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Back to Cool

As we in Los Angeles continue to ride this unpleasantly searing heatwave, it’s pretty hard to believe that September is halfway over.. unless you’re in school. Elementary, high school and college students all over the city, as well as their teachers, have been schlepping their books to and from school in this withering weather. They’re studiously suffering through temperatures that would be much more suited to long afternoons at the beach with ice cream in hand. This post is for all the brave souls out there who have to make their brains function in this heat. We aim to make the inevitable a bit more fun with a roundup of desk accessories that you won’t find at your local office supply superstore.
This blogger vividly remembers the strange mixture of excitement and anxiety with which I approached each new school year, an emotion that manifested itself in the painstakingly earnest way I would ready my school supplies for the coming semester. The night before the first day of school, I’d vigorously sharpen all my number 2 pencils, use my neatest printing to label those tiny inserts for each manila divider, fill each three-ring binder with beautifully pristine ruled paper, and line everything up just so in my backpack. The overarching wish uniting all these tasks was that this year would finally be the year in which I got so inspired by learning that I’d stay organized. Fast forward to three weeks later, and I was shoving math worksheets and permission slips so far down into the bowels of my bag that I might as well have been making pulp for new paper. Perhaps if I had gotten my hands on some of these truly lovely organizational tools, I would have been more inclined to keep them neat.
Whether you’re a soon-to-be exasperated parent of a paper-crumpler or a messy student yourself, or even a working professional in need of some desktop enlightenment, we’re here to tell you that it’s not too late to save your workspace, your locker or your book bag!


Ok, so maybe your dissatisfaction lies with the fact that it’s really hard to find stylish ways to transport and contain your office supplies. Enter the wonderfully resourceful husband-and-wife design team, Peg and Awl. This Philadelphia couple clearly knows a thing or two about crafting innovative, durable and practical items that also look damn good. Their sturdy desk caddies are fashioned from hardwood beams salvaged from old houses, and are fitted with holes of varying sizes that are perfect holders for all your pens, pencils, protractors, scissors and rulers. Some of them (like the one pictured at top left) feature decoupaged images from vintage anatomy journals, doubling as inspiration for those thumbing through biology textbooks. Peg and Awl’s waxed canvas tote bags (pictured at top right) are the perfect solution for those who don’t want to sacrifice style for practicality. Who needs an ugly, bulky backpack when you can slip all your books and notes into one of these elegant and durable bags? Each unisex tote is made from waxed canvas, which is so strong and waterproof that it is used to make sails. In true Peg and Awl fashion, these totes incorporate actual history into their design; they feature leather straps and fasteners reclaimed from old World War II gun slings. When you pack up your handsome new (and old) tote bag, don’t forget to leave room for lunch. Peg and Awl’s lunch bags (bottom left) are made from the same sturdy waxed canvas, and can be wiped down and reused again and again. They even come with a nifty pocket for notes from Mom and Dad or secret admirers. Lastly, don’t forget to put that cavalry of perfectly sharpened yellow pencils into a protective case, like this matching waxed canvas zipper pouch (bottom right), and you’ll be all set.


Even if you aren’t enrolled in a class entitled The World’s Tiniest Penmanship, you might not be able to resist one of these adorable handmade book necklaces, also from Peg and Awl (top left). Each book, although barely bigger than an inch, is hand-bound with fully functional pages, so you can actually take notes in it, although you’d better not let the teacher catch you using it during a test. These necklaces also make great gifts for book lovers and ultra-neat writers. Next, we have the lowly stapler, elevated to new and stylish heights by Eleppi, a tiny Italian company (and by tiny, we mean a four-person factory). This retro, industrial metal stapler (top right) evokes images of stylish Italian designers and draftsmen who all look like Marcello Mastroianni, stapling together reams of Midcentury masterworks. With this on your desk, you’re guaranteed to feel a little more elegante. Speaking of elegant, these handmade sketchbooks from Portland, Oregon, based Oblation Press (bottom left) are nothing but. You’ll love drawing on the surface of the creamy paper if you can manage to get yourself to stop stroking the letterpressed cover design. Maybe a bundle of colored pencils made from recycled materials will help. Everyone needs a healthy dose of irreverence injected into the workspace, or else where’s the fun? Keep this brass ruled letter opener, etched with a different phrase on each side, handy to remind you to “follow the rules” when you need a little discipline, and to “break the rules” when you need to loosen up. Bonus: it makes you feel better when opening bills.


We’re big fans of the power of color to uplift both spaces and moods, so why not enliven your desktop with some vibrant hues? You can start with a stylish pencil sharpener in burgundy or forest green and a set of ten sustainably made pencils covered in beautiful handmade paper (top left). For notes and doodles, let this blue and green journal (top right) with its whimsical, slightly bizarre cartoon cover inspire you. Store your writing instruments in this charming cast iron turtle (bottom right), which will not only inject your workspace with a dose of Japanese wabi-sabi style but will also remind you to take your time. Next to your turtle, stack a few of these Japanese Life Co. reams of smooth, creamy writing paper (bottom left) to fill with haikus as inspiration strikes. Our retro pens (bottom left and right) match them perfectly.
NSAbacktocool3Lastly, want to remind your technology saturated grade schooler what it was like when you were little and didn’t have an iPad? How about bringing home this vintage junior typewriter called the Buddy L “easy-writer.” Maybe after she tries to do her English homework on this baby, she’ll have more appreciation for today’s tools that don’t need to qualify the word “easy” with quotation marks.


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