22 September 2009

Notes from the field: Monogram takes Manhattan

I spent three days in early July in this cooking theater in the Monogram Experience Center at GE Appliances' US headquarters in Louisville, KY. On 7 July, 2009 I wrote a post that detailed my eye-opening experience with a GE Monogram 48" Pro Range.


GE Monogram's Experience Center, Louisville, KY


I went into that seminar with some hard-edged and what I thought were hard-set opinions about what makes a good pro range. Monogram's 48" Pro Range challenged all of that. Aside from the amazing job GE did in developing that range, they put on one amazing three-day seminar, let me tell you. Monogram's Experience Center, where they hold training for design professionals, is a beautiful facility. The interior spaces are a symphony of muted colors and interesting textures. The furnishings and finishes read like a who's who of  20th and 21st century design. Ann Sacks, Harry Bertoia, Mies van der Rohe --the gang's all here. Having seen their Experience Center with my own eyes, I can say without hesitation that GE is serious about having Monogram be a major player in the world of luxury appliances. All of this effort is not just for appearances though. After having met and spoken with the team behind the brand, it's also really clear that they are serious and they know what they're doing. I was struck by the candor and honesty of the product development and education teams at Monogram. This was not just just a marketing spiel, these people were onto something.

While I was in Louisville, I learned that Monogram had opened a design center in the Architects and Designers Building in Manhattan. It's one thing to build a top notch showcase in Louisville, but it's another thing entirely to open a showroom in the holy of holies. The A&D Building has 40 showrooms on 12 floors for a combined 200,000 square feet and it exists to make designers salivate. This is a facility geared specifically to architects and designers, though all of it's open to the public now too. The A&D Building showcases the best of what's available in the worlds of finish and furnishings. Perched high on the 10th floor is the Monogram Design Center.




Monogram opened it a year-and-a-half ago and it is stunning. I was struck immediately by how large it is --it's one of the bigger showrooms in the building. It's decked out with the latest and greatest appliances from Monogram of course, but they are arranged in a series of functioning kitchen vignettes. The kitchens on display a gorgeous and beautifully designed. Yet there's a knowing restraint to everything, and it's in that restraint that Monogram whispers "we've arrived."


Looking across the Design Center lobby toward the demo kitchen



Chef Chef Tageré Southwell holds court in the Monogram Design Center


Monogram has a resident chef who presides over this test kitchen, Chef Tageré Southwell. That primary kitchen is wired for sound and video though it's not at all obvious at first glance. The video monitors, video cameras, mics and speakers have been thoroughly designed around and hidden. As with everything else in their Design Center, somebody spent a lot of time thinking this through.



I'd made arrangements ahead of time, and I was met in the Design Center by Paula Cecere, the Design Center manager. I spent about an hour with Paula and she gave me a thorough tour. Paula had been present for the entire construction and she knew the story of every refrigerator panel and piece of tile. Through Paula, Monogram managed to capture some of the candor and hospitality I experienced in Kentucky. It's funny, I expect people in Kentucky to be friendly and welcoming. I don't expect it in Manhattan and it was refreshing to see. That hospitality makes the Monogram Design Center a surprising island of neighborly calm.



Seeing Monogram's products on display in a showroom such as this one in New York demonstrates the confidence GE has in Monogram, and it's a well-founded confidence. Monogram's most definitely a brand to watch. I don't hesitate to specify them and I owe that to Mongram's outreach efforts of the last few months entirely. Good job Monogram, you made a believer out of me.



If you're in New York and you'd like to experience the Monogram Design Center yourself, it's on East 58th Street between Lexington and 3rd Avenues. Go in there and tell Paula I sent you.

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