28 February 2011

On, Of and Off the Wall

Although the parade of disparate lighting fixtures presents a bit of a distraction, such a curious cabinet treatment prompts a closer look at this kitchen. For me, there's an element of intrigue to the doors, in the way the familiar linear layout has been disregarded—their random positioning offers no contextual clue as to what's behind their solid fronts. The peep-hole finger-pulls only add to the mystery.

I suspect something's amiss when it comes to the lights in the foreground. Doesn't the one at the far end of the table appear unusually white, with no nuance in the tone? And there's certainly no need to install a pendant fixture in that location. Given how the rest of the kitchen has been quite carefully structured, I must wonder if the Photoshop elves have been up to no good, perhaps attempting to disguise an element on the cabinet wall that displeased them.

Just a guess.

25 February 2011

The Envelope, Please

I was surprised to learn that in 1951, many categories of Academy Awards were broken into two sub-categories: one for black and white films, the other for color productions. [Movie buffs: Best Art Direction (B/W) was won by 'A Streetcar Named Desire', while 'An American in Paris' copped the color equivalent]. This puts the achievement by Crosley's Shelvador refrigerator in the proper perspective; its gold-tone interior accents surely outshone the competition's monochromatic designs.

24 February 2011

High Drama

This extravagant bathroom may be in Milan, but its A-lister luxe would be right at home in certain ZIP codes [90024, I'm talking to you]. I am enraptured by the jade-green marble floor, whose patterns wash the surface like sea foam on a receding tide...shades of From Here to Eternity! The KBCULTURE Academy is thrilled to present the award for [very] Special Effects to architect Gio Ponti, who created this Deco den in 1924.

23 February 2011

Brilliant Performance

Preserved under a layer of crystal-clear glass, the crackled gold leaf conjures the faded glamour of old Hollywood movie palaces; the sharp-edged rectangular format adds a contemporary note. The RND Series plays this dual role well, earning it Best Set Design in this week's nod to the Oscars. hastingstilebath.com

22 February 2011

Gold Rush

With the Academy Awards coming up this weekend, KBCULTURE gets into the glittery mood by going for the gold. My nomination for Best Bath Faucet in a Supporting Role: the Purist. A contemporary interpretation of the classic pump style, it's a versatile design. Any similarity to a certain buff statuette is—well, all in your head, I'd say. kohler.com

21 February 2011

Right of Way

Clever folks, over at Viola Park. Unlike wide drawers whose pull-out action forces the chef to step away from the work surface, these tip-out bins allow you to grab a knife or other utensil without shunting the cook aside. I appreciate the priority imposed by this pocket-like design, especially when applied to the busy prep zone of a kitchen island. violapark.com

18 February 2011

New Construction

Such a radical, arty portrayal of bathroom fixtures! Not only does this vision [circa 1963] basically deny the musty post-war palette of buttercup, rose and powder blue, it also graphically broaches the then-bold idea of designing and building a new home from the ground up. Modernism was on the march, and toilets, tubs and sinks were not an inconsequential part of that movement. Of course, there would be a price for this progress: How were we to know that the daisy-strewn meadow that forms such an inviting setting here would eventually be consumed by suburban sprawl?

As recounted here, the history of the Eljer Company is an engrossing read, although there's a curious and abrupt gap in its annals that encompasses—coincidentially—the date of this striking ad.

17 February 2011

Fashion Flow

I admire the deceptively simple design of the Method family of bath fittings. It's contemporary, but with character; strikes a good balance between thick and thin forms; and the measured incline of the faucet and handles is pleasing to the eye as well as a natural fit to the hand. moen.com

16 February 2011

Not Normal

Even though my personal tastes are more forward than this kitchen would suggest, I find several aspects of its design genuinely delightful. The oval opening in the wall, of course, is happily off-center, even as it plays a practical role in channeling light and views from the adjacent room. I like the spaciousness of the extra-wide aisle between the sink and the parallel wall of cabinets; it adds an unexpected push to the floor plan of the kitchen. Finally, the potential for monkeying with the counterweights of the pendant lights—deliberately misaligning them—would be too fun a temptation to resist.

15 February 2011

Object of Contemplation

This glass countertop has given me much to think about. I see both softness and shine in its back-etched surface; its translucent quality gives it depth as well as solidity. Installed so it floats just above the cabinet carcass, it's simultaneously strong and weightless. Even the color poses a choice: Is it a wintery ice-blue or the color of a summer sky? nxline.de

We Interrupt This Blog...

...to let you know that the New York City chapter of IFDA has graciously invited me to share my experiences and observations on the LivingKitchen trade show, a brand-new industry expo which made its debut last month in Cologne. Date: Thursday, 24 February; a reception at 6:30 kicks things off, with the presentation beginning at 7:00. Place: Ethan Allen Design Center, 1010 Third Avenue [60 Street], New York City. For more information and an invitation, drop a line to Rose Hittmeyer at ifdanyny@verizon.net or call 212.686.6020.

If you're in the neighborhood, I'd love to see you there!

14 February 2011

Red [and] Hot

How's this snazzy number—an updated take on the staid AGA cooker—for a Valentine's gift? Instead of conventional knobs, the burners and griddle are regulated by twisting throttle-like controls [vroom!] which are built into the towel rail that runs across the front of the unit. Two of the four ovens are lined with silicon carbide, a material that has twice the heat-retention capability of cast iron. The Thermastone range was designed by David Fisher of Seymourpowell. mercuryappliances.co.uk

11 February 2011

To My Valentine: You're Fired

Every Friday, I usually feature some quirky appliance advertisement from the bygone days. Perhaps not surprisingly, I came across absolutely zero Valentine-themed ads; I guess it would be a bit of a hard-sell to market a washing machine as being a token of affection.

Which bring us to United States Patent #1,717,235 [Go ahead, check it out—the original illustrations are superb]. Issued in 1929, its purpose is best stated by the applicant/inventor: "The object of the present invention is to provide apparatus for carrying out table service mechanically, thus replacing the personnel which is usually employed for this purpose" [my italics.] While the labor-saving features of this self-serving [pun totally intended] device may have been well-meaning, the resulting loss of a Significant Other implies something very much to the contrary. Happy Valentine's Day, indeed.

Click on the above image to see more clearly the grim faces of the brave diners who are enjoying the convenience of the Electric Table.

10 February 2011

When You're Hot...

In the run-up to Valentine's Day, KBCULTURE celebrates a little [visual] passion in the bath with Arne Jacobsen's classic HV1 design, rendered in some appropriately vivid colors. vola.com

09 February 2011

Seasonal Swing

Today's sub-freezing temperatures remind me that we're still mired in winter, but the brilliant sunshine offers a small hint [or hope] of spring. The CookCook hearth, with its multi-functional design, is an appropriate appliance to this transitional time of year. Completely wood-fired, its interchangeable ceramic top-plate and iron grate, in conjunction with its adjustable sidewalls, allow it to work as a radiant heater, a fireplace, a cooktop and a grill. ruegg-cheminee.com

08 February 2011

Neat. Sweet. Petite.

The A2 is a modular vanity system that resolves one of my personal peeves in bathroom design: the trash bin. Regardless of its style or size, I can't stand having a waste basket underfoot in such a small space. With the A2, it's possible to pick and choose the elements—towel and tissue dispensers, trash container—you want to incorporate into the vanity and attach them to the frame in the positions that make sense for your needs. alape.com

07 February 2011

Chef's Surprise

This bright kitchen appeals with its jaunty tweaking of traditional elements. On the island, where one might expect to see carved pilasters or other orthogonal supports framing the paneled cabinet doors, smooth curves are cut into the corners. The tailored lines of the pendant light introduce a geometry that deliberately doesn't jibe with the rest of the room. I'm especially keen on the sly juxtaposition of surfaces: the rustic tile on the wall behind the range contrasts with the chic marble lining—of all places—the lowly toekick.

04 February 2011

Machine for Living

[I'm very pleased to introduce a guest blogger—architect John Clagett—for today's Flashback Friday post. —LC]

Eighty years after its completion in 1931, Le Corbusier's Villa Savoy remains a striking work. Two qualities of its bathroom have never let go of my imagination, in part because they seem at war with one another. First is its austerity. Impoverished materials, lack of ornament, industrial fixtures, exposed plumbing and concrete frame all underline a key message of the house: Austerity is a non-negotiable prerequisite for maintaining the health of mind and body.

The second is the room's playfulness. The tiled lounge invites the user to linger—to recline, and bathe in sunlight; while conversely, the multiple floor levels turn the room into a kind of gymnasium. As well, by opening the bath to the adjacent bedroom, the house seems to urge its occupants to reveal and revere the human form.

Through austerity, the architect propounds restraint; through playfulness, liberty.

03 February 2011

Free-Range Cooktop

Looking over my notes from LivingKitchen, I'd say the appliance category was thoroughly dominated by steam ovens and induction cooktops. A notable breakout product from the latter group is the CX 480. Unlike other models, which compel you to center pots within specific, circular burner-boundaries, this cooktop's network of 48 magnetic micro-coils lets you place pans of any size or shape—even a large griddle—anywhere on its surface for quick heating. gaggenau.com

02 February 2011

Snow Blindness

Winter's wrath has struck yet again, this time in the form of an ice storm. If I had my druthers [bet you haven't heard that antique phrase in a while—if ever], I'd recuperate from the latest round of digging out with a warm soak in the Kaos 1 tub. I appreciate how the side panels have been peeled away, giving the tub a fresh sculptural appearance—although I can't help but notice it bears a slight resemblance to an overturned igloo. The environment is infiltrating my perceptions, I'm afraid.... kositalia.com

01 February 2011

Kitchen as Theater

It's not every day you find yourself standing in a tipi frame, eating a bowl of artisanal risotto that was ladled straight out of a cauldron, and quaffing a tumbler of prosecco.

One thing I especially like about European trade shows is that they engage the imagination more than their US counterparts, which tend to emphasize sheer, in-your-face, spectacle. Exhibit A: This installation at LivingKitchen, which was a collaboration between architect Matteo Thun, cabinet company Riva 1920 and the American Hardwood Export Council. 'La Cucina' is built from recycled red oak and walnut; like any typical kitchen, it includes a 'water place' [the wooden sink in the foreground, filled with apples], a 'fire place' [the tipi/cauldron construction] and a 'food place' [the prep and storage elements in the background]. It provided food for thought as much as for the body.