KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for February, 2011

Feb 28 2011

Posted by

The art of “RE”


Some years ago, as I began a demolition on a kitchen for a client, I began to wonder where all the materials that were being ripped out would go. I saw them go into a dumpster, but where was that going? The answer I got was “AWAY”…. And to me, “AWAY” wasn’t so much a state of mind, but a place. A real place, called the LANDFILL, where these materials would languish for years, perhaps even centuries. So quite simply, that’s where my quest began to search for materials that were going to be kinder to the planet and make less of an impact.

“Low Impact” to me means many things: It could mean buying things locally to cut down on carbon emissions from transport over long distances. Or using lumber that’s from a protected source. Energy-efficient appliances, WaterSense-certified plumbing fixtures, or materials that can be recycled after their usefulness is over. I think we all know about most of these things at this stage of the game, and it’s becoming pretty easy to find materials that are green, even at the local home store.

As an interior designer, it’s also becoming easier to find furniture and finish materials that are low-impact. It wasn’t the case a few years ago. Everything that was “natural” or “green” usually had an organic or “hippie”-type look to it. I really wanted to get away from that and deliver a sleek, sophisticated interior with no compromise. Nowadays there are a number of really great furniture companies that practice sustainability. Sometimes these things come with a higher price tag, and that can be a deal breaker for someone who’s on a budget.

When I was designing the interiors of this year’s ReVision House in Orlando, I really wanted to make a statement about the “RE” in ReVision. After all, this house was a RE-model of an existing home. Remodeling existing housing stock is the greenest thing you can do, and I wanted to try to find materials and finishes for the house that would ultimately carry the RE theme throughout the house. I decided to use existing or second-hand furniture. Reupholstering existing sofas and chairs that were mismatched in a unifying fabric would work, so I began looking around for some used ones. I found some at a garage sale, and at a local thrift store, and got some amazing fabric from ENVIRO TEXTILES in a natural organic hemp fabric, which retails for around $25 a yard. I covered virtually everything in this fabric, to give it a cohesive look, even though the pieces were all a little different. I also found a cool coffee table made from reclaimed lumber, and an outdoor table and stools that I re-purposed as a wine-tasting table. The ceramic tile I used throughout the main areas of the house from Ragno boasts a whopping 40% pre-consumer recycled content. Pretty impressive!

Hemp fabric from Enviro Textiles

Hemp fabric from Enviro Textiles

ReVision House

ReVision House

Art of RE3_Ragno

Ragno's “Textile” Ceramic Tile

There’s a company in Wyoming called Centennial Woods that reclaims wood from snow fences across the state and sells the sustainable harvested wood for both interior and exterior applications.  Unlike other reclaimed wood (barns and other structures), this snow fence has never been painted or chemically treated, and is a more reliable source for lead- and arsenic-free reclaimed wood. They have repurposed more than 5 million ft. of wood, saving snow fence owners more than $9 million and avoiding more than 9,000 tons of CO2 emissions. The wood can be used for flooring, furniture, and exterior siding. Here’s a beautiful floor made of the reclaimed snow fence. Gorgeous!

So here’s what I’m getting at: Think about what you want or need before you buy it. I mean really THINK. If you can’t afford the latest and the greatest, can you do with what you have? Can you RE-use or RE-purpose things you already own? It can be made to be fresh, beautiful and RE-usable if you give it a chance. If you do need to buy things like wood flooring or ceramic tile, check out what’s available with a RE-cycled content, or made from RE-cycled wood. It’s all here already. And that’s its own RE-ward!

Patricia Gaylor

Feb 23 2011

Posted by
Comments off

A brave new world

The internet has sure changed the kitchen and bath industry, hasn’t it?

At one time, we designed to the prevailing styles within our geographical location. While some of the architecture and trimmings varied across the continent, consumer desire for “Old World” or “Traditional” or “Contemporary” was pretty consistent in all markets.

Now that everyone is internet-savvy, consumers have gone online for their kitchen and bath inspiration. In the old days, we would have called it “all dialed in,” except no one under 20 years old would have a clue what it means. I even had to look it up myself. (Work with me here.)

The next group of homeowners that I’m working with now doesn’t recognize the “because that’s the way it’s always been done” routine. They saw this cool design on the internet, and who cares it if was from South Africa/Canada/Russia? We can get it, can’t we?

We’re getting there.

This year, I’ve seen a strong interest in my blog readership in no-zone (or free-zone) induction cooktops, which debuted this year in European design shows. I haven’t seen them in my part of the world…yet.

In this next decade, we’ll need to adapt to this group. Where it was once rare for consumers to ask for items from other parts of the world, it’s more routine, although some items still require consumer education about shipping and customs hold-ups.

If you think that your remote town or area is exempt from this, I’m compelled to point out that 15 years ago some of the best European kitchen design in North America was happening around Anchorage, Alaska. And internet wasn’t always an option then.

As the world becomes smaller, our choices grow endless. While it’s a daunting task to sort through which worldwide items will suit our North American tastes, our clients are becoming more knowledgeable about the world tastes.

On the plus side, consumers will need experienced designers and trade professionals more than ever to sort it all out.

Until next time,


Feb 21 2011

Posted by

Fashion Week with Brizo faucets and Jason Wu

Although I have lived in New York for years and plan to continue that happy state for many more, Fashion Week will never be the same!

Brizo faucets invited me and 19 other kitchen and interior designers and architects from all over the U.S. and Canada to be their guests at a three-day fashion week celebration, all expenses paid and a complimentary kitchen faucet to boot.

Brizo faucets’ philosophy of faucet design as fashion design is underscored in their partnership with fashion designer Jason Wu. Since 2006 Brizo has sponsored Jason’s shows at New York Fashion Week. Jason has also designed dresses used in Brizo advertising.

Prior to the runway show, Judd Lord, who is Brizo’s Director of Industrial Design, gave us a virtual tour of their design facilities and an introduction to some of what inspires their design team. The impressive list included architecture, nature and the female form (on a side note, Mr. Lord has quite a twinkle in his eye).

These inspirations are readily identifiable in the beautiful architectural designs and flowing lines of Brizo’s latest faucet collection, especially the beautiful Virage and shapely RSVP.

Virage Brushed Nickel

Every minute of this three-day treat was exciting, but the brightest highlight was certainly the Jason Wu runway show! Jason Wu’s designs are nothing short of elegant in every way. It was a fabulous and memorable experience. (All photos: Jayme Thornton)

RK_Jason Wu1
RK_Jason Wu2
RK_Jason Wu3
RK_Jason Wu5
RK_Jason Wu6
K9 Jason Wu with the Press after the show Interview
We were invited to the glamorous after-party where Jason Wu answered our questions about what inspires him personally and professionally. Jason Wu is a soft spoken and gracious man. He listed other designers and architecture, nature and basically the world around him as his inspirations. He even laughingly told us of a skirt from last years collection that was inspired by a special pasta dish with shaved truffles. Frankly, I don’t think truffles have ever looked this good.

RK_Jason Wu4

Roberta Kravette

Feb 18 2011

Posted by
Comments off

The birth of the tribal kitchen

The kitchen is one of those rare universals that can be found around the world. The kitchen you find in Los Angeles is almost identical to one in Venice or Bangladesh. As a matter of fact, the traditional layout of any kitchen can be found in everything from a mud hut in the Amazon to a Fifth Avenue penthouse. We find the same pattern in archeological excavations from Taos, NM, to the ruins of Pompeii.

Today, for all our technological advances, we still face many of the same quandaries that plagued our predecessors in ancient times—ever since Og brought home his first mastodon kill and invited the clan over for Sunday brunch, leaving poor Mrs. Og to wonder…were there enough rocks for all the guests to sit on? What about this new thing called fire? And where was she going to store two tons of leftover hairy elephant meat?

At the core of the “primal” kitchen we find three basic elements; fire, water and storage. The only real evolution is in appearance and technology. From the “hearth” to the “wood-burning” stove, to the “induction cooktop,” the water bucket, to the hand pump, to the integrated dishwasher—and from the “apple-cellar” to the “icebox” to the “Integrated Refrigerator”—it is not about how the kitchen has changed, but more about how we have changed the usage of this once purely functional space.

At the turn of the last century, the kitchen was designed to be out of the way—a place for servants, the cook and the help to gather and prepare the days meals and double as a place to stay out of the main household. It was sparse, functional and easy to wash down.

By post-war America, the kitchen was designed as a functional laboratory for a single participant, the woman of the house, “the little lady,” mom. It was laid out with assembly-line-like efficiency and a window centered on the sink so mother could watch the little ones in the backyard.

The evolution of the modern kitchen has taken it far from its primary function of food preparation, to that of “the social center of the home.” It’s become a place where the family, both nuclear as well as tribal, still gather to share, rejuvenate and commune together.

Today the kitchen is still the gathering place of the tribe, but the walls have come down and this once hidden and secluded place is now part of a larger social arena, the Tribal Kitchen.

The Tribal Kitchen serves as a meeting place, a dining room, a home-office, a place to do homework; it can even serve as a hideaway for quite reflection or a place to gather for fun and entertainment.

The Tribal Kitchen has become a place that defines the home and those who live in it. This once private domain of the feminine world has now given way to the new social order and reflects the world that we live in.

Today everyone is welcome in the Tribal Kitchen. More and more family members and friends are invited, if not encouraged, to participate in the ritual of preparation.

And with this increased activity and additional bodies, all in a high-traffic ballet of fire, boiling water and sharp pointy things, we find that the assembly-line kitchen of the past century, with its uniform horizon of sink, dishwasher, cooktop, oven and refrigerator, forever locked in its limited one-person “work-triangle,” must make way to a new way of thinking.

In our recent past, the collective thought of modern kitchen design was to create the “illusion of order.” This was accomplished by hiding the true function of the kitchen. By hiding the food, the waste and the appliances, we create the illusion of productivity and efficiency by hiding the process. In the new school of thought, the belief is that the kitchen must be efficient to be productive; it’s an environment that is conducive to the task at hand. It is about changing the way we think about this space we call “kitchen” and our individual relationships to it.

This new approach is to think first about the fundamental aspects of the kitchen, what we want from it and how this space can be utilized to its full potential. We must view this space as a whole and understand the relevance and position of every item and detail in it, from the largest stewpot to the tiniest teaspoon.

Kevin Henry