Tag Archive for 'Household'

A Googie Kerosene Heater!

Kerosene heaters are smelly, require much maintenance, and are dangerous if used carelessly; on the other hand they create a lot of heat, are independent of utility feeds, and for us older folks they actually have a nostalgia evoked by the conditioned association of the kerosene smell and the pleasant warmth of years past. Be that as it may, they are seldom seen today, and those that are around are mostly stored for backup in case of winter power outages. They also tend to be bulky and ugly…

So here is one that is neither, a vintage unit sighted at the Jaffa flea market: a perfect compact  sphere, in the mid 20th century style.

Googie Kerosene Heater

Not sure how safe it is – seems it would toll over if bumped – but you gotta love the red color and the nice Googie design!


The little details… bless ’em!

When I was QA manager in an Intel fabrication plant I had this Honda Acura ad copy stuck to my cubicle partition:

To fully appreciate the precision that goes into our 24-valve, 2.7 liter, 161-horsepower engine, touch the ashtray.

And indeed, a quality product – be it a car or a flashlight – reflects its quality in attention to every detail. Every now and then I run into such a small detail where the designers went the extra mile to make a better product, and it makes my day.


Take this clock I recently bought. It’s a standard wall clock, with the usual battery operated quartz movement, meant to be hung on a wall by use of a screw.

Back of clockBut when I turned it over I found the screw, affixed to a specially molded clip on the back of the clock. Of course it costs the same to make the unit with or without the clip, and the nylon bag they saved costs nothing anyway; but only one maker in a hundred would bother to pay attention to such a detail.

Made my day!

Right Door, Left Door

Refrigerator doorHere is a photo I snapped in a kitchen area in a company I visited. See what’s wrong?

The refrigerator sits close to the wall on the left, and its door opens to the right (handle on its left side). Which means the person opening this door has to do a little dance to get into the space between the opening door and the wall.

No big deal of course, but it’s an unnecessary inconvenience: you can buy fridges with doors hinged on either side; often you can change the side even after the purchase. Many people are unaware of this possibility, or don’t bother. In this case, all the employees on that office floor have do the dance because someone didn’t care…

Apple world domination 2: Cool packaging!

I was in an appliance store and noticed a stack of boxes containing Kenwood mixers. All other appliances were in ugly white or brown cardboard boxes with some text printed on them; but these mixers were housed in sleek boxes like this:

Kenwood mixer packaging

This immediately rang a bell: I’ve seen this sort of super-trendy, designer-look packaging before. Of course I have: Apple Computer has been selling their cool products in them for some time! Looks like Apple’s influence on product design, which I’ve remarked on before, is extending to the packaging world too; and if you have any doubt, look at the name of the mixer near the top of the box. Used to be that mixers were called names like Kitchen Chef or Model M-2398A; but this one is called a kMix, no less! Small wonder that the box has the hallmarks of the packaging of an iPod, or an iPhone, as seen below!

Apple Packaging

Photo courtesy astroot, shared on flickr under CC license.

Apple World Domination: the iPhone Refrigerator

Amcor A7BC refrigeratorApple Computer’s incredibly talented design team has had a major influence on the design of contemporary mobile electronics: just visit a cellular phone store and you’ll see how all the companies are scrambling to copy the iPhone’s sleek look and feel, both the hardware and the software.

Well, apparently this influence goes beyond mobile devices. Today I was at a home appliance store, and to my amazement I saw the apparition in this photo. It is, clearly, a refrigerator; but its front looks exactly like an iPhone, from the black glass of the doors to the brushed metal band around them.

Apple is certainly not stopping at dominating the cellphone and computer markets. One must wonder what will come next? iPhone-like cars? Or maybe iPad-like Buildings? 🙂

A neat switched mains plug

Many small appliances can benefit from an off-device mains switch, and these are often put on the power cable, or – more rarely – on the wall outlet. But in a trip to Germany I witnessed a nice twist on this theme: putting the switch right on the 220V mains plug at the end of the cable. This was done without in any way increasing the size of the standard plug; and of course it means you could retrofit such switches to any device by replacing a plug, a simpler operation than replacing a wall outlet or messing with the cable in between the device and the plug. Nice product!

Switched 220V mains plug

Bless old style artisan shops…

We needed a standing lamp for the living room, and went shopping. We started with some of the larger lighting stores around town, and found a great many lamps, mostly imported from China. Like most manufactured goods today they were inexpensive and looked like they would do the job – for a while. The workmanship was usually shoddy and of course there was nobody to tell that I prefer the on/off switch to be just at this height, and I need a longer electric cord, and would love it if the lampshade were just a bit wider…

After a while we were beginning to consider compromising, but decided to first try Karl Marx. This is a small old style shop in downtown Jerusalem; it has been there forever, and I never entered it, though it did attract my occasional amused glance because of the coincidence of its founder’s name.

Karl Marx lighting shop, Jerusalem

The shop occupied a tiny room crammed so tight with lamps and lampshades that one could barely stand in it (the photo doesn’t begin to convey this). And there we found a lamp we liked, which we could get with any shade we wished, because they’re made to order by the owners; in fact, we were guided courteously through all the possibilities and ordered one decorated to our specification with a frieze in a color and style to match our living room rug. And of course they promised to construct it with the switch where I wanted it, the cord the needed length, and so forth. The quality and workmanship, too, were perfect.

This is one of those old fashioned Mom and Pop businesses that represent the skill and dedication of a lifetime (or more), and produce goods handmade to a standard no longer seen in the mass-produced disposable products that flood the large chains. I should be sad discussing it, because these wonderful shops are fast disappearing; but I’m too delighted in the excellent lamp Messrs. Marx made for us!

A solution to the energy crisis?

A few days ago I saw this interesting setup on the wall in a medical center.

Obviously, this is the solution to the world’s energy needs. No more greenhouse emissions, no need for nuclear power plants, no oil shortages… just a clean, compact, self-contained electrical version of the classic Perpetuum Mobile.

Power Strip in a loop

The sign, in case you’re rusty on your Hebrew, says “Please don’t press the switch. “. An most reasonable request – interrupting the flow of free electricity would certainly not do…

More disempowered power sockets

A couple of weeks ago we saw a poorly designed twin mains socket. Whoever designed that one wasn’t very bright, but he was a genius compared to the person who mounted the socket strip we see here:

Mains socket strip mounted above a conduit

Mains socket strip and plugI found this setup in an office building. Ignore the shoddy execution of the cable conduit below, but ask yourself, what was this electrician thinking, when he mounted the power strip in this specific position above the conduit?!

If the issue isn’t obvious to you, The photo at right shows where the problem is. This one goes beyond poor design, beyond incompetence, to open entire new vistas of poor craftsmanship.

Disempowered Power Socket

Single and Double 220V mains sockets

Here are two mains power sockets from around our home. One is a standard grounded 220V socket. The second is obviously much better: in the same space, for the same trouble, it takes two plugs! In the USA this is of course standard practice; all wall socket panels have two sockets. Here, though, this is less common, perhaps because our plugs are larger. So – isn’t that twin socket neat?

Twin mains socket in useWell, it would have been, if the designer had been thinking. You can see the problem in the next photo: most grounded mains plugs have the cable coming out the side – and this means the second socket in this panel is obstructed by this cable. All it would take to fix this is to build the panel the other way around, with the ground connections on the outside rather than facing the center, or better yet, place the two plugs side by side with the cables going down towards the floor. Cost and complexity of production would have been identical; usefulness would have doubled.