30 September 2011

Design Centre Chelsea Harbour and some amazing lighting

I spent last Sunday at London's Design Centre Chelsea Harbour along with my fellow participants in Modenus' Blog Tour 2011. The Design Centre Chelsea Harbour is a trade-only super mall of home products, furniture, carpets, fabrics, lighting a whole lot more.

The building itself is pretty spectacular, here's a shot I took through one of the building's atriums as the clouds rolled over London on Sunday afternoon.

London's the only city where I've ever been that gives New York a real run for its money when it comes to sophistication and the amount of stuff available. In a lot of ways London exceeds what's possible in New York but don't tell any of my New York friends I said that.

We started off the day with Samuel Heath, a purveyor of amazing bath fixtures and accessories. They're worth three or four posts of their own and I'll get back to them over the next few weeks. If you want a preview though, click on that link but be prepared to salivate.

After a series of meeting in and around the Design Centre, we were free to explore on our own. What I saw in total is fuel for more posts than I can count but something that really stood out was a series of deconstructed chandeliers from Vos Kristall.

I love a deconstructed chandelier. It epitomizes the impulse to take an iconic object and reduce it to its parts and then put something back together that invokes the original but is entirely new on its own.

Here are some of my admittedly bad photos of Vos Kristall's work.

Each component that would make up the chandelier (candle, bobeche, candle cup, prisms and pendalogue) is suspended by a single filament and lit from an LED in the ceiling directly above. The effect is both massive and ethereal at the same time.

For more lighting inspiration, check out the rest of the lighting in Vos Kristall's web gallery.

29 September 2011

Top tile picks from Cersaie

Cersaie in Bologna is without a doubt, the largest trade show I've ever attended. As someone who's seen more than his share of trade shows, I think I know what I'm talking about. I spent three solid days combing though the halls of Cersaie and I think I saw everything.

With that said, on the tile side, I saw two new products that really stood out. Both were from Italian manufacturers and bother were (surprise!) variations on the mosaic theme.

The first of the products that's tied for the winner in my eyes is Beside from Refin's Mosaici d'Autore series. Beside is a play on the term B-side and I'll explain that in a minute.

When I first saw Refin's booth I saw walls, the bar and then benches covered in a really interesting texture.

Refin's booth at Cersaie 2011

Upon closer inspection I figured out what it was. Before I divulge that though, look how cool this stuff looks on a wall.

Figure it out yet? Beside is the B-side of a ceramic tile that's been glazed and mismatched on purpose. All ceramic tile has a grid pattern on its reverse side to make installation easier and in Beside, designer Masilimiano Adami chose to use the b-side to make the statement.

Up close, Beside looks like it would never work. But once installed, Beside adds a texture to a wall or a floor like nothing I've ever seen. Beside is available in a whole host of sizes in addition to the 5cm by 5cm mosaic I'm showing here and it's available in 11 colors. It will hit the market in Europe in a matter of weeks and in North America, we ought to see it in the first part of 2012. If you're interested in this tile, ask for it at your Refin retailer.

Tied for first with Refin's Beside was Mosaico+ with their new series, Pulsar.

There was a real move in Italy to have mosaic tiles leap off the wall and add texture in addition to color. I'd been warned before getting to the Mosaico+ booth to expect a a mosaic that appeared to be woven and man, was my intel right.

Detail from Mosaico+'s booth at Cersaie, 2011

I've written about Mosaico+ before (here, here and here) from other shows where I've seen them but in Pulsar they've broken new ground. Pulsar mosaics are made from sintered glass and came about as a collaboration between Crono Giugiarno Designs and Mosaico+. Nobody's doing anything like this and when used on a wall, the individual tessera fit so closely there's no need for grout. These pieces are 6mm thick and come in 10 colors. It's great, distinctive stuff.

I'm hard pressed to pick a favorite between Pulsar and Beside, hence the tie. What do you think?

Pulsar's available in Europe now and will be washing up on these shores in early 2012. Again, those links: Refin and Mosaico+.

28 September 2011

Paul at St. Paul's: I'm back

I'm back from my run through Cersaie in Bologna and the London Design Festival in London. Endless thanks to Ceramic Tiles of Italy and the Italian Trade Commission who covered my travel and to Modenus who hosted me so graciously in London. 2011 has turned into an embarrassment of riches and when I look through the stamps in my passport from this year alone I can't believe the life I lead sometimes.

The Cathedral Church of San Pietro in Bologna

Suffice it to say I saw tons design inspiration in Bologna and London to keep me in posts solidly for the next six months. The people I met reads like a who's who of the contemporary design scene and the people I traveled with on both trips were the best and brightest of the design and blogging worlds. These last two events gave me the shot in the arm to get excited about design I was looking for, so again, thank you to Ceramic Tiles of Italy and to Modenus.

Bologna is an amazing city in every sense of the word and it was fantastic to be back in Italy.

Last Sunday I went to see and hear the cathedral choir and organ at St. Paul's in London with my Friends Bob Borson and Stacy Bewkes. Though we weren't allowed to photograph or record inside the cathedral, what we found there was nothing short of spectacular. I found this video on YouTube that recreates what we saw and heard:

Outside of the Cathedral I recorded this myself:

After the service concluded, the three of us ran across the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern for what has to have been the fastest run through that museum in its history. It was great to be in a place like the Tate with two people who get art, so thanks guys. Bob is the Bob behind Life of an Architect and Stacey is the woman behind Quintessence. If you don't read both of those sites, start to do so immediately. We were in London for Modenus' Blog Tour 2011 and all of the design bloggers from our croup are publishing posts and posting photos of our experiences in London on the Blog Tour site, check it out.

St. Paul's Cathedral from the far side of the Thames

Though I'm not a religious man, I love church architecture and classical, sacred music more than most. Look for a post on that topic over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I saw tons of bath and tile innovation at Cersaie and even more inspiration in London. I'll be writing about all of this for the next couple of months so please stay tuned.

13 September 2011

Thumbtacks: a Blog Off post

Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "Thumbtacks"


To preface this one a bit, the brilliant Rufus Dogg was having a conversation with the novelist and essayist Jane Devin about blog topics. Jane said, “I think some bloggers could write about thumbtacks and their ‘community’ will be pleased.”

Rufus took that as some sort of thrown gauntlet and here we are a week later with "thumbtacks" as a Blog Off topic. While I can't guarantee that'll I'll please my community with this one, I'm sure going to give it a try.

I'm a history nerd of the highest order and when I was thinking about all of this over the weekend it hit me. I'm going to write about the invention of the thumbtack.

Who knew that something so mundane as a thumbtack could have such a controversial history. For starters, three inventors in three separate countries claimed the thumbtack as his own, all three of them around the turn of the last century. Of the three, Mick Clay's is the most pathetic so that's the one I'm going to believe is the true inventor of the thumbtack. All invention involved suffering and disappointment, right?

Mick Clay is a man lost to the mists of history. His lasting contribution to civilization however was something the English call a drawing pin. In 1903, in Barnsley, South Yorkshire; Mick Clay invented a little device that drafters could use to fasten their drawings to their drawing tables. Hence the English term drawing pin. In the US, they were called thumbtacks, but their purpose and original use was the same.

Before getting a patent on his idea, Clay sold the idea to Otto Lindstedt. Lindstedt was a wealthy business man who was granted a patent for Clay's idea in 1904.

From all accounts, Lindstedt went on to even further fame and fortune with the proceeds from Clay's idea. Lindstedt was the toast of the Continent, feted by royalty and commoner alike. Clay disappeared and even though I ca'tn verify it, I see him dying in obscurity in some Dickensian workhouse somewhere while shaking his fist at Lindstedt and being ignored by his fellows. Poor guy.

Actual metal thumbtacks, or drawing pins depending on your side of the Atlantic have all been replaced by something that's technically a map pin.

Thumbtacks have an annoying habit of landing pin side up when dropped, something I remember with searing clarity from my childhood. Stepping on a tack in bare feet is a pain like none other, let me tell you.

The shape of a map pin makes such a deadly landing impossible and their widespread use have made workplaces and households infinitely safer places.

However, I rather like the idea of office supplies that fight back. A little hazard now and again is good for the soul. I say we bring back the old metal thumbtack.


As the day goes on, the rest of the participants in today's Blog Off will appear miraculously at the end of this post. Keep checking back and check out everybody's posts. You can follow along in Twitter as well, just look for the hashtag #LetsBlogOff. If you'd like more information about about the Blog Off or if you'd like to see the results of previous Blog Offs, you can find the main website here.

06 September 2011

Travel plans

Venice isn't the only city in Italy with canali, the old part of Bologna is full of them.

2011 is turning out to be the year that keeps on giving. Even though my plans to go to The Bahamas this week have been thwarted, I have two more locations to look forward to this month. The Italian Trade Commission, in it's North American incarnation as Ceramic Tiles of Italy, is sending me to Cersaie in Bologna. I leave on September 17 and what awaits is the largest tile and bath show in the world. I have a couple of days of free time when I get to Italy and I cannot wait to park myself in a cafe, grab a copy of Corriere della Sera, and read all about Silvio Berlusconi's latest offenses. That I'll be up to  my elbows in tile and bath products is the kind of bonus only I can imagine.

I'll be in Bologna from September 17th through the 22nd when I depart Bologna for London
where I'll catch the tail end of the London Design Festival. I've been selected as one of the design bloggers being sent to London by Modenus.com. If you don't know Modenus, you really ought to.

London is part of what's being called BlogTour2011 and it's an attempt to unite design bloggers in the UK and the US. Something the scale of Blog Tour has never been attempted before and I cannot thank Veronika Miller of Modenus enough for including me. Blog Tour has its own website and all of the participants' updates will be syndicated there. The sponsors of the Modenus Blog Tour 2011 are Modenus of course, the Architectural Digest Home Design Show, MyDeco.com, Blanco, DuVerre hardware, Spirit of Sports, Wallunica, Samuel Heath, 100% Design, The London Design Festival, Decorex International, The Society of British Interior Design, Tent London, and Design Junction.

Check out all those sites and keep posted for my updates from the other side of the pond.

03 September 2011

Cat Island updates and developments

The first airlifts of food and supplies have started to arrive on Cat Island. There are four or five resorts on Cat and I use the term resort loosely. Cat Island resorts aren't the kind of places where you get hot stone massages or room service. Rather, they're places to go unplug and unwind. The bonds forged at those resorts though, are lifelong. Two of those resorts have stepped up and turned themselves into aid organizations. The Bahamian government is overwhelmed by the widespread damage and supplies are stretched thin to say the least.

The two resorts, Greenwood and Fernandez Bay Village, are distributing food and supplies to anyone who needs it over there. The Bahamians who own and run Fernandez Bay are people I know and trust implicitly. Pam and Tony Armbrister, the people behind Fernandez Bay, are two of the most decent people I've ever met. Tony's family has been on Cat Island since the 1700s and he's a walking repository of that island's history and culture.

Tony and Pam have a daughter who lives in For Lauderdale and she's taken over as the point person for aid destined for Cat Island.

Cat Island is reachable by air and by the once-weekly visit by a mail boat. The mail boat leaves Fort Lauderdale and works its way though the Family Islands (formerly the Out Islands). It's on this mail boat that the bulk of the material aid destined for Cat Island gets delivered.

Air lifts are a great way to get emergency supplies over there, but it's what ends up on the mail boat that will sustain everybody until they can rebuild themselves.

I'm still planning to fly down there on Tuesday but Hurricane Katia looks like it's positioned to thwart my plans. Even though Katia isn't going to threaten Cat Island directly, the disturbance she's causing will make flying prohibitively dangerous. Add to that the lack of outside news available on the island once there and it's looking pretty grim.

My fundraising has been an incredible success and I thank everyone who's donated with every fiber of my being. Every dime you sent will go directly to the people who need it. If I don't make it down there this week, I'm going to wire the money we've raised to Fort Lauderdale and to the Armbristers of Fernandez Bay. Once in the hands of the Armbristers, your donations will be turned into food that'll be distributed to anyone who's hungry and in need. If you want material aid to go to the orphanage or to schools, just let them know. You can also donate to Remote Island Ministries, they too have pledged to donate every penny they collect.

In addition to raising money, the Armbristers are collecting and distributing non-financial assistance. They're loading up the mail boat and giving away anything that comes their way. If you, your church or your school wants to donate something other than money, the gang at Fernandez Bay will take anything. In particular, they need soap, first aid supplies, Home Depot gift cards, flashlights, batteries, tarps, nails, Publix gift cards, canned food, Costco gift cards, candles, games, children's books, school supplies and clothing. You can send any donations to Tameron Armbrister at 151 North Nob Hill Rd., #310, Plantation, FL. 33324. Fernandez Bay will cover the costs of shipping everything to the island.

In addition to that, my best friend in the universe and able pilot JD has sweetened the pot for the next two weeks. He's kicked in $250 to the money we've raised so far and he's agreed to match every donation, dollar for dollar, for the next two weeks. Please take him up on this generous offer. I love him to death but even so, make this hurt!

JD in better days on Cat Island

Fernandez Bay will be open for business again on November 1st and if you're looking for a getaway, I can think of no better place. Buoying the Bahamian economy is another way to help them rebuild. From now through June 30th, 2012, Fernandez Bay is running a promotion to make that easier to do. If you book four days at Fernandez Bay through Majestic Tours, they will fly you from Nassau to New Bight for free.

If you're planning to spend a week on a cruise or at the Atlantis, or Sandals or Club Med change your plans. Those places don't need your money but the smaller spots on the Family Islands do.

To make it easier, here are those links again.

Fernandez Bay Village
The Greenwood Beach Resort
Majestic Tours

This video was recorded this past week and in it you can get a feel for the scope of this disaster and a glimpse into the character of the people who call Cat Island home.

Once again, the link to donate is:
If that button doesn't work, click this link instead.

02 September 2011

Hansgrohe and Axor are giving away a $10,000 bathroom

Do you want your life to look like this?

How about a bath that looks like this?

To celebrate their new Facebook page, Hansgrohe and their designer brand Axor are giving away $10,000 in bath fixtures. There's no trick or trial to go through in order to qualify. All you need to do is go to Hansgrohe's new Facebook page, give it a like and then fill out the entry form. The contest is running from now through October 31st, but don't put it off.

I take a shower every morning under a Hansgrohe fixture, I have the Pura Vida handheld and I love it. Though given the option, I'd add a few more fixtures to my set up. With $10 grand worth of Hansgrohe and Axor shower stuff I don't doubt for a second that my life would end up looking like this.

So go register on Hansgrohe's new Facebook page today.

Check out my Cat Island/ Hurricane Irene fundraiser too if you'd be so kind.