Ciao for Now

Next week, as products editor for The Architect's Newspaper, I'll be attending EuroCucina, the biennial kitchen extravaganza that is part of design week in Milan. Reporting from trade shows can be an iffy situation, as internet connections, phone service, and press facilities are often unknown quantities until you're on the scene. So while I'm still on home turf, I'll share some sneak previews of product introductions.

While I haven't been able to verify the translation, manufacturer Scavolini notes that the name of its new line, Ki, is Japanese for 'container'. That's the operative idea behind this kitchen. Designed by Nendo, wall cabinets are replaced by bins. The same form is found at the sink, cooktop, and vent hood, and is also echoed by the seating. The exposed orderliness seems to encourage modesty in the accumulation of stuff; call it inconspicuous consumption.

Happy Fry-Day

Reading about "the vanishing Grid'l Shield", my inner copy editor responds with a snarky, silent comment on "the vanishing vowel"—but I digress.

Actually, the meter of the headline puts me in mind of 'The Surrey with the Fringe on Top'—but again, I digress.

I'm all in favor of range-top griddles, but there's something about this 1953 version that bothers me. I think surrounding said grid'l with walls would not solve the problem it purports to address. It merely substitutes cleaning grease spatters off the cooktop with cleaning grease spatters off the enclosure shield. [Or should that be "she'ld"?]

Spring Lines

In pure white or marble finishes, the standard model of the Accademia tub is a model of elegance. But this limited edition of the design, dubbed Pop, has a buoyant graphic that's good for keeping my spirit afloat in this prolonged, freezing prelude to spring. Other special-order versions are more sedate, featuring gold-dipped feet and such.

Pipe Dream

The Elan Vital faucet puts a polish on the jury-rigged look that's so in vogue in bathroom plumbing these days. At the rim of the spout, the brass is knurled; a rugged way to finish off the projection. The shut-off valves—I mean, the handles—are, unlike their utility-room counterparts, quite comfortable to grasp and operate.

Optical Effusion

To me, the beauty of the Illusia is not the fixture, but the light itself. A diffused floral-like pattern is cast as the LED bulb shines through a glass ball contained inside the globe. Designer Kirsti Taiviola sought to 'create an atmospheric table setting without any candles.' A modern ambition, poetically achieved.

Fairly Balanced

Anyone who's looking to 'right-size' [not my idea of a graceful turn of phrase, but it is descriptive] could pick up a few design pointers from this lovely little kitchen. Number One: Do not be cowed by existing conditions as far as your storage needs are concerned. Cabinets running up to the ceiling are to be encouraged. Number Two: Opting for small-sized appliances doesn't mean sacrificing amenities. This set up has it all, from coffee machine to steam oven. Number Three: Resist the temptation to have everything you want. The faucet here looks like it is too large for the sink, with excessive over-spraying a distinct possibility.


Today, technology has most of us—no offense intended to my Luddite friends—rather jaded. It's a little difficult to muster the sense of wonder in a world where it's possible to fabricate food from a 3D printer or physically shake hands with the person on the other end of a Skype call. So this 1931 ad touting the 'magic' of the humble ice cube is a reminder of not just how far we've come in the hardware and software spheres, but also of the evolution [or, arguably, de-evolution] of our priorities.

Tall, Dark, and Handsome

Walking about the AD Home Design Show today, I came across this dramatically different refrigerator. Check out the interior: Instead of the usual bright white, it is a rich grey, sparsely flecked with ever-so-subtle silver. [Do note this is a prototype, so the final product, due out in October, may differ slightly in shade.] It had an absolutely transformative effect on the appearance of the contents—a humble container of orange juice was elevated to food-styling perfection.

A Tall Order

In architectural and urban planning circles, the micro-dwelling has recently been a hot topic of investigation. This columnar kitchen, designed by Massimo Facchinetti for Clei, fits—quite snugly, I might add—into that concept. While borrowing beyond a doubt from Joe Colombo's Boby taboret and modular kitchen designs, with their swiveling horizontal planes, this compact unit reaches upward. A smarter use of space, I think.

Positive Thinking

The balance has shifted at last: There is more bare ground than snow outside. While I know we're still weeks away from the actual event, even rendered in cold marble this mosaic of stylized orchids in bloom assures me that spring finally is around the corner.

...With Envy

On this St. Patrick's Day, let's raise a Guinness and toast the emerald-influenced palette of this kitchen, in the Manhattan home of artist Marina Abramovic. She calls the color green 'healing to the eye' in the context of the cold, grey city; I call it a sight for sore, snow-blind eyes—Irish or otherwise.

Domestic Détente

Smiling siblings, helping out in the kitchen? No water fight, no whining, or accusatory sponge-throwing? Such a scene is not my idea of a mess, not by a long shot. But I'm not going to fault Westinghouse for this seeming disconnect; in fact, given the timing of the ad—1944, by my estimate—such a peaceful situation is rather poignant. As the manufacturer explains, the washer/dryer being promoted would not be available until after WW2. Am I stretching things to equate clean dish towels with the white flag of surrender?

Scattered Showers, Indeed

Looking like instruments in the brass section of an extra-planetary jazz combo, or, less imaginatively, a cluster of knock-off Tom Dixon light fixtures, the Calices shower fittings are memorable, to say the least. They can be installed singly, but they're designed to hang together. The finishes are particularly well done; this deep pewter is rich, but I also fancy the burnished copper.

I Want to Believe

After a couple of tantalizingly temperate days, the mercury is headed back to below-freezing readings. Enough already! For anybody who's slogged, slipped, and shoveled through this interminable winter, this open-air bath is for you [and me].

I especially like the mobile-like treatment of the mirrors; why should one focus on their face, when there's an unspoiled landscape to view?

Table of Contents

From the meticulous Union Studio, this sturdy oak kitchen worktable offers a veritable smorgasbord of functionality. Compartments at its base can be customized, with slatted wood shelves, zinc bins, baskets and more on offer. There's also an assortment of rugged saddle-leather accessories available; as does the pouch in this picture, they hang from a steel rod at the end of the table.

Structured Style

I spy with my little eye an I-beam theme in this kitchen. The inset shelf running along the back wall; the channels that limn the edge of the island and divide its surface into thirds; even the wooden wall cabinets have an I-beam-ish cross-section. Particularly in the latter, there's some nice carpentry work going on here.

...Is Never Done

Happy International Women's Day! It's a curious viewpoint this 1950s advertisement espouses, but of course 20/14 hindsight comes into play. Personally, I'm all for anything that absolves members of all genders of vacuuming and laundry, but that's just me.

A wholly unrelated footnote that will intrigue the attorneys among you: In 1941, Apex and Maytag went to court over a variety of patent infringements, involving wringer washers and ironing machines aka mangles—much ado about sliding retaining pins and vertical axes. How did it all end? Read here.

[Kind of] Curtains, Calling

I've seen kitchen cabinets made of bent glass, recycled wood, and precious metal, but this textile design is a first for me. The fabric is stretchy, so it stays taut on the door frame. And while it might feel a bit strange to toss your cabinet fronts in the laundry rather than wipe them down, knowing you've saved a few trees is more than a little satisfying.

Rings of Fire

It's rare that I post on a purely decorative item, but this grid of cast-iron burner grates merits an exception on something more than an aesthetic basis. As culinary/industrial artifacts, they remind me of the labor of creativity that goes into both cooking and industrial design.

Behind the Seen

This bird's-eye view of the bathroom sink is but half the story of the fixture—and very deliberately so. The marble basin and counter are recessed behind the wooden sides of the vanity; there's absolutely no hint of the stone when seen from across the room. I think concealing the sink in this way changes the mundane act of washing up into an intimate, elegant moment of discovery.

Life Is But a Dream

Leave it to the Italians—who count surrealist Giorgio de Chirico and fabulist Italino Calvino among their visionaries of an alternative bent—to conjure a kitchen like this. The collision of materials, the trickery of manipulated form and perspective, all come from a grand tradition of exploration. Enjoy!