January 27, 2012

Grown-Up Man Cave

By Beth Hughes
Special to the Chronicle

In December, San Francisco interior designer Kendall Wilkinson participated in the Maison de Luxe show home at the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills.

Her South of Market artisans built everything in the room before packing and shipping it south to the national historic landmark, where they assembled the room for a three-week display in the benefit for the Friends of Greystone, a nonprofit devoted to the preservation and promotion of the 46,000-square-foot limestone mansion built in 1927.

Now she's reassembled much of the room designed for the Luxe magazine event in her Sacramento Street shop, filling the windows and the store itself with a must-see example of a designer working to please only her imagination.

"You could do whatever you wanted" for the show house, said Wilkinson, a veteran of such projects, including the 2010 Elle magazine project in St. Francis Wood and many San Francisco Decorator Showcases.

So Wilkinson did exactly that. She faced a 13-by-14 foot room with a great view and a wonderful light, and imagined it as boy's room transformed into a sophisticated space for a 20- to 30-year-old "night crawler."

She designed a pergola to create a room within a room that is sensual, luxurious and very, very grown-up with a hint of the libertine in the Phillip Jeffries gold-leaf paper covering the ceiling juxtaposed with a natural sisal floor covering from Stark Carpets. At the same time, the room suggests gatherings of good friends and good conversation, either before or after a night on the town, or collaborators hammering out a deal in Silicon Valley. It's masculine without the reek of big-screen, master-blaster testosterone.

"We wanted it to be a little edgy," Wilkinson said. "A lot edgy, actually, and I wanted an indoor-outdoor feeling" that maximized the view beyond a welcoming window seat.

Constructing the pergola, with its corner guards of brass with a soft patina, pushed her team. "At every stage of the game, we asked, 'Can you do this?'" she said. "We did a lot of tweaking to it. We had to figure out how to have electrical lights but without seeing the wires" to the Sonora suspension lamp by Vico Magistretti.

A huge iron foundation, hidden by the rug, anchors the structure. Wilkinson kept accessories and other decorative touches to a minimum. She paired vintage sconces with black crystal and cut glass with the Fog lamp from the Morosini Collection. She used photographs by Mark Shaw and Solve Sundsbo, both known for their fashion images.

Two striking elements dominate the Twilight Room: upholstered benches that appear to float in the pergola, their backs made from Victorian chairs, and an infinity mirror.

"The benches didn't look good without backs, and I didn't want to put typical backs on them," said Wilkinson. "I had the chairs...They were waiting to happen, but I didn't know how they were going to happen. I thought, 'here's a way to add a back without blocking the view.'"

The chair backs, lacquered in Benjamin Moore's Evening Dove, provided her signature, a classical element in even the most modern of rooms.

The wall-to-wall infinity mirror, designed so the images can be changed out, increased the room's already high wow factor. It reflects Diane James Home's handmade silk cherry blossoms without end. They're sandwiched between panels of mirror, and that's all Wilkinson will say about it, other than other images or things can be reflected.

"I can't tell you how it works, that's why I'm trademarking the whole thing and patenting it," she said. "It's smoke and mirrors - it's magic."

While Wilkinson said the bench "may be a one of a kind," or one with just a few iterations, Piece, the infinity mirror, which can be adapted to suit traditional as well as modern rooms, will be available as a custom order but without much of a wait. "Fabrications will take just a few weeks," she said, with quick delivery because "it's made in San Francisco."

January 23, 2012

Tokujin Yoshioka's Water Block benches at Musee d'Orsay - Paris

Photographs courtesy of Tokujin Yoshioka

Musee d'Orsay, Paris, reopened its renovated spaces on October 20th 2011.

Tokujin Yoshioka was invited to participate in the renovation project of the Impressionist gallery in the Musée d’Orsay.

In the rooms on the 5th floor, together with master works of Manet, Degas, Monet, Cézanne, and Renoir,
the seats provided for the visitors are also works of art: the Water Block benches, created by Japanese artist/designer Tokujin Yoshioka.
His Water Block is designed as a block of water, a genuine sculpture that takes its dynamic form from nature itself. The delicate rippling of the surface and its transparency create a poetic atmosphere, similar to that created by the play of light on water.

January 17, 2012

New Flos Shop-in-a-Shop

DWELL Magazine
written by Jamie Gross

Flos, the Italian lighting company that collaborates with many of the best designers working today, recently opened a San Francisco "store"—a shop within the cavernous DZINE design showroom. I was fortunate to visit the space on opening day, when Flos CEO and Chairman Piero Gandini and designer Ron Gilad were present, and I had the chance to sit down and talk with them about Flos's new retail approach and the company's latest designs.

As Gandini pointed out, this was the first time in America that the company was able to integrate their three lines—their decorative line, architectural products, and "soft architecture line"—into one space. I was particularly intrigued with the company's "soft architecture" concept, which they introduced in Milan in 2010. "Normally you put a sconce on a wall," Gandini pointed out. "Here, the two elements—architecture and light—diffuse into each other. It's a totally new dimension of architecture. Architecture is made to accept and give light."

A corner of DZINE was given over to Flos's shop-in-a-shop, which included this installation of Gilad's Wallpiercings.

Gilad, the Tel Aviv-born, New York City-based designer, showed me some of the products he's created for that line, including Wallpiercing: a semi-circular ring that appears to "pierce" the wall, and which you can arrange in a variety or forms, including a long chain, an interlocked ring, or as shown in DZINE, a series of four loops, repeated across a wall.

"All the engineering is inside the wall," Gilad pointed out. "You buy a piece of the wall" (the fixture embedded into a piece of drywall) and inset it into your existing wall, then plaster around it to cover up the seams.

Piero Gandini (left) and designer Ron Gilad.

An adjacent wall was dedicated to other examples of Soft Architecture, including a scattering of Round Lights and Sebastian Wrong's Spun Light. All the lights, including the Wallpiercing series, were on a computerized cycle of different colors, giving this corner of the showroom a kind of nightclub feel.

Two of Sebastian Wrong's Spun Lights hover over the floor, beneath three glowing Circle Lights. The lights cycled through a spectrum of colors.

Like 90% of all the new lights Flos has introduced in the past year, all of these pieces are LED-based. Though Gandini thinks LED technology still has a ways to go before it is able to provide the same light quality of incandescents, Flos is investing in the technology, trying to "push the technology to serve people."

A closer look at a Wallpiercing.

Another value of Flos is giving the designers they work with total creative freedom. "Flos is a total product-driven company," said Gandini. "We don't do market research, we develop pure products with the most creative minds around. We never worry 'will this be a success or not? Is this good or bad?' We just follow innovative ideas. We strongly believe in the talent we work with. In each piece you see the voice of the designer."

"Flos is so innovative, there are no limits," said Gilad. "Designers have the total freedom of dreaming. It's the closest a company can be to the joy of being back in the academy."

Another look at the Soft Architecture in action.

Gilad also showed me some of his designs from his Decorative line, including his clever Mini Teca Renaissance Cupola (a bit twee for me, but certainly charming) and the sleek Light Spring, a wall-mounted LED fixture whose head can be rotated 45 degrees on its vertical axis. As Gilad explains: "Power LEDs have become an excellent and functional source of lighting. The Lightspring collection has been created from 3D designs that reproduce classic candelabras and sconce lights."

Like many of Gilad's designs this light combines wit and aesthetic, with the abstract and the functional. The fabric shade seemingly floats in an acrylic box, and is lit by a halogen lamp creating diffused light.

Light Spring forms part of a series of wall lamps by Flos which feature a very simple and linear design and a die-cast, painted tubular aluminum body.

January 13, 2012

Architectural Record - Axelrod Architects

Executive Suite: A modern retreat creates a quiet place to escape the noise of a cardboard factory.

By Clifford A. Pearson
Photo © Amit Geron

Commissioned to design a small suite of offices in a noisy cardboard factory near Ben Gurion Airport, in Israel, architect Irit Axelrod decided to create an interior that asserts a sense of “quiet power.” So she used materials like concrete, glass, and stainless steel in ways that emphasize both their industrial roots and their sophisticated finishes.

Visitors enter the new offices of the Cargal Group from an indoor walkway above the factory floor, where enormous machines crank out cardboard packaging and forklifts scurry from one place to another. To separate the 2,000-square-foot office space from the racket of the manufacturing facility, Axelrod erected a concrete-block wall that provides acoustical privacy and a rugged sense of enclosure.

“When the project was completed, I realized I had created a serene bubble in the middle of a factory,” she explains. But she connected the loud and quiet parts of the building with a 30-foot-long band of glass cut into the thick concrete wall just 3 feet above the office floor. At first the height of the horizontal window seems a bit odd, as if a Japanese aesthetic had somehow infiltrated the design. Then you sit in one of the offices on the opposite side of the lobby/reception area and understand the height is just right, providing an important visual link between executives and factory workers.

Axelrod, who splits her time between Israel and San Francisco, says that growing up in Tel Aviv, with all of its early 20th-century, International Style architecture, influenced her approach to design. “Tel Aviv's origins are in the Bauhaus. As a child, these were the buildings I saw every day.” The rigor of the buildings finds expression in the Cargal project's floor plan, a straightforward set of squares and rectangles. Private offices line the building's perimeter to take advantage of the daylight, while the long lobby/reception area flows into a kitchenette equipped with a freestanding plywood counter and metal stools. Floor-to-ceiling glass separates the private offices from the public areas while maintaining visual continuity and sharing daylight with the rest of the interior. Sustainability was not a major driver of the design, says Axelrod, but maximizing the use of daylight creates a more pleasant work environment and reduces operating costs.

While the plan and hard-edged materials express a sense of discipline, the architect loosened things up on the lobby's angled ceiling, where long fluorescent tubes seem to be randomly placed. “I wanted the ceiling to be more playful to provide a contrast,” explains Axelrod. “That's where I decided to break all the rules.” She specified a fluorescent lighting system that offers custom lengths and can be used either horizontally (on the ceiling) or vertically (on the concrete-block wall and in the kitchenette).

To make the small project seem bigger, Axelrod carried views from one space to another. Although executives can pull down privacy shades in their offices, they rarely do, preferring instead to maximize their visual domain. The architect also designed particular elements to give them the illusion of floating. She set the wooden reception desk on a smaller base and placed lights on the underside to shine on the floor and make it levitate. In a conference room at one end of the suite, she inserted a thin vertical strip of glass between perpendicular walls so they don't quite touch. And she attached stainless steel handles and hardware directly onto glass doors so they seem suspended in space. Such instances of elements floating and sliding past one another provide a welcome contrast to the solidity of polished concrete floors and concrete-block walls. They work together to establish a balance between the muscular and the nimble.

For furnishings, Axelrod selected a simple mix of molded-plastic Eames chairs, adjustable Meda chairs for the executives, and Joyn tables. She used a restrained color palette of whites, off-whites, and grays with occasional accents of black and clear-stained wood. In the lobby, three Gehry cardboard stools add a playful touch and remind everyone of the packaging material being produced in the adjacent factory.

What gives this project much of its character is the intriguing dialogue between sophistication and bottom-line toughness. As soon as you walk in the office from the factory, you know you're in a different kind of place, one where aesthetics matter. But you never feel that anything is wasted or put here for show. You might admire the poured-concrete floors, which, like those in art galleries, have no expansion joints, so the material develops those lovely cracks. But you'll also notice the large ventilation duct running through the lobby/reception area, exposed in a no-nonsense manner. And the simple plywood cabinets built into the private offices. The people working here have good taste, but they aren't squandering money.

The subtle back-and-forth between the slick and the rugged speaks to the key challenge of this design: creating a white-collar place within a blue-collar world.

January 9, 2012

Window Shopping: Nicole Hollis at DZINE

CA Home & Design
by Erin Feher

The imaginative vignettes at San Francsico's Dzine always mix the latest in European design with owner Cardenio Petrucci's ingenious styling sense (think rotary phones and bundled newspapers). But to show off the latest offerings from Flos, he called in some professional help. Nicole Hollis created Dzine's premiere window display as part of what Petrucci hopes is a series of installations by the best Bay Area designers.

Hollis' muse was the Piani lamp by the Bouroullec Brothers, Erwan and Ronan, for Flos. Her playfully schizophrenic creation features shelves for six different personalities.

See full article here.

January 5, 2012

Interview with Ron Gilad at DZINE

In occasion of the launch of FLOS San Francisco at DZINE, Ron Gilad introduced his "Wall Piercing" in the following interview.

Flos Lighting: Interview with Ron Gilad from DZINE store on Vimeo.

Below are some of the showroom installation images.

1. For new construction space the Wall Piercings in the desired configuration allowing for enough space between the panels so the 'Piercing' rings will not hit each other.

2. Fix the drywall up against the back panels for the Wall Piercings.  Tape around the back panels with fiberglass tape and then mud in

3. Add two filler layers and one finisher layer to create a seamless transition from the back panels of the Wall Piercing and the drywall.

4. Finish by painting the wall and installing the 'Piercing' rings.

January 3, 2012

Flos opens SF store inside DZINE showroom

Beth Hughes, Special to The Chronicle
Sunday, December 25, 2011

Flos, the Italian lighting company, prides itself on working with the luminaries of design for 50 years - Achille Castiglioni, Gino Sarfatti and Patricia Urquiola, to name a few.

The company started in 1962 with the idea of producing "modern lighting" and "developing new lighting concepts," according to its official history. In 1964, Sergio Gandini joined the outfit.

"It was a small company, but in the minds of the people, it could be built up consistently," says Piero Gandini, who has been the CEO since 1999.

Which is what happened.

The first Flos retail store opened in Milan in 1968. The first foreign subsidiary opened in Germany in 1971.

"In a way, to do something so new, it was practically exotic," says Gandini. "Fifty years later, (the company) is still growing, still keeping the free, crazy vision. I think we're a little bit crazy, yes, I think that's the trick."

Their collaborative efforts are well known. Often designers go to the company with ideas, saying "I have a dream, but I know it is impossible," says Gandini. "We say, 'Why is it impossible?' We believe in the creative mind, and so before we say, 'No, it is not possible,' we like to explore it. We like to see the energy, and if we realize there is something strong from the emotional point of view, from the functional point of view, from the lighting point of view, we really like to get there. Normally, we win the battle."

Flos opened its latest retail venture late last month, a store within the DZine showroom on Utah Street. "It's a city that has always been sensitive to design and creativity," says Gandini. "It's a beautiful city, astonishingly beautiful, so this ... was a natural decision."

The company with products priced from just over $100 to $16,000, opened a New York stand-alone store in 2010, and a Los Angeles store in June, according to Jan Vingerhoets, CEO of Flos North America.

He said that some Flos customers "are affected by the economy; some are not. We have quite a lot of young people who want a nice task light. They are really keen on beautiful design and willing to spend the extra money on it. ... We also have a fair amount of the people who do well and are able to afford our lamps without thinking much about it."

He points out that like shopping locally and buying clothes fashioned to last, "one of the greenest things is to buy good quality, so things don't end up in landfill. Beautiful design, good technology, it's rare when it breaks down, and good brands have the replacement items so you can get it to work again. We think there are many people who are starting to appreciate that."

Indeed, Flos carries lighting from its earliest collections. "Every time we do a new lamp, we think it may be the ultimate lamp," says Gandini, "but many old products are still very good sellers. In some cases, when they're no longer good sellers, we keep them in the catalog because (we) want to show a cross-section ... and to show what we were and what we are."

At DZine, along with noted designs such as the Glo-Ball line from mini to maxi ($120 to $700), the company introduced designer Ron Gilad's piece "Wallpiercing," which is tiny light-emitting diodes (LEDs) positioned inside lightweight hoops with the diameter of a large dinner plate. Calling the piece a light fixture is like calling a Maserati GranTurismo a ride. The design is part of Soft Architecture, a Flos line designed for minimal environmental impact during production and after sale.

"Wallpiercing" is already part of the permanent collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art. It is a plus for the design driven, and the design curious, that Cardenio Petrucci, who owns DZine, likes people "to come in and see the showroom. It's almost like a museum. Design students, they take advantage of us, and I love it. ... We try to be more of a community than store."

Gilad embarked on the project by learning the technology behind LEDs and coming to understand the quality of light they emit. A precise minimalist, he attached each hoop to a tile at a 45-degree angle. Each tile is embedded in a wall. There are no visible wires.

It is, if nothing else, a lesson in why Gandini suggests that property owners should figure out lighting design early in the building or remodeling process. "Try to think of the lighting from the beginning, not at the end. Then it is too late for many solutions and possibilities."

He has another tip for lighting your home: Rather than following magazines or the trends or "a famous guy somewhere," look into yourself. "People have to push themselves but, at the same time, they must choose the lights that match their style of life. There is no one solution. ... Do it in a way that makes sense."