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5 Curiously Shaped Forests

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Most forests aren't shaped like anything much. Natural blobs, usually. Squares, perhaps, if they were designed by architects or urban planners. But these forests are forests with a purpose.

1. A Heart

In 1995, Janet Howes died from heart failure at the age of 50. Her heartbroken widower, Winston, decided to pay tribute to his wife by planting a forest of 6,000 oak trees, leaving a heart-shaped meadow in the middle. Situated in the middle of a six-acre field near Gloucestershire, England, the massive love letter remained a secret until a hot air balloonist spied it from the air a few years ago.

2. Minnesota

Someone must be a really proud Minnesotan. In Lake of the Woods County, there lies a massive forest shaped exactly like the North Star State. After an article on the oddly shaped woods ran on Minneapolis’ City Pages site, a commenter replied with the backstory:

"I was a forester in northern Minnesota for some time and I can tell you this. This is state forest land, managed by DNR Division of Forestry. The state employs foresters to design timber harvests to meet many objectives including ecological and economic ones. The forester who designed this timber sale is a veteran at his craft and created this boundary line without the use of gps [sic], but with map and compass instead. The forest type is jack pine, which is an early successional species that colonizes sites after a major disturbance and needs full sun to thrive. This species occurs in fire dependent forests.  Modern timber sales mimic the effect of fire in these landscapes. As such this large opening was created to encourage it's [sic] regeneration. Loggers are contractors of the landowners/land managers, and as such do not have discretion as to the layout of the harvest or other design features. They perform the contract. This forester must have an artistic side.”

3. A Guitar

Across the globe, another romantic husband in mourning wanted to do something big to memorialize his wife, who suffered a cerebral aneurysm while pregnant and died at the age of 25. Graciela Yraizoz loved the guitar, so her husband plotted out a replica on their Argentinian farm that stretches nearly 2/3 of a mile long. The outline is made mostly of cypress trees, while the “strings” are formed by blue eucalyptus.

4. The word "Studebaker"

There’s a Studebaker in this forest near South Bend, Indiana—and I don’t mean a car. It’s been there since 1937, when the company planted 5,000 pine trees at their proving grounds. The park is apparently publicly accessible now, with signs on the ground helpfully explaining which group of trees is which letter.

5. A Swastika

A forest about 60 miles north of Berlin used to reveal a terrible secret every fall. It seems a Nazi sympathizer once planted a cluster of larch trees in the shape of a swastika. When the trees turned yellow every fall, they stood out against the evergreen forest, showcasing their message of hate. Once the trees were discovered, Brandenburg state authorities removed some in the hopes of disrupting the design. They eventually grew back, and in 2000, the larch trees were cut down entirely.

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5 Simple Seating Tricks That Will Transform Your Living Room
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Seating arrangements can make or break a social event. Whether it's a cocktail party, a book club get-together, or a Game of Thrones binge night, you want a setup that makes socializing easy and enjoyable. The right combo of comfortable chairs, tables, and other furniture is the key to making your abode more inviting and homey. We’ve got five ways to hack your living room seating for social occasions or everyday life.

1. MAKE THE TV THE FOCAL POINT OF THE ROOM.

When people are over to watch the season finale of your favorite show, the TV becomes the obvious focal point of the gathering. You can easily calculate the optimal viewing distance for your seating based on the size of your TV. For 1080p screen, double your TV's diagonal measurement to get the proper distance in inches, which you can then convert to feet.

Let's say you have a 43-inch TV—multiply that by two and you get 86 inches, or about 7 feet, as your best viewing distance. A 48-inch screen, which is one of the most popular sizes for living rooms, will allow you 8 feet of viewing space. If you have a higher-def 4K TV screen, you can sit a little closer: Experts recommend a distance of one to 1.5 times the screen size.

Now that you have the right distance in mind, arrange your couch in front and place other chairs at varied heights at the sides and behind it. Have plenty of comfy floor cushions for those who don’t snag a sofa seat so that everyone has a good sightline to the TV.

2. CREATE A CONVERSATIONAL CIRCLE.

When the social event doesn't require everyone to face the same direction, arrange the seating in a circle around a central point. This setup works best for book club meetings and gatherings where casual conversation is the main draw. Opt for a round table at the center for setting drinks and snacks. “At a round table you can see everyone at once, whereas at a rectangular table, there’s a chance you’re not seeing the faces of people on your side two or more seats down, making it difficult to chat with them,” Whitney McGregor of Whitney McGregor Designs in Greenville, South Carolina, tells Mental Floss.

A 2007 study suggested that people are drawn to circles and softer organic shapes because the rounded edges are perceived as less dangerous than sharp edges. Create a similar feel of safety, comfort, and inclusiveness in your living room with a set of chairs around a circular coffee table or a large tufted ottoman.

3. LEAVE SOME SPACE—BUT NOT TOO MUCH— BETWEEN SEATS AND TABLES.

Seating arrangement with turquoise curtains
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To keep conversation flowing, leave at least 3 feet of space between each seat (not including couches, where people are expected to chat more intimately). For example, place arm chairs about 3 feet away from the ends of the sofa or 5 to 6 feet across from the sofa. The coffee table, whether round, square, or rectangular, should sit about 14 to 18 inches from the front of the couch—far enough to provide comfortable legroom, but close enough to set a drink down without getting up.

These cushions of space prevent guests from feeling like they're sitting on top of one another, according to Apartment Therapy. But a stretch of 10 feet or more is too much to converse easily, so pull out the tape measure as needed.

4. FRESHEN A STUFFY ARRANGEMENT WITH ASYMMETRY.

It's possible to switch up the whole feeling of your room—without purchasing new furniture—by changing the existing seating and accent tables from a symmetrical to an asymmetrical arrangement, and vice versa. “Asymmetry versus symmetry can be a fickle thing,” Christy Davis of Christy Davis Interiors in Columbia, South Carolina, tells Mental Floss. “Symmetry gives a sense of wholeness and completeness, whereas asymmetry makes you think a little more because it’s not as common as symmetry.”

Do you crave that whole and complete feeling? Put two matching chairs on either side of a table to make the room seem more visually balanced and formal. For a casual look with more energy, take those same two chairs and put them in a random order: One to the left of the couch as a discrete conversational seating area, and the other on the opposite wall and farther down in the room, along with a side table and lamp, as its own smaller conversation nook.

5. ADD SURFACES FOR DRINKS AND MORE.

With every good seat comes the need for a place to set a drink, your phone, or the remote control. While you want your coffee table at least 14 inches in front of the couch, the rules for accent table placement are a little looser. Try sitting in each location in your room and checking if there’s a place to set your glass within each reaching distance. If not, add a side table or garden stool, then dress it up with plants and photos. According to The Spruce, the side table should be about the same height as the arm of the seat it's next to.

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These Suitcases Convert Into a Mini Kitchen, Office, or Bed
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Finally, a product has been released to appease travelers who have long demanded a suitcase they can cook scrambled eggs on. A new line by Italian designer Marc Sadler, spotted by Lonely Planet, features three aluminum suitcases that can be converted into either a mini kitchen, a work station, or even a bed.

A cooktop suitcase
Marc Sadler

The cook station suitcase will soon be released as part of the special edition Bank collection, which will be sold by suitcase brand Fabbrica Pelletterie Milano. It comes with built-in power, a cooktop, mini fridge, several drawers with cutlery, and a foldable chopping table.

Those who travel often for work may want to opt instead for the workstation suitcase, which features a pull-out chair, work surface, electrical outlets, and wooden drawers. Ideal for camping, the bed station comes with a fold-out wooden frame and mattress topper. It also happens to be the most expensive of the three, at a cost of €6900 ($8135).

A suitcase converts to a pull-out bed
Marc Sadler

A suitcase with a built-in desk and drawers
Marc Sadler

It's unclear whether these suitcases would make it through airport security, but TSA does permit camp stoves as long as they don't have fuel inside them. Don't try to make breakfast while waiting at your gate, though—there are probably rules against that.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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