Sep 12, 2014

5 Questions For: Rachel Ravitch, jewelry designer

Name: Rachel Ravitch
Title: Designer
Company: Rachel Ravitch

Which of your designs or projects are you most excited about right now and why?
I'm currently collaborating with designers April Pride and Vanessa Lang. With April Pride, I have created a line of python jewelry. It was totally April's idea to use python. We are using unglazed python, which is less common. The scales create an incredibly beautiful texture and look like thousands of tiny gemstones on the surface of the pieces. With Vanessa Lang, I have incorporated porcelain with my classic lambskin jewelry. Porcelain, like lambskin, is both durable and lightweight. There is a sense of frailty and longevity in both. The silhouettes we have created really take advantage of the materials. 

Tell us three words that embody your design philosophy.
Function. Flexibility. Interaction. 

What's your favorite place in the Pacific Northwest and why?
I am in love with the northern part of the coastline in Washington. It's just a magical place. You have these old-growth forests running into the ocean. It's just breathtaking. I spend several days there in the wilderness camping every summer. 

Who or what are you inspired by right now?
I just moved into a new studio, which feels amazing. It has 10-foot ceilings, enormous windows, and fir floors. I'm so inspired by this space. I now have the space to make just about any project feasible, which is just about the most inspiring thing ever. 

What do you think of the color gray?
Gray is the meeting place between two extremes—white and black. White is the absolute absence of color. It needs light to be seen in its purest form. Black is a mix of all the colors. Its tone is unaffected by light. Gray represents the place in between these two states—it relies on both the absence of and presence of every color. 

Photo by Ayaka Tanabe.

Sep 10, 2014

Party Pages: Seattle Design Festival Block Party

This year, Seattle Design Festival invited designers from around the city to participate in the SDF Rumble, a collaborative brainstorm of ideas that would eventually become large-scale, instructive installations in Occidental Square, the heart of Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood. Nine teams assembled, each with a group of designers, a contractor and an activity partner such as Hub and Bespoke, Parkour Visions, and Tarboo Inc. Coming together for meetings in the months leading up to the festival, each team worked under an overarching subject (information, material, performance, science, digital technologies, the body, mind, transportation, and pop-up!) to create an installation channeling the theme Design in Motion. We stopped by the party on Saturday to check out the final installations, watch the public interact, and celebrate living in a city that loves great design. 

Images by Alexa Helsell.

Room of the Week: Brian Paquette Interiors

Category: Living Room
Designer: Brian Paquette, Brian Paquette Interiors
Location: Seattle

Goal: The clients, a creative husband-and-wife team living in Seattle’s Tangletown neighborhood, loved their modern house, but wanted a relaxed, Moroccan-inspired living room where they could hang out with friends. Being located between the dining room and kitchen, the living room receives a lot of foot traffic and is a main gathering place when people visit.

Inspiration: Interior designer Brian Paquette took inspiration from a Moroccan-inspired house that Roman and Williams decorated for actress Kate Hudson.

Breakdown: After removing the carpet and replacing all light fixtures throughout the house, Paquette united the pieces with a sophisticated color palette of black, cream, and various grays. “The décor could do well in really bright light but also really dim lamplight, or with candles,” he says, “and that was really important. They entertain a lot.” A Lawson Fenning chair custom upholstered in a light gray Pindler fabric (the custom bolster is Kerry Joyce textiles) fabric was the anchor piece for the room—much of the décor was chosen around that piece. The black leather Chesterfield-style sofa is from Restoration Hardware, and the layered rugs are from West Elm (larger rug) and Totokaelo (smaller rug). The coffee table is from Morocco.

Tips to Get the Look: “Go slow,” Paquette says. “Be intentional and find that one piece that rounds out the whole room and decorate around it, whether it be art of a piece of really great furniture.”

Images courtesy of Brian Paquette Interiors.

Sep 9, 2014

Modern Bathroom Picks from Chown Hardware

Having almost put all the finishing touches on our big kitchen and bath issue (it hits newsstands in October!) it's no wonder we have all things kitchen and bath on our minds. So it was serendipitous timing that we learned of Chown Hardware's recent logo update. This 135-year-old company is an institution around these parts, and we're excited to see them grow yet again. Cheers to the evolution, 135 years, and to our 5 modern picks for your next project.

Logo circa 1940s:

Previous logo: 

New logo:

In celebration of Chown's new logo, here are five modern picks from Chown, chosen by GRAY's style director, Stacy Kendall:

Weststyle Bathtub

Dornbracht Kitchen Faucet

Robern Medicine Cabinet

Waterworks Tray

Atlas Homewares Cabinet Pull

Sep 8, 2014

Product of the Week: A Roundup of Ties from PDX

This product of the week is three for one! It's New York Fashion Week, and there's a reason that it falls in the fallfashion is at its best when the weather is crisp and there are parties to attend. Three Portland-based menswear companies ensure that no neck will go naked, nor unfashionable. Each company has a large focus on bowties (which we love, especially for winter), but we've brought you the classic necktie from Natural Born EleganceBowyer & Fletcher, and Harding & Wilson. Tie one on the next time you tie one on!

McCoy, $88 at Harding & Wilson. Image courtesy Harding & Wilson.

Noir, $130 at Bowyer & Fletcher. Image courtesy Bowyer & Fletcher.

Richter in Iridescent Blue Plaid, $150 at Natural Born Elegance. Image courtesy Natural Born Elegance.

"Ties" image courtesy Harding & Wilson.

SDF2014: Q&A with Susan Szenasy

Susan Szenasy is the editor and publisher of Metropolis, the New York City–based architecture, design, and culture magazine. Tonight, as a part of the Seattle Design Festival, Szenasy is joined by designer Natalia Ilyin and University of Washington landscape historian Thaisa Way for a discussion of Szenasy's career, and the way design affects our everyday lives. We were able to catch up with her in anticipation of tonight's event.

Is this your first time in Seattle? If so, what are you most looking forward to? If not, what are some of your favorite architectural highlights?

I have been coming to Seattle for at least two decades, always on some business trip or another. These trips usually introduce me to some stellar architects, developers, designers who make the city a special place. To me Seattle feels lively, textured, young and optimistic. This may the combination of how well history lives with new development, how the brick city relates to glass and steel, each giving the other room to breathe.

On my most recent trip I visited the Bullitt Center, a game changing office building that has become a beacon to environmentally aware architects, planners, citizens from everywhere. There I felt that I was part of something that is changing our world or the better; saw how a building can make us healthier while making the city cleaner and its environment less stressed. The Bullitt experience made me think how important and hopeful real innovation is to everyone, from the mechanic to the architect to the folks who work there.

Can you describe your "Design Advocate" book in three sentences? What does it mean to be a design advocate, and why is that important?

The only way to be a design advocate is to care about design and designers, to believe that they can make our world better. I have always believed this and this belief makes me hold designers to a high standard of ethical and professional behavior. When I'm critical, I'm actually advocating for them to do a better job, the kind of job that I know they're itching to do.

What would you say is the most significant or important thing you've learned or discovered in the course of your career?

I discovered early on that a curious mind, a sturdy body, and an optimistic spirit go a long way. I also realized that homework is forever, that each day I have to learn a bunch of new things to keep up with the ever-growing body of knowledge that goes into creating the best designed environments that easily mesh with the natural environment and human nature.

What is your advice for young people interested in getting involved in the design field? 

Look at it, every chance you get. Stare at architecture for some time, see how it changes as the light changes; look at the shapes and materials of products you love and try to define why you love them so; look at films and how they represent the designed environment through set design to location design, in fact look at old films, black and white films, that show the urban condition in high contrast. And read everything you can put your hands on. Seeing and reading can lead to an understanding mind and a sympathetic heart.

What do you think are some of the most important or pressing issues architects and designers will be forced to face in the next 20 years as the world population explodes, cities grow, and space shrinks?

The things we used to call green, sustainable, or environmentally sensitive began to scratch the surface of what designers need to think about for the next 20 years. But in our times of dramatic climate change and massive population growth, the demands on designers—in fact on all of us—are much more complex than they ever were. Today and going forward our designers need to think of buildings that breathe as well as collect and clean their own water, products and finishes that are safe to be around, and finding ways to connect people to nature—this implies that a whole system of connectivity needs to be understood and practiced. I'm with Bucky Fuller, I admire systems, not small fixes but studying the larger implications of everything we do. This requires connecting with people and information on a very intense level; our mobile technology is already helping us with one part of that connectivity (information), now we need to figure out how to connect with each other.

Sep 3, 2014

Room of the Week: Kelly Lyons, K & L Interiors

Category: Bathroom
Architect: Kelly Lyons, K & L Interiors
Location:  Walla Walla, Washington

Goal: Seattle-based interior designer Kelly Lyons helped her clients remodel their 1900s farmhouse in phases, with the bathroom being one of the last areas to be renovated. Lyons wanted to give them a sophisticated and modern master bath while respecting the heritage of the farmhouse.

Inspiration: “The color inspirations came from a beautiful quilt that Leslie had made for their adjacent master bedroom, which was filled with warm grays, creams and soft yellows,” Lyons says. “The style was inspired by mixing the functionality of farmhouse design with transitional details like the beveled tile wainscot.”

Breakdown: One major factor that Lyons and her team had to consider for this project was the fact that is the only bathroom on the ground floor of the house, so it would not only serve as the master bath, but the powder room for guests, as well. After relocating the vanity and shower, the width of the new shower was increased by taking unused space in their adjacent master bedroom closet. A custom white rift oak built-in crafted by Richards & Lees Cabinet Shop was designed for extra storage and laundry. As a great bonus for chilly mornings the floor was given new heated porcelain tile from Pental Granite & Marble. Lyons treated the walls with beveled tile wainscot and Jane Churchill damask wallpaper through The Dixon Group, and a new custom vanity was designed complete with a Calacatta Gold marble countertop and under-mount sinks. Finishing touches include framed lit inset medicine cabinets and three sconces above the sink, both from Restoration Hardware.

Tips to Get the Look: “You can re-create this look on a budget with a few key substitutions,” Lyons says. “First, start with a lower-priced marble like Carrara Bianco or even the new faux-marble solid surface material like Pental Quartz “Carrara” or “Calacatta”. By finding a remnant piece that suits the vanity size and only using it there can save you from having to purchase an entire slab of material. The other alternative would be to purchase a pre-made vanity with the top included from somewhere like Restoration Hardware. Lastly, replace the beveled tile with plain 3x6 tile on the wainscot and in the shower.”

Images courtesy of K & L Interiors.