Apr
29
2012
0

Is bug-free software possible?

software-bugsUntil the mid 1980s, the prevailing expectation was that computer software would be bug-free. After the release of Windows 1.0, people started saying that you couldn’t expect complex software to be bug-free. That attitude incensed me. Software can be as robust and bug-free as people want it to be.The biggest cause of bugs in computer [&hel[more...]

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Mar
06
2012
0

Why do vases come in different shapes?

quirky-vasesA vase is a container for the display of cut flowers. Vases come in many shapes. Is the choice of shape purely a stylistic preference, or are there reasons to prefer certain shapes? Suppose you wish to display a single rose. You would probably want the rose to stand vertically, so naturally you would choose [&hel[more...]

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Mar
17
2010
1

What are the design requirements of a knife?

knife1A knife might seem like a simple object, but its form results from hundreds of design decisions. Does the knife need to cut things? The obvious answer is “yes”, but butter knives and putty knives are more for spreading than cutting. Nevertheless, most knives need a cutting blade. A good kitchen knife has a steel [&hel[more...]

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Mar
14
2010
2

Is a Glasgow Rose the same as a Mackintosh Rose?

Mackintosh stained glass roseLook at Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s designs for furnishings, textiles, stained glass etc. and it won’t be long before you see a characteristic rose: typically pink, and less symmetrical than classic rose motifs. The petals often have strong outlines, perhaps the leading of stained glass, or the white space of a stencilled image. Is it right [&hel[more...]

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Mar
12
2010
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What inventions did people want?

console television antiqueIn the 1940s, 50s and 60s, Popular Science Magazine ran a column called I’d like to see them make?. The magazine invited readers to write in with suggestions on the gadgets, tools and innovations they would like to see invented to make their lives a little easier. It was a popular item, and published suggestions [&hel[more...]

Nov
13
2009
2

Where does the paisley pattern come from?

Paisley silk tie fabrics (Photographs by uriba - CC-BY)I used to see the paisley design as a curled leaf or feather, without thinking about its history. Paisley fabric is “patterned with distinctive, ornate, teardrop- or feather-shaped figures, based on an Indian pine cone design”, according to the dictionary. Textile experts have called it a “drooping bud” or a  “Kashmir cone”. It's also been [&hel[more...]

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Jun
10
2009
1

What is chinoiserie in interior design?

Wall covering painted with Chinese pagoda and European fruitChinoiserie was a new fashion in the 18th century when China and the Far East seemed incredibly exotic to people in Europe. Imported arts and crafts had an excitingly different beauty from those made at home, and some were clearly superior to anything European – especially Chinese porcelain. Designers and craftsmen wanted to recreate the [&hel[more...]

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May
25
2009
2

Is famille rose porcelain always Chinese?

Famille rose detail from vase, southern China, late 1700s (Photo by dalbera - CC-BY)Famille rose decoration for porcelain developed in China around 1720. A new wave of Chinese ceramics using rose and ruby shades in multi-colour designs was greatly admired in Europe. Introduced just before the western craze for oriental style interior decoration peaked in the mid-18th century, plenty was manufactured for export, along with many other Asian [&hel[more...]

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May
11
2009
0

How can I add cottage style to my garden ?

Deep red hollyhock and bright poppies in a generously planted Dutch cottage garden - (Photo by Benjamin Rossen - CC-BY)Creating your own cottage garden is about building up an overall effect, not about following hard and fast rules. Aim for a nostalgic, informal look, with plenty of old-fashioned flowers – sweet-scented if possible. This style can suit not-too-hot parts of North America and Europe as well as anywhere in the UK. A traditional cottage [&hel[more...]

May
01
2009
1

What is traditional Fair Isle knitting?

Geometric patterns echo Fair Isle design, with some contemporary twists.Fair Isle and the neighbouring island group of Shetland, on the northern fringes of the UK, have their own traditional styles of multicolour knitting. Local experts can tell the difference between the two, but the designs are so closely related that most people treat them as one single tradition. The early history wasn’t written down, [&hel[more...]

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Apr
22
2009
0

What is Georgian design?

Decorative plasterwork from the 1770s, in house designed by Robert Adam (photo by ricoeurian - CC-BY)The Georgian era was when four kings all called George were on the British throne one after another  – a period lasting more than a century (1714-1830). Even though fashions in architecture and interior design didn’t stand still, there was an overall Georgian style favoured during this time – in North America as well as [&hel[more...]

Mar
24
2009
0

What is lace knitting?

Lace knitting on fine needles - shawl edging - work in progress  (Photo by jylcat - CC-BY)Lace knitting is often at its best in shawls. It drapes nicely round the shoulders, while the lacy patterns show up clearly across the back. The design, skill, and hours of work have created a beautiful, easy to wear, warmly luxurious wrap. Although knitted lace can also be used for other projects, delicate, elaborate, lacy [&hel[more...]

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Mar
03
2009
2

What is a gimmel ring?

Gimmel rings - 16th and 17th century - 19th c. engravings - PD-EXPTwo lovers each wear a ring for their engagement; then on marriage they fit the two together to make a wedding ring. This romantic custom, using a double-hoop gimmel ring, was at a peak of popularity during the 16th and 17th centuries. Gimmel rings have been revived by modern jewellery designers, and seem to have [&hel[more...]

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Feb
23
2009
0

Can a traditional Shetland shawl really pass through a wedding ring?

Shawl with Shetland lace pattern.   Photo by staralee - CC-BYThe most delicate Shetland shawls can indeed be pulled through a wedding ring.  Knitted in cobweb lace patterns, from finely-spun wool, a shawl 6 feet square (1.8 metres) may weigh as little as 2 ounces (57 grams). To make one the traditional way, you need to know that the finest fleece comes from the sheep’s [&hel[more...]

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Feb
14
2009
0

Do we know the true history of Claddagh rings?

Claddagh rings - photo by Athena - CC-BYCladdagh rings, with a crowned heart held by two hands, are named after a fishing community in Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, where they were used for betrothals and marriages, and handed down from mother to daughter. When I first heard a well-known story about their origins it seemed too fanciful to be [&hel[more...]

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Feb
12
2009
3

What is a coromandel screen?

Chinese lacquer screens were shipped to Europe from ports on the Indian Coromandel Coast.  (18th century engraving of Pondicherry - PD)A coromandel screen is a Chinese folding screen coated in black or dark lacquer. The dark background is richly decorated with painted scenes from life or literature, or landscapes, and a variety of  trees, flowers, and birds. Wooden panels are coated with pale clay followed by several layers of lacquer. The design is carved into [&hel[more...]

Feb
01
2009
0

When were spiral staircases invented?

Stone spiral staircase - photo by revolution cycle - CC-BYWe will never know exactly when and where the first spiral staircase was built. There are “winding stairs” in Solomon’s Temple in the Bible suggesting spiral stairs were known around 3000 years ago. As for actual archaeological remains, the oldest are thought to be the remnants of a 2500-year-old spiral staircase at a Greek temple [&hel[more...]

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