The primary-colored, alphabet-lettered building blocks that many recall from childhood have, like many classic toys
, been on the receiving end of a few digital interpretations
. But the tactility of the traditional wooden block still holds appeal, and not just for its nostalgia factor. Designers are drawing inspiration from the shape and finish of this timeless childhood staple, creating modern design objects meant to appeal to grown-up eyes.
Geometric Wood Blocks:
Graphic designer Haley Ann Robinson
applies an au courant geometric aesthetic
to the colors, textures and materials of nature—namely, those of forests—in her series of geometric wood blocks. These small objects are shaped from innately gorgeous and intricate species of wood, such as Douglas-fir
, Red Gum
, and Kauri
, and are accented with bright, minimal stripes of paint that reflect the wood’s natural grain. Some blocks are purely display pieces, while others serve as single-bud vases. Priced from $150-$180 per piece, these hand-sized, one-of-a-kind blocks are decidedly not for handling or stacking—and so should be kept out of reach of kids’ sticky grasps.
Balancing Blocks: Fort Standard
’s set of oak wood balancing blocks
may call to mind a miniature Stonehenge, and the connection is in fact not too far off. Though the blocks’ deliberately weather-worn, water-based paint job suggests the much-handled blocks one might see in a nursery school toy bin, the premise of the set belies a much more sophisticated intention. Each stone-sized, stone-shaped wooden block features flat, faceted planes, allowing for stacking in a variety of configurations—a practice that hearkens back to the sometimes spiritual, sometimes artistic discipline of rock balancing
. Those who desire a more Zen aesthetic can purchase the white-washed version
. Both sets retail for a reasonable $48.
Using found and reclaimed wood sourced from the Bay Area, Danny Montoya of key & kite
embarks on creative building projects, shaping would-be scraps into speakers, iPad cases, cube-shaped lamps, cutting boards, and more. Montoya also makes a series of wood gems
, using a combination of reclaimed wood and scrap acrylic. Each one features a stripe of contrasting acrylic down the center and is finished with linseed oil for sheen. Averaging at about 3 inches tall and 2 inches wide, the gems are the perfect size for livening up a dull desk or filling a bookcase gap. They’re currently for sale at key & kite’s Etsy shop