Thursday, January 28, 2010

And the Award goes to….

The Wallpaper* Judges' awards celebrate the best of the creative crop from the past twelve months. In my January 8th post I narrowed two categories down from five choices to two of my own ‘finalists'. Well, what do you know… my prediction was correct for both awards.

Best domestic design
Slowcooker, by Margriet Foolen, for Royal VKB

Furniture designer of the year
Konstantin Grcic- various projects including a Thonet / Muji collaboration

The complete list of 66 winners including restaurants and specific pieces of new furniture can be found through this link:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Diane von Fürstenberg announces launch of Home Collection


The legendary fashion designer and one time German Princess, Diane von Fürstenberg has signed with Springs Global to design a line of home furnishings including, bedding, bath, and tabletop that will debut in spring 2011.

For Springs Global it is the first high-profile licensed program the company has had in many years. It is well known for its Wamsutta and Springmaid brands of bed linens. This week Springs launched a new luxury linen brand called the Court of Versailles at Maison & Objet. It’s a licensed collection made in partnership with the Palace of Versailles foundation.

The DVF program will debut with a collection targeted at the department and better specialty store channels. Von Fürstenberg said she had waited a long time to do a home line like this, holding on for the right moment and the right partner.

"Since my business is so textiles driven,” she said to Home Furnishings News, “this is a natural for me. But what had held me back is that the distribution of home products is so odd.”

Friday, January 22, 2010

Moss Gallery Re-opens with New Format

-South of Houston St., Manhattan

Buyer’s headed to New York for the Gift Show at the end of this month should be sure to head down to SoHo and see the recently renovated space at Moss. This gallery and retail shop has been recognized by the International Herald Tribune as "the most important design store in the world". It's a Mecca for modern design objects and home furnishings. After 15 years the tall cube fixtures have been replaced by new low corian platforms and the floor plan and flow has been improved.

Glowing in the gallery's front window is a light sculpture called ‘Illuminated Crucifix’ by Czech designers: Michal Fronek and Jan Nemecek. The piece is made to order with pricing available upon request.

Using religious symbols for commercial purposes is not new but there’s nothing like a little controversy to draw attention.

For example, a few years ago Madonna’s appearance standing on an enormous crucifix in concert was condemned with calls from Roman Cardinals for her excommunication. Of course we all know about her converting from Christianity anyway as well as those record ticket sales.

Then there is the UK's graffiti artist Banksy who has made a living poking fun at establishments both political and religious. In the piece shown here SOLD WITHOUT RESERVE he portrays religious figures on their knees worshiping either a good deal or mourning a return to regular priced merchandise. The oil painting was sold at auction last fall for $230,500.

Socrates and Anaxagoras were put to death for impiety (against ancient Greek gods). Only since 1952 the US Supreme court decided that the laws against sacrilege were unconstitutional. The interesting source of this issue actually came from a Fellini and Rossini film called “The Miracle”. The story line disputes the biblical story of the immaculate conception and portrays Joseph as the real bio-dad.

Well, I do not expect any protests out on Green Street. It will take more a florescent cross to offend resilient New Yorkers. However for those needing some real spiritual help Moss also sells an Our Lady Of Guadalupe cross for $110, and a porcelain crucifixion scene designed in the 18th c. for $12,500, the latter worthy of a place inside the Vatican Museum.

Moss Photograph by Davies + Starr

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Opening Soon- Bloomingdale's Outlet Stores

Following up on a December 10th, 2009 post.

Macy’s confirms details of Bloomingdale’s Outlet store concept this year.

The outlets will offer a range of apparel and accessories, including women’s ready-to-wear, men’s, children’s, women’s shoes, fashion accessories, jewelry, handbags and intimate apparel.

According to a company statement, the plan calls for the opening of four Bloomingdale’s Outlets this year—in Bergen Town Center in Paramus, N.J., Dolphin Mall in Miami, Potomac Mills in Woodbridge, Va., and Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, Fla.

If this roll out is sucessful we will most likely see a home store version to follow.

Bunching Onion- A Winter Wonder

Los Angeles is not known for its varying seasons however the cooler nighttime temperatures that start in November combined with fewer hours of sunlight do slow many plants down and they go dormant. One plant that defies the cold weather and continues to thrive is the Japanese Bunching onion or Allium fistulosu. They are also known as 'scallions', 'green onions', or 'spring onions'. However, these names are ambiguous and may also be used to refer to any young green onion stalk. When compared to their shorter and skinnier cousins, chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are an attractive plant -even more so in bloom, but often die back in the cooler weather.

Growing bunching onions is very practical and convenient. They are simple to start from seed as one may be challenged to find the plants anyway. Spacing is important as well as thinning of seedlings as they have a high germination rate and one 6.0 gram packet contains over 2,400 seeds.

They can be harvested at a number of stages, depending on whether you want the tender, early green shoots, or the mature, white flesh of the lower stem. It is advised to not over cook them as they might become bitter.

In most bowls of miso soup this is the traditional green herb added with the seaweed.

Since 1917 The Kitazawa Seed Company based in Oakland, California has responded to the ever increasing demand for Asian vegetable seeds. They sell bulk quantities and have been producing the same traditional individual illustrated packets for almost 100 years. An full catalog is available by mail and they also offer wholesale collections for retail shops.

There are over 250 rare heirloom varieties alone so labeling is essential especially with the more exotic leafy greens in order to recognize Molokhia from Mugwort.

Monday, January 18, 2010

California Gift Show Welcomes Buyers with Music & Champagne

-Los Angeles Convention Center

With low attendance at many of the nation’s trade shows, perhaps the management of the California Gift Show knew they had to try a little harder this year to make this a better experience than usual.

Indeed attending the winter show was a new experience. The following are some details that were unexpected after walking the summer & winter versions many times.

The registration area was heavily staffed- Buyers were escorted to smaller lines depending on their paperwork or special needs. The front line team seemed to enjoy their work and produced badges quickly with a smile.

As I walked up to the main hall Friday morning at about 11.00, I was scanned in and also welcomed by a group of people offering catalogs. A ribbon cutting ceremony was underway in the first row with press and video cameras. Glasses of Champagne were passed around by a team of people wearing tuxedos while Frank Sinatra was being played through the public address system. This sort of treatment is more fitting for what one would expect at the VIP lounge at Maison-Objet Show in Paris.

The look and feel of the wider aisles was also new. White felt carpeting helped bump up the lighting significantly and every few aisles offered some open seating- modern cardboard chairs and desk equipped with lap-top computers provided by Twitter.

An all day TWITTER workshop was going on, packed with Buyers and shop owners wanting to jump on board the social media frenzy. Lastly in the middle of the hall was a large cocktail lounge with full bar and deep sofas certain to be the center of activity later - or sooner depending on how well the order writing goes.

With such added attention it was a welcomed shift in both attitude and outlook. As far as new product being offered, individual post to follow with some of my highlights.

Bombay Company Re-launch

Just eleven months after their liquidation The Bombay Company announces it will re-emerge in the US.

This should be good news, however when companies re-launch so quickly one can not help but think first about the collateral damage from the bankruptcy and closure. With 400 some odd locations, the warehouses, employees, vendors, and landlords someone must have been shortchanged in these deals - to say the least.

The company’s website announces: “The Future Home of Bombay Brands”. An Adobe flash presentation reveals slick modern photography and youthful models in lifestyle shots overlaid with old nostalgic British Colonial imagery. The text promises us the following: “Bringing tradition, warmth, romance, great taste (etc.) to Home Décor…et al.

This may be a no easy task as this is the same Bombay Company whose stores I recall were full of fussy dark veneered rubber-wood nesting tables and brass monkeys. The announcement of re-hiring their head merchant who left the company in 2007 is also a surprise.

The re-launch plans include a three tier distribution strategy; high-end department stores & specialty gift stores, mid-tier home retailers, and mass discount chains.

I remain optimistic but I’m not sure the merchants at Bloomingdale’s or Neiman Marcus are ready to stand behind a brand with Bombay’s product history until the new product ranges are revealed. One way into these better retailers would be to buy the floor space with a shop-in-shop build-outs and offer well designed high quality furnishings. Today many luxury brands cross over and offer mass merchant collections, but this one certainly will be a tougher sell as they need to trade up, not down.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Shopping at New York’s Conran Shop During their relocation

-New York, NY

The website will be fully functional during the store’s clearance sale, temporary closing and relocation. The current shop on E. 59th Street is scheduled to close in March.

While awaiting the new location opening in April customers can also place orders by telephone. The customer service line is open during standard business hours during the week. ships in-stock products from their New Jersey warehouse. Some furniture items are made to order and those larger oversized items that can not travel by Fed EX or UPS will ship via freight truck.

The user-friendly website is organized into the categories listed below and offers every detail necessary to make a well informed decision. Intelligent copy with the designer credit, materials, dimensions, inventory availability and/or lead time for future orders and delivery information is spelled out clearly. One of my favorite features is being able to shop by designer name, however note the alphabetic list features some designers by his or her first name. During this sale period some designers may be listed but no product currently available for sale.

• Furniture
• Lighting
• Outdoor
• Entertaining
• Bath
• Kitchen
• Gifts

Meanwhile we will look for news on opening festivities and event annoucements from ABC Carpet.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Diptyque Opens New York Flagship

- New York, NY

Diptyque the Parisian fragrance maker that has been in business since the 1960s just recently entered the US retail market with three free standing shops. One is in San Francisco, one in Greenwich Village New York, and now their largest flagship location opened this winter on Madison Avenue near 76th Street.

Up until 2007 a limited range of the perfume, personal care, and candle products could be found at better specialty & department stores. Otherwise one would need to travel to Paris. Walking into the boutique on Boulevard Saint Germaine is like stepping back in time. Like many shops in Paris there is an air of formality here but once invited to sit down and test the scents the experience is quite enjoyable and relaxing. The simple and elegant black and white design of the space does not in any way take away from the focus on the products. The offering consists of about 50 different ranges. On my last visit there I chose a bottle of Eau d’Elide with the pan god figure illustration on the front – it’s a limited edition man’s fragrance no longer available combining bitter orange, lavender, and musk.

A brief history of modern home fragrance

Home fragrance is an important category for many retailers and has evolved very quickly in the past few years. For a long time potpourri when made correctly, was a very popular and an effective way to deliver a localized scent. Then at the end of the season you could just replace it. However when the market shifted toward heavy synthetic scents and garish dyes it feel out of fashion.

Natural or naturally inspired aromatherapy candle pillars and votives were all the rage for a while. Then the candle’s container became the new focal point, glass and ceramic jars, little tins for traveling. There was a quick flash of gel candles that offered a modern new look but some of those created a literal flash with safety issues and then vanished.

Smokeless soy-based candles signaled a revolutionary shift in the candle industry. This was a welcome trend and still offers the best choice for clean and even burning; the softer compound will not hollow out as quickly as wax does.

Once the fashion designers got involved in the candle business we saw some crazy pricing appear in the $100 and above range. These are gifts for the person you do not know very well-wrapped up in outrageous silk packaging and ribbons. I suspect that these are one of the most popular re-gifted or returned items that just get passed on and on perhaps never to be opened.

Most recently the arrival of the reed infuser category has exploded. It’s flameless and when you compare the hours of scent delivered quite economical. These are very popular and have a place in public washrooms and airport lounges, but the smell is much too powerful for me. Perhaps there is a brand out there that can offer a more subtle perfume but I have not found it yet. The benefit of burning a candle is that you light it for a few hours and then blow it out – it can release a feint scent afterwards unless it’s covered. However the idea of an open bottle of perfume that continuously evaporates into the air in an enclosed space is far from appealing. Frequently corking the bottle and saving or discarding the reeds seems impractical. My goal is to find an mild pleasant essential-oil based diffuser product and report on promptly. Suggestions are welcome.

Lastly I mention a new technology of battery operated flicker type candles that offer the illusion of real flames but only from a distance. The addition of a vanilla or other scent was a very bad move. I find these a bit depressing like anything pretending to be something it is not and are more suitable for commecial spaces where open flames are prohibited.

More about Diptyque
Somewhere in the range of mid to better quality soy blended candles is Diptyque. The scents are sophisticated and can trigger an emotional response to memories or naturally occurring fragrances. Diptyque uses only natural ingredients when composing fragrances and is proud to never have used synthetics. The packaging is a clean black and white its signature style; a playful broken line text spelling out the names in an old-world font. The standard 6.5 oz hand poured candle with a cotton wick and 50 hours of burning time sells for € 40 or about $60 US- special, but not too high for self purchase.

The popular Philosykos and Ofresia scents were created by world famous nose Olivia Giacobetti. She is know for creating fragrances for Guerlain, Hermès, the Costes brothers, and Penhaligon’s. She recently opened a little shop inside the Hotel Costes, Paris.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Best of 2009 List Fatigue…Not Yet !

One week into the new year and the best of lists keeping pouring in.

There is something that compels us to at least glance through these often daunting lists. Perhaps it is the deep psychological need to be associated with something that is the deemed to be the best. For the reason behind this we might look to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid. Right before self actualization is the “Esteem” level, a measure of our success and status.

Wallpaper Magazine’s best of 2009 lists are broken down into various categories with five nominees each. Next month’s issue will announce the winners. That’s one way to keep circulation up. The two groups that are of particular interest to me include; best domestic design and the other is furniture designer of the year.

I’ve narrowed the best domestic design to my two semi-finalists and we can see how my predictions fare.

Kitchen Tools for Men- by Mitsunobo Hagino for Prince Kogyo.

The tool set is comprised of 5 basic utensils. The manufacturer has avoided the use of rivets but rather welded each stainless steel part together to increase durability coated in a matt black heat resistant fluorocarbon polymer. Currently available from UK and Japanese retailers only.

More info. http://

Slowcooker- by Margriet Foolen for Royal VKB.

This product was launched in Paris at the 2009 Maison & Objet trade show. It is a simple reversible terracotta cooking pot with silicone pads that allow it to be placed directly onto a tabletop. Various web retailers show the item as sold out ‘til February.

A 30 second clip shows the simplicity of cooking:

Furniture Designer of the Year
With only photographs of the designers faces and a description I immediately knew which two I would focus on for this post. James Irvine and Konstantin Grcic both worked on collaborations with MUJI and THONET. The reason why this is a brilliant idea is that in many ways Muji epitomizes what Thonet set out to do; streamline the production of reasonably priced products. Both channel a vision of simplicity and durability into an end result of timeless design.

Irvine created a series of chairs supported by one single bowed back panel and Grcic designed a collection of office chairs and desks for the Japanese company. The office collection is not for sale yet and both are currently on display in the Muji shops in New York.