Kitchens Play Hide and Sleek: High-End Appliances Go Behind Closed Doors, Room for Real Art and Web-Surfing

By ANJALI ATHAVALEY via wsj.com

After Lisa Gilmore, 50, and her husband, Merle, became empty-nesters, the North Barrington, Ill., couple decided to renovate their kitchen and tailor it for two.

 A growing number of homeowners and kitchen designers are transforming the kitchen into a living and entertaining space. Anjali Athavaley has details.

Working with Chicago kitchen designer Mick De Giulio last spring, they knocked down the wall that separated the kitchen and dining room. Mr. De Giulio concealed the dishwashers with cabinetry and encased the refrigerator in a wooden armoire with art hanging from the back. And they added a "keeping room," an area adjacent to the kitchen with comfortable couches and a fireplace. (The name refers to a cozy parlor near the hearth in Colonial-era houses.)

That seating area is "where we have our meaningful conversations," Ms. Gilmore says. "We do pretty much everything in there."

For years, kitchen designers have been treating high-end appliances like trophies, making a stainless-steel-and-glass refrigerator, or a range in a shiny color finish, into the room's focal point. Now, more homeowners are veering in the opposite direction, hiding kitchen bling behind wood panels or underneath countertops.

 The resulting look—streamlined, uncluttered, often with LED lighting and a mix of stone and wood finishes—marks the next phase in the kitchen's evolution from cooking-and-eating hub to flexible multitasking space.

Many new kitchen designs feature adjacent seating areas with sofas or armchairs, instead of a kitchen table or high counter with chairs. The designs build in more storage and keep countertops empty, with sliding panels or doors hiding equipment.

Many incorporate fireplaces and TVs, emphasizing the kitchen's increasingly important role in entertaining, lounging, homework and media surfing. In June, Samsung Electronics Co. is launching a refrigerator, priced at $3,499, with an LCD touch screen with Wifi connectivity on the door, which the household chef can use to access applications like Pandora, Twitter and Epicurious.

According to the company's research, 59% of consumers consider the kitchen the hub of the home. "Refrigerators have been sort of the bulletin board," says James Politeski, senior vice president of home-appliance sales and marketing at Samsung.

Disguising appliances helps contribute to a clean, airy, sleek feel. Stoves, ovens and hoods can't be completely covered up, though, because wood panels wouldn't be able to withstand the heat. "Microwaves are one of the most aesthetically challenged of all the appliances," Mr. De Giulio adds. "We try to hide them."

Hidden or "integrated" appliances are becoming a hallmark of the luxury kitchen, says Mr. De Giulio, author of the book "Kitchen Centric" and principal of the Chicago firm de Giulio Kitchen Design.

"Every great kitchen has a hook," he says, a visual element that draws you in. The new hook in many high-end designs isn't an appliance, but a piece of antique furniture, a decorative hood or a special sink.

In Europe, kitchen designs were integrating appliances as far back as the 1970s. The look is becoming more common in the U.S. as remodeling starts to pick up. In a recent survey of 150 kitchen and bath dealers by the National Kitchen & Bath Association, 79% expect an increase in showroom visits in the first quarter of 2011 and 82% anticipate a boost in sales volume because of kitchen remodels. "There is a little bit of pent-up demand, where people have been holding off and now are saying, 'This is the time to do it,' " says David Alderman, association president and a kitchen and bath designer based in Chesapeake, Va. "What people are trying to do is make the kitchen a more-functional room."

Appliance makers have noticed. "People are gravitating toward a more simplistic or minimalist look," says Paul Leuthe, corporate marketing manager for Sub-Zero Inc. "I think a clean kitchen is more pleasing to the eye," he says. "It makes you feel calmer." Sub-Zero is developing its "panel-ready" refrigerators in new sizes to help them blend seamlessly with cabinetry. "We're hearing demand for more sizes and more flexibility," he says.

But wait—isn't it a little crazy to spend thousands of dollars on a refrigerator only to cover it up? "Some people feel, 'I have to shout it out that I have a $10,000 refrigerator,' " Mr. Leuthe says. "There are some people who probably take delight in the fact that people can't find their refrigerator in their home."

Whirlpool Corp. last year released a clear-glass-and-stainless-steel canopy for over the cooktop priced at $949; the company says it offers a lighter look than traditional stainless steel. And it launched new built-in refrigerators under the Jenn-Air brand that it says "virtually disappear into any kitchen décor." People who entertain at home a lot "might just feel like too many appliances distract from their decorating," says Deborah O'Connor, senior marketing manager for the KitchenAid and Jenn-Air lines.

Katherine Huge, a 46-year-old stay-home mother, hid her appliances as part of the $97,000 kitchen renovation in her Cumming, Ga., home. Attached dark-wood panels conceal two dishwashers and a refrigerator; the microwave, toaster and coffeemaker are kept on shelves in the "breakfast garage" with retractable doors. The designer, Matthew Quinn, created a custom range hood—he calls it a "slice" of stainless steel—which is also a shelf to hold Ms. Huge's vases. "No matter what you do, the kitchen always ends up being where everyone gathers," Ms. Huge says. "We wanted to make the kitchen the centerpiece of the house."

Penny Hecktman and her husband, Jeffrey, chairman and chief executive of Hilco Trading, a Chicago financial services firm, made a 17-foot-long painting by New York artist Alex Katz the center of the kitchen in their second home, in Miami. "The concept of this kitchen was that it didn't look like you were coming to a suburban home kitchen," Ms. Hecktman says.

There's ample storage for small appliances; big appliances are concealed. The stove is an induction model, so there are no gas or electric burners. "What looks like a backsplash is a deep storage system," she says. That's where she keeps her dishes and coffeemaker.

The Hecktmans opted for a sleeker look because they do a lot of entertaining at home, for both friends and business. "It always felt like we were having guests over," Ms. Hecktman says. The painting, which shows individuals moving around at a gathering, helped set the tone, she says. "It was like a party."


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Posted by: sserrano
Posted on: 3/23/2011 at 3:37 PM
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Today's cutting-edge men's watchmakers are crafting timepieces with the bygone elegance of your grandfather's ticker.

By MARK ROZZO via wsj.com

Through family heirlooms, scouring shops or trolling online emporia. "Heritage," of course, has been the buzzword at just about every men's brand, with a renewed focus on craftsmanship and investment. It's the inevitable pushback against the highflying hedge-fund era, when the pursuit of luxury meant the quest for highly conspicuous quality and lots of it. A typical watch was the size of an Egg McMuffin and housed enough bells and whistles to make Henry Graves—the early 20th-century New York banker who commissioned the legendary "Supercomplication" pocket watch from Patek Philippe—blush. And although this bling-y backlash has been a welcome change to people with taste everywhere, when you go vintage, reliability and functionality can ultimately suffer.

I know from personal experience. Last summer I excavated from the clutter of my desk an old Omega Genève of uncertain vintage that had been buried there for, well, a decade. It had belonged to my wife's grandfather, a brilliant structural engineer who helped the architect Louis Kahn pull off some of his best buildings and lived to be 92. This beautiful, modestly sized watch, understated and perfect in its simplicity—with its satin silver face and elegant hash-marked dial, wrapped up in a matchless patina of history and meaning—didn't immediately make sense on my wrist. My everyday watch, after all, had been a digital Casio I picked up for 40 bucks on 42nd Street. But after staring fondly at the stately Omega, I decided to cough up the $500 repair fee (which is what it might cost to outright buy a vintage Genève), and waited six weeks. For the first time in my life, I had a real watch on my wrist—one that is probably at least as old as I am, outfitted with a new mainspring, new crystal, new crown, new gaskets and a new black crocodile strap. But, as is often the case, exquisite beauty has its drawbacks—after a time, my watch's tune-up faded and it was back in the shop again.

Enter modern watchmakers, who are solving this conundrum with models that evoke bygone good taste and key moments in brand history, minus the repair costs. Often, these watches are just plain gorgeous—worthy alternatives to heirlooms.

Asprey's Vintage Regulator—from the 300-something-year-old British luxury brand favored by royals and rock stars—takes inspiration from the company's 1930s regulator clocks. With a white gold face, blue hands and an alligator strap, it is masculine elegance personified. IWC Schaffhausen's Portuguese Hand-wound 5454 dips into the company archives to revive an old line—super-precision pocket watch-style wristwatches originally launched 70 years ago. The sapphire crystal front refracts light in such a way that the black face can take on a bluish cast, a nice effect for a watch that's all about gentlemanly restraint without an overtly retro look. Meanwhile, Montblanc, IWC's cousin in the Richemont luxury group, has rolled out its TimeWalker Large Automatic, a handsome stainless-steel watch with a pleasing hybrid design: old-school, no-nonsense simplicity with vaguely futuristic numerals that suggest "Battlestar Galactica."

You can't get too far into the realm of new-old timepieces without encountering militaria. Vintage aviation has always made Bell & Ross tick, along with a flair for instant history. (The company was founded in 1992.) The BR Original 126—part of the so-called Vintage Collection—hearkens back to the days of B-17s over Midway, thanks to an intrepid design team that conducted extensive reconnaissance missions, researching watches worn by WWII-era aviators. Legibility is always an imperative at Bell & Ross, and large-type numerals at the "12" and "6" positions give these watches the feeling of cockpit instruments.

The Timex for J. Crew 1600 watch is named not from the Elizabethan era but after a famous address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. It's a tribute to some of the "style stewards" who have resided in the White House, including JFK. The 35th president was an Omega man, but this attractive watch has a masculine, no-fuss aura about it, seemingly ideal for touch football at Hyannis Port—or steak and martinis at Manhattan's Minetta Tavern. "We wanted to make an old-school watch, the kind that gets passed down from your grandfather," Frank Muytjens, J. Crew's head men's designer, told me. "And when you think of Timex, it puts a smile on your face because everyone had one growing up." It's another example of J. Crew's felicitous partnerships with brands that celebrate their heritage, evoking those vintage Timex commercials with pitchman John Cameron Swayze, who famously said: "Takes a licking and keeps on ticking."

Which is more than I can say for my beloved old Omega. The other day, it again stopped dead in its tracks. Although my repair shop offers a generous warranty, it's high time I went shopping for priceless history—in a nicely priced, brand-new package.


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Posted on: 3/18/2011 at 11:43 AM
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Retailer Finds Luxury in its Independence

By DAVID KAPLAN via HOUSTON CHRONICLE

There may be no store like Kuhl-Linscomb in the world. The high-end Houston retailer is the size of some supermarkets, filling 70,000 square feet of space in five buildings with everything from greeting cards to modern chandeliers that sell for thousands of dollars.

Asked if they will add more buildings to their campus, owners Pam Kuhl-Linscomb and her husband, Dan Linscomb, give the impression they might.  "I would love to have a restaurant and tea room," said Kuhl-Linscomb, her face lighting up.  "Don't start that," her husband replied.  They work together 12 hours a day, seven days. They have no children, they noted, and the store is like their child.  "When we go home, we're still looking at magazines and arguing about the store," he said.

What they agree on is a stylish, playful, eclectic collection of things for the home. Categories at the store on West Alabama in the Upper Kirby District include gifts, apothecary, fragrances, bedding, bath, kitchen, baby and children, home accessories, jewelry, music, pets, cards, books, furniture, garden, lighting, and antiques. Much is high-end.

The ambitious concept makes a profit, the owners say.  Among the thousands of items there: A modern take on the antler chandelier, made of ceramic and costing $5,900; a stylish cardboard longhorn trophy, starting at $28; and a chalkboard table cloth that kids can color on for $57.

Pam Kuhl-Linscomb runs the store day to day. It can be overwhelming, staying on top of all the categories, going on buying trips around the world, and keeping up with every employee and customer issue, she said.  Asked why there aren't more independently operated stores on this scale, she said: "Nobody's crazy enough to do it. It's too hard. You have to have a passion and put your heart and soul in it."

Kuhl-Linscomb has to be as big as it is to be viable, she said.  "Originally, we had only one building, but we soon realized that to get people truly serious about buying here, you have to expand each category significantly," she said. "Otherwise you're just a gift store."

The recession killed many luxury retail shops, but Kuhl-Linscomb survived with simple adjustments. For example, they added more sterling and costume jewelry at the expense of gold. Pam Kuhl-Linscomb also credits her "artistic, talented and devoted" staff.  Kuhl-Linscomb is in a perfect position, said Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a national retail consulting and investment banking firm in New York. The luxury sector has made a strong comeback, and specialty luxury is doing particularly well, he said.  Independently owned luxury retail is not unusual, he said. What is extraordinary about the Houston store is its scale.  "Dan and Pam are retail visionaries," said renowned New York-based home furnishings designer Jonathan Adler, whose products are sold in the store. "The experience of going there is fun and luxurious."

Robert Munzer, co-owner of Cornell & Munzer, a San Francisco-based trade agency representing modern European furniture collections, some of which are at the store, said he has seen only a few independent stores on the level of Kuhl-Linscomb: Andreas Murkudis in Berlin, 10 Corso Como in Milan and Colette in Paris.  Those European stores focus more on smaller items and have more of a fashion focus, he said, while Kuhl-Linscomb's strength lies in products for the home.  Customer Annsley Popov described the store as "a nugget of heaven right out my back door. I never expected to find such fabulous and unique items in one store."

Pam Kuhl-Linscomb studied fashion and design at the University of Texas and then did management and buying for department stores. A few years after she started a design firm with Richard Holley in 1984, House & Garden Magazine included them among "the best American designers working today."

In 1971, Dan Linscomb founded what would become Linscomb & Williams, a Houston-based wealth management firm with more than $3 billion in assets. He is still fully involved with the firm, he said.  They met a gas station. She couldn't locate the gas cap of her rental car, and he found it. They married in 1991.  They first took some retail space at Decorative Center Houston in 1994 and moved to the current location seven years later. They had to sink personal funds into the concept, because most banks considered it too risky, Linscomb said.

On top of everything else, Pam Kuhl-Linscomb looks after her dog and four cats that hang out at the store during the day. They are all rescues. She has also saved baby opossums and a number of birds that fell out of trees.  "I should have been a vet," she said.


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Posted on: 3/17/2011 at 11:23 AM
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Vidal Sassoon and wife, Ronnie, reinvigorate an iconic Richard Neutra house in the hills of Bel Air, California

Wriiten by James Reginato/Photographed and Produced by Todd Eberle Via ArchitecturalDigest.com

The relationship between hair and architecture has perhaps not been properly appreciated. But a visit with legendary stylist Vidal Sassoon and his wife, Ronnie, rectifies that.

“My whole work, beginning in the late 1950s, came from the Bauhaus,” explains Vidal, whose geometric, easy-maintenance cuts sparked a revolution in hair. “It was all about studying the bone structure of the face, to bring out the character. I hated the prettiness that was in fashion at that time.  “My whole work, beginning in the late 1950s, came from the Bauhaus,” says Sassoon.  “Architects have always been my heroes,” he adds. “I could not have been more honored than when I met Marcel Breuer and he told me he knew my work. And Rem Koolhaas said he had one of my original cutting books in his library.”

Fittingly, this conversation is taking place inside the couple’s Los Angeles home, a seminal work by modernist master Richard Neutra, which they recently restored. Known as the Singleton House, it was commissioned in the mid-’50s by industrialist Henry Singleton for a site on a spectacular peak atop Mulholland Drive. Views from the property take in the Pacific and the shiny skyscrapers of downtown, as well as the desert and San Gabriel Mountains.

When Ronnie, like her husband a passionate architecture buff, first saw the house it was in dire shape, though the Singleton family had done their best to maintain it. After relocating in 1969, they had rented it to a series of tenants, then put it on the market in 2002, three years after Henry’s death. The 4,700-square-foot house languished unoccupied—its systems too rudimentary (there was no air-conditioning, just Neutra’s ingeniously designed cross-ventilating windows) and its bedrooms too small and dark for contemporary families—until the Sassoons purchased the sleeping beauty. They were living between London and Beverly Hills at the time and bought the home as an adventure, one they weren’t completely sure would be positive. Indeed, just two weeks after the closing, in 2004, part of the roof collapsed, and a few months later a huge chunk of the property slid into a neighbor’s yard. But Cincinnati-born Ronnie, who had worked as a fashion designer and an advertising executive before she married Vidal almost 20 years ago, was committed to the project and immersed herself in a study of Neutra’s work. She pored over images of the Singleton House taken by Julius Shulman (1910–2009), the preeminent architectural photographer of Los Angeles. “They were my bible,” she says.

Little did she know how much she’d need the visual documentation. The Sassoons discovered that, due to dry rot and modern code requirements, they would have to do extensive rebuilding. Working with contractor Scott Werker of GW Associates of L.A., they replaced damaged ceilings and poured new terrazzo floors, and they removed a number of walls in order to create larger, brighter interior spaces. They also added a master bedroom suite, which Ronnie designed with Werker and building planner Tim Campbell.

Read full article here.


Frank Gehry Designs Downtown Skyscraper for the Digital Age

By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF via TheNewYorkTimes.com

Many New Yorkers have been following the construction of the new residential tower at 8 Spruce Street, just south of City Hall, with a mix of awe and trepidation.

Frank Gehry, the building’s architect, has had a rough time in this city. His first commission here, years ago, was for an Upper East Side town house that was never built; his client, an oil heiress, fired him over Champagne and strawberries. A more recent foray, the massive Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, drew the ire of local activists, who depicted him as an aging liberal in bed with the devil — a New York City real estate developer.

The Spruce Street project (formerly called Beekman Tower) would not only be Mr. Gehry’s first skyscraper, but it was also being built for the same developer, Bruce Ratner. And as the tallest luxury residential tower in the city’s history, it seemed to epitomize the skyline’s transformation from a symbol of American commerce to a display of individual wealth.

Only now, as the building nears completion, is it possible to appreciate what Mr. Gehry has accomplished: the finest skyscraper to rise in New York since Eero Saarinen’s CBS building went up 46 years ago. And like that tower, and Philip Johnson’s AT&T (now Sony) building after it, 8 Spruce Street seems to crystallize a particular moment in cultural history, in this case the turning point from the modern to the digital age.

The tower, 76 stories high and clad in a rumpled stainless-steel skin, stands at the northern edge of the financial district on a tight lot hemmed in by one-way streets. The Pace University building, a wide, Brutalist-style structure completed in 1970, cuts it off from the rest of the city to the north; just beyond are the spaghettilike access ramps of the Brooklyn Bridge. To the east, across City Hall Park, are two early landmarks of skyscraper design, Cass Gilbert’s 1913 Woolworth building and McKim, Mead & White’s 1912 Municipal building.

Mr. Gehry’s design is least successful at the bottom, where he was forced to plant his tower on top of a six-story base that will house a new public grammar school and one floor of hospital services — an odd coupling of private and public interests that was a result of political horse trading rather than any obvious benefit that would be gained from so close a relationship between the two.

The school is clad in conventional orange brick, with heavy steel frame windows that give it the look of a converted factory. Its main facade, with a glass-fronted lobby facing William Street to the east, is relatively straightforward, but it’s a letdown after you’ve seen the gorgeously wrought exterior of the tower above. (Mr. Gehry did not design the interiors of the school, which is still under construction, and students may ask why the pampered young professionals living above them get to live in apartments designed by an architectural superstar while they will have to make do with a no-name talent.)

Not surprisingly, the two groups won’t be mixing. Residents will enter through a covered drive that cuts through the block along the building’s western side. Framed by massive brick pillars and a glass-enclosed lobby, the space’s generous proportions will accommodate taxis and limousines ferrying people in and out of the building, making it feel more like a luxury hotel than a classic Manhattan apartment building.

None of this matters much, however, once you see the tower in the skyline, a view that seems to lift Lower Manhattan out of its decade-long gloom. The building is particularly mesmerizing from the Brooklyn waterfront, where it’s possible to make out one of the deep setbacks that give the building its reassuringly old-fashioned feel. In daylight the furrowed surfaces of the facades look as if they’ve been etched by rivulets of water, an effect that is all the more dramatic next to the clunky 1980s glass towers just to the south. Closer up, from City Hall Park, the same ripples look softer, like crumpled fabric.

(The flat south facade is comparatively conventional, and some may find perverse enjoyment in the fact that the building presents its backside to Wall Street.)

The power of the design only deepens when it is looked at in relation to Gilbert’s Woolworth building. A steel frame building clad in neo-Gothic terra-cotta panels, Gilbert’s masterpiece is a triumphant marriage between the technological innovations that gave rise to the skyscraper and the handcrafted ethos of an earlier era.

Mr. Gehry’s design is about bringing that same sensibility — the focus on refined textures, the cultivation of a sense that something has been shaped by a human hand — to the digital age. The building’s exterior is made up of 10,500 individual steel panels, almost all of them different shapes, so that as you move around it, its shape is constantly changing. And by using the same kind of computer modeling that he used for his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, more than a decade ago, he was able to achieve this quality at a close to negligible increase in cost.

But Mr. Gehry is also making a statement. The building’s endlessly shifting surfaces are an attack against the kind of corporate standardization so evident in the buildings to the south and the conformity that it embodied. He aims, as he has throughout his career, to replace the anonymity of the assembly line with an architecture that can convey the infinite variety of urban life. The computer, in his mind, is just a tool for reasserting that variety.

That mission is expressed inside the building as well. Mr. Gehry has sometimes been criticized for creating wildly sculptural forms that are nothing more than masks: elaborate wrappers draped over conventional interiors. Here the ripples that run up and down the facades form angular window bays inside, creating pockets of space that give the apartments an unusually intimate feel. They also provide dramatically angled views of the surrounding skyline. (Some apartments will even get occasional, unexpected views between neighboring apartments, a side effect that could be good or a bad depending on how many exhibitionists live there.)

Read full article here.


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Posted on: 2/10/2011 at 10:36 AM
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The Green, Green Luxury of Home

By TARA LOADER WILKINSON from wsj.com

Even in a world where green has become the new black and words like "sustainable" grace everything from food packages to corporate mottos, the notion of building an eco-friendly luxury home can seem like an oxymoron.

The luxury carbon-neutral home concept—in which properties attain a net zero carbon footprint—has been labeled "a conscience salve," "greenwashing" and "a complete misnomer" by critics.

"You think of a £30 million mansion built with the finest imported materials, the heated pools, the electrical gadgets, the air conditioning, the six-car garage and of course the private jet journey to get there. That can appear at odds with the environment," says Peter Mackie, managing director of HSBC-backed Property Vision, a U.K.-based estate agent.

The luxury carbon-neutral home concept—in which properties attain a net zero carbon footprint—has been labeled "a conscience salve," "greenwashing" and "a complete misnomer" by critics. Despite that skepticism, developers are hoping to turn a seemingly contradictory phrase into a 21st-century success story, laying plans for prime deluxe carbon-neutral property all over Europe. New homes in the U.K, Portugal, Italy, Morocco and Switzerland are being marketed to wealthy individuals around the world, with developers reporting strong demand.

In Morocco's Atlas Mountains, Anwar Harland-Khan, co-founder of green architect group Sustain Worldwide, is behind a carbon-neutral luxury development called L'Amandier. Construction of the project began last year and the villas are expected to be completed this year. All water will be drawn from on-site wells, and rainwater will be harvested for irrigation. Mr. Harland-Khan, who is also working on a Swedish carbon-neutral ski resort, says industry standards in Morocco are stringent and there are certificates provided to clients at each stage. Interiors, designed by U.K. and Moroccan architects Nick Gowing and Hicham Belhouari, have a flavor of Marrakech. Each villa has its own pool shaded by Bougainvillea and almond and citrus trees.

Andermatt Swiss Alps, a major development overseen by Orascom Development Holding AG, which includes six luxury hotels, some 500 apartments and luxury villas and an 18-hole championship golf course.

Half of the sixteen villas, which are priced up to £425,000, have been bought before completion of construction. "Sustainable luxury is about providing for the needs of discerning people today, without compromising the needs of future generations," says Mr. Harland-Khan. "It is well within our grasp."

Read full story.


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Posted on: 1/19/2011 at 10:04 AM
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Green 'Ark' home that can house 10,000 -- and looks like a Slinky!

Shared from CNNTech EcoSolutions

(CNN) -- Could a floating dome that can house up to 10,000 people be a model for future living?  Russian architect Alexander Remizov thinks so -- and his prototype design, called "The Ark," bears more than a passing resemblance to the classic children's toy, the Slinky.

Remizov believes his Ark, designed to be constructed from timber, steel and high-strength ETFE plastic, could be adapted for all kinds of environments and put to a number of different uses, including emergency housing -- its prefabricated structure should allow it to be constructed quickly -- and hotels. He's even suggested a variation with a honeycomb-style hull that can float.

After completing a Masters degree looking at non-polluting settlements, Remizov decided to pursue that theme with his architecture firm Remistudio and design a modern building that would be in harmony with the environment.  He says that he took a holistic approach to the problems of providing power to The Ark, working with colleague Lev Britvin on energy solutions to keep it in balance with the environment.

A wind power generator that runs through the center of the building would provide power while the outer surface would be covered with transparent solar panels. If the Ark was built on water, as Remizov suggests, he says it could also utilize thermal water energy.  "The form of a dome promotes the formation of turbulences of air, strengthening the work of wind generators," wrote Remizov in an email to CNN.

"Inside the building, the dome form promotes accumulation of warm air in the top part of a building," he continued. "This heat will be transformed to other kinds of energy and collects also in thermal accumulators."

While still on the drawing board, Remizov believes The Ark could be used for many purposes from apartments to offices and hotels, and be built on different scales to house between 50 and 10,000 people.  The way in which the Ark could be assembled from ready-made structures would reduce the cost of construction, suggests Remizov, who estimates that it would be comparable to the cost of energy-efficient "green" buildings.

"Lightweight materials, such as coating film, light design of the foundation, no insulation due to the presence of the buffer zone, reduce the weight structures, which would lead to cheaper construction," he said.


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Posted on: 1/13/2011 at 8:54 AM
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Bay Arch proposes Hollywood Sign Luxury Hotel concept

Shared from World Interior Design Network.

The proposal aims to preserve the image of the Hollywood sign and make use of its unique location. Bay Arch plans to double the size of the famous letters at a height of 105 feet, building them out from the back. Guests will get a chance to stay in one of the letters of the iconic signs, offering views of Los Angeles.

The 10-level hotel will include 308 rooms, depicting unique theme of the history of Hollywood. The structure will also house an observation deck, three large swimming pools, a movie theater, restaurants, a conference room and a museum. The sign will be illuminated at night.

The firm is seeking investors, developers, hotel operators, designers and engineers to take the proposal to the next step, after which the plan will be presented to the Mayor of Los Angeles and the Governor of California.

Would you stay in the Hollywood sign Luxury Hotel?


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Posted by: sserrano
Posted on: 12/16/2010 at 11:06 AM
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LA Architects Experiment with Luxury Green Home Design

By FRANCES ANDERTON from TheNyTimes.com

Residential architects in Los Angeles are experimenting with green design. Walter Scott Perry remodeled his 1950's tract house in the Hollywood Hills by reusing rather than replacing fittings and materials. He added solar panels and a sun screen, both purchased locally. With a rebate from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, his cost was around $12,000. David Hertz's home in Venice, Calif. — four buildings connected by bridges — has some roofs layered with photovoltaic cells and others engineered to generate hot water for washing and radiant heating. 


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Posted on: 12/8/2010 at 11:53 AM
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Residence in Cyprus inspired by 1960s Miami style and high-tech Hong Kong design

From WorldArchitectureNews.com

A private client commissioned Mobius Design Group to design a luxury villa on the south coast of Larnaca, Cyprus, on a plot of 1,525 sq m situated on the water's edge. Mobius Design Group architect, Andreas Trisveis, travelled to Hong Kong in order to research for the design process. He explains: "I was interested to see and comprehend what is the latest direction in novel materials applied for the materialisation of today's architecture. Such advanced construction techniques would definitely aid me in realising the project."

The futuristic 912 sq m villa was inspired from a painting by Japanese artist Κatsushika Hokusai entitled 'The Great Wave' and Gustave Flaubert's phrase: "The sea is flat like a pavement of Lapis-Lazuli, ascended imperceptibly to the sky on the horizon..."

The unusual sculptural shapes of this luxurious villa are a reference to the lapping waves nearby. Constructed using stainless metal and glass, the roof canopy opens automatically depending on the external temperature. When completed, the entire residence will operate using automated hi-tech systems. Under the roof nestles a scenic roof garden, from which the owners can enjoy the beautiful vista ahead. Alongside a swimming pool, the roof garden boasts a bar, jacuzzi and yoga platform.

The interior space is based on 1960s Miami style. In the basement there is the spa area with views of the immersed garden. On the ground floor are located dining rooms, sitting rooms and living rooms, including an entertainment space with an office, billiard room and a specialised room for cigar storage. Upstairs, there are four bedrooms and one executive suite that features an individual living room for the guests.

On the side of Aura facing the ocean a large swimming pool follows the undulating curves of the house seemingly blending in with the horizon, thus referring to Flaubert's inspirational phrase. This part will be constructed out of clear glass with the ability to completely open the villa to the elements.


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Posted by: sserrano
Posted on: 12/8/2010 at 10:16 AM
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Categories: Luxury Real Estate
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Custom Designed Game Room Trend - Luxury Homes Designer Sterling Reports

Sterling Custom Homes, a builder of luxury homes in Austin, Texas, continues to introduce innovative features into its custom home.  They design and build quality custom homes in many of Austin’s premier custom home communities, private gated communities and resort golf communities.  The builder’s latest addition is a luxurious combination media and game room. 

In previous years, game rooms were tucked away and usually more of a children’s play area. Sterling Custom Homes’ approach is to take the previously concealed game room and integrate it with a media room, making a beautiful highly stylized dual-purpose area for the entire family. 

“We have created inviting and entertaining spaces that suit both adults and children,” said Duke McDowell, president of Sterling Custom Homes. “These highly customizable spaces can be used together or separately depending on the occasion.” 



For home owners who still want a secluded media room experience, Sterling Custom Homes offers theater-style heavy curtains to divide the room and give the home owner the full cinematic feel. Push the curtains aside and the media room can be used to watch a sports game while playing a game of billiards, or open the room for entertaining a large number of guests.  

Find out more, at Sterling Custom Homes.


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Posted by: sserrano
Posted on: 12/6/2010 at 12:10 PM
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Luxury Home Trend Boosts Luxury Wallpaper Firm Walker Greenbank

By Tanya Jefferies and Press Association on thisismoney.co.uk

Buoyant sales at the luxury end of the home interiors market have led to record autumn sales and profits for luxury wallpaper firm Walker Greenbank.

Walker's shares leapt 9%, up 3.75p to 44p, after Walker said full-year results were expected to be 'materially ahead' of market forecasts. Analysts on average predict a pretax profit of £4.1m on turnover of £67.5m for the year to January 31.

The company, which sells its brands in John Lewis and has showrooms in Chelsea Harbour in London and at the D&D Building in New York, said this year's Sanderson's Vintage wallpaper collection was particularly successful.  Meanwhile, Walker's wallpaper and fabric printing factories are benefiting from its own strong order books, as well as those of outside clients.

Chief executive John Sach claimed homeowners are investing more in decoration as they opt to stay in and entertain guests rather than dine out at restaurants.  Mr Sach said Walker Greenbank continued to invest in the design of products throughout the recession and this has paid off. 'We have a lot of products to offer and we're servicing our customer needs well,' he commented.  He added that the company is looking to expand overseas, including in China, where he will travel in the coming weeks. Looking ahead, Mr Sach said the company would be nearly debt-free by the end of the year and he expects profitability and investment to be sustained.

The company recently posted pre-tax profits of £2.3m in the six months to July 31, up from £570,000 the previous year. It saw a 15.6% rise in revenues to £33.7m in the same period.  Freddie George, analyst at stockbroker Seymour Pierce, said: 'The autumn selling period appears to have been highly successful helped by positive fashion trend for the company's fabrics and wallpapers.'

Walker's origins can be traced back to 1899, to C&W Walker Holdings, an engineering company which manufactured gas containers. It moved into the furnishings market in 1987.

Find out more about Walker Greenbank Wallpapers.


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Posted by: sserrano
Posted on: 11/29/2010 at 11:22 AM
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Luxury Italian Furniture house Nella Vetrina Introduces Visionnaire by Ipe Cavalli.

The all new Visionnaire collection by Ipe Cavalli is a lifestyle concept blending classic Baroque sculptural curves, intricate details and refined finishes together with minimalism to create a new interpretation of luxury Italian furniture. The offering of high end Italian furniture, Italian lighting and upholstery features materials of marble, wood, smoked glass and stainless steel. The color palate ranges from sparkling white to dark hues of blacks and blues. Their Custom Italian upholstery designs are finished in the finest Italian fabrics and leathers, with frames of brass, chrome, and aluminum.

Nella Vetrina showcases the best in the classic and modern Italian furniture and Italian lighting design. Our luxury collections are created by world-renowned Italian designers, local craftsmen and virtuoso glass makers.

As a fashion house for all living spaces, we feature exclusive designer Italian furniture, hand-made Venetian and Murano chandeliers, luxurious Italian bathroom vanities and handmadeMosaic tiles that breathe uniqueness, beauty, intrigue and soul.



A standout of The Visionnaire collection is its signature design of diamond cut aluminum legs on many of its pieces including case goods, Italian dining tables and coffee tables. This design combined with a dark lacquer finish or a marble top makes for the perfect statement piece. Elegant Italian upholstered high back chairs and lounging benches are detailed with sensuous fabrics, chrome legs and nickel studs. A selection of beautiful Italian mirrors, some with upholstered or marble frames, lighting and chic beds round out the collection.

Find out more about The Visionnaire collection.


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Posted by: sserrano
Posted on: 11/16/2010 at 11:16 AM
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PERFECT MARRIAGE OF COMFORT AND ELEGANCE, duPont REGISTRY Featured Luxury Home, Las Vegas, Nevada

AA property, 30 Eagles Landing Lane, in Las Vegas recently snagged two awards from duPont REGISTRY™. To celebrate its 15th anniversary, the magazine selected the best of everything related to homes in 15 categories. duPont REGISTRY™ gave the nod to 30 Eagles Landing, ranking the home's kitchen and master bathroom among the top 15 in the country.  Such recognition isn't a huge surprise to Tanya Murray of Realty Executives of Nevada in Las Vegas. After all she and the property's owner, Stephanie Hodges, know they have a prize on their hands.  The 11,641-square-foot estate, reminiscent of an Italian villa, is set on nearly one acre behind the gates of the Estates of Southern Highlands, one of the area's most exclusive communities.  Hodges worked hand-in-hand with her architect to create a dazzling estate that incorporated, top to bottom, the finest materials, construction techniques and artistic details. No design aspect was too small for Hodges' attention, and it's especially apparent in the property's two award-winning spaces.

The kitchen, for instance, features all of what a luxury buyer would expect in terms of appliances and amenities. Materials include slab granite countertops, hand-hewn wood floors and custom cabinets. The space is replete with a Wolf six-burner range, a Sub-Zero side-by-side refrigerator, Sub-Zero refrigerator drawers, dual dishwashers, a vegetable steamer, and a Miele espresso maker, along with a separate wine room.  But what makes it more extraordinary, according to Murray, is the feeling of the space. The kitchen includes a built-in bar to accommodate gatherings, and the kitchen area opens to a great room.  "The design and layout encourage people to hang out in the kitchen and family room," she says. "In luxury properties, sometimes there's an anticipated formality. Although the whole house is beautiful and luxurious, there's a sense of comfort and warmth."  As public and inviting as the kitchen is, the master bathroom is as much a sanctuary and private getaway. It's part of a custom wing that features his-and-her vanities and closets. One feature Murray characterizes as a standout is a clear, encased shoe storage wall. "It's every woman's dream," she comments.  The master bath is a study in elegance and opulence that was executed in lavish finishes. It includes slab granite counters, Swarovski crystal light fixtures and built-in cabinetry, along with custom-designed glass work produced for the house by Las Vegas glass artist Leslie Rankin. As just one example of Hodges' touch, Murray points to the curve of light fixture, a glass wall, and the faucet handles that all mirror one another.  "For whoever lives in this house next, there is just no way that they won't feel the passion and love that went into building this home,"  comments Hodges.

Tanya Murray, Realty Executives of Nevada on duPont REGISTRY Homes.


Fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld to design limited-edition luxury homes on Dubai’s fashion island

By IBTimes Staff Reporter from International Business Times.

Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, who is renowned for his passion for art, has finally translated his architectural dreams into reality by signing a few limited-edition homes at Isla Moda, the world's first fashion luxury island, in Dubai.

German designer Lagerfeld appears at the end of his Spring/Summer 2011 women's ready-to-wear fashion collection for French fashion house Chanel during Paris Fashion Week.  Dubai Infinity Holdings, an investment enterprise is launching this unique project in a bid to fulfill "unmet market needs".

"Dubai is a fashion bud on the verge of blossoming into the next fashion hub of the world ... Isla Moda has tremendous potential to be the style icon of the future and I intend on driving the island to high style stardom. Isla Moda has tremendous potential to be the style icon of the future and I intend on driving the island to high style stardom," said Karl in a statement.

Karl Lagerfeld is using his designing instinct and his flair for avant garde concepts as the blueprint for this construction.  Isla Moda has become the center of attraction of every crème de la crème of the fashion industry as it is likely to house a a number of luxury residential villas besides a fashion hotel.

All villas and villettes are designed in such a manner that a unique living experience is offered. There are also plans to host high-profile fashion shows and limited edition product launches at the place once the project gets completed by 2014.  Find out more about the location, The World, Dubai.


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Posted by: sserrano
Posted on: 10/25/2010 at 3:22 PM
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Categories: Luxury Real Estate
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