K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

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Mar 18 2014

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Faux Real: Digital image printing comes of age

When I was a girl growing up in the 60s, DIY wood paneling was all the rage for creating a quick new look at home. I remember my father paneling a kitchen in a version of ‘pickled’ oak, 4×8 sheets of it nailed over old wallpaper. My mom added her decorating touches to it with a black and white checkerboard vinyl floor and finished it off with a duet of appliances in avocado green. So chic!

So that was my initiation into faux wood, followed by the ubiquitous “walnut” desks and TV stands made of plastic. So suffice it to say, it would take a lot to change this designer’s perspective on anything that mimics real wood, but isn’t. For that matter, my opinion on anything that’s fake, or ‘faux’ as it’s now known, hasn’t been so great.

But that has all changed. Digital printing has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for creating products for the home that are insanely gorgeous – from porcelain tile, countertops, fabrics, wall covering and more. As a designer who’s focused on sustainability, preservation of our natural resources is my top priority. Being able to specify a porcelain floor tile or countertop that looks EXACTLY like stone and saves our planet gets my attention every time.

A couple of years ago I started seeing digitally printed tiles that are pretty amazing. There are some wonderful renditions of concrete floors, wood planking and stone. The beauty of these floors goes well beyond their looks. Virtually maintenance free and made to last, these tiles are a stylish, sustainable choice.

Italian tile company Ceramica Serenissima created this concrete look tile that comes in several sizes and color ways.


                                                                               “Metropolis” by Ceramica Serenissima

Crossville Tile, a Tennessee-based company, has introduced two great lines called Reclamation and Speak Easy.

Digitally printed porcelain tiles with wonderful texture, they’re a fresh take on aged wood with an urban edge. Both Speak Easy and Reclamation are manufactured in the U.S. with Crossville’s EcoCycle manufacturing process and contain a minimum of 4 percent recycled content and is Green Squared certified.

Speak Easy

                                                                                      Speak Easy Sweet Georgia Brown


                                                                                         Reclamation Whiskey Lullaby

When it comes to countertop choices, Formica’s 180 FX line of stone and wood laminates has become a real game-changer. Using digital imagery and creating large-scale formats, you can now create a beautiful surface that’s affordable, and yes, sustainable. The current trend in rare, textured woods was captured by Formica in a pattern called Black Walnut Timber. Taking a cue from the iconic furniture maker George Nakashima, it includes the natural fissures in the wood and even the butterfly joinery detail.

Formica 180 FX

                                                                                             Formica’s Black Walnut Timber

Here’s another of Formica’s 180 FX stone tops in Dolce Vita. It not only has the large-scale look of a slab of granite, but also has the company’s new Ideal Edge detail, which eliminates the tell-tale black line, delivering an even more authentic look. Adding to the beauty of this top is the stainless steel sink by Karran. Yes, you can now have an under-mount sink in a laminate top! The result:  a stunning, high-end look with an affordable price tag.

3420_DolceVita 180fx_Bullnose1

Now you can paper your walls with wood. This realistic wood wallcovering from Walls Republic would look fabulous in a beach house or a country bedroom. Dreamy! Priced at $89 for a 21-in.-wide x 33-ft. bolt, it’s a pretty, affordable way to get a great look without having to hire a carpenter (or cut down a tree!).

Walls Republic

                                                                                      Brushed wood Tuscan R1879

So call if what you will, fake or faux, I love the way this digital world we live in has changed the way we design. If we can create gorgeous interiors while saving our precious natural resources, I’ll take fake over real any day.

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Oct 25 2013

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The New Face of Luxury

The New Face of Luxury

There is a difference between writing and hearing about innovative products and actually experiencing them. At the Kohler Editors Conference last week, I had a first-hand look at the glamour and invention behind some of these luxury kitchen and bathroom amenities.


My shower in the American Club Resort

As this was my first press conference and my first time to Wisconsin, I had little experience to draw on. I certainly did not expect to pull up to a historic hotel in a tiny, picturesque town and unlock the door to a gorgeous suite with an even more beautiful bathroom. Glass, above-counter Briolette vessels hovered above a dark, open-face vanity. Adjacent was a large, rather intimidating looking tub that I knew would get good use from me. And lastly, I found myself staring agog at the shower, which sported five different sprays, including a rainhead, which I had never actually used before.

Still overcome with glee, I used the spare hours I had the first afternoon to explore the town of Kohler.

Created in 1912 by the company, the little town looked like a live version of Monopoly complete with perfect lawns, a picturesque police and fire station and of


The Village of Kohler

course, the massive and historic Kohler factory.

On our three-hour walking tour of the factory, I learned more than I could take in but took away a few key understandings. The factory, housed in several buildings, creates Kohler’s products in a systematic, sustainable and artistic manner. Time is of the essence, and there was no standing around for any worker. I saw the both the integration of robotic technology, as well as the prevailing usefulness of people.

My favorite part was visiting the Arts/Industry building, where Kohler commissions arts to spend several months creating art using the

materials and equipment Kohler provides. Artists are only then required to donate a piece of art to Kohler by the end of their residency, which I saw evidenced throughout the town. I got to try my own hand at making a ceramic pot, but I’m doubtful Kohler will be taking me on anytime soon.

I got immersed even more in the products I had seen being made at the Kohler Waters Spa. I received a Riverbath and massage, and even as I went into the treatment having no clue what a riverbath was, I wasn’t too surprised to see a much larger, more intricate version of the bathtub in my suite. In the treatment, I was of course instructed to relax and enjoy the various settings in the tub, which included everything from a waterfall, different jets, heating, and colored lights. Instead of sitting calmly in the huge bath, I turned back into my six-year-old self–changing the colors, playing with the jet combinations and seeing how many different things I could make the tub too. It was by far the most fun I’ve ever had taking a bath.

The Kohler Design Center

The Kohler Design Center



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Oct 19 2012

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Marble Marvel in Danby, VT

A four-hour bus ride on a gray drizzling New England morning may not sound like anyone’s idea of fun, but last week’s trip to Danby, VT, was very much just that.

The excursion, an annual event superbly hosted and organized by Artistic Tile, took a group of designers and architects, as well as an editor and myself, up to the southern part of Vermont, where we had the opportunity to visit an undergound marble quarry that was opened in 1785 and whose stone has found its way into everything from the Lincoln Memorial to several U.S. federal and state buildings, including the U.S. Senate building.

Although on the ride up, Artistic Tile president Joshua Levinson gave us an entertaining and educational presentation on calcium carbon stones (marble, travertine, limestone, onyx and serpentine), the history and methods of quarrying, the major quarries here in the United States—Indiana, Chicago, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, South Dakota, Colorado—and the world—Spain, Italy, Spain, Turkey (which has the largest reserve of marble), India, China and Brazil—and so much more, it did not quite prepare me for the experience of actually being on site.

Our tour began at an entrance that has been used for more than 100 years and wound its way through immense corridors carved out of solid Danby marble. The air was cool and damp, and except for the areas where work was being done, the light was dim. Nevertheless, even in the semi-darkness, the gray telltale veins that scaled walls and flowed onto ceilings were a magnificent sight and made one feel small.

The ground was wet, muddying rubber galoshes, work boots, sneakers and the odd unfortunate waterproof suede boot. Of course, we were advised to wear appropriate shoes, but some of us have the attention span of a fly. (Note to self: must read email much more carefully.)

Modern-day quarrying is done with heavy, sophisticated machinery, easing the process of extracting the marble and moving large blocks. Tests have also been developed to determine how deep one should drill or if drilling should stop to prevent a collapse of a quarry/mountain. In addition, thanks to advances in technology, cuts made into the walls are straight and precise. I can’t imagine doing this by hand, with the crude implements of the past or even with explosives, which can damage the stone and create a lot of waste. To keep track of the marble that’s extracted, each block is marked to indicate where it originated.

Our quarry visit concluded with a tour of an area (also underground) where slabs are cut, stored and finished. Danby marble is denser than white Carrara marble, making it more suitable for use as a kitchen countertop—which is what I kept seeing as I walked through the rows and rows of slabs. The variety in pattern and coloration was quite remarkable—but then again, nature is wondrous like that.

After a hearty meal at Equinox Resort & Spa, which is more than 200-years-old, we boarded the bus to head back to New Jersey/New York. On our return trip, we were treated to a showing of Breaking Away, a 1979 film which features scenes filmed at the Empire Quarry, an abandoned limestone quarry in Bloomington, IN (you can see it a minute into the video). If you haven’t already done so, the film is worth seeing.

I’ve since corresponded with some of my fellow travelers, all of whom were similarly impressed and amazed by the trip. Just thinking about how the technology for extraction has come such a long way leaves me a little breathless. Equally breathtaking is the fact that such beauty exists naturally and that it exists in such abundance. Yet even as the supply at Danby seems vast and far-reaching, I can’t help feeling that it’s still a resource that should be cherished, respected and used wisely.

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May 16 2012

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A night of inspiration with Apartment Therapy and Swissmiss

I haven’t completed Part 2 of “What I recall of KBIS” but I did want to post something I saw as a result of attending an Apartment Therapy Design Evening tonight, in which Tina Roth Eisenberg was the guest.

Eisenberg is the creator of the swissmiss blog and founder of CreativeMornings, a free monthly breakfast lecture series for creatives, and Tattly, which produces fun, well-designed and funky temporary tattoos. She also co-created TeuxDeux, a to-do app, and runs StudioMates, a collaborative workspace in Brooklyn for designers, bloggers, writers and other creative types. Whew.

The talk was inspiring, revolving around eight principles by which she lives and which she hopes to teach her children. I don’t remember all eight, but here are some I still vaguely recall: 1. Do what you love; 2. When you feel the need to complain, make something; 3. Surround yourself with like-minded people; 4. Follow your intuition; 5. Collaborate with others; 6. Inspire others; 7. If an opportunity scares you, take it…and number 8? For the last principle and more from the night’s discussion, you can visit the Apartment Therapy website, where a video will be posted tomorrow.

Needless to say, when I got home, I decided to go to her blog to read and see a little. That’s when I came across this video, which I highly recommend watching until the end:

Oh, the evening kicked off with a short presentation of Blime, a DIY parametric decorative pendant designed by Alvaro Soto that comes smartly packed in a box smaller than, say, that in which checks are sent (random reference, I know, but I’m looking at one as I write this). The assembly may seem daunting to some, but the pieces are all labeled according to an enclosed diagram. Check out the video on Kickstart.

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