Chances are you've seen bags by Queen Bee Creations. Thousands of people across the country carry them. The shapes, colors and designs of the popular faux leather style vary but still remain instantly recognizable.
That's an amazing accomplishment for anyone in the accessories trade. Even more impressive? The products are eco-friendly, and designed, manufactured and marketed by a small independently-owned business in Portland, far from the fashion grid.
Sometimes, I'll admit, I think we Oregonians come across as a a little desperate for history. Remember the neon stag sign debate? People passionately argued for preservation of the words on the Made in Oregon sign because the advertisement was part of our heritage. Never mind that the sign had previously read "White Stag" for an Oregon clothing company. And before that, "White Satin" for a sugar refinery.
But I get it. Some extraordinary Oregon buildings have been mindlessly destroyed in the name of progress, and no one wants to see that happen again. It's heart breaking.
These are pre-fab houses. Emphasis on “fab.”
With a kit from Jan Kronke of Oregon TimberWerks (you can pop up a basic cabin shell in the woods for about $6,000 and a few days labor. Less than $2,000 buys the goods for a fancy little playhouse for the kids complete with covered porch and Dutch door.
Kronke lives on the family farm where he grew up near Eugene raising cows, hazelnuts, and Douglas firs for Christmas trees and timber.
“About 10-plus years ago I started building sheds on the side when business was slow,” he says. “My mother suggested I build a playhouse for my kids.”
At first Kronke sold the playhouses fully assembled but quickly realized that most back yards couldn’t handle delivery of a completed house, no matter how small. Pre-cut kits of fir lumber and plywood were the answer. Business grew when he added adult-size cabin kits. Kronke has shipped Oregon TimberWerks kits throughout the U.S. and as far away as a small South Pacific island. But the operation remains small.
“It’s basically me,” says Kronke. “I can customize most anything because everything is built for the customer. I don’t have stacks of kits stored somewhere.”
Kronke grows the trees, mills the lumber, designs the structures, and will assemble them on site for a fee. It’s hard to imagine shelters that are more quintessentially Oregon.
Most of us have seen, what I like to call, Joan Rivers houses. They are homes of a certain age with really bad face lifts. The remodeling meant to make them look fresh and new, instead simply looks scary-weird. The Architectural Heritage Center knows all about updating a house while honoring its history. The center hosts its 13th annual Kitchen Revival Tour this Saturday.
Remember when being kind to the planet was considered sort of edgy? Environmentally responsible paint? Now, that's just kooky! These days, green products are to home what cardigan sweaters are to fashion; comfortable, boring and ho-hum sensible. That’s why I am so excited to be unexcited about the news that environmentally responsible paints are now carried at Lowe’s.
This won't be pretty. You might want to avert your eyes. But I need to confess: I am in love with a sink. Yes, that's a little sad. It's an inanimate object made of porcelain. It cannot love me back. But have you seen the graceful curve of it? The way the white ceramic appears to be swimming through water like an exotic sea creature?