August 31, 2010

Design: the Swedes have it

Long held as a major design center, I wanted to share just three of the many gorgeous things I found during my very short, but memorable stay in Sweden.

Waldemarsudde flower pot. I had to get some of these... excellent design they were designed by Prince Eugen in 1914. Although now created in five sizes, the original smaller size was created to fit under his mother's Portrait in the living room at Waldemarsudde (a palace now museum). Gustavsberg is the manufacturer and the only place you can buy it is at the Museum shop there or its online store. I had mine sent, but be careful, shipping is very expensive. The online store shows you how much shipping is.

Sandberg fabrics. Although they have showrooms in NY and 49 other showrooms all over the world, I had to get a fix. The pattern I love is Asta shown here in black. The pattern below is Kina Slott. Kina Slott is the Chinese Pavilion at Drottingholm Palace, the residence of the Royal Family of Sweden.

CPB 2091 Silver Collection designed by HRH Prince Carl (Carl Bernadotte). Carl's design for the infamous silver company MEMA/GAB (founded 1849) includes a 7-piece place setting, a cake server and, new this year, a silver cup. Bernadotte, the family name, isn't new to design. The Prince's great uncle, Sigvard Bernadotte, was a designer for many years for the Danish silver firm Georg Jenson ( I have a few cuff links of his) and Christineholm China.

August 27, 2010

What I did on Summer Vacation

Recently I witnessed history, the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria and HRH Prince Daniel. An unfortunate arrangement with Associated Press and other world news agencies prevented most Americans to view live the wedding that captivated Sweden and Europe this summer. Over 500 thousand people came out to the streets of Stockholm to celebrate as well as millions of viewers on live Swedish television.

You may be wondering what was the big deal. Another Royal Wedding. What did this wedding have a particular grip on people?

A commoner became a Prince because of love.

Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria and her fiance wedding postage stamps
[these are the stamps I picked up while there]

Against tradition, Victoria fell in love with a commoner and with the help of the Royal Family, Daniel Westling, a gym owner, was transformed into a Royal Prince. It was the stuff that Cinderella stories were made of, but with a gender role-reversal. Victoria, with the help from her mother, convinced the King that the couple should marry. Through two years of intense training, Daniel learned four languages, became expert in Swedish history, and polished up his long hair rebel looks.

In a surprise announcement, King Gustaf announced that Daniel would hold the title HRH after the wedding. A commoner has never become a Royal in Sweden's history.

At the Royal Banquet, Victoria thanked the Citizens of Sweden for giving her Prince to her. In return, Prince Daniel told a story where Victoria had come home very late (they'd been living together) and stayed up all night before traveling abroad on an official engagement working. Why? The reason was revealed when he found a box with his name on it. Inside, a love letter for every day she'd be gone. She had stayed up all night writing. [insert crying here]

Princess Victoria is wearing the Crown her mother wore on her wedding day. The crown was a gift from Napoleon to Empress Josephine. Carved cameos line the crown which becametranslucent in the light as she walked past.

Each cake tier was the clover repeated as the Crown logo for the event. (see the 2010 clover logo on the cars below).

One note. The King stood to toast the newly married couple surprised the dinner guests with a speech about his own marriage to the Queen. The pair were married the same day 34 years earlier. Plucking a rose from the centerpiece he walked over to her, kissed her hand saying he loved her. Surprised and touched, you could tell Queen Silvia was holding back tears as the guests exploded with applause. He then congratulated Victoria and Daniel on their special day.

Wedding guests included the Royal Families of Europe including the Queen of Denmark, Netherlands, and the King and Queen of Norway and their Children. Prince Albert was there with a date... Charlene Wittstock, an Olympic swimmer for S.Africa... which was highly unusual... however, a few weeks later rumors from the evening were supported as it was announced he was going to marry her. Queen Elizabeth of England did not attend; however, her son, The Earl of Wessex and his wife took her place.

Princess Victoria's Siblings (above) were of course in attendance. Prince Carl an artist and race car driver, has a degree in Graphic Communication and recently has designed a set of silver objects which I'll share in a later post. Years ago Carl's interned at National Geographic in Washington D.C. (His sister, Victoria interned at the United Nations).

Princess Madeline was wearing a tiara owned by Victoria I of Sweden. What I thought was endearing was that her broach was a miniature of her father created when he became King.

Madeline called off her own engagement earlier on this year.

The flowers were donated by the government of Colombia. What you cannot see in this photo are the strands of flowers suspended from the ceiling hugging the clover-shaped pillars of the Cathedral.

The childhood home of the King, Haga Castle (above) is the new residence of Victoria and Daniel. Ownership of the castle was given to the state in 1966 by the King for official government use. The Prime Minister gave the house back to the Royal family in 2009 as a wedding gift from the people of Sweden upon the engagement announcement. The King personally spent US$5.3m to update the house for use by the Royal Couple as it had not been updated in nearly 50 years.

Below are the countless souvenirs/gifts one could buy while there. A portion of the proceeds of all sales go to the Royal Wedding Foundation, a charity for children.

Volvo created a series of white cars emblazoned with the Royal Wedding insignia on the side of the cars. The same logo embroidered onto the seats. The Royal family leased the cars from Volvo to transport wedding guests to/from the wedding, but also around where the guests liked during their stay in Stockholm.

Afterwards, the cars were auctioned off to raise money for the Royal Couples' Wedding Foundation, a children's charity mentioned earlier.

Stockholm's re-branding “The City of Love” was an entire year of celebration including interviews with Swedish couples on the website Coincidentally, June marked the one-year anniversary of gender-neutral weddings.

Friends of the Royal Couple, singer Peter Jöback danced with his partner, gym instructor OscarNilsson, at the party following the Royal Banquet. Peter performed at the Royal Concert that took place the evening before the wedding.

John Paul Young's song Love is in the Air states ".... Love is in the air, every where I look around... Every sight and every sound..."

And for a day in Sweden's history, love was definitely in the air.

August 23, 2010

Kohler Design Center.... a place where I was showered with great ideas!

I was so fortunate last week as I was the only St. Louis designer [how does this happen?] invited by the Kohler Showroom at the Merchandise Mart to be taken to Kohler, WI to visit the Kohler corporate headquarters and the Kohler Design Center. Why? To participate in the first interactive meeting between designers and contractors and the top marketing people along with the #2 person [right under Mr. Kohler himself] to talk about design innovation, get our feedback on their current products (and some new things that we saw) as well as what we'd like to see. I'm sharing just a bit of that trip with you as it was just an amazing experience. Thank you Kohler!

Upon arriving we were divided into two groups. There were about 10 on our shuttle and another 20 or so arriving from Glendale, IL. The building shown above is the original corporate headquarters. The clock was installed in and around the turn of the century and still operates today. Under the clock on the fourth floor is Mr. Kohler's office where he can look out on his family's business. Note to all you corporate people.... Kohler, Inc is a global company still privately owned by the family. It will never be incorporated and hasn't been since the 1800s. Family members still participate, work and operate this multi-billion dollar company. The Kohler brand includes bathroom fixtures, but it also includes the Kohler Interiors group: Baker, McGuire, Milling Road, Kalista, and Ann Sacks. Also the company was known for it's motors and generators in the 19th and early 20th century. Click here to read more and get details about each area.

The first stop.. the foundry/factory. Built in and around 1920 (the first one burned to the ground) it was expanded in the 1940s to it's current size of 600 thousand square feet. Oh... I might mention. That's ONE building on the enormous campus. The next two buildings next to that were at least 500 thousand square feet each.

A few production items learned: they can mass produce a sink and bathtub one every 29 seconds. The joke among the designers was "if that's true, how come they tell us it will be 5 weeks?"

One of the other factoids.. their process for enameling. After casting, the still-hot tubs/sinks are sprayed with powder. Powder? Sure that's their enamel. The tub is so hot that the powder actually melts to the item instantly and because it's melting so quickly and bonding directly to the tub/sink... there are no runs in the finish. Pretty cool, huh?

Unfortunately I couldn't take pictures in the factory of the top secret stuff, but I'll try to elaborate as I work through the photographs.

After spending an hour watching all these workers pouring hot molten iron and steel into cast molds (some are done by hand others are automated) We went into the Kohler Design Center (KDC). The center is really an idea place. It is not a store but really a place for imaginations to go wild and a place for inspiration. Divided into four floors, the KDC has a museum on the lower level with a movie presentation, the main and second floor filled with a sample of EVERY product line they offer and a third floor where there are vignettes of bathrooms designed by the top designers in the world. (see below pictures). If you brought your swim suit... this is not a lie, you would be allowed to actually use the products as they have showers and jet tubs so you can actually try before you buy. [they hauled me out of the jet tub.. no suit... the prudes...geesh]

You can see here the view from one angle. See the people up on the third floor? They're looking at one of the designed bathrooms that I have shown below. The place is huge.

I couldn't help taking this photograph of the pedestal sinks and the beautiful bowls artfully arranged on the wall. So great. Below, please enjoy all the hand-painted sinks. These are done on site at Kohler. Due to finger dexterity, 99% of the staff are women that hand-paint all these bowls. Before you ask, Kohler actually produces 41% off all it's products in the United States. That's rare these days and many of the worker's family have worked for Kohler their entire lives. One note about automation. Yes, they've replaced people with machines. But one example of a line that is no longer used is that it was shut down after 75 years. Four of the five people retired at once (they were 65) and that's when the line shut down, but not before. The fifth one got a job elsewhere at the factory. Now when does that ever happen in this cut-throat work environment?

Aren't these two sinks to die for. Both made at the color area of the factory. 99% of all that work in this division are women. Why? Finger dexterity allow them to create these one-of-a kind masterpieces. I have shown just a few of my favourites that were on display.

I'm not a fan of girly girly, but how could anyone NOT like this gorgeous botanical sink. Seriously, the craftsmanship on this was unbelievable. It blew me away.

This is the Pinstripe faucet I fell in love with. A hit of deco, its got perfect handles just right for my hands and details I love.

This photo and the next is of one of the bathrooms on the third level designed by Bunny Williams. Notice the trellis design and the glamorous way everything is presented. Love the skirted bathtub.

This bathroom blew me away with it's sustainable bamboo flooring and recycled flooring. Love the mood lighting in this one.

This bath was designed by Jonathan Adler. He's a hip designer popular for his white ceramics and 70s inspired pop designs and reinterpretations of modern pottery. Know the store Barney's? His partner Simon Doonan is the creative director.

I thought this was clever. This bathroom for kids integrates a shower curtain made of bamboo. Not only do you not have to deal with a curtain or door, it allows accessibility for a child in a wheelchair, but also makes it fun for everyone. The bamboo is suspended by chain and works on the same principle of beaded curtains and deflects a lot of the water from splashing out.

Talk about accessibility. This bathroom allows a person to sit in the chair and actually access the water control with the little island made specifically for them to turn. Sometimes it's hard for people to turn things not at their level or too close to a wall where the wheelchair or chair is not able to get close too. A hose attachment lets the user be in or out of the water as needed.

The lower level was a museum where not only there were tubs/toilets/sinks from a bygone age but also histories of the Kohler family and their inventions.

Thanks for sharing this bit of a tour. If you'd like to see more, please join me on Facebook where I have over 50 photos of this amazing place. I'd love to be friends with you there. Click here to go to my Facebook page.

August 4, 2010

The California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco

Located within Golden Gate Park, the Legion of Honor Museum was the gift of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, the building is a three-quarters scale interpretation of the Palais de la Légion d'Honneur in Paris. It was completed in 1924.

Inside is housed a representative collection of European art, mainly French. However what it is known for the most is the galleries dedicated to the sculpture by Auguste Rodin. Casts of some of his most famous works are on display, including one of The Thinker in the Court of Honor where one enters the museum.

With the exception of the first image of this post, I took all these other photos while there. Enjoy.

The Thinker by Rodin.

A stained glass ceiling in one of the galleries.

One of Claude Monet's Water Lily paintings.

Cezanne landscape.

This was the porcelain room. Two huge rooms with sunlight, held a collection of porcelain from the early 16th c to present.