Modern Phoenix

In the words of the Soul Hamsters (do click): you can go with this... or you can go with that...

This or...

Phoenix is a fantastic city. It's warm during the winter, it's metropolitan, most of it is relatively new, and the roads are fantastically wide and in great condition. However, an overall appreciation for modern architecture is practically nonexistent here. The East Valley is the epitome of "cookie cutter". Cliche statement, I know, but talk about a cliche suburbia! It is still a beautiful city, but lacking originality. Last week this drove me to a point where I swore I would pluck my eyes out if I saw one more peachy-sand colored stucco house with a terra cotta roof. Then, I blinked... and that's all I saw... so I decided to keep my eyes, but I also decided to make concentrated effort to search out something aesthetically enjoyable. And this is what I found:

It exists! Modern stores, modern architecture, modern-loving people... there is such a thing here. Some consider themselves to part of an "underground" modern community in the Phoenix Metro area. I wouldn't say it's thriving but it's here! In the above photo, for example, is a store called Copenhagen. The owner is from Denmark (surprise) and he has rather fantastic taste and the largest showroom for modern furniture that I have seen.

There are actually two businesses in the above photo (Metro Retro and Modern Mansion), and they both specialize in the same thing--salvaging vintage modern furniture. Hello Eames. I was excited to meet the owners of both who were surprisingly friendly (unlike the more established franchise owners). They told me about their passion for beautiful vintage pieces and how they scour antique shops, thrift stores, and estate sales to find these unique lost pieces.

The hi-light of the trip was (drum roll)....

Hello Beautiful! A FIRST EDITION Eames Lounge chair that they ACTUALLY let me sit in! This little beauty can be snagged at Modern Mansion for a mere $4,500. Let me tell you what, the men working there were something else. Super friendly. "Sit here." "Let me tell you about this piece." I got quite an education.

For example: why is mid-century modern such a coveted classic?

#1 - It is sentimental. Because pieces such as these were mass produced, nearly everyone personally owned them or had used them. Take for example the Eames bikini chair. It was used in businesses and schools everywhere. There is something SENTIMENTAL about that. Vintage = nostalgia.

#2 - In the 1940's and 1950's a rare thing happened--consumers could buy fantastically designed/durable furniture at a low cost (then). Now days, if I want to buy a sofa that is timeless both aesthetically and in its dependability, I would probably spend upwards of $3,000. These mid-century classics can be 60 years old and they are still in great working condition. For example, the materials used in the above chair are: down feathers, leather, and a rare Brazilian wood that is no longer legal to harvest. Thus... all the rage.

Overall, I was delighted to meet some new fascinating people and to make connections in the "underground" modern community. I learned much and have found out that there are still many places I need to visit. Rejoice! My eyes have been spared for now.

An Adventurous Day

Chris and I make a concentrated effort to stay busy, and I dare say that yesterday was no exception. After feeling justified in sleeping in a bit (what are Saturday's for?), we met up with brother-in-law Johnny who took us to the Scottsdale Shooting Club. What an experience.

The store is essentially a shooting range/weapons store that is stocked full of small guns, big guns, beautifully crafted guns, and scarily intense guns. Members even get a free machine gun rental on their birthday! Smiling people enjoying their weekend were filing in and out carrying (sometimes very large) bags filled with their personal weapons. Initially, it almost seemed like a contradictory sight.

After gearing up with ear and eye protection, the three of us walked through multiple sets of automatic glass doors and entered the shooting range. There were rows men and women simultaneously firing at their own paper targets, similar to what you see cops doing in their spare time on CSI. Even with ear protection, the room was loud in an unnerving way, and the reverberation and impact of the firing weapons inside my chest didn't help my nerves much.

After a short safety lesson from Johnny, Chris and I went at it! I picked up the gun thinking it almost looked like a black squirt gun or a plastic toy, but after shooting it, I changed my mind in a hurry.

Initially, I wasn't a bad shot--Johnny was impressed, but as I continued to fire, I became progressively worse. He explained that in the same moment I would pull the trigger my body would tense up in anticipation of my weapon firing. This alone would cause my well-aligned aim to veer almost 5' from the target! With practice, I learned that shooting is primarily about controlling your breathing and mental focus in an uncomfortable environment. It was a challenge to move more slowly, breathe more deeply, and maintain a peaceful mind set when I knew the weapon in my hand would emit a very loud BANG followed by a powerful kick, but once I began to practice that control, I did very well!

After flying through enough ammo to sufficiently shred a handful of paper targets, Chris and I left for Chase field to watch the Diamond backs play the Giants. (Hats off to Johnny for the tickets). Games are always a blast. The fans are full of energy and the size of the stadium alone is staggering.

After eating too many hotdogs, and loosing miserably (again), Chris and I headed home. The drive downtown was spectacular. Reflections of the low-hanging sun were gleaming off of glass-faced skyscrapers. The sight was breathtaking. All in all, it was a beautiful end to an enjoyable Saturday.


Dream Job

As the depressing search for employment continues, I was thrilled to find something that I would really, honestly, truly love to do here in Phoenix. Why didn't I think of it sooner? Taliesin West--of course!

I have been a longtime admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright, and that admiration only grew through the course of my education. However, the icing on the cake was last summer when I visited the Guggenheim Museum (Wright's final hurrah to the world before passing away).

I was extremely fortunate that the museum's exhibit was in commemoration of none other than Wright himself (something the museum does only once in a rare while). It was a beautiful and inspiring experience in recognition of a brilliant man--arguably the world's greatest architect. But that dispute was almost unanimously settled long ago in Wrights favor. Now he is, without question, regarded as one of the world's greatest architects, having designed over 1,000 structures.

I spent hours in the Guggenheim, not only marveling at the building's own unique strength, but at the plans on display. They were frame worthy. I coveted the man's penmanship, his drafting skills, his drawings, and his brilliance. There were large models of structures that were never constructed, most of which were so bizarre that I doubt there were construction methods capable of executing them at the time. Overall, it was inspiring and exhausting. I don't know how one man can be possessed by so much genius.

Regardless, I had high hopes of contributing to the legacy of FLW, even if my only contribution was to guide informative tours around Taliesin (Wright's architecture school that he designed—of course). But then the bad news: after all my hype and excitement at finding somewhere I would be passionate about working--I discovered that the foundation is volunteer based. So, although I currently have to give up my dream of making a living for myself on the shoulders of Wright --I will have to continue to search elsewhere and perhaps spend a day or two volunteering at Taliensin.



Limitations... Chris and I have few but apparently need to establish more.

Yesterday, he and I went boating/wake boarding/tubing all in one trip, and we are feeling it today. Lets just say, Chris landed this jump (and one other) on his back.

As for me, I'm kind of a chicken. There really is no other excuse for me to pull that kind of a face (click on photo below) on a harmless tubing run. Dramatic? I guess. Reminds me a little of the characters from Totoro, but I WAS scared, and I DO feel extremely sore today.

The unpredictable life of Chris and Tori doesn't stop here. The night before last, we had our friends Cori and Eric over for dinner. Your typical idea of grownup "fun." (I accidentally made enough food to feed a ward family if anyone wants to pick up leftovers). However, spur of the moment, the four of us decided to stay up for the midnight showing of Inception (fantastic by the way). Then we decided to throw all conventionality out the window and had a sleepover at Cori and Eric's house.

After waking up with two little kids jumping on our bed, Chris and I unanimously decided to "wait a while" before we get started on a family. At least until our non-stop lifestyle gets the better of us and we decide it is time to "settle down" and have a family. Deceiving phrase though. Kids are so much more work than anything I have faced yet. I'm just warming myself up for when things get REALLY crazy. So, I guess you could say that we are learning our limitations. At least when it comes to baby Gilbies!


The Good Life

A number of things in my life have changed since I recently got married, as would be expected. I cook now—I mean ACTUALLY cook. None of this frozen dinner stuff. It is quite exciting actually. I feel like I have stepped into the lives of Julie and Julia (but that’s a post for another day). I finally have my own home, which I cannot tell you how excited I was for—five years of college roommates will eventually drive you to insanity. And thanks to my handy GPS, I am learning to navigate around a city that takes a hour to drive across from one end to another. But the biggest and most anticipated change yet has been having a GREAT husband—not just a bummy-dumbby hubbie. That would be unacceptable.

Chris really is a fantastic compadre. We have far too much fun and act way too immature for our age. Our sleeping habits are comparable to, if not worse than, that of a college student. Bed time at three a.m.?! It happens. I thought the whole point of getting married was so you could use your marriage as a lame excuse to hit the sack by ten. So much for being conventional.

If Chris and I aren’t up late watching documentaries that imagine up the most outlandish and terrifying conspiracy theories (yes, we have become slightly weird and paranoid as a result), then we stay up picking on one another like siblings on the 10th hour of a road trip. Poke. Poke back. Jab in the ribs back. See how it becomes difficult to sleep?  I’m sure that when most people sign up for marriage extreme governmental suspicion and a complete disintegration of maturity are not what they have in mind, but Chris and I would have it no other way. It’s the amusing way.

In 60 years from now, the nature of our pranks will be reduced to Chris hiding his denchers in my oatmeal and faking heart attacks. But regardless of how lame the joke, or how aged the prankster,  humor, fun, and love will always be the heart of our relationship.


Tick, tick, tick...

I don’t own a Philippe Starck daybed or a Mark Newson chair--too steep for this newlywed, but watches are a great way to get your hands on a designer product for less. Below is a compilation of a few of my favorites.

From right to left:

Horizon Skeleton by Android

O Ring by Philippe Starck

Horizon by Marc Newson

PH6000 by Philippe Starck

Denis Guidone

Conceptual Hologram by Timex


Part of my motivation to start a blog was to create a personalized online archive of designers, architecture, and products that I find interesting. Too often I get lost in the vastness of the internet and don’t take time to pull out information and photographs worth setting aside. Once I let something go, it either gets lost either in the files of my brain or the files of the internet.

So, as a result, this section of my blog is devoted to specifically to fabulous objects, hence the name Objectified. Objectified (by Gary Hustwit) is a documentary which my good friend Ashley introduced to me. The full-length film outlines the complex relationship between product designers, how their objects are manufactured, and finally, how they are received by the public—what we love and why.


Zoo York

I grew up in Wyoming and this country girl enjoyed the simplicity of being raised in a town of 5,000 people. Although I was small-town, I had a strong sense of purpose, the safety of my community, and all the rural fun that Wyoming had to offer.

Between my Junior and Senior years studying Interior Design at BYU-I, I chose to intern for a design firm (Foley and Cox Interiors) in New York City, and this has been the cause of my misery ever since. It must have been the hit-you-in-the-face realization that I had spent the majority of my life living in a wide-open state that had only 1/16th of the population as my newfound, overcrowded island—but I fell in LOVE with the Big Apple and have been missing it since I left last fall.

New York—it’s a zoo—literally (note the turtle in the stroller?), but a wonderfully fascinating one. I would like to write what I remember about the city: what impressed me, what is commonplace there that initially seemed so foreign, what I enjoyed, and what I didn’t enjoy. This may be painfully boring for you and may seem obsessive on my part (it is), but the beauty of this blog is that I can write the city out of my system, and you can close this window at any time. And now we begin…
Heartbeat of the City:
New York is shamelessly full of ENERGY. The city never stops pulsating with life, from the white-collared working man who is so infatuated with his career that he lives in his office, to the Latinos whose loud music blasts too late into the night for comfort. Even the streets are like a living organism. Sidewalks transform into the veins of the city—pulsating with hundreds of hurried pedestrians each with a definite destination and sense of purpose.
The energy is contagious.
Cha Ching:
New York is financially extreme. It is not uncommon to see the richest of men in the world walking alongside the poorest of men. The everyday comforts that the middle class and some poor enjoy throughout the rest of America are considered luxuries in Manhattan. Only the elite can afford cars for example. Aside from a vehicle’s initial expense, the cost of a parking garage alone can cost upwards of $400. Space is the city’s most scarce and costly resource. Where a three-bedroom home can cost as little as $150,000 in Wyoming, a penthouse of that size can easily start at five million dollars on the Upper Eastside.
On the other end... my three roommates and I each paid roughly $800 a month for our puny and not-so-nice apartment on the Upper Westside (lobby as seen below).

I can imagine the feeling a New Yorker must have after shopping at a Walmart for the first time. It has to be similar to my first experience in Mexico when I guiltily felt I had blatantly robbed children! It seemed there was no mathematical way that they were making a profit off of the Chiclets and tacos being sold on the streets of Tiwana for mere pennies.

However, upon arriving in Manhattan, I experienced the opposite—I was the victim. $6.00 for a gallon of milk? $11.00 for a jar of jam?! Absurd! Unethical! I missed Walmart and Costco. I missed their bulk products at a minimal cost. I missed their 6’ wide isles and standard-sized carts and thought, “if these people knew what they were missing…”

Initially the grocery store intimidated me from the marked price of food to the claustrophobia of such a tight space. As I would push my miniature-sized cart through miniature-sized isles (one person at a time—not convenient for a highly populated city), foreign, organic labels would peer down at me from too high of shelves in a dangerous attempt to save space. One word: compact. Very compact.
However, I remember being impressed by the large amount of precious space that the market sacrificed for cheese. Stinky cheese. Fuzzy green cheese. 25 lb wheels of cheese, and cheese I probably shouldn’t have sampled. 

However, I found grocery shopping a delight once I became used to its new environment. The produce was actually quite outstanding; trying new organic brands was exciting; and the diversity of the foods was always a curious thing to me. What would anyone use pickled pig’s feet or fuzzy green cheese for? Beats me. I guess that if you are going to feed diverse people, you had better sell diverse foods.

The Grunge:
Overall, Manhattan is grimy from the streets to some of its hosts. It is far from clean and even further from being pristine. That, I suppose, is the result of too many people in too little a space, but somehow, you learn to love it.

Now this isn’t news to a New Yorker, but it knocked me off my feet the first time I saw it: at about 5:00 every evening, all of the businesses and apartments will begin throwing their trash filled bags into heaps on the sidewalk. By the end of the day, there will be a small hill in front of most every building. It seemed a very strange thing, since my family burns our trash in a 50 gallon barrel, which most New Yorkers would NOT find environmentally friendly.

In response to the hills of rubbish, the garbage truck would come roaring in at 1:00 every morning and would nosily go to work with no apparent consideration to those who might be sleeping.

Central Park:
Central Park is a glorious place—honestly the best thing the city has going for itself. Without it, I am convinced that 8,000,000 urbanized city-dwellers would go mad in a concrete jungle for want of Mother Nature.

I am normally very private when around strangers. I generally want to do my own little hum-de-dum thing without anyone watching. If I am going to run slowly, I don’t want other people to see. If I’m going to read a book in the grass, I want people to leave me alone and not ask what I’m reading. However, in the Park… that is basically unavoidable. Instead, there is this great sense of community.
Almost daily I would throw on my running shoes, jog the three blocks to the park, and merge into the heavily trafficked trail with other runners/bikers. Oddly, those running companions immediately became my unspoken friends. Some would shout words of encouragement as I passed, and others would never make eye contact, but we all shared something in common: our love for nature, exercise, semi-fresh air, and sunlight. That was enough to bind us in some strange way.

Through this experience and others, I became convinced that in such a large population, people have the need to find connections that quietly link them to other people, even if those people are unfamiliar. Curious really. Although most New Yorkers are highly suspicious of most strangers (necessarily so), they can be very friendly. It is simply a matter of tapping into that link and earning a little bit of trust, and BANG—you both feel that you have one more friend in such a vast world… even if it is momentary.

Whew. It feels good to get this off my chest. Right now I feel comparable to a brace-face girl who expresses her deep infatuation by writing and rewriting her crush’s name in red pen on her binder… only I just made my love affair embarrassingly public. 

My goal is to eventually burry this entry deep into the archives of my blog as I post things that will hopefully be more interesting to my readers as a whole, so don’t let my lengthy story prevent you from taking interest in my future posts!