Happy New Year

Interpretations on this curious image from 1927 are wide open. One scenario: Father Time is totally flummoxed by the longevity of the Monitor Top refrigerator, so-named because of its resemblance to the US Civil War ironclad gunship. Another take: He's confounded by the futuristic design of this kitchen contraption, the appliance equivalent of Baby New Year. One thing that's unambiguous is the supremacy of General Electric, whose glowing logo has somehow been grafted onto the sun.

For FT's sake, I hope there's a bottle or two of celebratory Champagne in the fridge. I don't see any decent wine shops on the lunar horizon.

Cheers and best wishes for 2011 to you all!

Points of Light

The Unikorn, an inventive light fixture-and-towel-hook hybrid, would perk up the blandest of baths. While I'm partial to the opal white color depicted above, the polycarbonate design also comes in a vivid orange. Each module measures about 11 x 11 inches. altlucialternative.com

Seeking Unity

Solid and void, circle and square, concave and convex all meet in this bold little lav. At the risk of sounding a bit soft, I find its integration of these opposites both provocative and hopeful. totousa.com

Presents from the Past

Attention mid-century mods and retro fans: A trove of still-crated Crane fixtures has surfaced in southern New Jersey. These shapely, colorful goodies span the 50s, 60s and 70s; a full catalogue of them is found on the dealer's website, which is linked at the end of this post. A venerable vitreous manufacturer for well over a century, Crane retained designer Henry Dreyfus to develop innovative products for the kitchen and bath. recyclingthepast.com

Back and Forward

As we get ready to take our leave of 2010 and take on 2011, I'm appreciating how this kitchen by architect Joseph Dirand straddles old and new. Weathered limestone slabs meet laser-sharp lines, classic panel detailing converges with chiseled contemporary planes—it's all good. josephdirand.com


The promise of freedom from the drudgery of laundry is as sweet today as it was in 1910 [a hundred years ago!]. While there's no question that modern appliances out perform their ancestors, I have to say that their styling—super-charged colors in metallic flake, odd-shaped porthole windows—seems so garish when compared to that of the Blue Bird washer. Its bombe-like contours and snow-white-enameled housing are elegant, albeit in a slightly clunky sort of way.

Happy and peaceful holidays to you all, dear readers.

Straighten Up

Designer Aurélie Fradin calls this storage ensemble Récapitualtion[s]; in the sense that its hooks, bins and shelves physically summarize all manner of items, it lives up to its name. Intended for a hallway or entry vestibule, I think it would be equally useful in the bathroom. Because it's modular, the pieces can be hung separately or ordered as you like. ecole-boulle.org

Inside Out

In this bath[non]room, one perambulates around the exterior of the structure, rather than within it, to visit the shower, tub and sink stations. I think that with some hard work, a similar concept could be realized for smaller, more conventional spaces. This installation, a large-scale abstraction of the featured Supernova faucet, has some intriguing details: My favorite is the mysterious pool of light on the floor of the shower. dornbracht.com

All Together Now

The interplay of materials—oak, olive wood, and teak, along with steel and stone—on this floor is so original and striking. For me, studying the woods' grains and the way the pieces are fit together is almost a meditative experience. A tonic, if you will, to the year-end holiday frenzy. This design is called San Miniato Opus Lignea. parchettificiotoscano.it

Kitchen for Contemplation

This monastic-like kitchen, with its solid yet also ethereal qualities, is a source of food not just for the body, but also for thought. I find it an inspiring space, suitable for a time of year when many of us are reflecting on life's meanings and methods. carusostjohn.com

Wish List

I'm sure this kitchen suite gave many a little lass great joy in Christmases past. For playthings, these are pretty substantial appliances; the 19-inch-tall Coldspot Jr. fridge weighs in at a robust 16 pounds. But in 1940 toys were made to last, and these, built of 'sturdy auto fender steel', offer some very impressive features. The sink unit has running water; the stove—optimistically christened Prosperity Jr.—comes complete with aluminum cookware and a whistling tea kettle. [We're reassured that the range is 'Non-Electric, Safe for Girls.']. Click the picture to appreciate the details at a larger scale.

Winter White Light

Snow, trees—'tis the season. The emphatically-named Tree-Like Tree Sconce is a sweet combination of modern form and hand-crafted finish that [in a pair] could add an element of grace to a bathroom at any time of year. There's another version of this fixture that's spangled with crystals; more festive, yes, but I like my holiday design on the quiet side. mothdesign.com

Hot Stuff

Another bitterly cold night. I'm hardly one to blather on about the clichéd concept of a 'dream bathroom', but at this moment, I'm tempted to give in to such sentimentality. And little wonder: This two-sided, counter-height fireplace warming up the bath [and the bedroom beyond] appears utterly idyllic. modusfireplaces.com

Baby, It's Cold Outside [and Inside]

What more fitting image to mark our first snowfall and descent into single-digit temperatures? Standing in a plaza in Hamburg, Germany, this igloo is constructed out of 322 small refrigerators. Artist Ralf Schmerberg created this icy installation to illustrate how much energy could be saved if older fridges were replaced by newer, more efficient models.

A very cool idea.

Watching the Clock

In remodeling projects, there are existing conditions, and there are Existing Conditions. This, needless to say, is an example of the latter category. Instead of trying to compete with or capitalize on the 14-foot-diameter clock [one of four in the loft], the kitchen design is kept simple, in an effort to achieve [ahem] equal time between the architecture and the interior. minimalusa.com

Tell It Like It Was

OK, let's review this 1960 advertisement point-by-point. 'Neat': No. Unless you have a thing for control panels that are remote from the appliance they are supposed to control. [Look closely to the left of the range and you'll spot it, rising up incongruously from the butcher block.]

'Sweet': Yes! Pink and white brick—what's not to love?

And finally, 'Smart': Thumbs down on this claim, at least as illustrated here. A 27-inch range should fit into odd, remnant spaces, and yet here, at the end of an improbable peninsula, it seems there's all the room in the world for a stove of any size.

Choice Design

The Moda vanity certainly gets back to basics—and at this harried time of year, I can well appreciate that. Well, there is the slightest quarter given to excess: it's offered in 16 finishes. But with a mellow grey ebony macassar and a silky chocolate bamboo among them, it would be Scrooge-ish to quibble. lacava.com

It's for You

Bringing new meaning to the notion of house calls, these washers and dryers can communicate with repair technicians via your cell phone. With a push of a button, some Kenmore appliances can 'talk' to service managers. Then a digital diagnosis of the problem is made, and corrective measures are taken—automatically or with a company representative—through the ether. kenmore.com

Pure & Simple

No extraneous details, no aesthetic loose ends, just fluid form and essential function. The Spoon sink embodies fine design. sanico.es

On Solid Footing

Except for the occasional functional feature, like bonus storage drawers, the toekick largely remains unexplored design territory in the kitchen; it's usually relegated to playing a supporting role [you saw that one coming, didn't you?] to flashier elements in the room. That's why this treatment—the island sitting up boldly on a broad wooden plinth—is so terrific. It flaunts convention [to fabulous effect, in my view] while posing no underfoot consequence to the cook. mowlemandco.co.uk

Rocks, No Salt

In 1955, through-the-door dispensers for water and ice weren't yet a gleam in an engineer's eye—but someone at Westinghouse was on the right track. At the press of a button, your chosen beverage concentrate was blended with 'just the right amount of cold water and air' [air?] and streamed right into a waiting glass. I'd bet that in an adult-only household, the fountain reservoirs might be filled with more potent liquids...on a closer look, doesn't that green solution bear a slight resemblance to margarita mix?


Put It Away

While I may not be fastidious when cooking—as the floury aftermath of a cookie-baking session will attest—I do appreciate the finer points of efficiency and organization in the kitchen. Fitting a scale into a drawer makes so much sense. It keeps the countertop free for the more expansive work of mixing and assembling dishes and protects the scale from accidental bumps and jostling that might affect its accuracy. eggersmann.de

Just Asking

Wouldn't having this 18-bottle-capacity wine fridge in the house make holiday get-togethers more spirited? And wouldn't its cabinet-compatible dimensions, reversible door swing and elevated installation make entertaining both ergonomic and elegant? And wouldn't it be fun to use the lighted interior as a nightlight?

I thought so. liebherr.us.com

Out of the Dark

Apologies to Volker Haug, designer of this collection of pendant fixtures [which he calls Cable Jewelry] as I have precipitously gone under the weather, i.e., have contracted a sudden and seemingly severe cold, and therefore am posting while under the influence of the generic equivalent of NyQuil.

It's eminently customizable: choose the colors, cord, bulb type, socket and contoured metal tube/s. I've always been drawn to the mad-scientist-meets-modern-designer genre of products, and right now, this fits that bill.

And so to bed. volkerhaug.com

Feat of Clay

No, this isn't some obscure work by Jenny Holzer. It's meant to pique your interest in watching a video of ceramic bathtubs being made by hand; each is one-of-a-kind. [The still pictures of the tubs, sinks and water spouts are rather grainy.] Formed on an oversized potter's wheel, the tubs are crafted in Shigaraki, Japan, a historic center of the stoneware industry. Glazes favor dusky earth-tones, but there are a couple brighter colors on offer. The gentle music that accompanies the clip eases the transition from the holiday break back to the work week—at least for me. aquapalusa.com

Old Is New

As many of us in the States spent a significant amount of time in the kitchen yesterday—cooking, eating and cleaning up—it occurred to me that might be fun to take a look at what we might have encountered in 1869. The narrow windows wouldn't have let in much light, and the convenience of running water wasn't in evidence. But there's certainly lots of well-organized storage space and expansive work surfaces. Food for thought, I'd say.

Seasonal Suggestion

One word: Cranberries.

That was my immediate reaction upon seeing these Aoba mosaics. In fact, they're made of coconut shells, which appear to take dye spectacularly. No grout is necessary [wood glue is fine], and they can be installed in damp environments. nemotile.com

Palette and Palate, Satisfied

Thanksgiving seems to inspire a spate of ultra-traditional, home-and-hearth type interiors in the design media. That's all well and good, but I'm in the mood for something in the contemporary vein, like this kitchen in California. That double-height tiled wall puts me in mind of leaves falling [which they did aplenty this week, here in the northeast], with its staggered pattern of earthy tones. And the hanging cabinets are rather fun: limned in wood, boldly positioned and brightly lit, they bring a witty style to the space. stephenwillrich.com

Information, Please

The other day on Twitter, I posted a news item that's generated a little buzz, so for the benefit of those who aren't part of that community, here's a link to a site where you can learn about a proposed restructuring of the EnergyStar program. You can read appliance manufacturers' responses to the idea there, too. It's always interesting to look at an issue from various points of view.

Grey Area

The polished graphite finish on the Museo faucet is such a chic change from the usual silvery suspects. With its abridged modern form and a smoky depth to its color, it would bring an unexpected accent to palettes white, black and in-between. symmons.com

Lining Up

High on the 58th floor of the Setai Fifth Avenue, there's a suite of showhouses hosted by three popular design magazines. Walking through one of them, this powder room by Jim and Phoebe Howard caught my eye. I like how they handled the condition of the sink area. The side wall is taller than it is wide, so running the oblong marble tiles vertically makes sense—coordinating the veining so it flows with that of the sink deck tightens up the space in a strikingly modern way. designervisionsonline.com

Paging Mr. Peabody

When will NASA or Apple or Google or some other tech titan finally release the Wayback Machine for the masses? I ask because sometime before Thanksgiving I would like to return to 1961 so I can avail myself of this ahead-of-its-time range. Its double ovens with side-swinging doors and quartet of in-line burners promised to make preparing the feast 'fast, cool and clean'—that's fine with me any day.

Speaking of 'fast', our hostess better keep an eye on those gents in the adjoining room...

Hot Tubs

Simple without succumbing to boring, the Inout tub offers a choice of three edge designs. An outward-curving lip, a squared-off deck [for drop-in installations] and the straight, clean treatment shown here. The thin walls and matte finish are especially appealing. agapedesign.it

Halftime Pastime

From the Department of Guilty Pleasures comes this retro-style reefer that I'd venture would make any Man Cave [is the plural of that Men Den?] complete. A through-the-door beer dispenser lets the thirsty tap into a standard 1/6 or slim 1/4 keg. There's lots of room for frozen pizzas and hoagie ingredients, too. The fridge is available in nine hues, one of which must surely coordinate with the home team's colors. elmirastoveworks.com

Shelf Life

In conversation with a designer the other day, she pointed out the books lining a shelf in one of her kitchen projects had all been wrapped in white or cream-colored jackets. Well, this goes that arty detail one better, I think. The spines are aligned to form a triptych of sorts that depicts an antique culinary illustration. It's a custom job, of course. juniperbooks.com

Optimal Illusion

When I first approached the Fiamma kitchen in the showroom, I was impressed by the subtle louvers on the cabinet doors—and upon getting up close [say about two feet away] I have to admit to amazement: the cabinet fronts are completely flat. The sepia-stained walnut has been meticulously pieced so its grain alternates in light and dark ribbons. Was this a deliberate design stroke, or my aging eyes playing tricks on me? I strongly suspect the former, and will categorically deny the latter. gdcucine.com

We've Got It Good

Yesterday, Veterans Day was observed in the US; hence this photographic remembrance of a WWI doughboy in a dugout field kitchen. A haunting and humbling image.

Eye of the Beholder

Inspired by a motif found in traditional Japanese textiles, the pattern for this tile recalls both a hilly landscape and the rolling sea. It's one of a family of ten tiles; the collection is called Komon. Available in subtly glazed terra cotta or a smooth lavastone recovered from Mount Etna in Sicily. madeamano.com

Provocative Placement

A spare bathroom in the sculptural sense of the word, this space manages to be simultaneously bold and modest in design. Installed in the open, the sink has become part of the house's public areas; the commode is enclosed for privacy. cubod.com

Modern Modules

The jaunty geometrics of the Solutions bath cabinet collection straddle contemporary and mid-century design. Because the drawers and cupboards are modular units, they can be assembled in configurations that fit spaces large and small. The line is available in five finishes, but I'm partial to cool white. porcher-us.com

An Engrossing Design

I was first attracted to this kitchen by its graduated levels of transparency: the large windows bordered by glass-fronted cabinets which are flanked by the soft, reflective silver of the refrigerators. There's no single focal point, nor are there any weak spots; rather, every ingredient in the room is equally considered and interesting. The design melds a commercial kitchen vocabulary with the warmth of a residential setting, and from my point of view, the result is sublime. joebmoore.com

Faster Food

Hasty pudding, indeed. While cooking technologies change, our cultural obsession with speedy meal preparation—the Slow Food movement notwithstanding—remains constant. In 1951, the electric Corox burner helped homeowners beat the clock with its 30-second warm-up; today, a microwave would vaporize a pint of Ben & Jerry's in that same time.

One more thing: In those far-ago Happy Days, I hope there was an equivalent of speed-dialing 911, as Famous Television Star Betty Furness is risking some nasty third-degree burns to her stop-watch hand.

Fresh from the Oven

Put away those spindly colander-like wire baskets and stacking bamboo trays [the latter make great desk organizers, by the way]. A new 24-inch steam-and-convection oven from Thermador lets you harness these two healthy cooking methods solo or in combination; a menu of nine different modes, including defrosting and proofing, incorporates the forced hot air or mist technologies. A 30-inch trim kit allows integration into standard built-in appliance configurations. And yes, the 1.4 cubic-foot cavity does accommodate a medium-sized turkey. thermador.com

A Jolly Trolley

This bright little number, a cross of retro and futro styles, would add a smile as well as work space to the kitchen. Its frame is made of molded wood; one drawer features a bamboo cutting board. The color-coordinated wheels lock when stability is needed, but I'd be rolling this beauty all around the house. In addition to flaming red, the Trix cart comes in lime green, bright orange and a very mellow yellow. legnoart.it

Seeing Spots

Inset cabinets and drawers, painted in a muted palette; the farmhouse sink fitted with ye olde bridge tap; crown molding and cafe curtains—they all add up to a rather straight-laced space. But then the pebble-tile floor enters the picture and shakes things up a bit [much to my personal relief]. The dense yet random pattern is a wholly unexpected design element in the kitchen, and as such really succeeds in imparting a cheeky character to the room. phoebehoward.net

Unique Perspective

Conservative design takes a swerve towards creativity in the Aimes lav set. I like the resulting collision; pitting silhouette against solid, it's a genuinely fresh look. Because of its artistic ambivalence, it would inject a stylistic counterpoint in baths of either stripe. totousa.com

Boo! The Final Chapter

This indeed is a nightmare scenario! Some trickster has made off with a fridge-full of treats, leaving nary a crumb behind. No, that's not what's going on in this frankly eerie 1946 ad. The Philco, with its hypnotic 15w light, has cast a spell upon an innocent shopper, transforming her into an appliance zombie who must trudge the aisles of department stores for eternity, doomed to comparison shop unaided by the Internet.

Have a frightful Halloween.

Boo! Part 4

This pull-out bathroom faucet could make quick work of washing off ersatz vampire blood or rinsing the Manic Panic product out of your hair. Of course, the Green Tea faucet's practicality extends beyond the demands of the pagan excesses of this coming weekend—such as shampooing the family Pekingese. americanstandard-us.com

Boo! Part 3

The big day is fast approaching—and you're still undecided about what to wear? Perhaps dressing up as an appliance [small electric or major, your choice] will make you the belle of the masquerade ball. At the Los Angeles Electrical Age Exposition, held in 1936, these lovelies embodied modern domestic conveniences with, if not grace, certainly good humor. Love the balloon bubbles capping the washing machine in the top row. Oh, Miss Range—I think your hip is done.

Boo! Part 2

Do you think this tub filler graces Keith Richards' master bath? On the 'cold' control, blue crystals are set into the eye sockets; red ones, naturally, indicate hot water. It may be a comfort to know that if a Swarovski-studded fitting is a bit too hoi polloi, it's also available set with sapphires and rubies—at a price that's more trick that treat. stepheneinhorn.co.uk


I'll be doing a few posts this week in the spirit of the upcoming national scare-a-thon [no, not the midterm elections], Halloween. Spooky from inside or outside the tub, this shower curtain brings a haunting note to a room whose reputation was forever changed by that classic Hitchcock film, Psycho. urbanoutfitters.com