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Archives for December 17, 2017

Best & Worst 2017: Home & Garden


The rise of designer Olivia Lee

The Athena Collection (above), by local designer Olivia Lee, caught the attention of the design world
 at the renowned Salone Del Mobile Milano furniture fair in Italy. PHOTO: STUDIO PERIPHERY

Olivia Lee

Local designer Olivia Lee, 32, has been making waves in the design scene both here and overseas.

Earlier this year, she was named one of eight most promising designers at the renowned Salone Del Mobile Milano furniture fair, an exhibition platform in Italy known for kick-starting the careers of many young designers.

At the fair, her 10-piece presentation, The Athena Collection, wowed design critics. Designed for a digitally savvy contemporary woman, the collection includes a vanity set and a smartphone holder.

She runs her eponymous interdisciplinary studio and has designed for electronics giant Samsung and whisky distillery Balvenie.

She also recently collaborated with local stationery label Bynd Artisan to launch a series of six leather home accessories. Called Books of Life, the collection comprise objects that look like books, but, in fact, have other functions. They include a mirror, a coin bank, a clutch and a jewellery box.

Marina One by German architect Christoph Ingenhoven

Mega mixed-used developments in Singapore are not new. Think South Beach and Duo in Kampong Glam, both multi-billion-dollar complexes that are like upmarket micro-cities, housing hotels, restaurants, shops, condominiums and offices.

But the biggest, best-looking and most sustainably built of them is the $7-billion Marina One in the heart of the Marina Bay financial district. It comprises two office towers, two residential blocks with more than 1,000 units, and retail space.

Designed by renowned German architect Christoph Ingenhoven, who is known for his “Supergreen architecture”, Marina One contains a “Green heart”, a lush, multi-level garden at the centre of the complex. It provides an oasis for office workers and residents, and also connects the mega-development’s four buildings.

The entire development is also chock-full of sustainable design features, including rainwater harvesting and sun shading that saves energy.

Marina One is owned by M+S, a joint venture set up in 2011 between Singapore’s Temasek Holdings and Malaysian strategic investment fund Khazanah Nasional.

Merchandise designed for artist Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition

Singaporeans not only flocked to the exhibition of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama at National Gallery Singapore earlier this year, but also snapped up merchandise made for the exhibition.

The exhibition, titled Yayoi Kusama: Life Is The Heart Of A Rainbow, ran until Sept 3 and drew more than 235,000 visitors.

Some of the merchandise was sold out within the first two days of the show’s opening in June.


The products included enamel pins, tote bags, pouches and enamel crockery – all splashed in Kusama’s iconic motifs, such as polka dots, pumpkins and trippy shapes. Prices ranged from $2.90 for postcards to $36.90 for a foldable umbrella (above).

The design team of three behind these items were from branding and design studio Foreign Policy Design Group, a co-founder of Gallery Co – the official museum store of National Gallery Singapore.


Saturation of Singapore-themed products

Two years ago, the SG50 Jubilee celebrations saw many local creatives put out Singapore-themed products. Local icons such as the Merlion and traditional Singaporean foods such as kueh and curry puffs were used as motifs on notebooks, crockery, jewellery, postcards and tote bags.

Then, the products jazzed up the conventional local souvenir market (think Merlion magnets or postcards of Singapore’s skyline). But two years down the road, they seem to have lost their edge.

Few of the newly launched, Singapore-themed products are surprising now. You see the same products appearing in different iterations and you cannot walk into any local design store without encountering a kueh eraser, soft toy, cushion or notepad. Maybe it is time to move on.

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Northside Civic League plants food forest in Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va – The City of Norfolk received its first food forest after members of the Northside Civic League planted the garden Saturday morning.

A food forest is a type of rain retention garden, said City of Norfolk officials.

Members of the Northside Civic League gathered from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mary Calcott Elementary School to plant the forest’s first crop. Establishing the forest full of fruit and nut trees, is the first phase of the groups food forest plan.

The planting of native fruit and nut trees included, fruit bearing bushes, flowers, edible herbs and root vegetables.

A big part of this garden’s design is to actually help Mary Calcott Elementary School with issues that the school has with flooding, according to the city.

“Initially, the multi-story canopy will slow the rate at which rain reaches the ground and, secondly, the trees and shrubs will absorb 1,000 or more gallons of water per year. While rain retention is the primary goal, it is not the only selling point. The planting will also provide neighborhood beautification, opportunities for community engagement, neighborhood access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and will serve as an outdoor classroom for the school,” said City of Norfolk officials in a press release to News 3.

Northside Civic League worked with the Office of Resilience, the Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Department of Public Works, and the Department of Recreation, Parks, and Open Space to design this communal garden.

Interested volunteers should contact Jen Stringer, Northside Civic League board member and project lead at

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The December issue is live

SAUK CENTRE, Minn., – Felling Trailers has named Nathan Uphus as sales manager. “We are thrilled that Nathan has accepted the position of sales manager and will play a key role in the growth of our company,” said Brenda Jennissen, president/CEO of Felling Trailers.

Uphus has a long, diverse career history with Felling Trailers. He joined the company in June of 1999 as a team member in the Finishing Department. Shortly after, he started welding and progressed through all production areas, building all different trailer models. In 2001, Felling’s Parts Service business was rapidly expanding, and at this time Uphus made the transition from the shop floor into the position of parts, purchasing, and warranty manager for the company. He held this position until mid-2004 when an Inside Sales position opened and he quickly jumped at the opportunity. In November of 2014 he moved to Tennessee as a territory manager where he helped expand the dealer network in the Southeastern United States. 

“Nathan has always been a highly motivated and ambitious person. He has taken on each new role in the company with great dedication. We are lucky to have him at Felling Trailers,” said Merle J. Felling, founder of Felling Trailers, Inc.

With taking on the role of sales manager, Uphus will be relocating back to Minnesota where he can be more connected and take an active part in the day-to-day operations. “I have the utmost confidence that Nathan will provide the leadership and support that is needed for our Sales Team’s continued success,” said Pat Jennissen, VP of sales marketing. 

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Remembering the unknown

Whenever Chris Suarez posts new content, you’ll get an email delivered to your inbox with a link.

Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.

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A Christmas gift for Arkansas

Since it’s Christmas, the peak of the gift giving season, I’m sure gifts are on your mind. You’re probably wondering if you have forgotten anyone. Not only that, but you want to be sure you have the perfect gift to everyone on your list. Here’s one more to add: Give a gift that the state of Arkansas really needs and wants.

I think most of us have an altruistic spirit within us, which means we have a desire to do something that benefits others. But the problem is that opportunities to do so are either too difficult or aren’t available. What if, by joining with others across the state, you could make a truly meaningful contribution?

Let’s look into a relatively simple way to achieve that. Here’s an example: A couple of decades ago the mayor and city council of Chicago made a commitment to plant 1 million trees within the city limits of their town. The reason was to achieve a combination of natural beauty versus blank parking lots, sidewalks and interstate right of ways. As a bonus, the trees would counter the city’s air pollution and help reduce utility bills.

I had an opportunity to visit Chicago before the program started, and since then have been back several times. On a recent visit I took a close look at its downtown. When I compared it to what it was like before the tree-planting plan, it was a real eye-opener.

The trees planted in the first years of the program were large enough to change a blank cityscape into an urban leafy canopy. The city council members had met the challenge of 1 million trees. Now their message is: Give us a call, we’ll come and plant a tree in your front yard–for free. The tree-planting program was so successful that city officials were bombarded with requests for trees.

If this had happened in the Natural State we might not be shocked, but in concrete Chicago? No way! Wow, what a great example for Arkansas. We have cities big and small that are planting a few trees, but we’re just scratching the surface.

It’s not like we’re not doing any planting. It’s just that we can do more, and we have some help on the way. The Walton Family Foundation is providing a grant that will allow 2,000 trees of 50 species to be planted in Bella Vista, Bentonville, Centerton, Gravette, Pea Ridge, and Siloam Springs. The Foundation has a wonderful history of providing grant money to plant trees; thousands have been planted because of their generosity.

Do we need more urban and yard trees in our state? Of course we do! For proof, take one look at entryway streets in every city in the state.

We can do better, and since most of us live in or close to a forest where there are millions of surplus trees, finding one to plant is easy. After I saw what the city of Dallas had achieved with cypress trees and landscaping, I was inspired with ideas for the area around the new downtown arts district in El Dorado.

I walked about 200 yards to a small lake behind my house, dug up eight small cypress trees, and replanted them downtown. Every one of them lived, and they are doing fine. Cypress trees make good urban landscaping trees; they don’t need to be at the edge of a lake to grow.

Here in Arkansas we take trees for granted and ignore their tremendous benefits. If we will all plant a tree, we will see a difference. An infrared aerial survey over almost any town in the country has an urban hot spot of increased heat that emits from mostly bare city centers. Studies have shown as much as a 25 percent decrease in utility bills can occur when an urban area plants a canopy of leafy trees that shelter the sidewalks and streets.

Plus there is a bonus in tree planting that isn’t only in the ambience, but in the ability to attract customers to shopping areas.

That’s the Christmas present I would like to see us give our state, one that we can easily afford and do. If a number of individuals around the state join in, the program will be hugely successful.

What if everyone in Arkansas committed to plant one tree a year? Or if only a third of us committed to plant one tree a year? That would be over 1 million new trees in our state annually. Let’s make that commitment.

Our El Dorado Mason family is committed to planting 20 trees. Do I have other commitments? If your city, or you as an individual, will commit to plant trees this year, let me know. Email me your number of tree planting commitments, and I’ll post the total numbers in future columns. Give Arkansas a gift this year. Plant a tree!

Richard Mason is a registered professional geologist, downtown developer, former chairman of the Department of Environmental Quality Board of Commissioners, past president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and syndicated columnist. Email

Editorial on 12/17/2017

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Edina gardener inherits a prairie restoration and learns to love native plants

Anyone who scans celebrity magazines has read the cliché about the actress who arrives for an interview, dewy and radiant, described as not bothering with a lick of makeup.

A jaded reader might suspect that it takes a lot of effort to achieve that I-do-nothing look.

Such is the case with Jeremy Mayberg’s Edina garden, one of six chosen from more than 150 garden nominations received by the Star Tribune last summer.

“This is a heavily landscaped garden that happens to be 90 percent native,” said the retired architect of his spectacular backyard, which features about 120 species of native plants and grasses. “This looks natural but there’s intentionality here. It’s a lot of freaking work.”

Motorists whizzing by have no idea that a prairie paradise thrives on the other side of the fence that contains Mayberg’s double lot. A deck and patio overlook the garden oasis, which features a reflecting pond, a fire pit, shade garden and textured paths that divide the space into eight “rooms.”

From spring to the first snow, Mayberg works outdoors for hours each day, tending the structures and nurturing the whimsically named native plant varieties — whorled milkweed, prairie smoke flower, cardinal plant.

Jeremy Mayberg, with his wife, Amy-Ann, tends a native-plant garden in Edina.

Tree Farm in Sherrard Has Deep Family Roots

Now that more than six decades have passed since Black first helped his father sell cut Christmas trees as a teenager along National Road in Wheeling, this is a common scene that plays out around this time of the year at E. Black Son landscaping and tree nursery along W.Va. 88 in Sherrard.

At 83 years old, with his son and grandson at his side, Black stays very involved with the business which brings many dedicated customers every December in search of that special tree to help brighten their home for Christmas.

“I started as a junior in high school. I sold trees along National Road … down in Woodsdale and Fulton,” said Black, whose father started what would eventually become the family business in 1934.

Black said when he worked for his father as a youth, his business was mostly outdoor maintenance and involved tending to many area lawns and gardens. He said selling cut trees was mostly a side business for his father at Christmas time.

It wasn’t until the early 1960s when Black moved the landscaping business from where the Hil-Dar housing complex is now located in Elm Grove to its current Sherrard location. It was at that location Black decided to start his own tree nursery business.

“In the mid-70s, dad would stay on the landscaping truck and I would be on the mowing truck,” said Ernie Black’s son, Scott Black, reflecting on his early years of helping his father with the business.

The Blacks said during the 1970s and 1980s, they would allow customers to walk along the property and cut their own tree, but because of the hilly terrain and limited parking situation they decided sometime in the 1990s it would be more efficient to transport all the cut trees to to the front yard of the business for customers to view.

While the Blacks said they have a tremendous love and passion for working in the tree nursery business, they noted it requires a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication and comes with many challenges each growing season, including caring for thousands of trees at two separate locations. Scott Black, who grows more than 8,000 trees on his Ohio County property near Dallas Pike, said it’s basically a seven-day-a-week job nine months out of the year.

But he simply can’t envision doing anything else.

“I don’t know really what else we would have done,” Scott Black said of himself and his family. “You have to have a passion for it, and the money end is not what keeps you here.”

Ernie Black said he still works in different facets of the business on a daily basis. Whether it’s shearing or fertilizing the pine trees, mowing the property or working with the landscaping end of the business, he still stays involved.

“I work with the whole situation,” he said with a smile.

Ernie Black said it takes almost a decade to grow most varieties of trees to a point they are mature enough to harvest. He said it can take anywhere from seven years for the Norway spruce to almost 12 years for the Fraser fir and blue spruce varieties to mature.

“You don’t get too many rotations in a lifetime and the first 10 years is a long wait,” Black said.

Although the Scotch pine was popular years ago, the Fraser fir has become the nursery’s best-selling tree in recent years. Ernie Black said the Fraser fir not only has a pleasant aroma, but it holds its short needles longer than most other varieties.

While deer have been a constant problem since the mid-1980s for the Blacks, tree disease and bag worms are other problems that require constant maintenance and attention for their trees.

“There’s a fungus that starts on blue spruce that starts at the bottom and works its way up through, and if you don’t spray every 14 or 20 days, you’ll lose the tree,” Ernie Black said. “And the last few years, bag worms have been pretty heavy.”

The Blacks said they follow a spraying and fertilizing protocol each growing season in order to fight any sort of tree pestilence. They said the trees also must be pruned once a year to keep them in good shape.

“We try to work with Mother Nature, and do that on weekends because we are still landscaping through the week,” Scott Black said.

While the Blacks have endured many challenges and hurdles over the years, they said they wouldn’t have done it any other way. Ernie Black’s grandson, Greg McCombs, also works full-time for him at the nursery.

“He’s a good one,” Ernie Black said of his grandson.

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