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Thursday, 12 October 2017

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...

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

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.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

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...

Thursday, 14 September 2017

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, 8 September 2017

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.

Friday, 1 September 2017

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...

Thursday, 24 August 2017

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, 10 August 2017

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.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

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.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

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.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

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.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

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, 29 June 2017

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, 15 June 2017

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, 8 June 2017

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.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Commissions for my Yacht

Three years ago in Rio, I was mysteriously compelled to buy a mammoth two meter mixed-media canvas and transport it the near 6,000 miles back to London. Two years later, in moving to Ultraloft, I finally had the space to display the modernist beauty in the dining room.

Only on taking delivery of this rather smart Americas Cup IACC race yacht, did I notice the striking resemblance. Like a Mondrian portrait of Prada's Luna Rossa, it's remarkable how the hues and balance are almost identical between sailboat and canvas. I've never commissioned artwork for the home, but it appears I've skipped a step, and have instead been retrospectively commissioning art for my yacht!

I wonder if my love of neon signs means I should pick up a Las Vegas casino or two...

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Ambient Floods from Above

If for a moment, you gloss over the delectable solid steel Andrew Martin cargo book cabinet, and effortlessly overlook the Polish laser-cut typography found in Ultraloft's study, you may notice some stadium-worthy interior floodlights [remote controlled and dimmable, naturally, by bluetooth app]

Convened by Made.com as a floor light, and despite having a particularly refined flooring with which to illuminate, my thoughts instead turned to the heavens. By resting the row of five filaments on the full height cabinet and using the ceiling as a reflector, the floodlight becomes an uplight and produces a warm aura that's both functional and diffused [Batman silhouettes optional]

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Louboutin of Dustbins - Delights Absolutely

John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, the 1st Baron Acton is largely known for his famous saying "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." That may well be, but times have changed since the 1887 remark and Design Trawler isn't particularly fussed about lobbying Rome against papal infallibility. I'd like to think that if old man Acton was around today he'd be a fan of Design Trawler and instead comment "Design tends to delight, and absolute design delights absolutely".

In this respect, nothing in the Ultraloft can escape design and my insatiable desire to be delighted by everything that crosses its threshold. Absolute Design. This kitchen bin is proof that even the most mundane object can delight, and Frédéric Périgot in creating the Frisbee bin for Rossignol does just so. The Louboutin of dustbins; it features a perfect metal/epoxy finish in cement grey and contrasting removable inner in the brightest Jaffa orange. Get yours from Conran.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Bang & Olufsen - Design that Moves

This week, Design Trawler was invited to the launch of the new Beovision Avant television by Danish purveyor of desperately debonair technology Bang & Olufsen. I've previously discussed the intrinsic lack of design when it comes to televisions; after all, a flat [or even curved] panel of glass is designed to display digital design; content. Not since the Eames inspired Hannslounge have I seen a TV that's anything to write home about from a design perspective.

Until the Beovision Avant. The Bang & Olufsen designers realise that mechanical movement is a critical design factor that is set to define luxury in the digital age. The Avant features a mortised circular base and mortised mounting arm that independently turn through 180 degrees on command.

Switch it on via the remote [milled from a single price of aluminium] and the television will rotate forward to attention. Recline in your Wassily chair with a Glencairn tumbler of Blue, and the Avant will rotate to face you; adjusting the surround sound accordingly. Eat breakfast on the other side of the room and, again, the Avant will pirouette in an orbital dance to bring you Bloomberg with your benedicts...

Thursday, 13 April 2017

The Organic Alarm Clock

One year ago, Design Trawler brought you the hugely successful Design Diet [#1 - Buy an attractive rowing machine, #2 - Buy an attractive frying pan, #3 - Buy some attractive groceries]. You're welcome. But being fit as a fiddle, still won't solve the age old problem of getting out of bed in the mornings to row, cook and consume all those well designed trappings of your picture postcard life.

Fear not! For Design Trawler has the solution! For the price of ten fine, Meganesian sheepskins, expertly dyed, and stitched together by the chaps at Auskin, you can strategically position the pictured king of floor coverings alongside your sleeping platform of choice.

The unshorn long wool is scientifically proven to be the only material known to man that's more cosy than a warm bed on a cold Monday morning. Bare feel are guaranteed to be drawn to it the moment the alarm goes off. Just don't sleep on it, or you'll be sucked in to it's lustrous pile, never to emerge again.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Design Trawler's Kitchen Rider

Van Halen famously requested a bowl of M&M's with all the brown ones removed. Axl Rose had a thing for cubic melons, while Lady Gaga once insisted her dressing room feature Union Flag bunting, Pimm's, and fish & chips. The 'rider', is the list of demands presented to a venue by an artist before a performance.

Design Trawler's kitchen performances are known to rival anything that Lady Gaga can offer, and the 'kitchen rider' should be a staple for any chef exécutif. That is, the list of demands required for culinary performances. Presented in Ultraloft on an acacia wood board; simple tools and seasonings that underpin all dishes performances. Cole & Mason Seville grinders, a black marble pestle and mortar, smoked garlic, and Barbera's exquisite Lorenzo D.O.P Sicilian olive oil. Cubic melon optional.

Shown against a backdrop of vintage grey mix tiles from Topps' Boutique collection - because good graphic design is deserved in every room of the house as prophesied in our recent bulletin!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

The Design Diet - Part II

Following up on previous features on how good design can help you stay in shape [Step 1: buy a Waterrower in black American walnut] Design Trawler is back with more advice for a design led healthy lifestyle. This time, the focus shifts to the kitchen, and to this, quite frankly, pornographic, frying pan designed by Rodolfo Dordoni for KnIndustrie.

This frying pan is the most healthy frying pan in the world. Buy this frying pan and lose all appetite, for all foods, that could possibly warrant using it. To paraphrase the Rules for Living "It is better to focus on the pure joy of being close to high design than to [eat anything that involves *actually* cooking]"

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Wine Room at Ultraloft

Ultraloft, LONDON [2015] - Design Trawler is today pleased to announce the successful completion of 'Phase B' of the Private Wine Room project at Robert's Bar.

Doubling existing capacity from 130, to 260 bottles of cellar storage; spanning six digitally temperature and humidity controlled zones. The Private Wine Room at Robert's Bar will be Ultraloft's premier wine storage tasting drinking facility. 'Phase C' of development will see custom cabinetry adjoin the North and South sections with glazed storage for excessive and extravagant fleets of Riedel crystal stemware. [Ends]

Friday, 10 March 2017

Playful, Bold & Considerate at Heart

Almost one year after taking on Ultraloft, the first room renovation is complete. Starting with the heart of the home, Design Trawler's kitchen scheme takes inspiration from Clive Christian, the Southern Med and the open restaurant kitchen for a look that's warm, sharp and packed with character.

Minimalist it may not be, but if the kitchen is the heart of the home, far better that heart to be playful, bold and considerate, than generic, sterile and plain. Read on for the what and why for each element...

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Pinstripe Blankets for Blokes

In 2010 Design Trawler introduced the concept of the 'man cushion' and now, as the leaves begin to fall and temperatures drop, it's time to introduce a whole new category of masculine soft accessories! [well, apart from Iberian wolfskin throws and also those of the reindeer variety favoured by President Obama]

Continuing the theme of sartorial tailoring in the home is the pictured wool and cashmere pinstripe throw by Joop! Made in Italy, it perfectly sits alongside the suitably herringbone and crew cousins of that very first blokey bolster. Design Trawler advises against wearing it in to the office as some kind of dapper man-pashmina. The world probably isn't quite ready for that.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Love in the IKEA Carpark

It could only happen in the Ikea car park. On a quick trip to said purveyor of quality meatballs and mock-intrecciato placemats, Design Trawler's classic Saab 900 coupe made a new friend. Of all the car parks in all of the world, it had to be at Ikea! I came back to the valet station [vintage Saab's need hand valeting, obviously] to find this incredible 1978 precursor parked-up next door.

The chances of pulling up alongside a classic Swedish design icon are about as likely as finding a complete set of screws with your BESTÅ bookcase. Only 17 of Design Trawler's 1987 coupe remain on the roads, and even fewer for it's elder brother. Comparing the design side-by-side is a real treat, and it's easy to follow the evolution of one model to the next. Here's to you TWT 134L!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Planes, Yachts and Italian Scooters

I often debate with myself 'when I'm not in Ultraloft, where do I feel most at home?'. While on some days, I seem to live on the London Underground [yes, even Design Trawler commutes], there is something about a life in transit that's alluring.

As any frequent flier will tell you, the glorious feeling of being in the skies without a care, phone signal, or limit to the finely balanced bubbles that merrily dance through your eleventh glass of Krug is a contender for the prefect home away from home. So too is life on a yacht; like the aircraft; yet with more room to roam, more architectural curves, teak, chrome, azure oceans and freshly caught seafood to accompany the Dame Clicquot's finest. Or what about Italy? Grand palazzos, Italian design at it's finest, Portofino, pasta and prosecco. It's a tough decision for Design Trawler.

Imagine my surprise therefore, when I discovered a hotel that caters to this very niche home-from-home demand; part aircraft, part yacht, part Italian villaggio... it's even part tube carriage too!

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Year of the 羊 Yang

Design Trawler would like to wish readers a Happy Chinese New Year in this, the year of... [if the picture hasn't given you a clue already], the Sheep... or Goat, or Ram, depending on how you interpret your Chinese lunar symbols and abstract yet playful wire sculptures.

While the yang might be one of the least desirable zodiac symbols, old wooly has a long and celebrated design history. From the iconic $7.5m Lalanne sheep owned by Valentino and Yves Saint Lauren [here's a tip, buy yours for £199 from Not on the High St], to the Prince Charles backed Campaign for Wool, and recently championed Auskin rug of legends. May your year be prosperous and filled with fleece.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Artful Resolutions for 2017

Go Forward. That's the title of the print that's now up on the wall in Ultraloft. An ink on paper edition by Tracy Emin that's simple and pastoral. No neon handwriting, no subtext. An unmade bed, it is not.

If I did New Year's resolutions, this would probably be it. Go Forward. Continue to do what you've been doing well. No rules, or alterations required. Go Forward. Quietly, confidently, with taste and unquestionable quality. Double framed white on silver, with two mounts, on a Quink ink blue board.

Monday, 2 January 2017

How to Steal a Kandinsky

Not satisfied with pinching Damien Hirsts from Mayfair couturiers, Design Trawler's next great art heist sets the bar a little higher. How about a grand master? Something like a Kandinsky; grand master indeed of modernism; having taught at the Bauhaus and being credited as of of the world's first abstract painters. A learned economist and lawyer, I'm sure old boy Wassily would appreciate this heist. So let's begin...

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