29 May 2008

More great floors

OK kids, let me trot out some more vacation photos. I noticed a lot of really interesting majolica patterns in some really old buildings that still looked as great as they must have when they were installed. These are patterns that are still available for the most part, only these babies are the originals --the oldest one here is about 700 years old. Bet you can't guess which one it is. Any of these patterns would look terrific in a house today, despite the bright colors and wild patterns that a lot of people object to for being "too trendy." Pattern and color are your friends and these patterns from an old, old villa in Ravello make that statement pretty eloquently.

Vintage floors from Italy

For part of my recent vacation, some friends and I rented a villa in Sorrento. The villa sat on a cliff overlooking the Bay of Naples and was a glorious structure. It had been built originally by a German baron in the mid-19th century and still had most of its original floors. I specify floors all the time and it was interesting to spend some time living with Italian originals. Most of what was in the Villa Terraza was glazed terra cotta, although the marble herringbone pattern in the living room is one I'll be using in an upcoming project, count on it.

27 May 2008

Dwell on Design

The kids over at Dwell magazine are hosting a conference and expo in LA from June 5th through the 8th. The name of the event is Dwell on Design. If you find yourself in LA, check it out. When you register for the event, use the promo code BDODEC for a free ticket to the expo (a $50 value) and use code GRP22SP to get $50 off the cost of the conference. This event is a one-of-kind showcase where modernism and sustainability come together. Even if you can't make it to their event, check out that magazine!

And while I'm praising all things Dwell, check this out:

I'm back

I'm back from my sojourn in Southern Italy. Oh the places I've gone and the things I've seen. I spent a fair amount of time combing through 1st Century Roman ruins in Stabia, Herculaneum and Pompeii. Although I didn't do any actual work while I was gone, I did take a lot of notes that will play heavily into my designs from this point on.

Below is a photo of the kitchen in the Villa San Marco. The Villa San Marco was the home of a wealthy Roman family and it was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. At the time of its destruction, the villa is thought to have been 150 years old and there is ample evidence of its periodic renovations over those 150 years. Walking through it is mind bending, let me tell you. Be warned though, the next person who asks me about a "Mediterranean" kitchen is going to end up with something that looks like this. Hah!

14 May 2008

Fun, modern lighting

I came across the Neon Chandelier by Matt Diller three years ago in the debut issue of The New York Times' T Magazine.

I love the idea of reinterpreting an icon, and rendering a classic chandelier in neon does that to terrific effect. It's beautiful, modern and whimsical. That's a killer combination in my book. I've seen this thing in person a couple of times and man, it can stop traffic. Then again, I've never seen it anywhere but on the Isle of Manhattan. I can only imagine that its effect would be magnified tenfold out here in the hinterlands.

I was on Dwell's website this morning and Jasper van Grootel's Voltaire sconce is their hot product of the day. Dwell's website is a great resource for where to go to get modern stuff for your home. The Voltaire is available, as are all of these lights I'm posting today, through a website called Generate.

Van Grootel's "Fantastic Plastic" series takes every day objects and puts an interesting spin on them. In the case of the Voltaire sconce, he takes a vintage wall sconce, reconditions it and then cots it in a bright blue rubberized plastic. Don't confuse it for a fragile art piece though. It's weather proof and can be used indoors or out.

Yosuke Watanabe's Silhouette lamp is another exercise in modernist whimsy. Watanabe takes the the suggestion of a wall sconce and turns it into a focal point. One of the central tenets of modernism as an aesthetic movement is to pare down detail and to reduce an object to its unadorned, functional state. Reducing a wall sconce to nothing but its shape and its function --illumination-- is brilliant.

Takeshi Ishiguro's Book of Lights throws another curve ball with the idea of modernist whimsy. This lamp is a pop-up book that functions as a reading lamp when it's open and turned on. Talk about a brilliant idea. Ishiguro took two functions and combined them and I can say in all honestly that I've never seen anything like it. Not only that, this Book of Lights is an idea I can't imagine myself ever coming up with. Hilarious and inspired at the same time. Too cool!

13 May 2008

Stone mosaics of timeless beauty

I received an e-mail from a woman yesterday whom I met at the stone and tile show a couple of weeks ago. She works for a firm called Minos Stone. Minos stone is an Israeli-based stone and mosaic fabricator and they do work all over the world. Beautiful, amazing work at that.

Toward the end of my day at the Orange County Convention Center, I was approaching overload. I thought I'd seen all I needed to see and was concentrating more on where to go for dinner than anything else when I saw this impressionist mosaic. It was huge and I'd never seen anything so expressive yet so rustic at the same time. This face has haunted me since I saw it and I'm grateful to have a photo of it now. It's a pleasure to post it here. There aren't many things in the world that can leave me at a loss for words, but this mosaic portrait is one of them. When I stood in front of it, it looked brand new and thousands of years old at the same time. It had an amazing effect on me. Still does in fact.

Minos Stone does some really wild stuff and they make mosaics they way they've been made since the art came to be thousands of years ago. Individual pieces of stone are fit together to make an image. It's a simple idea but it's incredibly difficult to pull off effectively.

The second image is a handmade piece Minos did and it's called "Olive Tree." The beauty of a real mosaic is that the image is best seen from a distance. Yet, the level of detail up close is so captivating you can't help get as close to them as possible, even though the overall image may be distorted or lost in so doing.

I've included a couple of Minos' detail shots of the Olive Tree so you can get a feel for what I mean. Add to all of this that they're using natural pieces of stone.

To the right is a close up of the leaves and olives toward the outer edge of the tree.

Here is a clear shot of the trunk and the background.

Here are the leaves and sky from the upper right corner.

As impressed as I am by Minos' mosaics, spend some time on their website and check out what they do with antique stone floors, stone vases and vessels. Bravo!

10 May 2008

A new METHOD for keepin' it clean

I just cleaned my kitchen and bathroom, something everybody does and not something I'd ever given much thought. I do now though. I don't think I ever thought about what happens to the E-Z Off, the Ty-D Bowl, the Comet and the rest of them after I flush them down the drain. But the fact is, these products and most cleaning and household products carry some pretty dire warning labels on them and they contain some pretty dangerous stuff. You can't throw away E-Z Off without sending it to an approved Hazardous Materials Disposal site for example. A manufacturer couldn't use it or keep it around without a permit from the EPA. But I, as an ordinary citizen; can buy it, use it and dispose of it down the drain with impunity.

However, just because I flushed it down the drain with impunity doesn't mean that I'm off the hook by a long shot. The poisonous ingredients in my household cleaners don't get rendered non-poisonous through the act of my using them or my flushing them. They remain toxic as they go down the drain, as they enter the sewer system and as they make it through the sewage treatment plant and then into the Bay.

Once in the Bay, the ones that don't degrade end up in the food chain. They work their way up the food chain and then back onto my plate when I order a grouper sandwich or a bucket of blue crabs in a restaurant.

So everybody else and me gets a double serving. I ingest and inhale this stuff while I'm using it and when it's good and concentrated. Then a couple of weeks or months later I get to ingest it again in its diluted form. This is madness.

It's the height of naivete and anthrocentrism to think that I can save the earth by avoiding E Z Off. The earth will be here long after I and we're gone. However, to try to preserve some semblance of human habitability is a noble and achievable cause.

Enter my friends at Method.

Method cleaning products are non-toxic, price competitive and attractively packaged. They are cleverly named, pleasantly scented, responsibly produced. Most important of all, they work.

They just added a toilet cleaner and a scrubbing liquid to their product mix and I used them for the first time today. They work and they smell fantastic. Method products are available at Target and on line and are well worth exploring. I found them originally about four years ago and I fell in love with their packaging and product design. I didn't really get the whole sustainability thing when it comes to household cleaners until a couple of months ago.

The answers to the environmental and human needs challenges that confront us as a species don't lie in trying to turn back the clock and ushering in a non-technological era. The answers come from our collective intellects. It's human innovation and ingenuity, it's technology, that will enable our species to continue to thrive on an increasingly stressed planet. The kids at Method are a living , breathing example of that.

08 May 2008

Cool tile, not from Italy but from SPAIN

I am slipping and my post frequency is declining. Trust me, it's not due to a lack of interest but I'm rapidly becoming one of those loathsome people who's "too busy" to cook at home, exercise, pay attention to my kids, get enough sleep, write timely posts in my blog, ad nauseum. It will get worse before it gets better, trust me.

I'm still reeling from my tile and stone trade show from last week, and still sorting though the mountains of material I brought home with me. I spent some time talking to three guys from Vidrepur. Vidrepur is a large glass tile manufacturer from Spain and they make glass mosaic tile just like so many other companies do. The stuff's gorgeous of course but what Vidrepur represents made me stop cold. All of their mosaic tile is made from recycled glass. All of it. Even their unique-in-the-market glow-in-the-dark glass tile (I'm not kidding, there really is such a thing and it's COOL).

So the photos I'm peppering this post with tonight are images of rooms made with recycled glass. What a brilliant idea and it's something that needs to catch on. Vidrepur found a way to make a beautiful product that competes on price AND aesthetics with its conventionally-made competition. Sustainable building practices needn't be boring and they need not represent some kind of sanctimonious suffering for a greater good. Sustainable practices and materials can and should be a smart move economically and aesthetically and Vidrepur proves that. So imagine covering the walls in your bathroom, your shower floor, your kitchen back splash, etc. Imagine covering anything with something that's beautiful today but was destined for a landfill before Vidrepur gave it another chance at life. Imagine!

02 May 2008

More wall tile fabric patterns

I cannot get this fabric pattern stuff out of my head. Here are some more images from Iris Ceramica. These are a little more detailed than the ones I posted yesterday, so you can see the level of detail involved.

The collection is called Neobarocco, and the name fits if nothing else. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that wall tile outside of kitchens and baths is a new idea for the US market. It's either that or I just have my usual case of Italy on the brain. If I haven't mentioned it in a few days, I'm vacationing there in less than two weeks. Woo-hoo!

The image above shows a wall done in Iris' Imperiale Moka and and Imperiale Bianco. There is a listello in Imperiale Oro dividing the two colors. Pretty cool.

Above is Imperiale Rose Rosse, with a gold listello dividing them. I can't think of a word other than elegant to describe that wall.

Above is a bathroom done in Miraggio Antico. I have serious doubts that a shower set up like this would actually work, but who cares? As a product photo it's a real stunner. Seriously folks, keep your eyes peeled for this stuff and derivatives of it. You heard it here first, these patterns will be here before you know it.

01 May 2008

New directions in tile

I spent Tuesday at Coverings, the tile and stone industries' joint trade show. It was held in Orlando this year and man! Whatta show! I have been meaning to write at length about the many amazing things I saw, but this work thing keeps getting in the way.

Anyhow, the big thing in tile this year is Victorian-ish fabric patterns on wall tile. These fabric patterns show up in metallics like gold and platinum (made with real gold and platinum by the way) and in charcoal gray and blacks. It's pretty neat stuff, and it looks as if it's a 2008 take on the old metallic, flocked wallpaper of the '60s and '70s.

The images I'm including here are from a company called Iris Ceramica. As you can probably tell from their photographs, Iris is an Italian firm. But as you look at these photos, keep in mind that this is wall tile and it's being used in way tile hasn't been used in quite a while, if ever. These are large-size, rectangular tiles and you will not find them at Home Depot any time soon. However, based on the omnipresence of these wallpaper-y wall tiles at the show this week, it will be interesting to see how they translate and trickle down through the market.