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Monday 31 December 2012

The Shape of Things to Come

While my 2,000 year old Han Dynasty warrior head is probably my favourite design item, the most important item in my collection is something entirely different. This festive bauble is a miniature version of the Quin.MGX form, most commonly available as a pendant light, from Belgian firm Materialise.

Designed by Yale mathematician turned artist, Bathsheba Grossman, the Quin is the poster child of the 3D printing design revolution. The intricate shape would otherwise be impossible to realise. It's second only to the wheel in terms of what it represents from a design, engineering & aesthetic perspective.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Design Trawler's Design Directory

The year wouldn't be complete without a trip to 2012's World Design Capital. This year, Helsinki wore the crown and Design Trawler dropped by for 24 hours en route to Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei and Tokyo. More pictures from the Scandinavian scouting trip below.

With so many cities on the agenda, It's time to launch the Design Directory; a summary of Design Trawler's best design stores, caves and cafe's visited over the past few years. Helsinki included, find top recommendations, rated and ranked, city by city from across the globe.

Copper Hangs On - HAY

Big brother of design classic the paperclip, the wire clothes hanger is an iconic every day item. Danish design house HAY makes things a little less laundrette with these anodised aluminium hangers. Smartly finished in the must have metal; copper; the wire of the body rejoins the neck without the traditional 'twist' - a subtle detail that separates the HAY hanger from the rest. Perfect for Saville Row open rails.

Friday 30 November 2012

Surrealism and The City

I recently picked up this surrealist sculpture at the Brussels Design Market. Combining elements of Belgian surrealism, Egyptian classicism and City financialism, I find myself strangely drawn to the combination. Anonymous yet identifiable. Incomplete, and yet absorbed in detail. As yet unnamed.

Design Heroes - Prince Carl Phillip

It would seem that it isn't just Barack Obama that browses the pages of Design Trawler. This week I was invited to lunch at the residence of the Swedish Ambassador in London [No, there were no Ferrero Rochers. Yes, the Ambassador did spoil us] The purpose of the lunch was to discuss Swedish design with a selection of Stockholm's finest, presided over by Prince Carl Philip of Sweden.

The 33 year old royal studied graphic design in both Stockholm and at the Rhode Island School of Design. Since then he's designed cutlery, calendars, cd covers and an architectural fireplace guard which resides with the Ambassador in London. Refreshing to see somebody with the wold at their disposal take such an interest in design. Unsurprising perhaps, that it's a Scandinavian somebody.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Pinstripe Content by Conran

At the recent Joy of Living charity auction for Maggie's, one lot in particular caught my eye. This Alvis Chair by Benchmark designed by Sir Terrance Conran was upholstered in the instantly recognisable Saville Row pinstripe by Moon.

Which celebrity would have the taste and vision to pair dovetailed oak with sartorial lambswool I thought? If it's a footballer I'm giving up on design for ever. Thankfully, upon closer inspection, there could only be one answer. The chair was commissioned and owned by Sir Terrance Conran himself.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Flaming Fit Michelin Cooktops

The Electrolux Grand Cuisine range of appliances are designed for the very best homes in the world. Everyone is talking about the £10,000 blast chillers, vacuum sealers and computerised ovens that are used by Tom Aikens and Nuno Mendes, but the jewel from a design perspective is the bold gas hob.

Architectural cast iron supports and solid brass burners are hot as, well, the unique flower flame that automatically adjusts to the size of the pan it's heating. And boy can it heat! Demonstrated at The Royal Geographic Society, during Design Week, the Grand Cuisine was able to boil a litre of water in 60 seconds.

3m² Urban Oasis - Sauna & Hammam by Jacuzzi

There's something timelessly traditional about the sauna. All that raw wood and pouring spring water on hot coals with a gigantic ladle. It's all very Scandinavian - and while there is little wrong with the ideals of a Scandinavian Sauna, it's the Jacuzzi Company that has taken things in to 'i Generation'.

Featuring 'emotional lighting', touch screen operation with bluetooth and MP3 connectivity, the Sashi Mi, displayed at Tent London is a 3sq meter urban oasis. Jacuzzi has also incorporated an independent Hammam and rain forest shower for wellness from every latitude.

Desktop Empires by Wilson & Benn

As predicted, 2012 has been a year which has embraced golden metals such as brass, bronze and copper. This delightful playset from the brilliant Wilson & Benn is jewelry for the desk. Achingly smart industrial forms cast in iron, steel and brass have a fantastical functional story.

W&B's set of Tradesman's Wedges are design bullion to Desktop Empire's desk jewelry. Gorgeously engraved like the Bank of England's finest, the three wedges are cast in brass, phosphor bronze and gunmetal. Individually numbered masculine ingots of craft and design, function and form.

Friday 21 September 2012

London Ships-In Design Week

London Fashion Week may be over, but the trendy spectacles, air kisses and free flowing champagne aren't going anywhere. Of course, it has to be London Design Week. Some great launches at Designjunction, Designersblock and Tent London this year with the former shipped over to the old sorting office on Oxford Street.

Highlights include suitably smart container storage from Sander Mulder (pictured) perfect for the Isomodal Container Townhouse; while Buro Vormkrijgers's playful 'Woofer' speakers at $1,4000 are a practical addition to man's other best friend; the home entertainment system.

Members clubs Fold, Apartment 58 and the Hospital Club generously kept VIP's comfortable, with Maserati replacing Aston Martin as this year's luxuriously appointed taxi service.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Belgians Do It Better - Brussels Design Market

With less than a few hours notice and a Sunday to spare, this weekend I hopped over to Brussels to see what the city's Design September had to offer. The month long festival brings together over 100 design launches, exhibitions, pop up shops and the flagship Brussels Design Market.

Expecting something similar to the bi-annual Puces Des Design in Paris, the Brussels Design Market is a veritable candy store for any design enthusiast; and by far trumps the rival fair across the border. Set in a mammoth former customs hall, the market boasts hundreds of dealers, champagne bar, classic cars and thousands of mid to late 20th Century design gems.

The Continent-Busting Cooktop by Stoves

When it came to selecting a new countertop hob for the Man Cave, I thought the decision would be easy. The best looking, most beautifully designed, flawlessly engineered hob would of course come from the continent. But would it be from Gaggenau or Gorenge whose alluring names boast designer collaborations with Karim Rashid and Pininfarina? or from the likes of Bosch or Miele; confident poster children of the Vorsprung durch Technik generation?

Surprisingly, the most attractive cooktop isn't of German design. It doesn't even carry a designer price tag. Designed and manufactured by hand in Britain by Stoves, the CR600 is the clear winner. Achingly elegant, the ceramic hob features chrome rotary controls [no thank you, flash touchscreen displays, we like our tactile knobs and buttons!] and a flush, frameless surface with clean and iconic indicators.

Thursday 30 August 2012

The Design Guide to Warsaw

An impromptu weekend in Warsaw can only mean one thing (apart from getting familiar with fine Polish Vodkas). Heavyweight architect Daniel Libeskind aside, Poland isn't immediately recognised as a design destination -- while Krakow is well known for it's bohemian cafe culture, Warsaw is the angsty capital fashioned in post-soviet concrete. If there is design to be found in Poland it's going to be here.

Pies Cyz Suka is the main hub for design in the city. It exhibits design items, ceramics, fashion and art from local Polish designers as well as it's own range of quirky resin dogs, sharks and religious lamps. Centred around a courtyard with molecular mixology bar, the gastro-store/cafe Red Onion is steps away and also a strong design player in the capital.

Lody na patyku, a unique minimal ice-cream bar is worth a visit if you're fond of skinny jeans and hipster haircuts. Tratoria Rucola and the famous Charlotte cafe is where successful young things go to see and be seen. Of course if you're Daniel Libeskind, Flaming & Co is the Ralph Lauren styled venue of choice; combining champagne bar, terraced restaurant and furniture store all on the same park square.

If Christian Louboutin Did Cookware

...It'd probably look like this. With a silver turned exterior, sleek black surface and red hot handle, this is about as close as cookware will get to the French shoemaker famed for his red lacquered soles. The red handled pans keep things decidedly 'va va voom' coming from France's family run DeBuyer company.

Available from the Conran Shop priced from £25, I consulted the previously mentioned 'rule book' to see what UnhappyHipsters.com had to say about design in the kitchen: "Follow the golden rule of three: When the chef is standing at the centre island, visitors must be able to see at least three rare and expensive cooking items" Check. "Cookware is best unsullied by organic matter such as food. Keep in mind that cooking doesn't actually need to happen - it's actually advisable that is doesn't - but the design must imply that it could" Double Check.

Free Spirits - Signage by Stout Industries

Manufactured in St. Louis since 1886 by Stout Industries, I picked up this vintage gas station sign on the other end of the world at the Acme store in Meguro, Tokyo. At first glance, the admission that no tax is included seems a little peculiar. Once part of a $ and ¢ price sign, this end leaf has a great typographic quality about it. Now it makes perfect sense, on the face of the 'furniture as metaphor' home bar where drinks cost 0 [Tax Included]

Thursday 5 July 2012

Frequent Flyers - Vain Ducks

Passing through the British Airways lounge at Brussels airport, I spotted a fun series of photographs by Edinburgh born artist Anna Boggon. The series, features a number of mirror houses scattered throughout the open farmyard at Hackney City Farm. Resident ducks flirt and preen at their reflections in the smart, architectural surroundings.

I can't help but think, is this supposed to be a jibe at frequent flyers? Jostling amongst one another for top-tier status before hitting the sky? it should be. Or, perhaps it says more about Design Trawler than it does about the artist?

Scent of Succsess - Gold for Molton Brown

I mentioned back in January that 2012 was a year for golden metals. The new fragrance from Molton Brown, purveyor of locker-room staple black pepper, firmly agrees. Londinium, in limited edition gold for the Olympics, is described as having notes of bergamont, oakmoss and malt whisky. A capital blend with gold medal design from £75.

Flavia Liz - Tornado of a Tour Guide

Sometimes even a relative pro in the field of Design Trawling needs a little help. After living in Brazil for nearly 9 months, I was put in touch with Flavia Liz De Paolo; somewhat of a rainmaker in the city of Sao Paulo. Her brief? Bring the best of the city's design and urban/contemporary art scene to the Editor and Chief of DesignTrawler.com

With less than 24 hours to put together an itinerary, read how this force of a private tour guide whipped out the key to the city, showing me more city in 3 hours than I was able to see in 9 months.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Faceless Masterpiece - Gideon Rubin

Is it that time of year already? It seemed like only yesterday that Pullman, pulled up with the ultimate Man Cave. Descending on London, Masterpiece brought it's usual gaggle of dealers, collectors and collective millionaires to get down to the serious business of Ruinart-fuelled acquisition.

My favourite this year came from the world's oldest champagne house. Israeli born artist, Gideon Rubin was commissioned to create twelve iconic portraits on recycled Ruinart stock. Gideon's signature portraits omit facial detail, yet his subjects are instantly recognisable [and his paintings instantly desirable]. Only true icons need apply.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Sao Paulo and the Resin Gnomes

Typical, you wait for a gnome and ten come along at once.. After eight months of Design Trawling in Sao Paulo, I came across Coletivo Amor De Madre. Considered by many to be one of the best design stores in the country, the collective, run by Olivia Yassudo Faria also shares it's owner with the one of the countries best contemporary design galleries.

Alongside familiar objects seen in Moscow's DesignBoom, the collective store also exclusively represents a number of Brazilian designers and, unusually, commissions it's own works too. I particularly liked the resin gnomes pictured; reminiscent of the amazing jelly sculptures by Mauro Perucchetti and at a fraction of the Halcyon/Harrods price.

New Designers - His Remastered Voice

At the New Designers preview this week, rather embarrassingly I turned up on the wrong day. Greeted with an exhibition of the UK's most promising graduates in textiles, fashion and jewelry design, I recoiled at turning up at what was essentially the 'Ladies Day' of the London design scene.

Well it seems somebody else made the same mistake. Technically part of the glass and ceramic category, this contemporary gramophone style speaker blew me away. Paul Wearden's fully functioning 'invasion of sound' should have been exhibited alongside product, furniture and graphics, and I for one would love to see it put in to production.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Design Trawler Unmasked - First Interview

Celebrating the second birthday of DesignTrawler.com, Editor in Chief and international ambassador of the Man Cave shares some personal perspectives about design and the Design Trawler story. Cover blown, expect Design Trawler to now attend launches, previews and openings in full disguise. Read the full interview and what Design Trawler really thinks of David Guetta and superhero bedsheets below.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

A+ for Sao Paulo's Design Playboy

So you're the owner of one of Brazil's most glamorous nightclubs. Pulling in toned and tanned Paulistanos every night, the champagne and profits flowing healthily. You want to expand the business but another club would dilute the brand. Trendy wine bar? Hipster record label? How about a furniture/design shop?

How about three? Seconds away from Club A in Sao Paulo lives Artefacto [pictured], one of the strongest design stores in town. Moments away from that, Artefacto Basic and Artefacto Beach & Country; both equally exceptional. The perfect design empire, can you just imagine our playboy's man cave?

Design Castaway - Finding Wilson

This week I'll have sailed past the 100 night mark staying in one particular South American hotel. That's 100 nights this year away from the London mancave. Collecting passport stamps and airmiles, while an important part of design trawling, can make for a Robinson Crusoe like existence.

Much like Tom Hanks in the film Castaway, I've found myself interacting with creating human character in design. In my case, Wilson the volleyball becomes Manny the mannequin and marble bust [as yet, unnamed]. As humans, we have a natural disposition to engage with humanistic forms in art and design. It's why Magritte's Son of Man carries more weight than a still life of a bowl of fruit. By the same token, it's why my sunglasses find themselves playfully perched on a marble bust rather then in a beautifully designed leather tray. That, or I'm suffering withdrawal symptoms from Carlos the Cowhide.

Sunday 29 April 2012

Searching for the Light - TVR Halogens

No I'm not about to go all evangelical, well, not in the traditional sense at least. I recently spotted these interesting halogen bulbs that flood the bathroom in a cool and trendy 'W Hotel' aqua. What's interesting however is how the same bulb diffuses purple light at the perimeter and blue light at the focal.

The halogen equivalent of the two-tone chromaflare paint used by British sportscar maker TVR, I can't work out how it's done. While it may be one thing to 'accidentally' pack a hotel bathrobe, swiping light bulbs is probably the beginning of a slippery slope; inevitably leading to the liberation of several thousand pounds of hotel artwork; and a not so liberal stay at a different kind of hotel.

Bowing House - Now in Hardback Flavour

It's official, Dom Arigato, the bowing house has been published in the 240 page hardback retrospective of the Arigato Project for Tokyo Designers Week. Available in stores and on-line through Gestalten. The second house after the Isomodal Container Townhouse; here's hoping that house #3 makes it through to the bricks and mortar stage. Book signings and new commissions welcome!

Saturday 7 April 2012

The £25,000 Champagne Label Wall

You know how it is; you've invited over some friends to admire your new moose head and before you know it, you're down 176 bottles of Louis Roeder's finest and nursing a headache that gives aforementioned elk a run for it's money.

With a nod to the famous penny floor in the kitchen, and not wanting to put them to waste, I set about wallpapering the dining area with the individual champagne labels. A mixture of 2002 Cristal, Brut Millésimé and Brut Premier, the wall has a retail value of £25,000 and a vulgarity that's priceless.


Thursday 29 March 2012

Design Solidarity - A Black Ribbon for Habitat

It's not often that contemporary high street designs street become iconic classics. Designed in 2004, this smart ribbon light designed by Claire Norcross for Habitat, has been relentlessly invading homes, hotels and design bibles.

Synonymous with the furniture store that Sir Terrance Conran founded in 1964, the single profile of cleverly shaped steel is bold, sharp and sophisticated; ideal for man cave side lighting. This demure black version is available from £40 and also serves as a subtle nod of solidarity with the struggling British design institution.

Retro Design Cripples Innovation - Looks Great

Flicking recently through Wired Magazine, I read an excellent article by Clive Thompson. It [brilliantly] argues that "retro design is crippling innovation". Introducing skeumorphs; or design elements necessary in the past but carried forward to the present, where technically no longer required.

Skeumorphs can hold back design, especially digital design. Where mechanics are still required however, form shaped by function can still be beautiful. Take this speedometer style thermometer/hydrometer from Mitsukoshi in Ginza. I'm not sure if a speedo style thermometer is an unoriginal skeumorph, but it does look great in the bathroom.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Coffee Table Camp Fires

More white charcoal from J.Period - this time in the living room. The porcelain-like Japanese carbon absorbs odours, but far more importantly, looks enigmatic and sculptural in the silver Malteser dispenser from Argentina. Like a metaphorical campfire in the middle of the room, perfect for toasting metaphorical marshmallows... or tangerines.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

The Old New Masters - A Collector's Narrative

One of the first canvases I ever purchased, Stacked Bars from German gallery Artline in Erfurt adorned the walls of my student room at University. I liked how the architectural steel linkages between the canvasses invited the wall to become part of the artwork [that and it was easy to dismantle and transport home at the end of every term!]

While I wouldn't necessarily buy Stacked Bars now, and it does take up valuable 'wall estate' which could be used for work with more pedigree, establishing a narrative over time is as important for a collector as it is for an artist. As far as collections are concerned, it's easy to make new additions, but considerably less easy to make old additions.

Club Dining for Small Spaces

Unless you live in a duplex penthouse, it's unlikely that your city apartment will have a separate dining room. Even then, I remember being shocked by the $35,000 a night Penthouse at the Four Seasons New York, having a dining table in the living room for only 4-6 persons.

Where space is at a premium, dining chairs with arms [pictured from Dwell] create an ambiance of clubby comfort. Upholstered chairs with arms help diffuse the line between living and dining and are as suitable for coffee and cake as they are for a candlelit dinner. If seating more than four or going formal however, ditch the arms... or some diners.

Venetian Blinds Take Off - BA's First Class Cabin

Flying recently in British Airway's new First cabin, I was most impressed by the 'on the ground' approach to the cabin interior design. From the same team responsible for styling Aston Martin and Jaguar [it shows], the cabin features design touches more in line with an luxury apartment Conran showroom than a conventional airline seat.

Take for example the dusky illuminated electronic blinds that span several window profiles or Starck Archimoon style individual reading lights. If airline cabin components can find a home in residential interiors, then it stands to reason that venetian blinds and reading lights work just as well in the sky [and yes, evidently, as does Puss in Boots]

Friday 13 January 2012

Bathtime Supplies for Men

Back in the bathroom with a selection of mancave friendly bathroom supplies. Pictured alongside the previously mentioned Cote Bastide Ambre 'bubble bath for blokes' are a selection of hair and body products from self-proclaimed 'official suppliers to men' American Crew, mandarin and peppermint salts from Japan Based apothecary Marks & Web and hakutan white charcoal chunks from Bal's J.Period concept stores [shown on C74 Marukei Melamineware from Comme De Garcon's Good Design Shop, Omotesando by D&Department Project]

Rules for Living by UnhappyHipsters.com

Another excellent find from Livraria Cultura in Sao Paulo, It's Lonely in the Modern World is the sort of book that anyone that enjoys reading DesignTrawler.com should run out and buy immediately. A manifesto for all Saab driving, house proud modernists [or those aspiring to be such], the book lays out in spectacular detail 'the rules'.

The rules of what exactly? Take for example the extract that advises, when hosting a dinner party "The number of kitchen appliances on display should be inversely proportionate to the number of guests" or for the bathroom "Choose a steel seat and use it to hold a single folded towel". Of course, it's all a bit of fun... apart from of course, when it's all absolutely true, which is all of the time...

"Most people have become attached to the idea of 'comfort' when sitting. With modern furniture, however, it is important to rethink your concept of what is comfortable. In a thickly cushioned chair, your body may be supported - but at what price to your design values? Your intellect? It is better to focus on the pure joy of being close to high design than to slump into an overstuffed chair for a nap" - UnhappyHipsters.com

Self Destructing Typography

Browsing through the shelves of designer-perfect stationary in the excellent Delfonics Marunouchi stationers in Tokyo, I spotted this typographic wall calendar. Designed by Ornella Noorda for Milan based design house Nava Design, it features tear-off sheets of meter-long months.

The simple colour combinations and clever use of language, typographic size, geometry and spacing make it more NYC Subway Map fine art print than international calendar. At first, the prospect of ripping to bits, month by month, this work of brilliance filled me with terror. It still does, but the prospect of destroying each beautiful leaf, revealing another combination of colours and numbers until nothing is left [sob] is instantly more thrilling.

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