just plum

ECO-PRACTICES / SURPLUS  FABRICS

ECO-PRACTICES / SURPLUS FABRICS

We talk about sustainability in our studio a lot. Many of the decisions about how and why we make our goods comes down to the desire to do better in being mindful of the environment, land resources, and human capital when making textile goods. This is very topical right now in the fashion industry, especially with climate change and the New Green Deal in the news. There are leaders such as Eileen Fisher, Patagonia, and Stella McCartney who have created their businesses from a sustainability-first perspective, but few others. Part of this has to do with the gargantuan task of rethinking every part of a complex business model that has been making textiles the same way for years. The Titanic is very hard to turn.

Within this light, it becomes even more important for smaller businesses like Modernplum, who are more nimble and agile, to incorporate eco-practices into every part of the business. Our made-to-order model ensures that there is little fabric waste when we do cut and sew, it is on a per order basis, so everything that we buy and use resources in making gets used. There is no dead stock in our studio. Sewing locally keeps our carbon footprint small. There is minimal transportation costs and resources used our process. There is an efficiency and simplification to this model that keeps the the focus on quality in every sense of the word.

This season, we have expanded our conservation efforts by making a one of a kind collection entirely from surplus fabrics in the studio. Whenever we make a bedding item, the even the very small scraps are saved and put away for a later time. All the items in the Deep Sea collection used these smaller pieces, first hand-dyed together to give the pieces continuity visually, and then sewn in patches using Mondrian as a jumping off place. Since each patch is a remnant which a prior history, these pieces don't feel or look new. They have an inherent story with a distinct character. The process of  hand-dying each in the same pot of pigment helps to homogenize them visually.  These are pieces that have the look and feel of being like truly one of a kind. At least that is the way we have considered them. To make work like this may take longer than is usual, but this is also what makes them special, not only artistically but as a sustainable product that adds beauty to daily life with minimal impact. We think its time that products are made like this, and MP is happy to help lead the way.

 

 

 

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TEXTILES / FAST OR SLOW?

TEXTILES / FAST OR SLOW?

Reading the home and fashion trade papers in the past couple of weeks, one thing is abundantly clear: sustainable design and ethical production practices is top of mind among manufacturers in the textile industry. After many years of dancing around the issue of textile waste, unfair labor practices, and environmental destruction in producing textile goods, there seems to be a move toward a mindful approach to making. 

I think consumers are also concerned about these things and are happy to support sustainable brands. Yet,  in actuality, it is still so easy to wear or use a product a few times, and then send it off to Goodwill. No upkeep or maintenance is required. Just pure uncommitted bliss. The truth is that disposable goods are fun, cheap, and can deliver that fast shot of adrenaline that is addictive.

So for all that are caught on the fence between buying textiles for their price or trending style, or supporting sustainable brands, here is a bit more  information to help you decide.

Brands with a quick and repetitive sales model often design their goods with "planned obsolescence" in mind. Design decisions like quality and durability of materials and sewing craft are planned to erode quickly. This means that a great bedding set or sweater might look beautiful on first use, but colors will fade, fibers shrink or get itchy, and buttons will fall out quickly. Thus begins the cycle of consumption that requires more visits to Goodwill, stresses your monthly budget, and occupies a never-ending place on your to-do list. It's truly a treadmill.

On the production side, produce these goods at such an enticing price, other corners must be cut. Fast goods are often produced in slum factories in developing countries where children and young woman work for less than living wage. The dye process for some textiles uses harsh chemicals that are dumped into water sources and the soil. All this for fast profits.

The alternative this would be sustainably made goods. Instead of big highs and big lows, slow goods are long-wearing, predictable, and actually improve their durability over time. They fit into a lifestyle built on ritual, routine, community, and commitment. Fabrics are savored and collected and become like old friends. Over time, that one pair of favorite linen napkins, for example, will also be less expensive to use and maintain than a slew of paper napkins or cheaper cloth napkins. Your shopping routine will become simple and cost-effective when you live with things that don't often need replacement. 

So this is the dilemma. Go for the bright shiny object with the great price or a more authentic and carefully made object that will last longer? The home and fashion industry is considering this question seriously right now. For MP, mindful making is the foundation of what we do, and a big reason we continue to make our products. 

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keeping cool at night

TIP SHEET / KEEPING COOL AT NIGHT NATURALLY

It's the heat of summer, and keeping cool at night can be a challenge sometimes. Air conditioning, if you have it, is an obvious choice. But there are other ways to beat the heat that are all-natural, electricity-free and simple. Here are five tips that will help keep you comfortable and rested come morning.

Tip 1. Simplify your bedding 

With so much going on, changing the bedding might be the last on your list. It is so worth it to do a little pruning of covers and blankets. We suggest taking out your duvet insert and using the cover as a simple coverlet. Or, store your duvet and opt in for a lightweight linen blanket or coverlet, like the Oline Coverlet, shown above.  These are simple changes that allows you to keep your decor intact. 

Tip 2. Sleep with linen 

Linen is extremely breathable and self-cooling in heat thanks to its high moisture absorbency, soaking up 20% of its weight before feeling damp. Due to breaks in the fabric, linen stimulates blood flow and induces relaxation. The more relaxed you are, the cooler you will be.

Tip 3. Drink water 

Waking up in the middle of the night thirsty doesn’t help keep you cool. The body is 70% water as we all know, and without water consumption our bodies begin to overheat. Studies show that room temperature water is better than ice cold water in terms of the amount of energy your body uses to heat the cold water and the body fat that cold water solidifies, making it harder to digest.

Tip 4. Open the window

Opening a window will allow air to circulate within and outside of your bedroom. You can do this even with air conditioning. If you're getting hot at night, it is better to let heat out than let it sit in one place. Also, there is something very soothing and relaxing about fresh air even if it is a warmer evening.

Tip 5. Breath better 

If the heat (along with the stress of everyday life) is making it hard to fall asleep, try breathing techniques. Focusing on your breath distracts you from thoughts on the heat and helps you relax. We suggest deep breathing where you focus on taking slow and deep breaths. This will create a sense of peace and stillness within yourself that aids in falling asleep. 

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JENSEN / OUR MOST VERSATILE CLOTH

JENSEN / OUR MOST VERSATILE CLOTH

All the linens in the house have a practical purpose. Fine linens made from the best fabrics and made with high craft, aren't just beautiful, they are also essential to daily living, practical and functional. Of all the different linens one can have, there is one that is by far the most practical in our line. It's the Jensen throw. There are many throws around, and probably every home has one or two. Throws are wonderful for curling up to read or as a light blanket at the foot of the bed. Most throws are made for ultimate softness from alpaca, cotton, or cashmere, but not much else. The MPL Jensen Throw does all these but due to its fabric, which is a butter soft but a little thicker durable linen, it can serve other important functions. 

1. Table Covering

The Jensen throw is that ideal weight to make a flexible table covering to be used for a meal or for decorative purposes. The heavier weight drapes the table distinctively and substantially, and the saturated colors will frame your tablewares beautifully. Since this is a throw, it might not be sized exactly for your table but that's part of the appeal. It's a quick covering, perhaps showing some of the table, that gets the job done with easy grace. 

2. Picnic Cloth

We have found that the size and weight of Jensen is ideal as an outdoor picnic cloth. The durability and density of the fabric holds up well to an outdoor meal, either on the ground or picnic table. When we unfurl Jensen, it lands confidently on the ground and provides great protection from weeds, brambles, and whatever else is on the ground. I also appreciate that linen is naturally bug repellent. This fabric is machine wash and dry, so when you get home just pop in the wash, and it will be good to go for next time.

3. Sofa Cover

We did a collaboration with instagram influencer Emily from Gilded Hearth out in LA, and she used the Jensen Throw as a sofa cover. Her white couch needed protection, and this was just the thing to  "give a perfect splash of color while protecting the sofa." This approach is flexible too, so next week or next season, you can make a change easily. 

4. Dog Bed Cover

As with the sofa cover, this fabric goes the distance on a dog bed. This is a stylish solution for keeping your dog's area clean and free of odor and dirt, and whatever your pet can bring home. The colors of the Jensen are also decor friendly, which beat all those browns and blacks that tend to flood the pet decor selections. Linen is also naturally stain and odor resistant and is durable enough to resist sharper nails that come from daily use. 

 

 

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RITUALS / PRAISE FOR LINEN NAPKINS

RITUALS / PRAISE FOR LINEN NAPKINS

Over the years, I've had the conversation many times on the merits and pitfalls of using linen napkins. The first time was with my first collage roommate and the last is still to come. The conversation always starts with high praise for linen's beauty at the table, but then quickly dives into the pitfalls.

Here is a short version of what we generally talk about.  Cloth napkins do take some upkeep. They need to be washed and they need to be stored and folded. Ironing is nice for formal events, but not necessary. All that maintenance takes about 10 minutes of extra effort per week. To put that in context, that's about the same amount of time it takes to water an herb garden, make a smoothie, or call a friend. But for the time starved, it's a couple of minutes extra that could be used for something else. So here is the real question - What does that extra few minutes of maintaining linens per week get you? Is the work worth it? Here are a few that come to mind.

It gives you options for setting a table.

Options that come from having several styles and colors of napkins that can match a mood, a particular table setting arrangement, or kind of food. Having options like these is important as it invites mindfulness into the daily ritual of setting the table.

It is economical.

Over time, having to purchase paper napkins or paper towels can be expensive, and cost will exceed the investment in purchasing linen napkins pretty quickly. Linen is one of the most durable fibers around so the investment is long term.

It is environmentally friendly. 

Resources like water and electricity are needed to launder napkins, but over time, the collective amount of paper used for napkins does make a impact on forestry resources.

Most all, using cloth appeals to the psychology of ritual that covets predictability, beauty, and tradition.

There are few things more pleasurable and reassuring than daily rituals like setting the table. Selecting napkins, feeling and folding them in your hands, using them over and over, laundering, and storing are all markers of ritual. Ritual is a way to structure tasks around the house and it helps develop pride over time of a job well done. 

Paper napkins are faster and more convenient, but using cloth invites a slower more mindful approach to daily life. Try it and see.  

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TIP SHEET / BEDDING AND BETTER SLEEP

TIP SHEET / BEDDING AND BETTER SLEEP

Getting enough sleep should not be a luxury. It should be a daily thing. There is nothing better than getting up feeling rested, relaxed, and ready. And the comfort and quality of your bedding is where good sleep starts. Following are six ways bedding supports great sleep. You don’t have to do them all at once to feel the benefits, but all these together would be dreamy.

 Tip 1: Change Sheets Weekly

You wash your clothes often. The same is true with bedding. When we sleep, there is a natural release of skin cells, residue, and perspiration onto sheets. The cumulative affects over time create an environment that isn’t ideal for rest. Also knowing that the bedding is tended and the bed neat, is in itself comforting. We recommend changing sheets at least 1x per week, especially during the warmer months.

 Tip 2: Use Linen

All natural fibers like linen, cotton and bamboo are good choices for bedding. All three are very soft and breathe beautifully which is the key to comfortable sleep. When sheets breathe, they automatically adjust to environmental conditions, keeping thermal heat in while allowing airflow. Of these choices, linen does this the best. Linen is woven a bit looser than cotton or bamboo so airflow is more pronounced. Of all natural fibers, linen is also more absorbent and naturally hypoallergenic. The skin just does better overall with linen.

Tip 3: Alternate your duvet inserts

If you would like to sleep with your duvet cover year round, remember to rotate your inserts seasonally keeping the heaviest weight insert in winter, and moving to a very lightweight insert or removing it during the summer depending on your climate. At MP, we consider the duvet cover as a year-round item that can be perfectly tailored to fit the seasons.

 Tip 4: Have at least one lounge cushion

A great big cushion like a deluxe sham or euro sham is like the cherry on top. These larger pillows are nice for arranging and making the bed look good during the day, but their real purpose comes its time to climb on in, and relax before sleep. Lounging with these and doing some quiet reading is great preparation for sleeping.

 Tip 5: Keep and use several quality sets per bed

Rotating your bedding often is a pleasurable thing that in itself promotes calm. Engage in picking out bedding you like that is high quality and can be used seasonally. Pick out different colors, textures and weights that correspond to changing temps, and you preferences. It’s a real pleasure to sleeping in your favorite set.

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OUR MUSE / MIES FARNSWORTH HOUSE

OUR MUSE / MIES FARNSWORTH HOUSE

With warmer temperatures, we all can venture more freely outdoors, bask in the sunlight, and live with less. All these pleasures are encapsulated perfectly into the Farnsworth House by Mies Van der Rohe. This home is an iconic example of modern architecture that was built in 1951 along the banks of the Fox River in Plano, Illinois. It was the summer home of Dr. Edith Farnsworth, a Chicago-based physician who made the trip each weekend from the City in order to decompress from the stresses of daily life. The way the house floats, the way the glass walls blend with the environment, and the absence of ornamentation is the closest thing to camping inside. It's one of our favorite things, and a great example of the great beauty, spirituality, and peace that can be achieved with less.



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OUR MUSE  / THE KAUFMANN HOUSE

OUR MUSE / THE KAUFMANN HOUSE

The idea of simplifying at home and living a slow life hits a real cord this time of year, doesn't it? Gone are the temptations and obligations of the holidays, and now I bet it is pretty quiet right now. The kids are at school and house guests have gone. The house is still with just perhaps a little snow or rain falling quietly. There is a lot of beauty in this stillness, in which the house doesn't ask anything of you today. The freedom to just be, just exist in the environment that you have creating is necessary and so meaningful. Homes can give us a respite from the outside, from technology and digital culture, and the treadmill of work, if you let it.  

One house that gives us inspiration through simplicity is the Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, California. PS, as its called by the locals, is an eclectic mix of desert landscape, boutique hotels and restaurants, artist population, and modern architecture like this residence. Richard Neutra built the Kaufmann House in 1947 in a winding street not far from downtown. The architecture is all about natural materials, glass, light and nature. Transparent walls make rooms seem to spill outside and the minimal furnishings allow the light and space to flood indoors. The reduced color palette is beautiful. The main color comes from wood which casts a warm brown hue through the rooms. Most other colors in the home come from the warm desert landscape of yellows, stone, and foliage. There is a beautiful, soulful, and slow luxury about this confluence of elements in the home. It's the very definition of simple, slow living.

There is much that we can do in our homes as inspired by The Kaufmann House. The interiors are clean and streamlined. The textiles are simple and made from natural materials. And as always, the landscape, peaking through a window, makes for a beautiful view. As a designer, I look at the way textiles are used in an interior, and here they take a backseat. They are really minimal, but you can be sure, I think, that they are made from the finest natural materials with color and texture as focus in the design. Textiles at home can be simple and quiet, but extraordinarily beautiful and meaningful in their own right. In fact, sometimes these quiet but quality pieces become your most coveted treasures. 

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THE MODERN TABLE / RUNYON

THE MODERN TABLE / RUNYON

My first experience with a wider table runner came while living in Finland, and the concept has stuck ever since. I can remember how effortlessly chic the table looked during afternoon coffee and the dinner hour with a simple rag woven runner which covered most of the table top, but not the sides. This is so smart and practical for so many reasons. By making the runner wider, dishes, plates, glasses and linens have a substantial area of fabric to lay on, rather than the half on and half off arrangement that sometimes happens with purely decorative, thin runners. Wider runner also show off a table in a subtle way by keeping the sides and a bit of the table top visible. For those that relish in our woods and other table surfaces, this is a a great pleasure. From a purely practical view, runners are so much easier to clean and store than table cloths. I often think about the wisdom on design that was garnered by living in Finland, a country that lives for beauty but also practicality. The wide runner hits that cord, I think. For this post, we styled the table with the Runyon wide runner in Jade, Sage, and Plum which can be viewed on the site by following this link.

 

 

 

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OUR MUSE / BREUER'S HOOPER HOUSE

OUR MUSE / BREUER'S HOOPER HOUSE

 

This little gem in the Hooper House which we are finding tons about it to love this Fall. The Hooper House sits near Baltimore and was built for art-lover and patron Edith Hooper in 1959 by architect Marcel Breuer, a German architect who also on occasion built homes in the USA. It's a little modern masterpiece, and very much a Modernplum home. What's to love about it? The overall form of the home is a square with courtyard in the middle which orients the view inward through floor to ceiling windows. On the exterior and some internal walls, Breuer used multi-colored flag stones in those great fall colors: sage, moss and a darker shade to blur the interior and exterior spaces, and to blend beautifully into the landscape. Looking at the home's exterior, it looks at home, like nature itself was the architect. This is really intensional design with a builder who noticed the details in the landscape, like the color and shape of rocks and stones, and built a home that seems at home and integrated with the site. Modermplum soft goods come from this place as well. Respecting nature in all that we do from the inspiration behind the design, to the naturally farmed linen fabric, to the sustainable production processes we employ. 

What else to love are the furnishings. The home is now occupied by a surgeon who says in an article about the home in Dwell that the home has changed very little since it was built and that he has tried to keep the home as authentic as possible. We love the interiors for that reason. Pieces of furniture are fitting to the time period which blend and complement the spaces. Colors used in the home are based on the construction materials - darker woods, neutral colors, and the hues from nature coming through the transparent glass walls. The whole thing is in harmony with the outdoors. 

I think we are all creatures of nature that gravitate to all things organic. Not only do real, natural, and authentic places and materials look beautiful, they are calming to us, calming to our psyche that perhaps needs a rest from the saturation and fragmentation produced by digital culture. I wish there were more houses likes this, either mid-century or new. They are healing homes. 

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RITUALS / TENDING THE TABLE

RITUALS / TENDING THE TABLE

The word 'tending' is a loaded word.  Those cliche phrases like tending the garden, tending the animals, and tending to children imply an instinctual and bodily urge to nurture and give. This is an instinct that cuts across age, gender, economy, and place and in many ways, it is what defines us. The idea of tending occupies a nostalgic place, at least in my mind, when tending to something still seemed doable and meaningful and very much worth spending the time. In the age of doing more at a faster, though, tending could become a lost concept. 

This is something I think about a lot, and I try to keep alive in my daily rituals at home. Setting the table is one such act. Although the kitchen or dining table is an inanimate object, it needs tending every day. Tending as in setting, eating, clearing, and cleaning the table. Giving the table a centerpiece and setting it well says, hey, this is an important place in the house. Let's honor it with pretty things. Tending the table sets the stage for sitting together, eating together and talking together. Is there anything more fundamental to every day life than this? This is one way to ground yourself in a circle of reassuring support on a daily basis.

Even with the microwave, fast food, grub-hub internet delivery services which occupy a lot of dinner time meals, there is still a need to tend the table. Tending the table signifies an elevated, important experience, even if it is delivered pizza or microwave chicken pot pie. Even of these nights, the table can provide a forum for the best times. That might be time you hear about a new project, an idea for a trip, or a funny conversation that happened that day. These moments of connection are enhanced when the table is tended - like using china plates, linen napkins, a runner, and simple silverware. Setting the table isn't about being fancy or pretentious, it's about setting the stage consistently where we can connect with ourselves and others. 

For this story, we set the table with the Runyon Plum Runner and Jensen Napkins in Jade. 

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ESSAY / THE HOUSE THAT COULD

ESSAY / THE HOUSE THAT COULD

This was our home for six years. There aren't many places that can stir a soul like this one does mine. The lessons it taught me are many. Living here demonstrated everyday the value of simplicity, living with nature, of authentic materials and quality construction, and the power of details in design. It also was a lesson in geometry and proportion and the organic. And so many other things that have continued on to live in Modernplum. The house was built in 1967 by two professors at the University of Illinois in Urbana and no doubt they loved it. But it was in terrible shape when we arrived. Mold covered the exterior and there were big holes in the hardwood floors, and the glass walls were dirty and all fogged up. The home had changed owners many times that produced a slew of bandaid patches, fast fix-its, and lazy neglect that this 1967 beauty couldn't really fake anymore. But we knew it would be ours anyway. The restoration was a slow process like anything worth doing usually is. My husband began by power washing the entire exterior, patching and repainting almost every surface inside. Instead of replacing the original cherry wood cabinetry, we cleaned and cleaned until it shined again. Same for the glass walls and wood flooring. In full restoration mode, we thought that the painting brick, drywall, glass and cherry wood materials made up the soul of the place and they could never be replaced. We imagined getting a newer version of these things, but where deterred by the very real possibility of cheaply made, chemical-laden, veneers, and suspect craftsmanship which just would not fit here. The glasshouse was made from a simple and recognizable group of materials that created honest interior spaces. That's why the place was so authentic and real. Authenticity is sincere and as living beings, we respond to and thrive in this kind of environment, I think.
The glass walls were the defining feature of the house. The house was shaped like a rectangle with an interior courtyard and three inhabitable sides and looking south onto a golf course. A series of floor to ceiling glass walls made the home transparent from back to front. Nature and light defined our daily experience. It was an experience of changing colors, forms, and light during the year. We were one with nature, like indoor campers protected from the elements but very much integrated with the outdoors. I felt at peace here, connected to something greater than the folly of technology, politics, and commerce.
I felt at peace here, connected to something greater than the folly of technology, politics, and commerce.
As the work on the house progressed into its third year (yes, there was a lot to do!), we debated on the textiles. What kind of bedding, pillows, curtains, and table linens should we get? What do they need to be in order to respect and blend in with the environment? As a textile artist, I am fascinated with the Bauhaus philosophy, in particular, how textiles were integrated within midcentury homes during the 50's and 60's. During this time, architects and artists worked together to seamlessly integrate textiles into the spaces. Textiles were responsive to the architecture in their forms, colors, and materials. There is a degree of intentionality in this way of working that I find refreshing.
So the task of making those textiles began. I selected linen as this fabric is simple, natural, hardworking, honest, and beautiful, just like the glasshouse. Some would also say that linen is high maintenance. That's a matter of opinion since linen can be completely wash and ware but let's say it is true -- linen is high maintenance. Truly beautiful and extraordinary things often are. My first pieces for Plum came from this place both literally and in these thoughts. The Anna Collection and Lucia Collection bedding came first and then the Jean Table Collection. Follow this link to view these products. All of these designs are simple but focus on the quality and richness of the materials as well as the craft in sewing. Then the line expanded but the focus has remained: to create authenticity in daily life through thoughtfully designed and made textiles has sustained my creative self ever since. We moved away from the glasshouse in 2016 due to some new opportunities out of town. We now reside in Chicago and could not be happier with our new community, but I miss it.  It was our home and much, much more.  
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