all under $15.

By the same turn, it’s also a terrible place to shop for accessories. Sunglasses, wristwatches, and anything else that’s not socks, belts or boxers can be pretty tacky and is usually of very poor quality.

Our ultimate advice? Don’t go to Target for clothes. But if you happen to be in there for a new TV or a set of dishes or a small appliance, be sure to at least glance at the clothes. You might be pleasantly surprised.

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Note: because of technical issues with Target’s website, these photos are of similar products. They’re of about the same quality and fairly well representative of Target’s offerings. Sorry about that.

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This Post Brought to You by the Letter D.

If you want to find the Chop on the town tonight, then get thee down to Falvey Hall in MICA’s Brown center at 6:30 for the launch party of Lettering and Type, the new book on typographic design by Baltimore’s own Bruce Willen and Nolen Strals. the event kicks off with a reception (Free Booze) at six thirty, which will be followed by a presentation called Fan Letter, in which 26 artists and designers give presentations on their favorite typographic character.

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Lettering and Type by Bruce Willen and Nolen Strals

Some of you out there in town may already know Bruce and Nolen not as book authors but in their other incarnations both as Post Typography and as two thirds of Baltimore powerhouse Double Dagger, which has received much, and much deserved acclaim in its own right. But whether you’re familiar with these two or not, you may be asking yourself “Why should I make a point of going to the art school for some boring-ass lecture on typewriters? I saw ten minutes of Helvetica once and that shit put me straight to sleep.”

Well, aside from the free booze, here’s why you need to be there: this is a historic event, both for the world of design and for the city of Baltimore. The book making its debut here is absolutely going to become the new standard text in this field. Years from now your kids are going to be made to buy this as a textbook when they get into college. And many, many years hence when Nolen and Bruce are a-moulderin’ in their graves, the New York Times is going to publish their obits, with this as one of their signal accomplishments.

(Incidentally, if you want to know what typeface is carved into headstones, you can probably find it in the book.)

Its long been a dilemma that all this city is known for is Hons and Murder and John Waters. Well, these guys are to their field what John Waters is to film, and something else they have in common with Uncle John is that Nolen and Bruce both realize what a good thing they’ve got going in Baltimore. They deserve the admiration of all of us, because here are two people not chasing some flight of fancy to NYC or LA, but making their dreams a reality right here in Baltimore. This book will help to put Balto on the map, not only as a place where fonts are designed, but as a place where passionate people can follow their ambitions and make their dreams a reality.

See you there.

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