Christmastide, Day 7

On the verge of a new year, yet still celebrating a lingering holiday season; it's the annual temporal tug-of-war that I typically find a little confusing. Happily, clarity abounds in this aesthetic updating of the contemporary classic Ola20 kitchen [It was designed in 1992.]. A new addition to the materials palette is carbon fiber, which rejuvenates the base of the peninsula and the reveals on the base cabinets.

Christmastide, Day 4

How about a little elegance for the last Flashback Friday of the year? White-tie-and-tails aren't out of line for the 1936 debut of a refrigerator styled by Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, the designer behind the Cord L-29 Hayes coupe and the 1928 Auburn Speedster. Inside, the fridge offered such wonders as circulating purified air, a built-in thermometer, and—perhaps the most important feature as the new year draws nigh—copious quantities of ice cubes in flexible rubber trays.

Christmastide, Day 3

Last night, we endured a nasty winter punch, complete with howling winds and blasts of sleet and snow. I offer today's post to reassure readers that picnic weather will return, and this tent, with its digitally-printed flysheet, would offer some stylish shelter for alfresco gatherings. In addition to the sandwich motif [my favorite], designs that take a comestible tack include a wedge of Swiss cheese, a slice of watermelon, and a veritable mountain of jelly beans. With aluminum shock-corded poles and an interior that roughly measures 8'8" by 4'11" by 4'3", these tents are not toys.

Christmastide, Day 2

Where, oh where, were you yesterday, B21?

Developed at the Technical University of Munich, the robot [full name: B21 Bender] performs household chores by scanning radio-frequency identification tags that are attached to items in the kitchen. This enables him/her to situate articles in their 'proper' places; e.g., dirty dishes go in the dishwasher, clean ones on the table or in the cupboard.

B21 has a couple colleagues in the university's Assistive Kitchen project. Rosie and James PR2 operate with different cognition technologies and excel at pouring cereal and preparing popcorn, among other tasks, as you may observe on their video channel.


Welcome to the Twelve Days of Christmas, KBCULTURE-style. Until 5 January, I'll be keeping things on the lighter side, featuring places and products that, while still kitchen- and bath-oriented, will range further afield from our usual vein.

And so here is a sauna. In a ski gondola. In Finland. You're welcome.

Pastiche Present

A little bit of sparkle, a nip of the exotic, and not wholly practical: These are my criteria for a memorable gift. This kitchen, with its Moorish-meets-cottage character, is itself a surprise package.

A White Christmas? Try Daffodil...

I know that some people feel more depressed than delighted during the holiday season—and to judge by the hangdog look on his face, Bing Crosby was having one of those moments in 1957. But it's quite possible that the chanteur of Christmas was contemplating his less-than-festive surroundings. Lemon-yellow appliances, cheapo wood paneling, and counters that look like some type of clay-based primordial ooze would bring anybody—even Der Bingle—down.

[Rumor has it that Bing was fond of marijuana. Maybe a toke from that pipe would restore some yuletide cheer...and no doubt there's plenty of snacks in that reefer—oops, I mean, 'refrigerator'!]

A Toast!

We've reached a milestone here at KBCULTURE—one thousand posts. To celebrate, let's take a desirous look at the Sommelier Set, a new feature on selected wine cabinets. Oenophiles, take note of its conveniences: An inclined shelf is tailor-made for in-fridge decanting; stemware is kept cool on a hardwood rack; open bottles can be securely stored upright; corkscrews and other tools are handily stored in a lidded wooden box.

Innate Appeal

In this tight kitchen corner, I'm focussing on the built-in plate rack. A detail cribbed from a country-style space, it's been given a semi-swanky makeover, framed by lengths of marble. As much as I like the storage idea, the pile-on of materials and finishes overwhelms its inherent simplicity. Eliminating the white field tile on the walls would be a step in the right direction.

Stilling the Water

There's a balance in this bath faucet that's both challenging and reassuring. The Ziqq adeptly combines opposing qualities—high/low and tubular/planar—to an extremely pleasing effect, in my opinion. Wall-mount versions of Mario Tessarollo's elegant design are also available.

Safe Harbor

I'll take what comfort can be found in this intimate, iconic kitchen. Its visual stillness—a result of diffused light, stolid cabinets, and muted color—offers at least a semblance of security at this suddenly sad time. 

Peace to all my friends and colleagues at The Taunton Press in Newtown.

Kitchen Tour

'Tis the season for the holiday house-party circuit, where socially well-adapted guests happily mingle in the living room and other public spaces. Others [ahem] congregate in the kitchen, ostensibly 'helping' the host while casting furtive peaks into the refrigerator and cabinets. In 1959, Kelvinator took folks on some virtual visits to three houses; the homeowners were anything but shy in bragging about how the Foodarama fridge enhanced their quality of life. Of their claims, my favorite is 'WE HAVE MORE FUN!' as declared by the Thompson family in the lower left corner. But I'm also impressed by the Green Acres-ish Mr. Anderson [upper right corner], who happily lugs a bushel basket of produce while decked out in a business suit.

The Better to See You

Such a brilliant idea for a bathroom or dressing area, this. The twicely-named Mirror, Mirror features a removable, hand-held looking glass that nests into its larger partner via a magnet.

Rest Room

There are occasions—usually deep-winter afternoons, at the height of the holiday craziness—when a retreat from reality is not only enjoyable, but advisable. Neither sumptuous or spartan, this small bath offers a place to slow down and perhaps appreciate the spirit of the season. I love the incongruity of the faucet.

Suspended, Light

If you've ever had a lightbulb slip from your grasp, it's possible that a few choice words slipped from your lips as the fragile orb shattered. Proving that expletive-inducing experiences know few language barriers, the Scheisse pendant fixture teases with its 'shards' improbably frozen in space.

Mobile Apps

Kitchen cabinets as furniture: That once-new idea has long gone mainstream. But recently, I'm detecting a nascent trend in appliance design that takes a similar approach. Enzo Berti created the handsome Dolmen kitchen with cooktops and sinks integrated into 'tables' that can be strategically placed within a space. Take your pick from an elegant materials palette that features walnut or larch wood and three types of marble.

Slotted Machine

To judge by the multiple inlets on the lid-within-the-lid of this washer, doing the laundry in the 1970s was a far cry from the simplicity offered by today's technology—or that of the days of the washboard, for that matter. Powders and liquids aplenty were seen as necessary agents to achieve clean clothes, and GE's Dispensall feature freed the lucky laundress from making repeat visits to add detergent, softener, bleach, fragrance, and other solutions to the appliance.

Give me soap and water any day.

Things Are Looking Up[side-Down]

It's been that kind of week, dear readers—everything suddenly turned topsy-turvy, owing to the classic Circumstances Beyond My Control. Slowly, things are righting themselves. This inverted cabinet is much the metaphor for my life at this point. Even though here it isn't set in a bath or kitchen, it could make a statement in either setting, and act as a reminder that even in chaos, there is beauty.

Happy Birthday, Walt

On this date in 1901, the man who eventually brought us Disneyland was born in Chicago. Now rare, there are a couple lav faucet designs which bring a bit of Walt's vision—pre-CGI, that is—into the home. Pooh and friends make this wide-spread model visually charming as well as easy for little hands to operate, thanks to Tigger and Eyore striking friendly, lever-like poses.

It's a small world, indeed.

Sonic Shower

While it's not likely you'll ever need to X-ray your showerhead, I couldn't resist the techy image of the cool new Moxie fitting. That gumdrop-like cone is a portable speaker, which, when synced with a smartphone or mp3 player, streams your playlist into the shower. After bathing, pop it out of the head [it's held in place via a magnet] and continue listening as you go about your morning or evening routine.

Barn Burner

With their hacheted texture and imposing size, those wooden beams are the point around which most everything turns—design-wise—in this space. Smooth-troweled concrete cloaks the counters, and, beneath the factory-scaled chimney vent, forms a built-in grill. I am amused by the incongruous globe light fixture in this kitchen of contrasts.

Domestic [Shorthair] Bliss

While the tweedy control panel caught my eye, this 1963 vignette more engaged my memory. Growing up, cats were a constant presence in my home, and they—of course—enjoyed All-Access passes to every room, including the kitchen. The above scene is quite familiar to me. But Tappan showed its ignorance [willful or otherwise] of feline nature when claiming kitty's comfort is due to the quietude of its dishwasher: any cat person knows it's the warmth of the drying cycle that earns the appliance the animal's approval.

Modern Meets Medieval

Belying its contemporary appearance, the Crush pendant light is fabricated using a technique developed by medieval armorers to produce rigid, form-fitting leather breastplates and other such necessities of the Dark Ages. Cuir bouilli is a boiling process that initially renders leather pliable and then allows the dried material to holds its contoured shape. [An enticement: the designer also offers some kitchenware and seating using the same method.]

Feeling the Way

Yesterday, inspired by an interesting online chat with the design team at GE, I went to my files on concept kitchen appliances. There I rediscovered the Touch&Turn, a project by Dutch designer Menno Kroezen. It's a simple cooking system to assist blind people in preparing meals. Users orient the handle of the cool-to-the-touch pot to any of the raised dots that ring the induction hotplate; the more dots, the higher the heat. Thoughtful and thought-provoking work.


A porthole window in the shower—why not? It's sufficiently unusual that it could pass as a quirky moderne-period detail, and should you be fortunate enough to live seaside, it's a witty expansion of the standard nautical decor-theme. If you're interested in continuing such submariner style in other bath fixtures, here's a tub that will float your boat.

Keeping It Simple

After the hustle [and the hustling, courtesy of the pushers of the ridiculous shop-a-thons that are Black Friday and Cyber Monday] of Thanksgiving, I'm looking for a little quiet time in the kitchen; yes, this one would suit me fine. A couple of appealing details raise this space out of the ordinary: the frosty glass behind the stove is unexpectedly luxe for such a traditional kitchen, and the unpainted drawers on the island are a nice reminder of the material origins of the room.

Seconds, Anyone?

Although this ad dates from 1950, the scene it depicts is may ring a more recent in yesterday, perhaps? Dishes—platters, plates, cups and saucers, pans and pots and roasters, and the occasional tureen—stacked everywhere in a silent testament to good-natured gluttony.

Thanks for Giving

I'm grateful to be able to enjoy this holiday in comfort; life is back to pre-Sandy standards. But for many in our area, the hardship continues, and today is more a cruel reminder of loss than a celebration of bounty. Here's an opportunity to share our good fortune with them.

Ah! La Cart

With Thanksgiving imminent, any and all open surfaces will be pressed into use, for service as well as prep tasks. The Chariot trolley can stylishly roll from kitchen to tableside [perhaps making a detour to the bar...]. Bands of silicon edge the wheels, protecting floors and ensuring a silent passage. The transporting design is offered in white, natural oak, and red—my pick.

Swoop to Poop

Yesterday was World Toilet Day, and this is my belated acknowledgement of global inadequate sanitation facilities. A Red Dot 2012 winner, this curvaceous commode accommodates both squatting and sitting positions with grace. Congratulations to designer Ramazan Atasever on his achievement.

T [as in Turkey] Minus Three Days...

And so the countdown to Thanksgiving begins in earnest. On Thursday, few kitchens—mine included—will look as clean and organized as this one, with its spotless counters and spare composition of open storage. I was surprised learn these cabinets are made of bamboo, a material which I aesthetically [but not in principle] eschew; the grain is too monotonous for my taste. But here, that seems to be assuaged by the dark stain of the wood. And the smack of robin's egg blue helps a lot, too.

Room for Improvement

Ah, the Flair range—its slide-out cooktop and pull-up oven doors made it the choice for style-conscious cooks in 1963. [It was even featured in the kitchen of the classic TV show Bewitched.] Today, the appliance claims quite an online community of enthusiasts.

This photo inadvertently reveals a flaw in the Flair: If there's a tall stockpot [or a gleaming copper double boiler] on one of the burners, it would be impossible to roll out the bottom oven rack without playing the cooktop equivalent of musical chairs, moving the pan/s out of the way. And, as we can plainly see, it's pretty awkward trying to baste a turkey while it's still in the oven.

Here It Comes...

The biggest test of American kitchens will take place one week from today. On Thanksgiving, every burner will be ablaze, every oven rack will be loaded to the max, and every InSinkErator will be grinding away in our annual feeding frenzy. A super-sink like this one would be quite an asset during the prep and cleanup; I especially like the centralized knife storage.

Shake It Up

The austerity seen in this bathroom isn't run-of-the-mill minimalism, not by a long shot. Rather than be content with seamless surfaces and neutral hues, the designers incorporated a subtle texture—or maybe I should say 'dimension'?—with the beveled subway tiles on the walls. The not-so-subtle pattern on the floor adds a fun optic element. A detail I'm especially keen on is limiting the use of metallic finishes to the light fixtures; the ceramic robe hooks and tissue holder enhance the nonconformist mood of the room while making an effective materials statement.

Wild Life

Perhaps you think today's post is a bit on the sentimental side, but it's a drizzly, grey day here and I'm still navigating the road back to post-storm normalcy, so please bear with me. The down-to-earth, seasonal imagery of this handmade tile just might be a touchstone to recovery. Nature gives as well as takes.

Table for More

Some kitchens are all about the food; this one is focused on the social dimension of cooking. Breaking bread here is an expansive affair, with two tables aligned with an island that's designed for casual buffet service. My quibble: the apparently inadequate storage. The freestanding shelf unit seems a postscript, and spoils the room's chiseled lines.

Two Out of Three

Last week we had Sandy; this week's unwelcome guest was Athena, who dropped a half-foot of snow on our already-battered environs. While we floundered without power for too many days and nights [and some, shockingly, continue to do so], had this Monitor Top fridge been on the scene, life might have been slightly less traumatic. In 1930, the appliance was put through some rather unusual tests—'In the icy waters of the Erie Canal they drowned it! They buried it in a giant tower of ice!'—and it held up to the elements.

They don't make 'em like they used to.

Incomplete Control

Putting life back in order in these post-Sandy days has proven a strange process. The Èl collection of towel racks and bath storage reflects [pardon the pun] this unsettling exercise. Painted in an eye-fooling composition of dark blue and white, a shadowy illusion of structure is created.

Brilliant Achievement

Something to celebrate! Created for a backsplash installation, this slab of fused glass brings together a spectrum of vivid colors. I hope a similar unification is in the works for our still-divided political powers....

One or the Other

It's Election Day here in America, and from my perspective, the choice between the candidates is as clear as the one posed by this lav set. While the Savoy faucet gracefully unites contemporary and traditional design elements, the recent political campaign has not reached such an equilibrium.

Tomorrow is another day.

Indirect Lighting

I'm taking more than a little vicarious comfort in the warm glow of this kitchen, as it's been a week since our home has had heat or light. It doesn't matter that the room isn't blazingly bright; in fact, as I've gotten accustomed to life as lit by lantern and candle, it enhances the intimate experience of my own temporarily non-functioning kitchen.

A Wash Out

It's Flashback Friday, Hurricane Sandy edition. Dear readers, after the events of this week I'm afraid I'm running a little dry [sorry!] on the snappy/pithy commentary about Ye Olde Appliances. In fact, I'd welcome the most outmoded of any of them right now, as the storm-induced power outage stretches on with no end in sight. In the meantime, I think I'll make like the control panel on this dashing, 1970s-era dishwasher, and disappear for the weekend.

Under the Weather—Really

Once we emerge from cleaning up the muck and mess that was so unceremoniously dumped on us by the meteorological shrew called Sandy, I would like to take a bath. A hot one, please, and if possible, in a tub that is a step above the usual white trough in its design. This model will do nicely, thank you.

Line Cook

Looking at the tangle of downed tree limbs that now litters our lawn [thanks, Sandy!], I'm put in mind of this dynamic grate design. The cooktop, which is part of a new collection of top-of-the-line appliances called Grande Cuisine, has a most interesting feature: Each burner is equipped with the so-called Flower Flame, which automatically rises or lowers to fit the pan, whether it's an 11-inch skillet or a five-inch petite saucepan. Neat trick!

In the Dark

Once we're done with the nastiness of Frankenstorm, I may pick up a few of these Sunday fixtures. Living in an area that is prone to power outages when the weather turns bad, it would be nice not to have to scramble for candles when the lights go dark. And as we ride out the storm, that glass of whisky is not a bad idea, at all.


As Hurricane Sandy is making her presence very much known—with the worst to come—I offer up the Marecucina kitchen. With flooding in our area exacerbated by a Halloween-perfect full moon, we're in for rough seas, here; this see-worthy design provides an aesthetic escape, if not an actual one.

Ghoulish Pleasures, The Final Chapter

Despite the name of the manufacturer, there's something about this 1905 commode that's unnatural in the extreme. To the 21st-century eye, its sloped design is unsettling—more haunted than holistic. Bizarrely ringing the fixture with multiple full moons only increases the eerie factor, wouldn't you say?

Ghoulish Pleasures, Part 4

No skullduggery here: These metal drawer/door pulls are faithful castings of bird craniums. I think they'd add a certain skeletal style to cabinets of all kinds, wonder-full or otherwise. The skilled artists at Blue Bayer Design Studio meticulously handcraft all sorts of boney beauties.

Ghoulish Pleasures, Part 3

Ideal for dispatching odors sulfurous and otherwise, these range hoods have a distinctly ominous attitude; to me, the appliance seems like equipment that might grace Dr. Frankenstein's lab.

Ghoulish Pleasures, Part 2

Surrounded by the primitive, six-pointed stars that are favored by sorcerers, this little Desmodus rotundus casts quite a spell of his own. No need to install a whole colony of tiles, though; just a single 4-inch x 4-inch square set in an unexpected corner of the belfry—I mean room—would lend the space a spooky tone. The handmade ceramic tile is offered in 16 standard colors, with custom glazes available, too.

By the way, the Year of the Bat—a conservation program backed by the United Nations—wraps up in a couple months. Learn more about the international effort here.