1930’s England – Agatha Christie’s Poirot

I’ve discovered a fantastic period British TV show on Netflix; Agatha Christie’s Poirot.  I know nothing of Agatha Christie, other than her name being synonymous with “murder mystery”.  I love period movies and shows, and the look of Poirot is outstanding.  I’m completely caught up in the characters now too, with the quirky Belgian detective Poirot becoming irresistible.  His sidekick Captain Hastings is a car buff, and they work these wonderful old cars, trains and other great machines into the show as well.  Here is a sampling of screen shots I took today while watching some episodes in my office; first up is Poirot’s modern apartment building:

Poirot's Apartment Building

Poirot is a displaced Belgian detective, who moved to England during WWI.  He is funny, quirky, and quite a dandy.  The clothes are fabulous, with both Hastings and Poirot dressing immaculately.  Here is Poirot entering a seaside hotel:

Poirot at the Seashore Hotel

I’m sure the wonderfully preserved modern buildings are all famous landmarks in England, but being Yank I don’t know any of them so far.  Here is Chief Inspector Jaap from Scotland Yard with a bobbie, walking from a lovely house owned by a missing banker:

Davenheim's House on Poirot, Driveway

Here is a closeup of that curving stair wall from a shot in the opening credits:

Davenheim's House on Poirot

Very 1930s modern.  I’ll have to look these buildings up.  Knowing how film production works, the interiors are often different buildings from the exterior shots.  Some scenes, such as this one inside the banker’s library, must have also been from period buildings because the details of the doors and trim are just too nice to be a stage set.

Inside Davenheim

Poirot has a thing for lovely ladies (who doesn’t?) and the females in the show are very elegant and beautifully dressed.

In another episode Poirot and Hastings go to another seaside town for a respite.  Look at this fabulous “hotel”:

Midland Modern Hotel from Poirot

I say “hotel” because the signage looked tacked on, and even the characters mention the name is more befitting a place in Leeds.

This next building had a very interesting stair that the cast descended, with a crane shot taken from outside through those curious tilted lunette windows.  They pull back at the end of the scene and show the whole alley with this great bit of lighting.

Night Scene from Poirot

Very early on this show got me hooked when Captain Hastings pulls up in a fabulous Lagonda automobile.  Poirot does not like taking an open car and prefers the train or taxis, but Hastings delights in driving and they really make a great story of the car and his very English sporting habits.  Here the duo go to an old tailor in a seedy part of town, where some kids start playing on the car in the street.

Lagonda from Poirot

In the banker episode a suspect happens to race a Bugatti and they visit the incredible old Brooklands track to pay the man a visit.  Incredible seeing an Alfa Romeo and Bugatti go at it, in color, at the old Brooklands!

Brooklands 1930's Racing Poirot

The show was filmed in the early 1990s, and I think the track was un-restored at that point.  It might still be in this shape, in fact.  Here, the Bugatti pulls into the pits.  This car today would be priceless, of course.

Bugatti on Poirot

During a scuffle, a pocket-picker runs from Inspector Jaap and almost gets clobbered by the Alfa Romeo coming into the pits.  They really drove the cars too, and the driver had to give something special to avoid the actor.

Brooklands Pit Scene from Poirot

In another episode the team travels the suburbs of London looking for a suspect, and they stop for fuel and a phone at this vintage Vauxhall dealer.  The detail of this shop was incredible, with the cars gleaming immaculately.  Here is the establishment shot, and again the nighttime lighting was stunning.

Vauxhall Dealer Scene from Poirot

The most amazing thing to me about this show is how the production design consistently uses modern buildings, showing a very progressive and exciting 1930s London.  I would love to discover more about these buildings and get back to England to visit some of these landmarks.  I would post more Poirot but it looks like Netflix is taking the series down in a few days.  I’ll have to cram in a few episodes before the month is out.

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Spring in New York: ICFF 2013

The month of May in New York; that means time for design week and the ICFF Show – the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.  I have been many times over the past years but skipped a few recent ones, so it was time to go back.  My focus this year was to work with a New York client in midtown, then spend the rest of the weekend looking at lighting and furniture for various projects.

The first day in NY it was sunny and beautiful.  I was indoors most of the day in meetings but walking around a corner on the way to my hotel – yes, an old, familiar sight:

View of Empire StateThe sun was catching the Empire State Building in such a way to make it sparkle, something I never noticed before.  It always seemed so heavy, so concrete.  Nice to see something familiar in a different way.

Incidentally, I was not the only “tourist” taking this picture at this point.  So that made me feel good about stopping, pulling out my little Canon S100 and setting up the shot.

The ICFF show is based at the Javits Center, west of midtown.  It is seemingly out of the way but a short walk from the A C and E (blue) subway and Penn Station actually makes it really convenient.  I was setup at a nice little hotel with a client of mine and all set to explore the show and all the “outside events”, showroom openings, parties and happenings.

Once at the show it was hard to miss any lighting innovations – great stuff was seen in every aisle.  What is nice about the show is how local and small international makers/brands attend the show, so you discover unusual and one-off pieces as well as major brands.  Here are some highlights of lighting:

Iacoli and McAllister Lighting Pelle Lighting Mooii Lighting Lighting ICFF2013

From top left, Rough and Smooth pendants by Tom Dixon, Iacoli & McAllister pendants to the top right, and some very nice clear globe chandeliers by Pelle to the right.  Different arrays of glass and paper shades in carefully-draped arrangements were a strong trend throughout the show.

Below to the right is Mooii, which always looks good.  There were larger brands present, with companies such as Tango showing some very nice new concepts including some outdoor.

A company called Graypants had some paper/cardboard/something pendants which were nicely crafted.

Graypants LightingThere were also some concepts with shades made from rapid prototyping, such as lacy SLS shades in “natural” white.  Open-ness and interesting screen materials were dominant.

There was a “maker faire” feel to the show as well, with an area set up for rapid prototyping and other sorts of fabrication including a seminar area to learn about maker technology.  There were at least two 3D printer companies on display and there was also a company called US Trumpf who rolled out enormous laser-cutting machines and some fabrication jigs, making Tom Dixon “death star” lighting pendants right there on the show floor.  It was pretty cool to see the process, as it was ultra-clean and quiet without the heavy presses, greasy flooring and general mess of a typical factory floor.  Here is a pic of the “death star”:

Tom Dixon Death Star PendantI really like this fixture.  Dodecahedron?  I didn’t count sides.  Anyway, it is make by laser-cutting aluminum sheet, including all the holes.  I don’t know how much waste you get from making the holes, as the material is burning off during the cutting process.  Anyway, other than some muted humming coming from the giant stand-alone laser cutting machine, the only noise on the makeshift factory floor was the sound of simulated mirror-folding/film advance of peoples iPhones as they took pictures of the manufacturing process.

Tom Dixon Fabrication Area

And a closeup of the assembly table shows the men riveting the Death Star together.

Trumpf and Tom Dixon Assembly Area

There was a small stand set up with some fine hanging fixtures called Shakuff.  The owner was not around but I looked closely at the artisan glass shades – very nice work.

Shakuff Lighting

I’m not sure how the red box shades were made.  This next piece was comprised of hanging sheets of wavy glass, in a box shape (in plan) which made them seem like towers of wavy glass.  A very cool effect.

Pendants by Shakuff

Next up I passed Roll and Hill.  I love what this company is putting out, and this particular hanging pendant kept catching my eye all weekend (I saw it around town and on various show reports over the weekend) – it is called Bluff City by designer Jonah Takagi.  Splendid.

Bluff by Jonah Takagi

Next is a company called R B W which I figured out later stands for Rich Brilliant Winning.  I’m thinking with that name they are anglophiles.  Anyway, I just took some detail pics of their products, as they were particularly well-crafted.  Here is a shot of their Branch Triple Chandelier from their website:

R B W Chandelier

Here are some details of their floor lamps and such:

IMG_1518 IMG_1519

A continuing trend is to use wire to make open-looking shades.  Some fixtures in this vein by makers Phese and Blu Dot, respectably.

Phese LightingIMG_1517

A company called Gabriel and Scott had some nice folded-metal fixtures.  I didn’t get much detail about them or this piece but it was decidedly on-trend:

Gabriel and Scott Lighting

Also shown was this hanging chain chandelier called Kelly.

Gabriel and Scott Lighting

Something unrelated to lighting; this is Amuneal’s exhibit, which won the Best of Show award.  It was truly stunning.  The exterior was made with rather thick gauge metal and formed an undulated surface.  The interior had a “cabinet of curiosity” theme, with vitrines and display cases all (seemingly) designed for this show.

Amuneal ICFF2013

Amuneal ICFF2013

There was a very high level of craftsmanship and composition on view at Amuneal.

Amuneal Exhibit ICFF2013

The shelves and vitrines were tagged with prices for each configuration.  I found them to be quite reasonable for what is custom-made artisan furniture made of real brass and wood in their Philadelphia shop.

Interior of Amuneal Exhibit, ICFF2013

I would very much like a shelf like this in my house.  Something to think about…

There was one other display which knocked me over with delight, and that was the similarly-styled (black and brass) exhibit of Apparatus Studio.  On offer was a wonderful collection of lighting which just floored me with its beauty and obvious quality.  My pictures do not do this product justice.

View of Apparatus Studios ICFF2013

Here is a detail of the Cloud chandelier.

Cloud by Apparatus

Some more products from their website.

Apparatus Studios Lighting Fixtures

Apparatus Cloud Picture

Also from their site, a really good illustration of Cloud.  It should also be noted that they have a gorgeous website too – check them out at http://www.apparatusstudio.com

I should also mention that I bought another Tyvek Mighty Wallet by the maker of Dynomighty himself, who always sets up a table in the Design Boom section of the show.  When I go to pay for things, every shop owner always compliments me on my wallet so I had to get another, again.

Dynomighty Tyvek Wallet

Later that night I wandered around Soho and checked out the parties and openings.  I looked at the new kitchen showrooms and looked around for some lighting as well.  I missed the opening reception but I made it a point to try and check out the E.R. Butler shop in Nolita, which was featuring some amazing lighting by designer Bec Brittain.  Here are some pics of the window displays.

Lighting by Bec Brittain

Made of brass, wood, LED strip lamps, marble… these were exquisite.

Lighting by Bec Brittain

I didn’t know E.R. Butler commissioned this type of work.  If not familiar with this company, seek them out online, they produce an incredible collection of architectural hardware, such as reproduction and original door knobs and other assorted pulls and knobs.  I really wanted to see this small storefront as this shop is invitation only.  Well, maybe next year.  From Bec Brittain’s website, one more incredible design.

Vise by Bec Brittain

The last thing I did before leaving the city was take a walk through the amazing Grand Central Terminal, which is 100 years old this year.  I thought there would be special exhibits and maybe a gallery of construction photos or some other display… but alas there was nothing.  Well the building itself is of course wonderful, so I close with this interior shot.  I wish this great building well as it enters its second century.

Interior of Grand Central Terminal

I’ll be up in NYC more this summer as my interiors project begins construction.  More on that later, as we enter the demolition phase soon.

Spring Walk – Washington DC/Dupont Circle

It has been a lovely spring; not too hot and some wonderful sunny days.  Looking for some blossoms and classic architecture, last Sunday I took a quick jaunt down to Washington DC to walk Embassy Row and Dupont Circle.  DC always delivers for eclectic architecture walks; the city is a treasure trove of fabulous facades and exceptional urban scale.  A Sunday is best as the traffic is very light.  Some highlights; let’s start with a whopper of a building.  This is the Beaux Arts masterpiece Cosmos Club by architects Carrère & Hastings:

Cosmos Club by Carrere and HastingsThis incredible building is the former estate of Mary Scott Townsend, completed in 1901.  The architects are famous for the New York Public Library and many other important American buildings.  Carrère & Hastings were a very successful firm, focusing on commercial buildings in the Beaux Arts style.  This property was acquired by the Cosmos club – dedicated to “The advancement of its members in science, literature and art” – in 1952.  The address is 2121 Massachusetts Avenue NW.

A pair of typical DC row houses.  This facade is fairly consistent throughout the city, very often in brick and sometimes stone.  The house to the left would have been painted at one time, which is fairly common and gives the street scape an eclectic feel.  The most noteworthy (and completely typical) feature is the square breakfront; DC row houses employ a sculptured facade almost by rule.

Typical NW Washington DC Row HousesA little up the road, just this lone impatiens.

Impatiens FlowerAn embassy building.  I didn’t get my notes correct, but I do remember this being a South American government/cultural building.  Anybody recognize the flag?

Embassy Building in Washington DCAcross the street, this great old apartment building, also in buff brick.  Turrets are common in the District.

Apartment Building, Embassy RowThe Dutch embassy.  The hyacinths were in full bloom and smelled wonderful!  I expected some orange flowers; none to be seen!

Dutch Embassy Washington DCWalking back to Dupont, here is a typical row of residential/commercial buildings from the early 20th century.  Note the eclectic range of styles – this is a fairly typical block of commercial development and the pastiche of style is a never-ending delight.

A row of eclectic architecture in Dupont CircleAcross the street is the Washington Club, originally the Patterson House, designed by icon Stanford White in 1901.  This Italianate mansion was the scene of some bizarre politics during WWII, as Cissy Patterson, heir to her father’s Chicago Tribune fortune, waged an editorial attack on FDR throughout the war years.  The only mansion left on the circle, it looks a little lonely and the siting seems a bit odd today.  Even so, a nice sunny morning and any Stanford White building will get my undivided attention.

Washington Club, Architect Stanford WhiteAnd finally, on my way back to the railroad (when rain began to fall), a detail of Daniel Burnham’s fabulous Union Station.  This is the “knuckle” arcade between the main waiting room and the former – now shops – concourse room.  The detail of this building is astounding.

Detail of Union Station in Washington DCI used to live 3 blocks from Union Station, and would walk in and around it most days.  Completed in 1908, it is a massive complex – not exactly pretty – but impressive nonetheless.  Daniel Burnham was the “art director” of the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, the famous world’s fair in Chicago that introduced the “White City” and celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the western continents.  The fair, and this building, were a riot of Beaux Arts white marble monumental architecture.  I used to sketch in and out of this building, and it has inspired some details of my own, and a collection of architectural hardware that I designed for Amerock in 2003.

So, just a quick Sunday’s walk and some highlights of DC in the springtime.  I return to the capitol several times during the year (it is the next city south of my home), so look for more Washington DC architecture in the months to come.

ISH 2013 Wrapup – Faucets

Part 3 of my report on ISH 2013 from Frankfurt, Germany.

Although this year seemed a little down on exhibitors and overall showing a conservative approach to new design, there were still many standouts.  Some companies, notably Dornbracht, eschewed new shapes and finishes for a focus on useability and electronic aids.  I concentrated on trends within the design envelope.

Laufen Faucet with Top SurfaceFirst up is this faucet by Laufen and Kartell, which I mentioned briefly in my report on fixtures last week.  Similar to a faucet by Starck, there is a flat surface on top for storage of bathroom items.  Above it is naked… and here:

Laufen faucet with Kartell tray surface…seen from the side with the polycarbonate Kartell “caddy” on top.  I really don’t like this piece too much; if you consider the caddy moveable, what if you or somebody else puts a bar of soap on top of the naked faucet – and then you want to put your caddy on top?  The soap will leave residue on the bottom of your caddy, if you put it there next.  Also, I don’t like the “business end” of the faucet being hidden.  I like to see where the water will be coming from.  I would rather see Kartell make little caddies that fit into spaces on the lavs perhaps, or on the mirror, accessories or something along the side.

Chrome Mixer Faucet at ISH 2013Above is a nice design, with the square base and round lever language perhaps being in slight conflict.  Below are two faucets I noted the shape of, only because they look like things I have been developing for my client.  I didn’t note the makers.

Gold Faucet Chrome Mixer Faucet

These were not the only pieces similar to some ideas I had.  It isn’t easy coming up with something completely new of course.  Next, a nice shower set in white.  Colors (instead of plated surfaces) were down a little this year, but there were still some very nice examples.

White Shower SetI think the sharp vertical edges of this design lend itself to powder coating, as opposed to plated finishes.  The edges will be very hard to get right if plated, as the polishing of the brass/zamac is critical and usually done by hand.  The thickness of the powder probably hides any flaws.  It was quite crisp, however.

Now that I have mentioned colors, a company called Treemme is next.  These faucets were by far the coolest new designs I have seen this year.  There were wall mounts, lav mixers and a clever two-handle lav top faucet.  Designed by Emanuel Gargano, Marco Fagioli and Giampiero Castagnoli.  Just stunning.

5mm Faucet Info Board 5mm Faucet in Black by TreemmeI love the matte black finish.  I will need these for my bathrooms at home.  Above is the two-handle version – the mixer is very similar.  The other offerings from Treemme were also fantastic:

White Faucets by TreemmeI had been sketching things like this last year for my faucet project, but I thought… no, too radical.  Ha!

Another great faucet by TreemmeA different take on 5mm, and a lovely one.  I will need one of these too, for my powder room on the first floor.  Also shown were these high arc faucets, similar to some designs I saw from Ritmonio a few years ago.  The thin spout is just great.

Great Faucets from TreemmeHere are some other powder coated faucets, these by Steinberg.  I like the adventurous palette of color.  If you are going to go paint, why not get very creative?

Series 240 Powder Coated faucets by SteinbergLastly, here was an “industrial chic” style faucet from Waterworks/THG.  This was the only sign of the industrial/factory trend I saw at the show.  This trend is completely saturated in North America and I’m glad to see it is not very prevalent in Europe.  That said, this was probably focused on America, being Waterworks.  Interesting piece but not my cup of tea.

THG Retro-style faucet for WaterworksI finished up my trip to Germany by heading northwest on Deutsche Bahn, to visit my friends at SieMatic.  It is easy to then fly back home from Amsterdam, which gives me some time to take in some strolls along the canals in Jordaan and Centraal.  Of course, I walked my favorite street again, Langestraat.  This alley-type street is just amazing.  I love how there is no sidewalk, the houses are pretty much at grade level, and the height and width proportion is just right.

Langestraat, AmsterdamThis walk was early in the morning on my way to the airport.  I singled out a house, one of many, that I love.  Can I move in?  Maybe just for the summer?

Langestraat House, AmsterdamI wonder if my current neighbors will mind if I paint my red brick rowhouse in black?

Charleston and Middleton Plantation

SieMatic held its annual sales meeting in Charleston SC this past weekend.  Readers may recall my Kitchen & Bath Business Magazine award-winning showroom design for SieMatic Charleston (read about it here and here).  There was a great crowd attending with SieMatic dealers from all over the USA and Canada.  After presentations from noted kitchen designer Mick DeGiulio and interiors photographer Evan Joseph of Architectural Digest fame, we took in some nice weather at the plantation.

Middleton Oak near Charleston, SC

This is the Middleton Oak, a Quercus virginiana (Live oak) looking over the Ashley River.  This is the largest single-stem Live oak in the southern US states and although it has declined a bit in recent years, it is still impressive.  Live oaks tend to have copious amounts of Spanish moss draping their limbs and the Middleton oaks deliver:

Live Oaks with Spanish Moss

After a couple of days of dodgy weather, it was about 60 degrees during our tour – perfect for strolling the grounds before our afternoon meeting wrap-up.  The sun brought out a small alligator to the shores of a pond and a lovely peacock browsing some grass right near a pathway.  This peacock went his (her?) way and was not bothered by our presence in the slightest.  We wanted it to spread it’s tail and make a big show but he (she?) seemed content with us snapping away with our cameras.

Peacock at Middleton Plantation

The spring house bathed in early March morning sun.

Spring Pond at Middleton

 

On the second floor of the spring house is a tiny chapel.  The stark white interior was a wonderfully restful little space.

Middleton Chapel Detail

Part of our group at the highest point of the plantation, looking out over the Ashley River.

Middleton Plantation

My friends Beverly and Keith Binns (of premier kitchen and bath studio Binns in Toronto, Ontario), posing in front of the main plantation house.  Note the Flemish design of the house; Henry Middleton toured Europe with his new bride and came back with fresh inspiration for his new home.

Beverly and Keith Binns at Middleton Plantation

Another massive Live oak, this one a “twin”, as opposed to a single-stem specimen.

Live Oak at Middleton

Notice the sandy soil.  We wondered if this was so bare due to the shade of the tree, or something in the soil.  With the moss and leaves covering the ground and changing the ph, maybe natural ground cover just can’t get a good start in this soil.

During another break in the conference, I took a quick walk down King Street in the center of town and went through the campus of Charleston College looking for more nice old trees and buildings.  Some scenes from the campus grounds:

Charleston College Building

A lovely old gatehouse at the bottom of the old quad:

Gatehouse at Charleston College

It was very quiet, so I think it was spring break.  Here is an unusual white-painted wood structure with great classical detail on the edge of campus.

White Charleston Building

I love the subtle contrast between bright white trim and the dove-colored siding.  This last shot is the head house at the ancient market square.  I ventured down the road a bit just to re-visit this building.  The coloring is very interesting to me, being used to red brick and white trim Federal buildings of Philadelphia and Baltimore, and the Beaux Arts marble and limestone of Washington and New York.

Market Building Facade

It is always great to attend these events and see dear old friends and catch new design inspiration.  I will most certainly be back to Charleston, since I have business here once a year or so.  Good thing, as I was reminded of another plantation called Drayton Hall, which is not far from the city.  I’ll have to make time to get back for that one, and a more comprehensive tour of the Charleston Singles and other unique structures of the enchanting old city.

The Ideal City

Here in Baltimore we have an extraordinary art gallery called the Walters Art Museum.  Given to the city in 1931 by Henry Walters, the collection of art and artifacts was started by family patriarch William Walters during the American Civil War, when William took his family to Europe to avoid the conflict.   Greatly expanded by son Henry in the early 20th century, the original townhouse is on the corner of Mt. Vernon Place (the nicest block in Baltimore, adjoining the Peabody Conservatory and the 200 foot Washington Monument), combined with several properties to construct an immense, opulent gallery building.

Walters Art Museum in Baltimore

The gallery was designed by William Adams Delano and was completed in 1909. From Wikipedia: The exterior was inspired by the Renaissance-revival style Hôtel Pourtalès in Paris and its interior was modeled after the 17th-century Collegio dei Gesuiti (now the Palazzo dell’Università) built by the Balbi family for the Jesuits in Genoa.

Historic View of Walters Museum Galleries

Inside there are various rooms with salon-style exhibitions, and a fantastic paneled room called the Curiosities Room with a great collection of nature’s wonders including a butterfly collection set in low vitrines, really popular with children.

My favorite piece in the collection is a Renaissance painting called The Ideal City, attributed to architect Fra Carnevale ca. 1480-1484.  The subject is an imaginary Greco-Roman city with the most orderly layout and a sweeping, panoramic perspective.

The Ideal City, Renaissance Painting by Fra Carnevale ca. 1584

From the Walter’s website: The imaginary city square features a Roman arch typically erected as a commemoration of military victory at its center. As a whole, the painting offers a model of the architecture and sculpture that would ideally be commissioned by a virtuous ruler who cares for the welfare of the citizenry.  The work was… apparently commissioned for the palace of Duke Federico da Montefeltro of Urbino. Set into the woodwork at shoulder height or higher, “The Ideal City” would have seemed like a window onto another, better world.

The Walters is presently displaying reproductions of some pieces around town in the Off The Wall program; placing popular paintings outside to reinforce the point that the collection is for the benefit of everybody in the city.  I was delighted to see The Ideal City on Hopkins Plaza downtown, in front of a government building.

The Ideal City in Baltimore

There is no little irony this picture is placed in front of an administration building – one that I have been stopped by guards for taking pictures before.  I snapped this one quickly.  The plaza is a 1970s-era concrete valley between tall, modernist government buildings.  Not exactly the same view as depicted by Signore Carnevale, but nearly as devoid of people due to unpleasant gusts of winter wind, and a pervasive feeling that relaxing there is not allowed.  The curator of Off the Wall has done well to place the picture here, juxtaposing the “better world” of Duke da Montefeltro with this forlorn plaza.

Of course The Ideal City might have shown more people enjoying the space as it was intended, but perhaps the artist didn’t want to muddy up his picture?  The scene also lacks of trees or other greenery of any kind.  Is this the way the artist envisioned it, something which exists in a fantasy, like a scale model or digital rendering of the future?  A private playground for the Duke to enjoy, unspoiled by throngs of lower classes milling about?

A deeper read into The Ideal City reveals that Renaissance planning was perhaps concerned not only with aesthetics and solving immediate social needs, but the dream of a tamed, perfect climate and a gentle, educated humanity sharing a peaceful world.  To me, The Ideal City is nothing less than the enlightenment of man, free of social ills and living a sweeping, harmonious democratic existence, manifested as this perfect, delightful environment.

SieMatic Haus Fair 2012 – Highlights

It is that time of year again – the lovely weather and hospitality of Germany and SieMatic’s Haus Fair, an in-house factory show of new designs and finishes for 2013.  For those unfamiliar, SieMatic is a leading luxury kitchen maker in Europe, and I have been involved with this fine company for almost 20 years.  Along with 15 of my North American colleagues, I made the trek to Westphalia again for meetings and training on new product.  Here are my impressions from our visit.

SieMatic has two handle-less series of cabinets, the luxurious S2 and more price-conscious S3 series.  Many new features and new colors were introduced for S3, greatly enhancing its appeal.  Here we have a wonderfully-restrained Graphite and Lotus White gloss laminate display:

SieMatic S3 Image Kitchen from Haus Fair 2012

The same kitchen was on display with yellow accents.  The same layout as above, except the unique features are more visible in yellow, including the interesting end shelf, the yellow finger strip area and a metal frame tall glass cabinet with yellow interior.

Graphite and Yellow SieMatic S3 Display

In another display, we can see a detail of the finger grip.  Both the horizontal backing strip (aluminum) and the actual integrated grip can be color coordinated and mix-matched in a variety of new colors, including this Poppy Red.

SieMatic S3 grip slot detail in Poppy Red

Another display shows the end shelf in “Olive Green”, which is really more of an apple green.  Here the individual handles (mounted on each door) can be seen.

SieMatic S3 with Olive Green Accents

Another S3 concept showed a run of demi-height cabinets with refrigerator and oven housings on each end.  A combination of Sterling Grey and Graphite, the use of finger channel here is quite creative, showing how the cabinets can alternate between contrasting and matching; the finger channel and cooking cabinet are both Graphite.  This mix/match feature could be a powerful tool for designers to bring individual design to their kitchen clients.

SieMatic S2 Concept from Haus Fair 2012

An S2 Floating Spaces display was shown in White with Natural Oak and also in the new  Graphite Grey.  Last year’s “Floating Spaces” shelves featured nicely in this new concept, but enclosed in panels and shown in the more elegant 13mm version.  Note the integrated electrical sockets on the island end panel, and also the floor-grazing lower pullout fronts which highlight a very mono-block feel.

SieMatic S2 Floating Spaces Image Kitchen

A detail of the Graphite/Walnut display showing the shelf detail:

SieMatic S2 Concept with Natural Oak Floating Spaces Shelves

A very elegant SE/S2 Floating Spaces concept was shown in a new gloss lacquer, Agate Grey, mixed here with Black Gloss lacquer.  Almost a Beaux Arts concept, there was an abundance of sparkle from gloss lacquer, polished metal, mirror and glass.

SieMatic SE/S2 Floating Spaces Concept

Here is a close-up of the cooking area.  You can see the upper “bridge cabinets”, which featured in other displays this year as well.  The top cabinets do not match the lower, but have a randomized series of divisions for a fresh, unexpected feel.

Detail of SieMatic 8008/S2 "Beaux Arts" concept, Haus Fair 2012

The biggest news was perhaps the least sexy, from a display point of view.  SieMatic has shied away from continuous grain/book-matched veneer, until now.  For a premium over normal veneer prices, they will now do either vertical or horizontal continuous or book-matched grains on request.

SieMatic Contiuous Grain Veneer - News Haus Fair 2012

A view to the full collection of veneer from SieMatic.  These are all very useable, on-trend finishes.

Full Assortment of SieMatic Veneer

2012 marks 30 years of SieMatic in the United States.  The very first dealer, Euro Kitchens in Laguna Beach California, is still going strong.  Mr. Siekmann presented Euro Kitchens principals Claude and Fari Moritz with a special award for their amazing milestone.  I have worked with Claude and Fari on their displays and also some renderings for their clients.  Here are the three of us in one of the Haus Fair displays.

Mick Ricereto, Claude and Fari Moritz from Euro Kitchens, Laguna Beach CA.

We stayed in a couple of different small towns near the factory, both “bath towns” with natural springs and a long history of wellness.  Here is a building situated in the lovely public park in Bad Oeynhausen.

A public park building in Bad Oeynhausen, Germany

Our other town was Bad Salzuflen.  This city had a tremendous amount of character.  Walking the streets showed a variety of stone and half-timber small buildings, all in excellent shape.  Our hotel was a series of old buildings linked together, with the oldest from 1560.

Street Scene from Bad Salzuflen

In the middle of town is a large T-shaped wall of sorts.  For over two centuries, the mineral springs in this area have been mined for their salt (hence, the name Salz – meaning salt).  Water is pumped out of the ground and trickled over this structure, with the mineral deposits clinging to the surface as the water evaporates.

Bad Salzuflen Salt Structure

The walls are constructed of bundles of cut thorny brush, about 6 feet deep, placed in horizontal stacks.  Water just trickles down from the top.  As the mineral water cascades down, a refreshing seashore-like air blankets the town.  A local mentioned they replace the brush every 7 years.

Detail of Bad Salzuflen Mineral Wall

One pavilion has an interior fitted with benches for resting and taking in the air.  We tried it ourselves for a bit of jet-lag therapy.  Germans have a special “wellness clause” in their health insurance; if they need a break from the fast pace of modern life they can come visit a health resort town such as Bad Salzuflen.  I can attest that nobody was rushing around this little town – it was all about relaxing.  A detail of the interior showing the bundles of thorny brush:

Interior of Mineral Wall Structure in Bad Salzuflen, Germany

On the last night we shared a great group meal in a small timber-frame room at the hotel, drinking German wine and trying the local flavors.  It is always great to catch up with old friends at the shows, and also to welcome new people to the SieMatic family, such as the resellers from Montreal.  Speaking of Montreal, my design is being installed and the opening party is scheduled for October.  Be sure to return for those highlights later in autumn, as I plan to go back up for the final touches and to share in the celebration.