Talking Shop

Gray Uhl, Director of Design for American Standard, recently answered a few questions for 'Talking Shop', a new feature at KBCULTURE.

As a designer, my greatest responsibility is...
To communicate the future. My design team and the engineering team here are working on many new product solutions. We as a society face environmental and conservation challenges; I believe it is important to let everyone know what is possible and that there is more cause for optimism than may be apparent.

One of my creative touchstones is...
The automotive industry. I find that your car is the only product that you interact with on both physical and emotional levels as closely as you do with your bathroom. These two industries also face similar challenges in conservation and environmental arenas.

A current project I'm exploring is...
What routines people have when they take a bath or shower. We've been traveling around the country conducting research interviews in people's homes. One thing I've learned is that we all want the same comfort and convenience, no matter how diverse the sample group may be.

If I had a week off from the studio, I would...
Hike part of the Appalachian Trail.

Seasonal Style

Here's a kitchen that eases the summer-autumn transition for me. The celadon color of the cabinets has a freshness that's uplifting, while the burnished tones of the range hood, floor boards and ceiling beams promise warmth in the chilly months ahead.

A Copper Coup

Returning from an auction of Arts & Crafts furnishings this weekend [with some newly acquired Roycroft pieces], I noticed a nip in the air and a few russet leaves crowning the trees. The De Dion faucet seems appropriate to the time and place.

Shall We Dance?

Decades after this promotional film was made, it could qualify as performance art. At once simple and esoteric, graceful and mechanical, literal and symbolic: Enjoy your journey back to the wonderful world of appliances, circa 1957.
[Do not view this clip while drinking liquids, or your screen may suffer. You have been warned.]

Rock On

If you find granite, concrete or marble surfaces lacking in visual character [or if you happen to be a geologist with a sense of the aesthetic], take a look at this line of semi-precious stone slabs. This counter is made of carnelian. Other stones in the collection include amethyst, red jasper, tiger iron, agate and petrified wood.

Corner Play

For kitchens where a conventional corner cabinet just won't do, this angular drawer may fit the bill. When closed, the front panels are flush with the flanking drawers; a concealed fingerpull keeps the design discreet.

Sustainable Shower

In this poetic invention, a team led by designer Jun Yasumoto envisions a self-sustaining eco-system that utilizes the natural filtering qualities of plants to purify drainage from the shower and sink. The water is then recycled.

Climbing the Wall

The multi-jointed Karbon faucet has ascended from the counter to the wall—where I think it's better positioned to oversee culinary and clean-up tasks. This installation also preserves a clean sweep of counter surfaces.

Feats of Clay

I'm really impressed with the craftsmanship found in the Chimney family of pendant lights. The body of the fixture is hand-thrown clay and the interiors of the shades are glazed in glossy white. This detail shot highlights the composition and texture of the clay; to see the fixtures in their entirety, visit designer Benjamin Hubert's site.

Another Less-Than-Great Idea

Well. This doesn't look quite right to me, but perhaps in 1956 having popcorn erupt all over the stovetop was quite the rage. It's spewing forth from a cooking cavity that was purported to be more convenient—more modern—than simply putting a pot on the burner.
Note that the appliance was 'built and backed' by General Motors. That may explain everything.

Transcendental Style

Even though modern and traditional elements spar in this space, the kitchen nonetheless has a quietude about it that I find attractive. The sober grey of the walls and concrete floor calm the intense white of the room; keeping cabinets to a minimum also contributes to the visual serenity.

Rethinking the Sink

Sometimes, all it takes is one thoughtful variation to inject freshness into a familiar form. With the Coquillage sink, the faucet has been integrated into the basin; a graceful move when compared to the freestanding pillar or wall-mounted taps that are typically paired with vessel sinks. Turning the bowl so the faucet is closer to the user is a smart move, too.

Super Soaker

A contemporary version of the Japanese ofuro soaking tub, the Sorrento features built-in bench seating, so you can take the waters—113 gallons—in comfort. An optional oak step-stool helps bathers scale the 40-inch-tall tub wall.

Contoured Cooking

Omnipresent Karim Rashid has produced a line of appliances for Gorenje. The hallmark of the collection is a LED light integrated into the handles of the units—ho hum, I say. Much more interesting is his take on the cooktop, which replaces the familiar burner circles with a fluid, topographic pattern. It's an elegant departure from the norm.

Hot Plates

It seems to me that this 1933 plate-warming compartment is superior to the contemporary drawer-style appliances we have today. Judging from the photograph, a full set of dishes could be kept toasty in the olde days; the modern equivalent holds significantly fewer platters.

Friendly Faux

The visual telltale sign of artificial stone is a veining pattern that repeats and is rendered on too small a scale to be convincing as a natural quarried slab. The 180fx collection of laminates mimics granite with sweeping fields of color that flow the full length of the sheet—up to 12 feet—without recurring.

A Clean Sleek

A hook? A broken circle? Either way, I like how the Sweep design does away with the traditional solid shower rose.

...Since Sliced Bread

In the war against cluttered counters, a new hero emerges—or, actually, it hides. This toaster folds up and down in its own drawer; there is an automatic shut-off feature that kicks in when the unit is closed. In a further boon to the fastidious, the crumb tray can be emptied in either the standing or flat positions.

Vertical Tasting

For a small wine refrigerator, I find this built-in cooler ever so more palatable than those boxy countertop models. Six inches wide and holding seven bottles, it could be installed in the smallest of kitchens—or elsewhere in the home.

Aesthetic Equilibrium

For many years, I've admired how designer Fu-Tung Cheng finds balance in his projects. In this remodeled kitchen, a massive counter floats above cabinets, light and dark work in harmony, the handmade meets machine...and a prototypical modern house becomes personalized.