Two Design Geeks Crazed for Coffee-Cup Lids

The architects Louise Harpman and Scott Specht began collecting takeout-coffee lids when they were in college, in a nineteen-eighties, and continued a use as connoisseur students during Yale. Separately, and unbeknownst to any other, they had amassed, in their dorm rooms, a trove of bland objects that they found aesthetically pleasing. Specht had potion radio tubes, medicine bottles, and airline-safety cards; Harpman had Ferrara Pan candy boxes, flypaper wrapping from a forties, and hot-water bottles. They both had coffee lids. Once they schooled of their common interest, they began comparing notes, like trading-card fanatics.

“There was a Wawa convenience-store lid, a 7-Eleven, a Dunkin’ Donuts,” Harpman recalled. “It was, like, ‘Oh, we found this one, do we have that one?’ ” After they joined their collections and married, they ran an design firm, Specht Harpman, for twenty years, until they distant and separate their practice. All a while, a coffee-lid collection grew; during some 5 hundred and fifty lids, it is expected a world’s largest. (In 2012, a Smithsonian acquired a selection. “We usually gave them ones we had duplicates of,” Harpman said.) Harpman now teaches during N.Y.U. and lives nearby, and Specht divides his time between New York and Austin. The coffee lids have stayed together, in acid-free boxes, underneath Harpman’s bed.

On a new Tuesday, Specht and Harpman, bright-eyed and caffeinated, met during Lafayette, a French café in NoHo, for margin research. They had brought with them their new book, “Coffee Lids: Peel, Pinch, Pucker, Puncture,” that includes tone photographs and strange obvious drawings for some-more than dual hundred singular lids. (The underline refers to process of access.) Harpman wore a white blouse underneath a navy garment coat; she had pushed her eyeglasses adult into her bob. “The biggest eminence in a taxonomy is either we flay divided partial of a lid, so we can indeed get your mouth on a cup, or, like this one”—she hold adult her latte—“you splash by a square of plastic. There’s one we like best, by a engineer named Morris Philip, that sits down in a cup.”

Specht nodded. He was wearing a propitious coupler over a dim shirt, and steel-rimmed glasses. “I adore a megalomania of that cup,” he said.

In a time before lids (B.L.), when people carrying coffee changed during a slower pace, there was usually a rimmed cosmetic snap-on disk, patented, in 1950, by James D. Reifsnyder, of a Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation. It contained no celebration holes. After a 1983 Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager strike a road, with built-in crater holders, lids like a Solo Traveler, designed by Jack Clements (and now in MoMA’s collection) introduced a tiny drain, for overflow, in further to a sipping hole. The field-guide territory of “Coffee Lids” includes pages on “Ergonomic Drink Apertures” (“the sippy cup”), “Foam Accommodation Techniques” (“the FoamAroma”), and “Slosh Drainage Systems” (Nyman Manufacturing Company Model 11096: “a disaster watchful to happen”).

Harpman mentioned a new prize. “Last summer, in London, somebody’s walking opposite a travel with this crazy lid.” She fished a Ziploc bag from her handbag.

“The bug-eye lid,” Specht said. It was lonesome in cosmetic buttons to prove a form of drink: choc, cap, special, latte, white, mocha.

“It’s from McDonald’s! ” Harpman said, brandishing a lid. “I’d suspicion a splash difficulty was dormant.”

Around a corner, during La Colombe, Specht grabbed dual lids from behind a opposite while a clerk’s behind was turned. “They have a Viora lid,” Harpman said. “This is a one Wired thinks is a best.” It has a skinny edge and a recessed space for a nose.

Specht brought adult a unsuccessful speed to Gasoline Alley, an upscale, minimalist coffee emporium nearby. “Yesterday was unbelievable,” he said. “We travel into a place, and they’re, like, ‘What are we guys doing?’ We told them a bit about a research, and a manager came out and said, ‘We need to call a owner.’ People are so paranoid.”

On a street, Harpman forked out several orange-and-white striped travel barricades (“They’re only everywhere”), and counterweighted glow escapes (“Incredibly beautiful”). Specht extolled a menus from restaurants like IHOP, that uncover photographs of food (“I have a outrageous basket of those”).

In Think Coffee, a male in a blazer, holding dual prohibited drinks, waited while a span examined a dimples on a compostable lids. “Decaf, cream, and black—that’s all,” Specht said.

They motionless to try Gasoline Alley again, obscure their voices as they entered. Specht took a lid from a shelf. “You’ve got a basic, a generic,” he mused. “This contingency be gaining leadership.”

“We saw that one during Darkstar,” Harpman noted.

The barista, a bearded male in an apron, had been watching. “I’m not perplexing to stare,” he said. “Anything we can assistance we with?”

Harpman gave a accessible wave. “We’re thinking!” she said. They exited quickly. ♦

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