Monthly Archives: October 2012

Get Active!

It’s getting harder and harder to fit a decent workout into your day.  Well what if your workout was incorporated into your environment?  We are not talking about those calisthenic exercises they suggest you do in your office char.  We’re talking about Active Design Guidelines.

Created in 2010, the Active Design Guidelines aim to fight the growing problem of obesity with design that encourages movement.  Archichitecture has proven to be be an effective tool of fighting past epidemics.  Many infectous diseases, like cholera and tuberculosis, were thwarted by the development of clean water and waste systems and better designed buildings and roads.  ADG hopes to use the same concepts to make changes in the 21st century.

According to the Center for Active Design, here are a few ways to help meet these goals:

Active Design and management strategies not only provide health and environmental benefits, but also economic ones: they can also reduce long-term operating costs through increased energy efficiency. When building users choose stairs over elevators, bikes instead of cars, or active instead of passive play, they burn calories instead of electricity and carbon fuels. Active design can be mutually beneficial for occupant health, energy savings, and operating costs!

Here are a few ways to incorporate Active Design strategies in existing buildings:

1) Ensure stairs are accessible: Unlock all stair doors and provide open access to building users. Consider the use of magnetic hold-opens on stair doors to invrease the visibility of the stairs. Consider implementing a key-card or security-code system to maintain security while providing stair access to all building tenants.

2) Encourage stair use: Post the City’s free signs “Burn Calories, Not Electricity,” which can be ordered by calling 311. Make stairs more inviting by repainting or incorporating artwork or music. Enhance stair visibility by integrating fire-rated glass oon stair doors. Use signage and design treatments to improve wayfinding and to help people locate stairs.

3) Promote biking: Provide indoor bicycle storage and/or outdoor bicycle parking. More information on obtaining a free City Rack or permit to install your own bicycle racks can be found here []

4) Encourage children’s play: Provide safe indoor or outdoor recreational spaces for kids. Simple features such as colorful ground markings can inspire children to invent new games and to play more actively.

5) Facilitate exercise for adults: Provide a room with exercise equipment. Consider making it adjacent to a children’s playroom so parents can exercise while keeping an eye on their kids.

6) Create community: Designate a multi-use room for social gatherings, exercise classes, and other activities.

7) Create a garden: Large or small, in a yard or on a roof, gardens are good for health. Gardening is a great form of physical activity for people of all ages. And gardens provide fresh, healthy food while helping to create a sense of community.

8) Provide water fountains: Promote access to a healthy and sustainable beverage option. Providing a spigot on the water fountain allows users to safely fill a reusable water bottle.

9) Change the food environment: Reduce, change, or eliminate unhealthy food and beverage vending machines.

10) Beautify your street: Order a street tree. The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation plants street trees free-of-charge on sidewalks in front of homes, apartment buildings, and businesses in all five boroughs. More information can be found here.

We encourage everyone reading to visit the Center for Active Design website.  There are many ideas and resources for how to make your home and work space more active!


Something Old, Something New

Stepping across the threshold of the BKE Designs workshop, I had the sense of entering another world.  The building stretches in front of the visitor, long and narrow, and the raw materials and ancient machinery of bygone professions hang overhead. The scent and sight of sawdust invades the senses.  In this tribute to physical craftsmanship lies memorials to craftsmen of a different kind; Marilyn Monroe and Jimi Hendrix oversee the space. Joining them is your guide through this world, Brian K. Ellison, owner of bke designs.

Brian’s pride of the past is apparent as he details the history of the factory, which has been in operation since 1923.  The shop remains in full-scale operation to this day, and aside from producing bke designs pieces, is a regular manufacturer of camera parts for Deardorff Camera and xylophone frames.  This is fitting; in Greek, xylophone means “wood sound”, and few words could better describe the symphony of construction that takes place at the workshop.

In a weaving pattern reminiscent of many bke designs pieces, Brian seamlessly moves from discussing the purpose and proper uses of the surrounding machinery to the inspiration, conception, and execution of his own work.  Laws of physics, flow, and perceived irregular pattern are all concepts that play into the bke designs collection.

A sense of experimentation and discovery pervades the shop.  Although the workshop is a woodworker’s playground, Brian does not limit his pieces to just one material.  Metal and glass are central to many installations, particularly lighting projects.  Inspiration can be found anywhere: Brian has even experimented with a wall insulation material he came across in Germany.  These creations take many forms: media displays, headboards with built in light, and hand crafted wine boxes. Destinations for his work include museums, restaurants, art collectors, and even custom home projects.

This eclectic mix of material, structure, and purpose is a reflection of its creator: Brian himself is a jack of many trades.  He has training and expertise in architecture, real estate development, and… fire dancing.  In 1993, he received his first patent for use in large-scale production, a CD holder.  Needing to recharge his creative batteries, in 2006 Brian took a sabbatical from both corporate and American life – relocating to Amsterdam to focus on design.  Upon his return from the Netherlands in 2008, Brian returned to real estate development part time, all the while planning his exit so that he could work full time on his true passion;  designing – not the fire… although he does manage to fit in quite a bit of fire dancing on the weekends.

In the upcoming months, Brian’s grand plan will be finally realized; the operation of bke designs will be his full time commitment.  Not only will Unbranded Designs be featuring many bke designs furnishings, we have partnered with Brian to manufacture our first pilot furniture piece.  The Isa Chair by designer Adele Cuartelon has officially joined the orchestra of creations that have taken form in this studio.  Unbranded Designs is proud to be partnering with Brian, and we are excited to see what bke designs does next!

Recent Accomplishments Include but Not Limited to:


  • Tavernita Restaurant, Design and Fabrication of Custom Wood Wall Clading, Chicago, Illinois
  • Falafill Restaurants, Fabrication of Millwork for 3 locations, Chicago/Oak Park, Illinois
  • Guerilla Truck Show, Particpant, Chicago, Illinois


  • Distinctly South Shore, Furniture Store Display, Chicago, Illinois
  • Black Creativity Exhibition, Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago Illinois


  • Participant in “Not Just Another Pretty Face” Exhibition at the Hyde Park Arts Center, Chicago, Illinois
  • La Remise, Partner in Design of Bed & Breakfast, Amsterdam, The Netherlands


  • Featured Artist at Heir Gallery, Chicago, Illinois

bke designs workshop.  Inspiration on the wall.

Machines machines machines.

Xylophone frames.

CD holder.

Headboard with built in lighting.

Wine box and coasters.

Cosmos lamp.

Rosewood mirror.

Exception lamp.

The shade on these light fixtures is made out of industrial insulation material!

50 inch pedestal lamp.

Custom media installation.

Arington table.

Tavernita restaurant.  All wood paneling designed and crafted by bke designs.

Falafill restaurant, Oak Park Illinois.  All wood work fabricated by bke designs.

Brian – fire dancer.


Welcome to the world of Macmamau, an Italian design company.  A true homage to the art deco movement Italy is so well known for, these pieces are fresh and fun.  This family business has been manufacturing furniture for over forty years and take pride in traditional, high squality cabinetmaking techniques.  The bright colors and intricate designs are accomplished through mechanical engraving, hand painting, and lacquer processes.

Take a look at some of the pieces below!

Coffee Office Desk


Mobil(age) photo shoot!

Mobil(age) open sesame!




The details on these motifs are stunning.

We want one in every color!


More colors, more designs!

Pop Mirror and Mobil(oso)

Roller Screenwall

Lautrec Cabinet

Lautrec Leg detail.

Home Sweet Home.

One of the prizes we won from the Lean Startup Competition is six months of office space.  We are excited to be working at the digital startup center 1871, located on the 12th Floor of the Merchandise Mart.  As described on their website:

1871 is a co-working center for digital startups. Located in the famed Merchandise Mart, the 50,000-square-foot facility provides Chicago startups with affordable workspace and access to mentors, programming, educational resources, potential investors and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.

1871 is a fantastic resource and we encourage any digital start-ups to check them out!

Not only is 1871 a great community for new companies, the office space is amazing!  Below are a few pictures of some of our favorite furniture pieces in the office.  The space was designed by Gensler, an architecture, planning, design, and consulting firm.

Wrap around sectional.  Who needs 90 degree angles?

There are two of these giant tables, made out of old bowling lanes!


The iconic Womb chair from Knoll.

Cool and comfy.

We LOVE this fun pink color!

The Emeco Navy Chair, which we have featured on the blog a few times!

Which pieces do you guys like the best?

I Don’t Like White Walls

Here is a short and sweet video that reminds us that furniture doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive – it just has to work for you and your lifestyle.  And even better, the video features daytime T.V. personality Wendy Williams!

Who couldn’t use a bit of pop culture in their day?

Wendy talk bargain shopping, durability, livability… and her distaste for white walls.

Check out the video at


Diamonds Diamonds Diamonds!

Oh… ahem.  Excuse us.

Well, it looks like diamonds aren’t just for girls anymore.

The Diamond Wood series is a new collection of stools and tables by Tesler-Mendelovitch.  The core structure of these pieces are flexible geometric patterns.  We would love to know more about how these are constructed!

You can order the pieces through Tel-Aviv based design company Talents Designs Icon.  You can also see the Diamond Wood Collection displayed at Sigalit Landao’s exhibition at the Kamel Mennour gallery in Paris.

To Sleep In The Clouds

This is just a concept.  But oh what a concept it is.

Brought to us by D.K. & Wei, the Cloud sofa is, hopefully, a new way to lounge.  As the designer describes:

Cloud is a sofa concept designed for ultra comfort and relaxation. The soft floating upper part is supported by the magnetic force generated by the bottom base. No matter if you want to work and sit with comfort or simply a power nap to release the stress, you can always enjoy your time to relax on the floating cloud. 

We can only hope that this concept turns into reality sooner than later.

Have you seen any other innovative concepts out there?  Share them with us!

Work Hard, Play Harder.

We at Unbranded couldn’t help but notice this article posted by Flavorwire featuring 9 Pieces of Furniture to Make the Work Day More Fun.  We’ve posted some of our favorites below… and then we posted some things that we think are missing from the list!

Isukebo Skateboard Chair.  Finally, an office chair fit for Lil Wayne.

Marbelous by Onterwerpduo.  Most.  Fun.  Ever.

Swing Table by Duffy London.  Weeeeeeeeeeeee!

Ping-Pong Conference Table by Poppin.  The ultimate way to settle an interoffice disagreement.

And now, for OUR additions…

Unlock Doormat.  We suggest that you put this at your office door, or better yet, cubicle, and make everyone that enters your work space swipe before entering.

This is actually a DIY project.  While this is not featured for an office… we know we would be much happier if we had a little Mario in our workspace.  While your coworkers are decorating with indoor plants and photos of their family… you could have THIS.

Stokke Garden Chair.  Also, economical for the office.  It doubles as a coat rack.

Custom Han Solo desk by Tom Spina Designs.  Your business partners will never say no to you again.

Defendius door chain by Art.Lebedev Studio.  #1, we love it because the name sounds like a Harry Potter Spell.  #2, we saw a Dwight v. Jim style prank coming out of this.

Lego Table by abgc.  Happiness and nostalgia, all in one.

Feel Seating System Deluxe.  Break room, anyone?

We don’t know about you, but we crank out some of our best work in tropical, beachfront settings.  This looks like a truly optimal office chair.

Do the twist!

We are loving this Intertwined Chair by Kan & Lau Design.

This chair is full of ying and yang.  Mixing woods, style, and the actual chair legs themselves!

What do you think?

And the winner is…


Unbranded Designs was named the winner of the 2012 Lean Startup Challenge!

The challenge consisted of a 14 week process in which participants applied the Lean Startup principles to their ideas.  Finalists were chosen not based on “good ideas”, but by which companies were able to use and learn the most from the Lean method.

Since we entered the challenge in June, we have certainly evolved.  We have taken away many valuable lessons – and we are not done learning.  We are excited to continue to develop, grow, and build the Unbranded Designs community.

Last but not least, a big congratulations to all of the participants and the other three finalists – Unwined,   Care Content, and Cardoona.

Now let’s sell some furniture.

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