NPR: Non-Photo Realistic Rendering

Happy 2017 design readers.

Over the break I’ve made a concerted effort to work on some new digital rendering techniques.  As anybody who has followed this blog or knows my work may attest, I personally avoid doing photo realistic renderings.  I came up in this business during the analog/manual era … actually on the cusp of computer models and visualization.  I was modeling/rendering on AutoCAD 3D 15+ years ago … you remember the UCS don’t you?  The “Ultra Confusion System”?  I got some nice renderings but ultimately decided it wasn’t for me.  Individual, hand drawing techniques are just more interesting (and faster) than perfect photo-like creations.  So, have a look at two NPR rendering examples, both of which were developed in Sketchup.

The first is a series of conference table variations I worked on late in 2016.  I had three basic ideas and I wanted to show them together, with my favorite in the foreground.

NPR Conference Table Sketchup Renderings by Mick Ricereto

Once you have your design, setting up views like this takes seconds.  And if I want some alternate views, turn the mouse a bit and go.  Once you build up a library of materials again click click and it all moves very fast.

Next is a kitchen that goes back a couple of years to 2015 (wow – 2015 is now two years ago!).  As with the conference tables above, the secret sauce is getting the line work to replicate my hardline pencil base drawings, but in this case I also had the floor and an exterior to simulate as well.

NPR Kitchen Rendering in Sketchup by Mick Ricereto

Again, if I want another view, I just go for it and do my 3 second re-render right in Sketchup.  There is no outboard rendering program to bother with, just some post work in P-Shop (just like their would be with hand drawing).

With hand presentation it’s either very quick sketchy styles or taking a huge amount of time for more detailed materials and multiple views.  And then you still need to scan them in and touch up as well.  I will still sketch live in front of clients and colleagues the same way, but when presenting more defined designs (like above), back in the studio, I’m very excited to be exploring NPR Sketchup models.  This is like a huge breath of fresh air for me as I can work very quickly and still get individually-styled presentations that I’m happy with.  Also, if it needs to be more realistic, off to a rendering farm it can go (just like rapid prototyping – no need to do it in-house anymore).

I’m looking forward to 2017, getting better and faster.  I hope you’re also off to a cracking start and best wishes in all your endeavors.

M

 

Knocked Off Again

Knockoff.  Webster’s definition reads as “a cheap of inferior copy of something”.  A bit similar to “knock down” and “knockout” but to be sure I refer to plagiarized, and again by a big box store with the victim being an Amerock hardware design.

Rolling into the Box one evening looking for blue painter’s tape and some CFLs, I passed this forlorn little vanity ensemble:

img_3161

The unit’s cup pull is as close to my Amerock Manor pull as one can get, only not as wide.

img_3162

Here is Amerock’s official view of the Manor pull – model number BP26130 – for some reason shown from the bottom:

amerock-bp26130g10-lg

I designed this piece of hardware way back in 2003-2004, while living in Washington DC.  I used to wander the majestic avenues looking for architectural inspiration.  In this case, I was thinking of some details I liked in Daniel Burnham’s Union Station.  I’ve blogged about Union Station before I think … ah yes, here is a picture of the entrance vestibule:

Detail of Union Station in Washington DC

When I started with Amerock in late 2003, they were thick in the transition from a domestic manufacturing company to a run-of-the-mill importing brand.  Needing new designs to be made in China and appeal to the mass market, I whipped up some collections that would have timeless appeal and work with a myriad of cabinet and interior styles.  Manor was actually the first design I did for them.  In fact, the Manor knob was my very first design, penned in late 2003:

amerock-manor-square-knob

As I have stated before, I don’t mind so much to be knocked off as I can just design another knob or handle very quickly.  In this case I’m actually a bit proud to think a 13 year design still holds up enough to be copied so blatantly.  My goal of “timeless appeal” seems to have been met.

While I will continue using the world’s architectural monuments for inspiration – as any good artist should – some will simply copy other’s designs.  I don’t suppose there are great old buildings and fascinating streets to wander out in the Big Box corporate park, but that should not be an excuse for failing to come up with an original design.

Knock Offs

I was recently walking a “big box store” – nameless for now – and noticed some private label cabinet hardware that carried an uncanny similarity to a design I did for Amerock a few years ago.  This doesn’t bother me as this sort of thing happens all time.  You know what they say about imitation and flattery.

Here are the designs at the ‘Box:

Here are my designs for Amerock, designed around 2007:

Amerock HandleAmerock Knob

My designs have a subtle curve the ‘Box models lack, but looking at the knob in particular I think we can say my designs have undoubtedly provided the inspiration for these retail pieces.

Discussing plagiarism in design is a important topic and a little too deep for me to tackle today.  In this case Amerock is not sold in this particular store; the product manager probably wanted to have something similar to my design, but could not find it in their manufacturer’s catalog.  In today’s product development environment, it’s simply a matter of sending a drawing (or “inspirational sample”) to your Far East factory and ordering the minimum quantity to have something very close in your store.

Another situation I have been meaning to post about is what happens to a design when it gets passed over for launch, but then mysteriously shows up in somebody else’s product lineup.  This happened with a mid-century-inspired bow handle I did back in the mid 2000’s.  Here is my design:

Bow Handle 2007

You are looking at a die cast and chrome plated “actual handle”, and two development prototypes.  At some point I changed the design from the awful 3-banded idea to this simple and frankly, “familiar” bow handle design that would have been a typical design in the 1930-50’s.  Our product team rejected the design in the end however, and we went ahead with some other products.  The die cast mold went on a shelf in China.

Then, a matter of a few months later I saw my design in the display of a competing hardware company, here in the US.  The factory had simply flipped it over to somebody else!  I studied it very closely but I was convinced it was mine and not some crazy coincidence.  Here is Haefele’s handle:

Haefele Handle

It may not be the actual mold, but the engineers could have changed it a touch and then passed the product over to this other buyer.  I just can’t see how my design would otherwise be so similar.  I have nothing against Hafele here at all – it’s been years since I have done this design and I just find it amusing.  I wonder how many of my other “rejected” designs may be out there under another company?

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In other news, I have designed the kitchen area for another store for Pirch, the exciting appliance and fixture retailer – a great location in downtown New York.  The opening is later this month; look for a feature on the store in a few weeks time.

Working in Sketchup

Like many designers (and also hobbyists), I have been recently enamored to Sketchup.  For those unfamiliar, Sketchup is a free* 3D design software associated with Google (but sold off a few years ago to a company called Trimble).  I have been using SU to work on environment design (as opposed to product design), as it is very quick to get ideas across and quickly develop views to communicate your design intent.

Seating Area Sketch

3 Minute “Napkin Sketches” – Essential to the Design Process

Most will maintain that drawing by hand is an essential function to working out your designs.  Many are familiar with the story of a “napkin sketch”, or a squiggly Frank Gehry concept drawing; there will always be a place for quick sketches.  With tools like free 3D design packages however, detailed hand drawings are becoming too difficult to justify.

SieMatic Beaux Arts 2 Kitchen for Client in Bermuda

Hand Rendering – Charming but time to move on?

Did I say *Free?  The basic program is free but a Pro version allows many more features including the full-featured Layout element which is similar to Paper Space in AutoCAD.  I use Pro as I would like to master the Layout feature and eventually move away from ACAD.

Entry 2

Sketchup – A Quick Design and Communication Tool

As mentioned before in previous posts, I’m well aware the time-consuming method of drawing by hand is charming but inefficient in today’s design world.  Although I can draw quite quickly in a loose fashion (napkin sketches and so on), more and more of my clients are used to seeing photo-realistic renderings and as this becomes the norm pencil and marker sketches just simply will not cut it.  It isn’t the speed and the efficiency alone that renders hand drawings obsolete (sorry), but the fact that realism is so easily obtainable and frankly expected in luxury interior presentations.  Worst is when you need to present a few options in the same space; this is where digital designing such as SU can manage things in a few clicks.

Classic Main Alt

Basic SU Presentation.  No Post-SU rendering needed for quick images such as this.

Although my screen shots show basic line work, you can always export your SU model to a rendering package (also inexpensive) to get into photo realism.  It should be noted there are consultancies – many in Eastern Europe or Asia – who do nothing but make renderings of complex buildings and other important 3D projects.  These “Rendering Farms” have super computers toiling away to make your models look like the CGI from Skywalker Ranch.

After working in SU for a year or two, it became quite clear that although I don’t need CGI-level rendering yet, the quality of materials representation and purchasable interior elements make a big difference to the quality of your design.  Looking at my screen shots above, I’m referring to not only the realism of the stone floor but the appliances, the paintings I placed on the wall (small replications of a friend’s work), the chairs – all the things we called Entourage back in the pens-and-marker days.  With hand drawings you draw these elements yourself, or Photoshop things in later.  With 3D design, you can insert scale models of products into your room.  One of Sketchup’s most powerful features is their database of objects you can download and use in your design; the 3D Warehouse.

SU Warehouse Image

A View to Mick’s 3D Warehouse Page

The 3DW is a user-uploaded repository of free models.  If it has been uploaded to the Warehouse, you can use it.  Some “power users” display entire buildings and iconic models they constructed in the manner of a gallery.  I have seen the Empire State Building, Endeavor Space Shuttle, Tie Fighters … there are some incredible models uploaded to the 3DW.  For me and other furniture designers/manufacturers however, the 3DW presents a unique opportunity to get our products in the hands of architects and specifiers.  By having your commercially-available designs in the 3DW, there is a very good chance of having your pieces specified when the design gets executed in real life.  With this in mind, I have recently been converting my product designs to the SU 3DW format and uploading them for other designers and hobbyists to use.  In the first week I had a couple of hundred downloads of some of my lighting designs.  Who is looking at/using my product models?  This I do not know, as there is not a feedback loop or way to track who is using what.

SU Screenshot

Screen Shot of Sketchup Interface – and the Popular Ilex SPAL24 Space Array Fixture

So far the most popular of my products is the above Space Array fixture, at over a hundred downloads by itself.  Not bad for the first week.  I looked at some iconic furniture pieces by well-known manufacturers and their downloads were in the many thousands.  Surely some of these model usages will result in actual sales, right?

How many of you, dear readers, are using Sketchup and the 3D Warehouse?  Do you use actual products you intend to specify for the final project?  Does the availability of a model on the 3DW increase your chance of using it in real life?

With dozens of lighting fixtures currently in production – not to mention the scores of Amerock hardware designs I did between 2004 and 2009 – I could put a huge amount of product on the 3DW.  I’ll continue to focus on the newer and better designs for now, with the hope of getting a wider audience for my more marketable designs.

If you are a Sketchup user please have a visit to my product gallery and try some of my lighting and hardware in your models.  I’d love to know how they work in your designs.

https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/by/MickRicereto

IMM 2015 – The Kitchens

In this third installment of my trip to IMM in Cologne, it’s time to show the news in kitchens.  My trip’s main purpose was to travel with SieMatic and work with their customers on future showroom planning.  Naturally, our first stop when arriving at the massive fairgrounds was to visit the SieMatic stand.

SieMatic Stand IMM 2015

SieMatic has a new category system to describe their offerings: Urban, Pure and Classic.  As we do in the best showrooms and studios throughout the world, the stand created convincing environments to illustrate each style.  The overall feel is unified by a single floor and ceiling treatment, and all the product finishes compliment each other in the relative proximity.

This first view is from the outside “long side’ of the stand, which was a freestanding rectangle positioned right at the front of hall 4.  This new Urban kitchen is in a fresh lacquer color called Umbra, mixed with Matte Black Oak.

SieMatic at IMM 2015

The feeling is very free and open.  Note the exposed drawers at right below, which coordinates with the shelves above them.  The island is anchored by a herb garden planter, which as you will see throughout this post was a very big trend this year.  (I’m proud to say I predated this trend 2 years ago with my Schindler Lovell Beach House concept kitchen – seen here).SieMatic at IMM 2015

I love the feel of this display, how casual and yet quite put together it is.  On the far left you can see the new SieMatic 29 sideboard; this new idea goes back to SieMatic’s origins to 1929 but in an updated, sleeker skin.

SieMatic 29 Urban Sideboard

This detail shows another 29 Sideboard in Titan White.  Note the flooring, the table and the glass wall in the above photo.  The main thrust of SieMatic’s new designs are to present a fetching and convincing luxury environment.  The stand’s feel was reminiscent of the newest design studios that we are executing around the world.SE3003R by SieMatic

This display, just in front of the previous on the long side, shows a little more of the stand’s architecture.  This is SieMatic’s new SE3003R, a very thin framed-type door which is very crisp in execution.  Seen here at the end of the last day (not crowded), you can get a sense of the minimalist lines and detail.  Note the chandeliers in each display, as SieMatic’s designers are very keen to use and align with the very best and creative furniture and accessory partners to get the right look.

SieMatic Classic Kitchen

 

Above is Classic, an evolution of the Beaux Arts series.  SieMatic could sit back on this successful line and be no worse for wear, but instead continually push the idea of what Classic is for today’s living.  The mix of materials and detail of surfacing is masterful.  This is a most modern “classic”, with only the presence of framed doors linking it to any sense of tradition.  The realm of possibility using the Classic style seems almost limitless as the combination of framed, flat and metal cabinet surfaces gives the designer many options to personalize with unexpected detail.

SieMatic 3003R

Above is a detail of the new SE3003R framed door.  This is a very thin frame of only 6.5mm.  Offered in lacquer colors and also this interesting Gold-Bronze, the integrated handle can be color coordinated or the door can be used with no handles at all (push latch).  This breakfront detail is a new trend; we used to pull cabinets forward a few years ago, to demarcate special areas and create visual interest.  I really like using this treatment but it can go overboard quickly in less judicious hands.

I mentioned environment and styling; here are two views of how SieMatic is using graphics to create emotion and tie into existing architecture and urban surroundings to illustrate the appropriate mood for Pure:

Cozy Seating at SieMatic

Using London’s Gherkin building nicely:

Styling at SieMatic IMM 2015

The styling is extremely important for presentation of interior products.  The visit to a studio or show stand should embrace you in a story of emotions unique to your particular brand.  A guest should feel like she is entering a series of inspiring apartments during an open house, with the sense you could move in yourself, or, that just by walking in you know what the people who live there are like.  SieMatic has created these convincing environments and I’m very happy to be continually involved with this exciting brand.

Let’s see some other kitchen brands; this is Ernestomeda.  Very nice details including creative use of stone for vertical surfaces.  The backsplash area of this island has compartments that can be used for cooking tools and of course, an herb garden.

Ernestomeda at IMM 2015

I don’t have all the details in my notebook on each photo, so some of these I’m showing just because I liked the detail or layout.  This double perpendicular island is bridged with an eating surface – very cool:

Double Bridge Island IMM 2015

Note the LED lights at the finger grip, and the simulated (or possibly real) stone surface of the cabinet faces – big trends this year.

The placement of accent shelves in contrasting colors has been a strong movement for the past few years.  I liked this corner shelf arrangement.

Open Shelf Detail

This kitchen was essentially one big multi-function island.  Note the storage bins and ever-present herbs, great open shelf tower and integrated seating surface.

Creative Kitchen Shelves

I loved this tall blue shelf, which is reminiscent of the shelf cluster I showed from the furniture post last week.  The use of push-pull cabinets is very effective here, even in a small laminate L-shaped display.

Blue Open Kitchen Shelf

I mentioned Poliform in a previous post about IMM; here is their sister kitchen brand Varrena.  Similarly detailed architecture, which is to say, exquisite.

Varenna at IMM 2015

Like most of the Italian luxury brands Varenna really understands how to create environment.  You forget you are walking through a temporary show stand as you wander around and explore all the little details in this fabulous space.

Varenna at IMM 2015

The floor was the same as used in the Poliform side, which unified the entire space.  In fact, there was barely any perceived separation between the furniture, closets and kitchen presentation.  It really felt like walking through a series of apartments.

Detail of Varenna kitchen

I was particularly enamored with the above display’s use of open space and how this island did not engage with the wall.  When using flat surfaces it is often the joints or points of haptic connection where all the magic is revealed.

Varenna at IMM 2015

These end-panel treatments are from the Poliform closet display:

End Detail by Poliform

And a similar detail on the kitchen side:

Varenna Kitchen Detail

I’ve never personally used such dark colors in the kitchen, but this is definitely a trend in the industry.  We have moved on a bit from the “nightclub” look from a few seasons ago, but this is still very much a sexy urban apartment setting.

Varenna Kitchen IMM 2015

This detail of the upper shelf shows how much care was put into the styling.  Accessorizing a kitchen display is one of the fun parts of our business.

Creative Open Kitchen Shelf

Moving on, here is another use of stone surfacing, this time everything is covered in the same marble look:

Stone Kitchen Detail at IMM 2015

More stone laminate, this one a little unconvincing:

Stone Look Laminate

This is from Leicht, a very popular brand in Germany.  The stone look here is also laminate, this time in a simulated concrete look.

Leicht Kitchen at IMM 2015

The brand Eggersman had some nice details.  The walls were OSB – oriented strand board – painted black.  In contrast to this humble material, here were mirror-polished stainless cabinet surfaces:

Mirror Stainless Cabinets

In the reflection you can see a very strange stone finish, used again in a monolithic manner as a kitchen island.

As an aside, you can also see my red vinyl belt, which is made from old VW Beetle seat vinyl.  I love this belt – it was made by a guitar strap craftsman in California.  Anybody who has been in a 1950’s or 60’s Beetle knows this surface, and with it comes a unique smell.  However, it is not the vinyl that has the odor, it is the horse hair stuffing they used.  I know that smell with trigger a huge rush of memories the next time I sit inside an old Bug, which any reader of Proust would also predict.

 

Speaking of smells, the aroma of fresh bread brought us to the appliance side where Gaggenau was demonstrating their fabulous ovens.  The stand’s architecture used raw plywood in a creative way for the roof/cornice structure.

Gaggenau at IMM 2015

A detail of the interior:

Gaggenau at IMM 2015

Another brand used raw plywood, Schueller.  This stand was very large, and was a little village of buildings showing their collections of appliances.  Very creative.

Raw wood stand at IMM 2015

As I mentioned in a previous post, after the show our group took a train to Amsterdam to see the new SieMatic flagship showroom installation.  On the way over to the train station I started to get that achy feeling that a cold or flu was on the way.  Later that night I was in full-blown chills and didn’t sleep a wink.  Although my time in A’dam was mostly confined to the hotel room, I still managed to visit the showroom and get some impressions – I’ll cover this in my next post.

 

IMM 2015 – Part Two

In my last post, I was reviewing my visit to IMM 2015 in Cologne, Germany.  We left off looking at living room environments with an eye on interesting black & white patterns and 1970’s influences.  Let’s continue with some Italian makers:

1970's Tropical Salon at IMM 2015

Last week I talked about the ’70s feel and an overall softness to new furnishings around the show.  This was a strong theme with the Italian design leaders, like this comfy environment above.  This room looks like it could have been plucked from a disco-era Milano apartment.  The lush tropical plants definitely have an impact and again, this was a reoccurring theme of the week.  Interestingly, a recent article in the New York Times about reducing clutter and the simplification of our domestic environments noted that Italian interiors tend to be the most busy, typically filled with family heirlooms and objects of decorative curiosity.  Here we are above, owning it.

This dining room is a little more restrained but still lush and inviting.

Lush dining space at IMM 2015

Very bold use of lavender and green tones here; I could not confidently use these colors together.

Gallotti & Radice at IMM 2015

This next brand is Gallotti + Radice.  I loved the feel here; again a retro feel but more subdued and curated.  It’s like my hip Italian grandmother decided to clean up a little before we come over before Sunday brunch.  The grey-blue wall color was so deep I felt like taking a swim.  Mixing of metals and soft furnishings along with expert accessory work kept the eye moving slowly and enjoyably.

Gallotti + Radice at IMM 2015

The grey oak laminate floor is my latest underfoot crush; this look is popping up everywhere but rightfully so – neutral enough to go with everything but a solid base tone that holds it all together.  These shelves are heavily accessorized but the realism of this room is enveloping and I indeed lingered for quite awhile, relaxing in all the seats I could.  Looking back, the lighting was also well done which really helps hold an exhibit together.

Soft colors at IMM 2015

Note the darkness on this velvety-soft little sofa.  The lighting highlights the edges, art and shelves.  Nice touch.  Of particular note at Gallotti + Radice was the artwork and the carefully curated reading materials about.  Altogether, a welcoming place to be.

Moving to a more minimalist vein, we walked over to Poliform.

Poliform Bedroom

I could never be tired of this Poliform bedroom.  The dark walls and floor, the careful use of color and the way the sheets are ruffled is all so perfectly composed.

Relaxing in the Italian Modern Chair

Here my friend Kelly Carpenter looks adorable in a comfortable chair/ottoman combo.  I was pretty jet lagged here so it’s good she is sitting and not me – I might not have got up.

Shelves at Poliform, IMM 2015

Plain floors and textured walls.  The use of simple carpets on dark floors is very popular and as mentioned above, works well in every room.

Poliform Shelving

Tall shelves were everywhere at IMM.  Combined with other elements – low pieces and also with lots of open wall space – keeps the eye entertained and helps demarcate space into human-size chunks.  A company called Capod’opera had a nice display with some remarkable shelf ideas:

Capod'opera at IMM 2015

That tall cluster to the left contained some astounding millwork detail.  A combination of open and closed boxes in a range of blue-grey, composed in the still-fresh random arrangements I have been seeing the past few seasons.  Here is a detail:

High Shelf Element by Capod'opera

We’ll see more interesting shelves in kitchens with the next post.

Although my notes fail to remind me of the makers, I was impressed with the color, accessories and furniture detailing in these vignettes:

IMM 2015

Nice vignettes at IMM 2015

Another nice shelf design, this one by 1920R, who specializes in solid-hewn timber furniture.

1920R Shelving at IMM 2015

I’ll move into the most exciting part of the show – the kitchens – in the next installment.  Before closing today, a peek at the Koelner Doem – the Cathedral.  I have been to Cologne many times and of course I walk over to this masterpiece.  I had done a paper/study on this building in Art History III and visiting it the first time was massively impressive.  Repeated visits do not disappoint.

Interior of Cologne Cathedral

So, with kitchens next I’ll also show some pictures of our side trip to SieMatic’s new flagship showroom in Amsterdam, an masterstroke of environment design integrated into a wonderful old 2 story building near the Museumplein.

IMM – Germany – Part One

I ventured over to Europe for the IMM this year – International Mobile Messe – in Cologne Germany.  As part of a group of SieMatic dealers from North America, we also went to Amsterdam to see the company’s newest flagship showroom.  I’ll share some pictures of that wonderful installation in a future post; for now, here are some images from IMM.

1970's Feel at IMM Cologne 2015

Starting with some living spaces, among the trends I saw were 1970’s influences and softer, feminine colorways.  Although many companies are still working in a minimalist vein, there were lots of eclectic ensembles mixing style, colors, textures, gathered and otherwise complex upholstery treatments and interesting accessories.

Porada Dining Chair

This dining set had a very 1970’s vibe to it, with curved cushions, glass top table and organically-curved woodwork.

The use of bronze-colored metal was very prevalent.  This collection of cocktail tables used faceted surfaces and rich materials in a lovely manner:

IMM 2015

Also in use were gold and brass tones, a trend we have been talking about for the better part of a decade.  Every year more and more brass is seen and it still feels very fresh and underused.

Living room at IMM 2015

Greys are presently the “it” tone in European design.  Although there were many masculine presentations throughout the halls, as mentioned above a feminine touch is frequently felt through accessories, color accents and great fabrics.  Notice the tufting below.

Grey Furniture at IMM 2015

I loved these accessories at Interluebke:

Console at IMM 2015

The ceiling treatment at Cor, a German company, were very inventive.  Each living ensemble had an individual deep ceiling with creative arrays of lighting.

Cor Ceiling at IMM 2015

Another trend was the use of black and white pattern, such as dots, hounds tooth and the like.  Readers who have been at the design game for a few decades may recognize this palette from the late ’70s and into the 1980s.  This pair of chairs below reminds me of the old TGV train interiors, which had black and white striped chairs with a red carpet and window curtains.

1970's Influences at IMM 2015

A black and white laminate treatment:

Black and White Patterns at IMM 2015

This closet environment at Poliform shows a great ziggurat carpet in black and white, as well as other fabulous details in casework and accessory placement.

Ziggurat Carpet

Great wallpaper mixed in with a lovely plush fabric at B&B Italia.

B&B at IMM 2015

The Michel series at B&B – a system I like to specify – against some nice black and white ticking:

Michel from B&B Italia

And for something a bit different, this bohemian tropical luxury look had many admirers.  I forgot to write down the company in my notebook, but this was not a completely isolated look, as many other makers indulged in such comfy-casual presentations.

Deep Island-Style Luxury at IMM 2015

This is a good place to break, so I can pick up on more individual and eclectic furnishings and accessories in the next installment.  And of course, also coming up with be kitchens as well, including all of SieMatic’s new collections.

Photos from the B&O Railroad Museum

This past Saturday I meandered over to Baltimore’s B&O Railroad Museum, something I had wanted to do for years.  Although many historic buildings have been removed after the B&O merged and absorbed it’s way into CSX transportation, there is still the amazing 22-sided “roundhouse” and some old car shop buildings on site.  The big draw, however, are the ancient locomotives, passenger cars and other supporting rolling stock.

The B&O railroad was one of the first in the world, with the short trip from Baltimore to Ellicott Mills (20 kilometers) being the first self-powered line in the USA.  There are many priceless rail vehicles dating from the earliest days, as well as some incredible monster locomotives from the 20th century.  I brought my camera and wandered through the old buildings getting close up to all the iron and dust.

B&O Railcar Interior

What I didn’t know is that we would be able to climb aboard many of the train cars and engines and imagine what it would have been like back in the railroad’s glory days.  Most of my pictures were taken in the southern car shop, out of the way of the train-crazy children and demonstrations.

Detail of old Steam Locomotive

It wasn’t my intention to shoot everything that had a grey-blue and black hue, but the old trains were speaking to me, drawing me to the shadows to study the age marks and wrinkles in the incredible old surfaces.

Old Railcar Detail

4 or 5 impossibly large locomotives are berthed next to each other in the old shop, possibly 120 or 150 centimeters shoulders apart.  There really is no way to step back and get a full shot of these magnificent beasts, but I was happy to get close and smell the waxy grease and study the giant forged mechanicals.

Locomotive Wheels at B&O Museum

The most impressive locomotive was one of the last steam engines built in the USA, the early 1940’s #1604 “Allegeny” 2-6-6-6 coal-hauling monster.  The numbers refer to how many wheels the engine has.  The main wheels are 160cm tall and the locomotive + tender (the coal cart behind the engine) together are as long as the building they are parked in.  The engine was built to haul coal trains from West Virginia up to the coal dumper in Baltimore’s middle branch harbor.  Standing next to or on top of this thing is awe-inspiring.  The engine itself weighs 389 tons.  That is 778,000 pounds.  The coal tender, loaded weighed 215 tons.  Now, they rest in darkness, silent and regal.

Detail of #1604 Allegeny Locomotive Hopper Car

Because these relics are safely indoors, their state of preservation feels as if they could awake at any moment.  Almost completely free of signage or modern interpretation, the big engines feel as if they rolled up for their last journey, the barn doors were shut and the overhead lights turned out.

Detail of Steam Engine Works

Listen close to the pipes and hoses and you can almost hear the hissing of steam.

Detail of Railcar Coupling

Considering the weight of these giants, it is amazing the condition of the concrete floor.  This particular car shop was not originally built for locomotives, but merely for the fitting out of passenger car interiors.  This building was constructed to last.

Train Car Detail

The volunteers at the B&O are very friendly and helpful.  The old boy sitting by the front door of the car shop jumped out of his seat to talk to me and give information about the building and the locomotives.  The yellow crane below is still functional, and the docent pointed out some recent activity with some diesel engine restoration in one corner.  On this day however, it was a quiet winter afternoon in the old train shed.

Decrepit Rail Car

When I was a small boy I witnessed the ’76 Freedom Train go by the tracks near my neighborhood in NJ.  It was a restored steam engine pulling historic cars filled with Americana.  We only saw the train pass by, but it was an intoxicating and unforgettable sensory experience.

There is something magical about the billowing steam, the aching moan of a steam whistle, the jerking motion of the piston and cranks working away at speed.  To see something like the Allegeny #1604 pulling a train of coal cars up a mountain must have been an impressive sight.  Sleep well old iron, after a life of burden you have earned your rest.

Recent Renderings – Summer 2014

It’s been a busy summer here in the studio as we have residential kitchen projects, two small kitchen studios and some ongoing industrial design projects to finalize.  Here are some images from our residential kitchens:

Kitchen Project by Mick RiceretoThis first project is for a large home with the kitchen space centered within a sprawling floor plan.  There are numerous entrances and reveals to other spaces from all sides, which presents a challenge to circulation and maintaining a harmonious feel.  The space is quite large however, big enough for two very large islands.  Behind all those tall cabinet doors is an array of refrigeration.

The next project is has similar finishes and back-to-back, they almost feel like they could be the same project from a different angle.  Brown horizontal wood grain has been a popular finish now for about 10 years, with no sign of abatement.  The strong tones work well with the earthy palette many homeowners request.

Kitchen Rendering by Mick RiceretoBoth of these projects have fairly “traditional” building envelopes, meaning, they have all the trappings of today’s North American building trends like covered porches, traditional-style siding, raised panel doors, big moldings and the like.  It is good to see functional, modern kitchens being requested in these types of environments, even if there does seem to be a slight clash to the architecture.

This next project is a small kitchen studio.  The space is a converted car garage, with an extra high ceiling allowing for a loft space at the rear.  We have planned a large “living environment” similar to the types of spaces we have been designing for large showrooms such as SieMatic New York.  In this case the main space is shared between two kitchens, to highlight different solutions to the same living example.

Small Kitchen Studio by Mick RiceretoThe rear kitchen is functional, and positioned under the loft like it would typically occur in a converted apartment.  We kept the cabinet sizes similar and very similar, for an elemental look to counteract the busy, large industrial-type space around it.

Apartment Kitchen by Mick RiceretoThe front kitchen display is completely integrated into the environment and designed to be less “kitcheny” in appearance.  Across from the island is to be a built-in seating element with a long table suitable for parties and for client consultation.  The overall feel is to inspire the visitor and convey a feel of real architecture.  I think we will achieve all this with our design solutions.

Loft Kitchen by Mick RiceretoOn the Industrial Design side, we have been working on a few lighting collections over the past 12-18 months.  We have some models just finishing up and we are now in the process of picking colors.  Recently debuted at Wanted DesignNY in May, the Lacage pendant fixture for Ilex Lighting is entering production very soon.  We have launch photos in chrome and brushed nickel, but there will be some interesting color options for more pop.

Lacage by Ilex LightingHere is a sneak preview of another fixture we are working on, which is an array of thin aluminum blades painted in various powdercoat options.  The array is held together by a center cage which allows many options of blades to be used.  In future models we will be looking at various different materials and finishes.  For now, just a simple paint finish:

Lighting Concept by Mick RiceretoWell, summer is almost over and I feel like it hasn’t started because of all the work we have been getting though the studio.  The reality is though, time flies when busy and having fun alike.  I do look forward to getting our lighting finished and getting the latest news from Europe for next year’s kitchen trends like we do every September.

1960’s Amerock Hardware Concepts

In the mid-2000s I worked as Senior Design Manager for the kitchen hardware company Amerock.  During my employ, the venerable manufacturer was in the process of closing their old factory in Rockford, IL and sourcing everything from China and Mexico.  I took some pictures of the enormous stamping and diecasting facilities but people were very edgy at the time, with word of closing still not public, so I get less shots than I would have hoped.  I did, however, manage to abscond with some old marketing and industrial design relics.  I wish I got more.

Here is a small sample of catalog kitchen concepts I found in a dusty old folder.  These are probably from the 1960s, photos of the original ink on paper with watercolor.  The 1960s were the golden age of fashion illustration (nee Mad Men), and illustrators were probably not hard to find like they are today.  This first kitchen has that old-world feel that was so prevalent at the time.

Kitchen Concept Watercolor Circa 1960

Some of the concepts were just pen and ink.  These were probably used as fillers and interludes between the main catalog shots.  I love the little housecoat she is wearing.

Kitchen Concept circa 1960

This next was my favorite illustration – very detailed ideas.  Note how in all of these concepts the hardware is integrated into the design of the cabinets.  This was one of the things which frustrated me about working for the company in my era; we only marketed the hardware as objects that would sit in a bin at a big box store and did not try and lead along fashion with adventurous ideas like below.

Kitchen Concept Watercolor Illustration Circa 1960

Amerock was instrumental in piecing together the rec rooms us older kids remember from the 60s and 70s.  Built-ins were much more common back then, and somebody got to pick from fantasies such as this warm hunting lodge complete with happy child and dog.  I really miss the days of built-in seating nooks and fireplaces!

Hardware Concept Drawing Circa 1960

In this particular file were small thumbnails of internal storage organizers.  Amerock at one time was involved in all aspects of cabinet fittings, a position which they did not maintain in my era.  In my practice today, one of the main things I find with kitchen design is the extreme focus homeowners put on internal cabinet organization.  Then again, I focus on European design and interior organization is a strong feature of manufacturers such as SieMatic of Germany.

Kitchen Interior Storage Concept Illustrations Circa 1960

Another watercolor, this one featuring something of an English manor concept.  I love how the illustrator left some of the beams without tone, and only just sketching in the table and chairs to balance out the heavy wood.  Note that all these illustrations were in grey scale and uncredited; I only have photographic reproductions.  I wonder what color might have been used, if any.

Catalog Kitchen Concept Watercolor Circa 1960

Here is the cover of a catalog dated 1952.  A little friendly help from the shop clerk, just like the big box stores of today.

Amerock Hardware Catalog 1952

As a parting shot, here is a pastiche of furniture detailing, probably used as a suggestion that “Amerock can be used anywhere you need storage” or some message of the sort.  The photo was white on black; I did not reverse it.  Cool effect for a catalog.

Cabinet Hardware Illustration circa 1960

I have more interesting Amerock design archives, including original pencil concept drawings from the 50s and 60s.  I’ll take the time to curate and present some old industrial design models too – real full-scale wood carvings of hardware concepts, which are a great contrast to today’s near-instantaneous rapid prototypes.