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Category: ICFF

Patricia Urquiola's collection for Axor: the bathroom as one giant mirror of your way of life

Patricia Urquiola, arguably the world’s hottest designer, seems to be the creative force behind 97% of what you see in the world these days. Indoor furniture, outdoor furniture, housewares, architectural installations, lighting exhibitions -- the Spanish-born designer and her Italian studio seem to be everywhere, doing it all. Give Urquiola the California budget mess and she might be the one who can design a solution.

On Monday night in New York, she presented her design for the new W resort on the Caribbean island of Vieques; on Saturday, she was at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair walking me through the North America launch of her bathroom collection for Axor. At first glance the sinks and tubs are pure Axor, beautifully streamlined in aesthetic and efficient in function. But poured into all those clean lines and polished finishes were layers of meaning -- Urquiola’s attempt to get people thinking harder about sustainability, the bathroom and their daily routines in it.

Axor_sinkcatalogYes, on the face of it, Urquiola’s sink simply has a graceful shape, one that’s at once rustic and modern, at home in a city loft or a contemporary country retreat. But as she pointed out, slits on the sides gently evoke the image of a bucket -- “and when you fill a bucket, you think quantity – how much,” she said. “How much am I using?” Just as we might strive not to spill a drop from bucket, she said, so too must we better manage what’s flowing into our sinks. “It’s time to take care of the water we use,” she said. “Come on!”Axor_tubcatalog

The same slit appears on the bath, where it's aesthetically pleasing as well as functional -- a towel holder for the designer's modern riff on the claw-foot tub. But here too Urquiola pushed sustainability. Rather than create an oversized, boxy spa tub, she designed elegant curves that hug the back and taper inward, subtly reducing the amount of water needed to fill the vessel while preserving the illusion of size and the sense of luxury.

The collection's faucets are sleek with a touch of playfulness. Perhaps more important, they're equipped with the German company's engineering: "dynamic flow restrictors" and aerators that create a higher air-to-water ratio. Compared with Axor faucets from just a couple of years ago, Urquiola's line will deliver 18% less water per minute -- theoretically with no discernible difference to you while you're washing your hands.

When Axor brand manager Philippe Grohe said the collection was four years in the making, I asked him how he started discussions with Urquiola. He answered:

“My first question to her was, ‘What does the bathroom mean to you?’ And the first thing she said was: ‘It’s the first place where every day, I have to look at myself in the mirror.' ”

Urquiola’s point was not only metaphorical but also literal. In her concept room pictured at top, notice how the faucet and sink on the wall have their mirrors set to the sides, not directly above. What woman, Urquiola asked, wants to look at herself over a sink, brushing her teeth?

-- Craig Nakano

Photo: Axor

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ICFF 2010: Time for some color -- lots of color


When you tire of running late in English, you can run late in French, Russian or Arabic.

Qlocktwo, part of a color craze at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York, tells time with words instead of numerals. Andreas Funk and Marco Biegert designed the clock, pictured above, with a removable acrylic panel so you can swap out colors or languages. The LED back light has a sensor to vary brightness based on conditions in the room.

Ameico Josef Albers' 1926-27 nesting tables, pictured at right, illustrated another trend at ICFF: the redeployment of classic designs.

Albers was a student of the Bauhaus who went on to lead the school’s glass workshop in the 1920s. Later he led the art school at Yale.

In reissuing the tables, Ameico replaced his glass tabletops in favor of lacquered acrylic, which is framed in white oak.

At the Bernhardt booth, the Corvo chair by Noe Duchaufour-Lawrance echoed two trends: happy color and an emphasis on craftsmanship. With some consumers still reluctant to invest in quality furniture, many manufacturers have been pushing the craftsperson and the story behind the piece to differentiate their collections from mass-market, machine-made imports.

Bernhardt produced a five-minute film documenting how the Corvo chair’s shapely contours were impossible to create with modern computer-numeric controlled machines, the CNC that has become industry standard. The Corvo ultimately was constructed by hand using 15 tools to carve and finish the wood. The traditional silhouette (photo after the jump) framed in American walnut, was paired with seats in purple, sky blue and lime green.

Keep reading to see other designs that deployed bright hues with varying degrees of success ...

Continue reading »

Leather drawer pulls, or are they?


What if you like the look of leather-covered drawer pulls but can't stomach the price? Or the thought of the material eventually wearing out?

At the International Contemporary Furniture Fair running through Tuesday in New York, Turnstyle Designs introduced its solution: "composite leather." The knobs and handles shown above are made of resin and dyed marble dust. The stitching isn't actually stitching, but rather part of the molded design. What's remarkable is that these pieces don't just look like leather; they feel like it too.

The company is targeting the collection to hotels, where the composite material's durability may be appreciated most. The composite, Turnstyle says, will look new for years. Though some may miss the character of aged leather, plenty of others will appreciate the lack of smudges, scrapes and tears. Real leather also can't be stitched onto right angles, so composite creates new design possibilities, such as the squared-off pulls pictured at top.

-- Craig Nakano

Photo credit: Turnstyle Designs

More from New York: Look for ICFF reports all week long. For an easy way to follow headlines, join our Facebook page for home design.


ICFF 2010 opens in N.Y. with the spotlight on lamps

BluDot_Rook one leg

The International Contemporary Furniture Fair opened over the weekend in New York, and the star of the show isn't actually furniture but the array of decorative accessories, wall decor and lighting. With exhibitors expecting consumers to remain skittish about big-ticket sofas and tables, the smaller stuff shined.

BlueDot_Rook upwards The prevailing mood at ICFF, as at the Milan furniture fair last month, is optimistic. Bright, cheery color covers the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center floor, and many pieces are propelled by playfulness -- as though designers know we all could use a little levity. More on the color and humor stories later. Now: the lighting.

Blu Dot co-founder and chief executive John Christakos called the Rook table lamp, shown above and at right, a happy accident. A chunk of wood -- part of a base for a floor lamp -- was abandoned in a work room. Someone randomly discarded a lampshade on top of that trash. Then someone else noticed: Hmm. That looks good.

The Rook can stand on three legs with its shade pointed up, or it can balance on a single edge with the shade cantilevered to the side, “like some Joseph Shapiro sculpture,” Christakos said. “It’s just a cute little number.”

Kang_Booklight Myungseo Kang graduated two years ago from the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, the London arts school that counts fashion designer Stella McCartney, actor Colin Firth and vacuum king James Dyson among its alumni.

Kang said she was intrigued by the structural strength of octagons, so she applied the shape to traditional lampshade material, folding it into an accordion-like tube and slicing up the resulting form.

Finished with a traditional hardcover binding and a compact fluorescent bulb, her Book light delivers a soft glow as a pendant light or as a table lamp.

Roll & Hill, the much-anticipated new lighting company from designer Jason Miller and managing partner Andrew Yang, had its ICFF premiere. One standout was Lindsey Adams Adelman’s Agnes chandelier -- similar to her Candelabra, shown below left, except with elongated electric bulbs instead of flickering tapers. The chandelier is so new, Roll & Hill doesn't have a photo of it yet.  (The fixture's finish all but disappears when viewed against the dark Javits ceiling, making my attempts at photography futile. Sorry.) But imagine this: a similar design but in black, with long light bulbs turned at random angles. Yang apologized that the chandelier had not been configured as the designer intended, but the angled lights had the effect of a necktie loosened -- a more casual and potentially cooler look. Roll & Hill's collection also includes the Excel sconce, shown below center, and the Modo chandelier, below right.


Tom-Dixon-Void-Steel-image-1The Void light from Tom Dixon performed something of a magic trick: Not only did the orbs seem to hover weightlessly overhead, but their gentle illumination appeared to emanate from solid metal. The British designer said the pendants come in brass, stainless steel (pictured here) or copper as a nod to the gold, silver and bronze that will be handed out at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Your Tom Dixon trivia for the day: Of the solid brass, steel or copper orbs, which is the heaviest? A company representative said the copper fixture is the heaviest; the steel is the lightest.

DesignHouseStockholm_BoxLight_GreyBlack_TableThe Box Light from Design House Stockholm is essentially a tabletop lamp with a sliding lid as a dimmer, pictured at right.

Pull out the white plastic shade for more light; push it in for less.

The aluminum shell is 6 inches long and comes in gray or black. The creator is Jonas Hakaniemi, who graduated from a Finnish design school just last year.

ThelermontHupton_Blown Ups - DogAnd, finally, the dog lamp from Thelermont Hupton, part of a series of playful glass table lights that include an old-school telephone and a cactus. Some were custom designs that only now will become available to the mass market. Light-hearted.

Coming up: We'll have an interview with Patricia Urquiola on why a sink is more than a sink, more photos detailing this year's color craze at ICFF and more examples of design delivered with a smile and a wink. Bookmark the blog and check back throughout the week.

-- Craig Nakano

Photos (from top): Rook lamp. Credit: Blu Dot

Book lamp. Credit: Myungseo Kang

Agnes, Excel and Modo lighting. Credit: Roll & Hill

Void light. Credit: Tom Dixon

Dog lamp. Credit: Thelermont Hupton

CORRECTED: A previous version of this post said the event was at the Jacob J. Javits Convention Center. The correct name is Jacob K. Javits.

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