The New York Times ventures into unchartered territory with a trip to the Dollar Tree (and several other dollar stores). Writer and self-proclaimed "dollar store hobbyist" Jesse McKinley notes that his "habit has turned into something resembling a full-time job" as he frequents Albany's plethora of dollar stores in search of hidden treasures "among the stacks of plastics, paper goods and other environmentally noxious items."


The Guardian pays tribute to Eva Zeisel, the game-changing potter, industrial designer and "maker of useful things" who passed away last week in New York City at the age of 105. 


Dwell chats up Adam Hills and Maria Speake, the salvage-happy shopkeeps behind London's trash-to-treasure emporium, Retrouvius. Says Speake: "When we started, we were more interested in the conservation aspect. It’s madness, the incredible quality of materials literally being junked — things you couldn’t get again because they just don’t exist or would be too expensive to use."


Co.Design would very much like to move on in to Toda House, a stilted home in Hiroshima that "feels like a treehouse, but is designed for oh-so-practical adults."


TreeHugger eyes another beautiful stilt-built home. OK, so although it's more of a fishing shack than anything, the heavily prefabricated Sol Duc Cabin just happens to be the latest and greatest from PNW eco-architect extraordinaire, Tom Kundig.


Gizmodo takes a fond look back at the "Best Everything" at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas including "The Best New TV."


The Los Angeles Times goes shopping for fluorescent light tubes. "In the world of home lighting, the brightest star may be the LED, the long-lived light-emitting diode, but we're showing a little love for that forerunner of energy efficiency: the fluorescent tube. Some of the latest designs celebrate the tube's long, linear shape, and with the help of new bulbs that have a less clinical glow, the result are fixtures that look made for a loft instead of a hospital. The vibe? Cool, not cold."


Jetson Green relays news that modular mover-and-shaker Blu Homes has sold and manufactured the first prefab home to be completely customized by the home's buyers using an online tool called the 3D Configurator


The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is pleased to announce that the first American home to be designed and built under the auspices of the Denmark-based Active House Alliance will be erected in the St. Louis neighborhood of Webster Groves. In order to prevent homeowners David and Thuy Smith from residing in anything too "funky" like a "glass globe" or a "treehouse," architect Jeff Day designed an energy-efficient, two-story home that incorporates stringent active house principles while remaining "indistinguishable from its neighbors."


Inhabitat digs The Newcomer House, a LEED Platinum certified home built for (somewhat) cheap ($125 per square foot) in the party hearty college town of Athens, Ga. The super-charming, 2,700-square foot home/office "fuses modern green design with the neighborhood's vernacular to ensure that it fits within its unique cultural and historical context" and was designed by its current resident: Lori Bork Newcomer of Bork Architectural Design.


The Wall Street Journal reports that meatball and mattress giant IKEA plans to (permits pending) install solar panels at five additional U.S. stores, all in the Midwest. This means that an impressive 85 percent of the home furnishings retailer's American stores will be outfitted with PV arrays. The nitty-gritty: "Collectively, the five stores will total 4.8 megawatts (MW) of solar generating capacity, approximately 20,400 panels, and an annual output of 5.62 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity — the equivalent to reducing 4,273 tons of carbon dioxide (CO(2) ) — equal to eliminating the emissions of 760 cars or providing electricity for 484 homes yearly."

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Playing catch up: Wintry mix
This week: IKEA plans to outfit more U.S. locations with solar panels, America's first 'active house' comes to St. Louis and the Grey Lady goes shopping at Doll