Ground Condition #12

Knock knock, who's there?

Someone told me this week that she’s “burnt out on opinions,” which I found to be a pretty relatable assessment. With that in mind, here’s a service-y thing I’ve been saving up—inspired by my own research into non-Neutra house numbers and an entreaty to the Instacrowd* to send me their own best sources.

First, you may recall this gloriously obsessive piece by a Slate writer who cataloged all of the house numbers within his area code in Virginia. I… do not have the time for that, but I fully respect the mission. Since we’ve lived in Northern California, I cannot stop ogling people’s numerals.

Left: Kensington, in mid-hills of the East Bay. Right: Fairfax, in Marin County.

These two examples would be tough to replicate for anyone without a -00 address, or decades-old vines draped over their fence just so, or maybe a carpenter friend who made them as a barter for sourdough starter back in ‘76. Regardless, peep ‘em and weep.

ON MY MIND: HOUSE NUMBERS

My friend Andrew Romano, a fellow architecture obsessive who lives in a Schindler house in Los Angeles, had some interesting anecdotes. For his own house, he scoured the market and ended up with “period numbers that you would have found at a hardware store in 1936.” He also sent snapshots of the impeccable numbers that sculptor Ricky Swallow designed and fabricated for the studio he shares with his wife, the painter Lesley Vance:

Columbus, Indiana-based industrial designer Jonathan Nesci is well-versed in house number design, having produced them for friends in town as well as 301 Washington, the Main Street building famously designed by Alexander Girard. (That one was a replacement for a missing 0.) He also produced a custom set for 20th-century dealer Lawrence Converso that’s based on a Mies font for Y.C. Wong Atrium Townhomes in Chicago. For anyone trying this at home—lol—it involved a “custom clear acrylic drilling template made to align with grout line.” Gorgeous!

Author and design critic Alexandra Lange chose custom vinyl stickers in Bodoni for her brick townhouse in Brooklyn—I’m picturing something like these, ten inches high, in a bold primary color.

Chad DeWitt, founder of Framestudio, tipped me off to these neon house numbers, which remind me of the artist Jill Magid’s house in Greenpoint, which I once wrote about for Dwell. Hers were custom. I’ve come to suspect that all the best ones are.

On that note, friend-to-me and another architect, Ryan Hines, recommended the documentary Sign Painters. If this doesn’t make you want to abandon precision-planed aluminum once and for all, I don’t know what will!!

SHOPPING BAG

Left: These cast-aluminum beauties are made in LA by designer Thomas Elliott Burns and available through Glyph Shop. I am super into the raised profile of these numbers—pretty similar to the ones I ended up buying for our house, which have rounder edges and slightly more ‘70s funk. Right: Don’t rule out “traditional” hardware sources with 90s-era websites. The handcraft of these cast-brass numerals would do a lot to untame an otherwise minimalist exterior.

Left: Dropcap Studio has the motherlode of semi-custom house numbers—something like 72 fonts from which to choose, including Depot, which would feel right at home in Marin. Right: Casson is a recent discovery; it’s a trove of architectural treasures—such as the most beautiful hinges known to man—and its house numbers section does not disappoint. These wire numbers by NakNak pack a lot of personality and some in a few acceptable colors outside of my usual pick, black powder-coat.

WHAT I’M READING

  • Kim Hastreiter’s latest project The New Now, a broadsheet that’s free of cost, free of ads, and free of internet (blessedly). The newspapers were mailed out in an envelope paying homage to our amazing postal service, and I hear New Yorkers can pick one up locally at spots like Four Horsemen, Dashwood, Scarr’s Pizza, Bronx Native, Screaming Mimi’s, and via grocery delivery from Natoora.

  • This is pretty much the only cogent investigation into where the post-pandemic office is going, full of tangible reporting instead of vague prognostications. It also quotes Herman Miller’s Bob Propst, the famously cranky inventor of the partitioned Action Office (which later morphed into the dreaded cubicle).

  • Wall Street Journal’s Off-Duty section has some of the most consistently entertaining style writing out there. The editors know sure know their audience: how to start bidding in online furniture auctions, kitchen countertops matched to personality types.

  • The Times article on 432 Park is a tower of schadenfreude unto itself. This tweet described it best.

Take care out there,
Kelsey

*I also took a poll about Neutraface as the “premiere modern house number” font, which bounced between two poles, wildly, for the 24 hours it was posted. That pendulum swing perfectly encapsulates the debate I imagine we’re all having about Neutra numbers: Not objectively bad, we just want more options.