Bikes have become part of hipster culture. There are bicycle-themed dining, drinking and shopping establishments from Portland, Ore., to Brooklyn, N.Y., and dozens of bike-friendly burgs in between.
Although the rides themselves are often tricked out with colored tires, swanky seats and vintage baskets, there are also those who see more than the sum of two wheels, a frame and a seat. Designers and artists are creating furnishings and art that give bicycles a whole new way to roll down Cool Street.
Some of the best
Canadian cyclist and metal artisan Gilbert VandenHeuvel turns out all sorts of reworked bicycle art and accessories from his studio in Goderich, Ontario.
“The sexy sprockets, curvy rims, flexible rubber and sturdy frame make for endless design possibilities,” he says. Bikes are “almost begging to be reborn, reshaped into something surprising and beautiful.”
His online shop, The Recycler, offers wall hooks crafted from gear sprockets, mirrors made from spoked wheels, clocks crafted from drive trains and chain rings, and sleek chrome “urban antlers,” with the bike seat as the “skull” and the handlebars as the antlers.
Designer Hilary Nagler of Santa Barbara, Calif., plays with a similar idea, making “bicycle taxidermy” by mounting handlebar “horns” on a basswood plaque. Ebonizing the handlebars gives them a rustic patina and vintage aesthetic. Nagler says the pieces are a “sentimental nod to my beloved childhood Schwinn,” while also tipping an artsy hat to Picasso’s bull’s-head motif.
In Marquette, Mich., designer and former bike mechanic Andy Gregg, of Bike Furniture Design, has combined his skills to make high-style furniture that has found its way into homes, hotels and restaurants.
There’s a chair made out of wheels, with soft rubber tires as arm rests and handlebars as the feet. Seats and backs are padded in black or paint-box-bright yellow, red or blue vinyl. Some versions are outdoor-friendly, great seating for a beachside cottage or city balcony.
A stylized table is composed of swirls of aluminum and steel rims, with the radiating spokes covered with glass. The collection has a mix of deco, midcentury and contemporary vibes, which make the pieces versatile.
Solo Home Design, a collective in Chicago, has an oversize cotton throw pillow trimmed in inner-tube fringe. Inner tubes form a great outdoor mat and are also woven into coasters. Here, too, is a wooden cutting board fashioned out of a slab of wood and a bike rim. Spokes are reworked into a neat trivet.
“With cycling being a major part of Chicagoans’ lives, including ours, we feel it’s our duty to help with some of the waste that comes from it,” says Meg Leese, co-owner and designer at Solo. “We’ve been collecting scrap from the Bike Lane, a local bike shop, for a couple of years now, and we’ll be adding a second bike shop in the new year.
“There’s an industrial vibe in our designs, and bicycle parts are a perfect fit. Gears, tires, inner tubes, spokes, chain — we try to use it all. They’re not always the easiest materials to work with, but the different textures add something extra to each piece, and knowing we’re helping the planet is the most rewarding feeling,” she said.
And finally, from the Phillips Bicycle Collection of upcycled rims, pedals and frames, a fireplace screen made of welded wheels makes a functional and striking piece.