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Sunday, 8 May 2016

Destination Dubai - Armani Hotel is a Triumph


I learnt an important lesson recently in Dubai. In a place well known for it's debaucherous design and decoration, there is a property that is spectacularly significant. You know the building; the Burj Khalifa. It is the world's tallest building with 163 floors, and on par perhaps only with the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab, when it comes to impressive architectural icons.

Both burjān [plural for burj, don't you know] mark an important maturing of the region's design vernacular from the ostentatious, sometimes post-modern, to the elegant and iconic. I remember visiting the Burj Al Arab when it first opened in 1999, and gawked at the ostentatious interiors that seemed so at odds with the sweeping minimalist exterior form.

When I heard that that the Burj Khalifa was to feature an Armani Hotel, my heart sank a little. 'Here we go again', I thought. It's going to be an exercise in radical over-the-topness appealing to little other than those with a penchant for coordinating gold plated Bugatti Veyron's with gold plated bathroom taps - another opportunity missed for design in Dubai.

Design Trawler checked-in to the Armani Hotel Duabi - and couldn't have been more wrong...

Monday, 2 May 2016

BMW's Precision & Poetry in Motion


With over 300 events taking place as part of this year's London Design Festival, there is no getting away from the scale and brilliance of the capital's most important week for design. Nothing emphasised this more than the opening reception held, as always at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Raphael Gallery showcases Raphael's seven surviving tapestry designs commissioned by Pope Leo X for the Sistine Chapel. In to this celestial space, Adrian van Hooydonk, Director of Design for BMW Group [and apparent advocate for using a pencil a fashion accessory; check out his pocket] introduces us to Ed Barber and Jay Osgerby's awe-inspiring 'Precision & Poetry in Motion'. Two gigantic chrome aerofoils that slowly and independently rotate in the cathedral like hall.

Reflecting, distorting, and almost brushing the priceless artworks owned by the Queen [and also the heads of the guests beneath it!], the superstructure was assembled entirely on site and precariously swings from a superstructure that seems too dainty to support it. Make no mistake, if BMW's name wasn't firmly attached to the project I wouldn't have have stood anywhere near the gigantic flattening irons of doom; no matter how much the Belle Epoque flowed. Without doubt however one of the finest things I've seen in a museum since Brancusi's Bird in Space landed at the V&A in 2003. See it. See it *right* now.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Digital Damien is Picture Perfect


The argument typically goes like this. "It's a bunch of coloured spots on a canvas, I could do that!". "Yes, but you didn't". Argument over. A brief history of the art critique of the world's richest living artist, Damien Hirst then. His work is brilliant because it is simple, [usually] original, and provocative.

I was most pleased therefore when it struck me, in an equally simple and brilliant moment of inspiration, that Hirst's pickled shark, or rather, 'The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living' is perfectly suited to feature as digital art spanning three monitors in the study.

Unlike a digital print, mounted on canvas, or even aluminium, the TFT's emit a vivid light that renders the life aquatic just as it would on exhibition in the Saatchi Gallery. At night, the cool illumination is spectacular, so much so, that I'm considering upscaling the concept using much larger LCD televisions...

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Bordeaux Chance!


Drinks coasters, like the great pyramids of Giza, or Mayan temples of the Yucatán peninsula, are sign of man's achievement as a species. It's true. Those perfectly formed little squares of slate, acacia or nickel that proudly prop up your Petrus, are the only thing that separate civilised man from the wolves.

This weekend I picked up two shiny Bordeaux coasters that mirror the vintage labels of France's finest appellations. In a beautiful moment of design happenstance, the silver coasters mirror the dimensions of Nambé's elegant Twist coasters; adding a pair of carver coasters to enhance the set civilisation in general.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Luxe the Kasbah


Morrocco has long been a 'go to' destination for the well informed, the glamorous, the mysterious and those seeking exotic and luxurious design inspiration. Yves Saint Laurent famously owned the Majorelle Gadrens, and British department store Liberty of London has always been renowned for it's selection of fine [if you have to ask the price you can't afford it] Oriental and Berber rugs.

Inevitable therefore is Design Trawler's first trip to Morocco - to capture the richness that this unique culture presents. With its North African tradition and French influences, craft and effortless style is to be expected. Of particular interest is how these traditional aesthetics remain relevant in today's top-tier Moroccan environments... and how exporting this back to London might be appropriate. The first challenge therefore is finding a top tier Moroccan environment.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Grand Hotel Barcelona


There is no getting away from the fact that AirBNB is hammering a nail in the hotel industry's coffin. For far too long, hotels have had it easy; and especially so when it comes to design. Identikit decor, standardised room layouts, and soulless artwork have had Design Trawler often wondering if he's waking up in Beijing or Bermuda. With an almost Darwinian poetry, those hotels that fail to up their design game will die; to be outlived by only the strongest of species. 

Nowhere is this more true than Barcelona. Design Trawler is a big fan of the sail-shaped W Hotel perched at the top of the harbour, and the equally eponymous Hotel Arts situated next to Frank Gehry's 1992 Peix sculpture. But it's the volume and quality of the listings on AirBNB in the city that these two iconic hotels have to compete with. From modern penthouses, to luxury yachts, beaux arts apartments and classical townhouses; all display a design dexterity that's quite remarkable. 

Design Trawler chose to check in to an architect renovated, 1888 apartment in the heart of the city's Raval district to find out why the Barcelonés are on top of their design game, and what hotels could learn...

Monday, 29 February 2016

Design Trawler meets Tom Dixon


Well if it isn't the father of metallic hues and expensive trinkets made of copper and marble. Ever since Habitat's Head of Design left to set-up under his own name, Tom Dixon's influence has been commanding an ever increasing grip on interiors.
First there were the Beat lights that popped up everywhere from Sau Paulo to Shenzhen, followed by recherché curiosities like copper brogues and candles promising the scent of 'London' that Design Trawler first spotted at K11. Mr Porter's marble and brass spice grinder then followed, and who could forget the achingly charming wingback arm chair.

2014 is certainly Tom Dixon's year; what with his own corner at Harrods, the Modrian's first London hotel decked out in his maximalist style, a new range of suitably enigmatic candles [the scent of fire anyone?] and an engineering inspired range of desk accessories called 'cog'.
But will it be enough to put a smile on the face of the famously grumpy Dixon? Unlikely. The UK's answer to Philippe Starck and Marc Newson does a fine trade in celebrating Britain's status as the original designer of rainy drizzle, rush hour commuting, parking attendants and queueing. Don't be surprised if Tom Dixon's next range of candles are named accordingly.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Beosounds Like a Midlife Crisis


There aren't many objects that shout man cave Ultraloft as much as the Bang & Olufsen Beosound 9000 CD player. Designed almost 20 years ago in 1996 it's one of those iconic interior toys, alongside perhaps the Beocom 2 cordless telephone that's mandatory in Manhattan lofts, the penthouse apartments of television bad guys, and Hugh Grant types neck deep in a midlife crisis.

I'm not sure what that says about me. Perhaps, because the Beosound 9000 ceased production in 2011, that as a collector, I can claim that I've acquired a fully functioning design classic, and therefore eschew any mentions of crisis. Perhaps not. What is certain however, is that the machine is achingly beautiful.

From the motorised glass door, through to the illuminated CD clamp that zips up and down the brushed aluminium body; lifting CD's from their little mounts and returning them in the exact same orientation that they've been loaded. In this age of limitless music streaming, there is something overwhelmingly luxurious about physical movement; of only six disks; curated, and additive to the aesthetic of the machine, and the aesthetic of Ultraloft's flagship wall. Expect a red Porsche in the driveway very soon.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

A Stove in Wolf's Clothing


Wolf & Subzero have always represented a design style of the hulking monolith variety. Gigantic stainless steel beasts that require weightlifter sorts to deliver [and weightlifter sorts to consume the farmyard of rib-eye that they invariably prepare]. Lightweight, they are not; by physicality, style or by price.

That said, this summer, dining at five storey Georgian townhouse on Fitzroy Square, I witnessed our chef masterly sear prime cuts of said bovine on the integrated charbroiler of the freestanding Wolf Range. This, I instantly thought, is a stove worthy of Ultraloft. Unfortunately for me however, it was also a stove that cost about the same as an Ultraloft.

The solution? This inexpensive retrofit cast iron griddle plate. It seamlessly sits atop of a standard gas stove gives an instant nod to the beast of Fitzroy Square.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

If Iron Man did Laundry


Ever the reliable and well informed consumer service, Design Trawler presents you with it's guide on the best laundry appliances on the market today. Should you opt for a stand-alone washing machine? or a washer-dryer combination? How about drum size? energy efficiency? or synthetic pre-wash soaking delay cycles with built-in cotton baby quick-wash rinse mode? All very valid and sound considerations.

Or... you could chose an appliance that is POWERED BY IRON MAN! That's right, Tony Starck's very own Arc Reactor sits at the core of Samsung's top of the range washer-dryer. Frankly, the fact that the machine features a near silent digital motor and can dry-clean your vicuña undies, are all added bonuses. That's another machine added to the list that my cleaner is banned from using then.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Divinity in the Detail


The first of a series of inspiration gathering grand voyages, Design Trawler visits the home of classical design, Italy to see how the grand palazzos measure up, and how the design dialogue of Europe's best suites stays relevant today. The Presidential Suite in Milan's Westin Palace is one of the cities largest and eschews contemporary couture for a timeless grandeur, with an almost wabi-sabi contentedness.

While the Armani may have polished concrete floors and leather walls [superb in the correct setting], the unadulterated intensity of detailing in the carved and often gilded cornices and panelling are masterful. Transplanting them in to a London newbuild would be inappropriate but the attention to design in every corner, and on every surface from top to bottom sets the benchmark [the 150sqm private terrace overlooked by none of the Westin's 12 floors being another great feature for the occasional festicciola too]

Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Baccarat Ratio


If the number of different types of drinking glasses [red wines, white wines, cocktails etc.] in a home is an indicator of ones maturity in life, then the proportion of those that are crystal is a measure of ones success in life. [The measure of how many are Baccarat is an indicator of how many homes one probably has]

Crystal is a beautiful thing. It's weight and transparency diametrically opposed make it a pleasure to drink from. However with Ultraloft at full capacity in matters crystal receptacle related, crystal ornamentation is the logical next rung on the ladder. These iconic chess piece candle holders from the Bay are a beauty; perfectly balancing point-turned detail with angular cuts and corners.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Dish Elopes with Spoon... Knife, and Fork


The dish ran away with the spoon. You'll recognise the plot from a popular children's nursery rhyme. As with many a child's fable however, there is a far deeper subtext to the story. The rhyme was actually written about the pictured cutlery by Italian manufacturer Pinti. 

So staggeringly beautiful was the range, that Pinti's employees would leave their families and spend days months admiring the refined profiles in polished steel, bevelled wooden trims and sculptural lines. [Design Trawler reserves the right to fabricate stories for dramatic effect]

Be under no illusion however, these are the most staggeringly beautiful utensils; suitable only for the strongest willed design cognoscenti. I'm forever indebted to the family member that gifted them to me.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Megalomaniac Six


Everyone needs an entourage. Those characters forming the foundation of your circle; eminently loyal, and guaranteed to be the source of good times. Each character will have a unique identity and role to play. The funny one, the attractive one, the smart one, and the one that's a bit random but fits right in.

Visiting John Howard's brilliantly named Megalomiac winery, I picked up six friends for Ultraloft's cellar. From the SonOfaBitch Pinot Noir, to the Coldhearted Riesling, Bravado Cabernet Sauvignon and Pompous VQA - with an entourage like this back at the loft, good times are all but guaranteed. Order Here.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Relentless Pursuit of Acquisition


A recent invitation to the Mayfair antiques gallery Mallett was both refreshing and profound. One of England's oldest antique dealers, Mallett in 2007 sold their Bourdon House gallery to Alfred Dunhill and moved to Dover Street. Unlike so many other galleries and retailers where a price tag is never to be seen; the adage 'if you have to ask the price you can't afford it' being de rigueur and horribly bourgeois in this day and age; everything at Mallet has a description and a price tag. How refreshing!

Spotting an elongated fork, and believing it to be some kind of delightfully smart executive back scratcher, the accompanying tag informed me that the antique toasting fork was silver, and could be mine for £9,000. Fast forward to the pictured glass chaise; clearly more expensive than a luxury marshmallow holder; correct; approximately ten times more expensive at £90,000.

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