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REVIEW: AJ Specification ‘Live’ Kitchen and Bathrooms

The AJ Specification Live kitchen and bathrooms was one of the best lectures that I had attended. Interestingly on the programme, it says ‘kitchen’ singular and ‘bathrooms’ plural. But there was more than one kitchen presented. In fact I was so enthralled it was the first time I did not take any notes and the time went very quickly. With my fellow cartel* member, Lisa Harmey, we schlepped to Liverpool Street to a rooftop room in Wallacespace Studios in Artillery Street last night.

The speakers were Maria Cheung from Squire and Partners, Nate Kolbe from Superfusionlab and Gary Tynan from Studio 304. It was interesting to compare and contrast every designer’s rationale behind what they were and had been doing. For example the very corporate and commercial approach of Squire with oversized bathrooms and muted international hotel style palettes, the continuous and seamless almost spaceship-like surfaces of Nate’s projects bringing to mind Stanley Kubrick’s stage sets and the alternative and indie innovation of Studio 304’s designs –copper worktops, Japanese sunken baths and use of timber screening and techniques.

 AJ editor Rob Wilson chaired the meeting. Was expecting to see actual kitchens and bathrooms but was impressed and surprised at the range of form, function, thought and consideration given to spaces that are generally budget eaters. The visuals were disappointingly small on Maria’s presentation when the blank sheet of slide was so huge. The others had visuals that were well-proportioned when viewed on screen. It was a very special treat because you do not normally get to see these firms or any firms talking about design. It was very enlightening to hear other designers designsplaining in designerese.

Choice of materials, textures and technology affect the way we assess a brief, not to mention the social pressures now of branding, identity and instagrammability (that must be a word) which Maria brought up during the Q&A. Choice of snacks could be better as the crostinis (green pesto, red pesto and black olive tapenade) were delicious and served on black slate tiles but a bit brittle, not that I have dentures, but others might. The bits of toast were crumbly and flew off in different directions which reminds one of the importance of the continuity of surfaces. When one designs, it is easy to forget that instant, daily, weekly, yearly maintenance is part of the sustainability of a product or design. I find it useful to think like a cleaner when I am designing kitchens and bathrooms. All the problems I have in my own home came about because I did not think like a cleaner.

Conclusion:  Lisa and I also chatted to Nate about clients and estate agents and the constant conflict between commercial viability of projects and true artistic intent. I think it is really important to be inspired by these events and strive to break moulds, and to push artistic statements, otherwise there will be no art in this world, no culture, no history. Everybody will just be wrapped round in beige carpet and beige walls. It was good also to meet Rob Wilson. How often do you meet an architect who is also a writer? Unfortunately we did not get to talk to Gary Tynan of Studio 304 or Maria of Squire as we ran out of time. Thanks to AJ, Rob Wilson, and the speakers.

Caveat: all views are mine. Nobody paid me to say anything and I am saying it.

Cartel kɑːˈtɛl/ noun: an association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition. The cartel mentioned consists of only three. The third member could not make it.

Programme and About Page

Programme and About Page

Programme Cover and About Miele

Programme Cover and About Miele

AJ copy

AJ copy

Rob Wilson introducing the speakers

Rob Wilson introducing the speakers

INTERVIEW: Anthony Cozens talks to Ivy Ngeow

Anthony: How old were you when you decided you wanted to be an architect?

Ivy: I was 18 years old. I had finished my A levels. I excelled at art, mathematics and music and didn’t know how to marry the three as I was no good at the arts or the sciences per se. I knew I had to do something technical and vocational, that was my instinct. My uncle was an architect in Melbourne, Australia and influenced my decision-making to go to Uni and study Architecture. But he discouraged me as the money was sh1t and he was in debt even though he had won awards. As I was a teenager, I did not listen to his advice and did it anyway. I have now been doing it for 23 years. I have worked in the Caribbean, Singapore, Malaysia, Sydney and London.

A: What is your favourite / least favourite part of pitching a design or idea to a client?

I: My favourite part is dressing up in extremely smart clothes (hair, makeup, everything done) and rehearsing the pitch blow by blow until it is a star performance, until it is ‘pitch perfect’. Then when you get there and do the pitch, it feels like a breeze and they like you. It doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it, they just have to like you and the rest will fall into place. If they don’t like you, you can forget it, you won’t stand a chance, so again, we come back to ‘it doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it’. The least favourite part of a pitch is dealing with clients who ask you to bring your portfolio but they don’t even look at it because they are too busy talking about their own project, so you know they are not actually interested in you despite potentially hiring you. They keep asking tons of questions after the pitch via phone or email but you still have not got the job, no contract, they just want free advice for as long as possible and they are time wasters.

A: How does it feel to see something that used to be in your head now existing in the world?

I: A sense of belonging. Though most people say pride, I say humility. Nothing is more humbling than seeing an edifice you made/created that will outlive you. You are just a speck in the timeline of space. For a few decades that you are still physically able and mentally fit, you create, and a handful of your creations would survive for maybe even more than a few centuries.

A: What is your favourite part of your job?

I: Design, assembling sample boards, making mood boards, talking concepts, meeting clients, site inspections, coffee, alcohol, product launch parties, more alcohol, the usual perks of any job.

A: What is your least favourite part of your job?

I: Invoicing, accounts, dealing with the council, red tape, protocol, forms, surveys, fire sprinkler system layouts, escape routes, airconditioning ducting, radiator size calculations, building control, English Heritage, listed buildings, sh1t pay, there are too many to list. Architecture is the least paid of any of the building industry professions, probably three pay tiers up from the bricklayer.

A: What is the worst / most annoying tiny detail you’ve had to worry over for a job?

I: There is nothing to worry about. There are a lot of deadline based projects but again, there is nothing to worry about. Just meet the deadlines. Just don’t screw up and you will sleep well. Remember there is no bad detail, just bad design.

A: What one bit of advice would you give to other architects?

I: It’s all down to the bottom line. The client and the contract are key to great design and getting paid. Get a good contract and stick to it. Get paid. Get a feel for good clients and stay with them all the way. Stay away from the bad clients.

A: If you could design any type of building, pre-existing or not, what would it be?

I: I would like to design interconnecting studio live-work pods for a meditation, creative writing, music or art centre, over a rocky beach in an isolated dramatic place with Lavazza coffee and no wifi.

 

Anthony Cozens (born 1978) is an English television and film actor, also known appearing in the film Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj. He was educated and trained at the Oxford School of Drama.

Ivy Ngeow is a practising architect and interior designer who has just written a book! It is called Heart of Glass. It is a modern literary thriller set in the 1980s in Chicago and Macau, cities famous for their architecture and design. Ivy is raising funds through crowdfunding for her book project. It is on week 5 of the campaign and 44% funded. Please support and help her (and her currently 74 supporters) make it happen! Heart of Glass is available for pre-order here.

 

My Christmas cards have arrived from the printers

Christmas Card 2017

front

front

Yay! What do you think? I am going for a Victorian Gothic theme this year. I so love gothic, or should that be Gothic with a capital G? I shall try to incorporate gargoyles in my designs in 2017. No wait. Next year, I’d like to go steampunk, please.

inside

inside

Part II/Part III Architectural Assistant required

NEON help wanted sign

You need to be:

  • Truly excellent at AutoCAD,
  • Good at sketch up, Photoshop,
  • Excellent technical knowledge,
  • Reading and writing perfect English,
  • Savvy at social media,
  • Able to write specifications,
  • Able to write schedule of works,
  • Able to write blogs,
  • Attending site meetings as and when,
  • Able to write minutes/reports,
  • Familiar with building technology and terminology,
  • Working from home, meet on site as and when,
  • Acting as and being, my locum,
This would suit
  • individual looking for a sideline, mums, students, graduates, MA students not minding ad hoc/ deadline-based work and who is flexible about these things,
  • someone friendly, organised, well-presented, thorough, showing initiative and ability to work on own independently,
  • someone who would like to be working for sole practitioner of a friendly, professional, top quality practice.

No need to make coffee, I make very good coffee.

Pay

£18/hour or AUD34/hour or RM105/hour or 23 Euros/hour.

Apply

With CV, samples of work, samples of writing, references, name, address, and phone number.

Puustelli Miinus Kitchens – Eco from Start to Finnish

Finnish design has always been world famous. Since I was a student I had been a big fan of Alvar Aalto. I’ve flown home on Finnair and stopped over in Helsinki. The landscape, climate and the people are tough. They build quality things to last many lifetimes and not for throwing away. Therefore their ethos has always been ethical.

At the Finnish Ambassador’s residence last night, I was given a glimpse into the future and how kitchens would ideally be made.

A journey back in time

Exterior- guests arrival

Exterior- guests arrival

It was wonderful to escape the appalling weather outside. Standing outside on the gravel drive, you would feel like Jane Eyre. The residence itself was of remarkable architectural merit and they could not have chosen a better venue to showcase lifestyle sustainability issues.  Guests were well-dressed and it was like going back to a 1950s party, to a time of classic elegance, arches framed with columns and topped with Corinthian capitals, acanthus leaf cornicing, panelled walls with rich motifs, triptychs, pelmets, egg and dart dado rails, modern figurative art in gilt frames and midcentury modern furniture, piano and cello music, crystal chandeliers, a Steinway Grand in the bay window.

midcentury modern furniture

midcentury modern furniture

Jussi Aine and Tony Lonnqvist

Following a talk by CEO Jussi Aine*, project manager Tony Lonnqvist* (who incidentally reminded me of Leonardo di Caprio), said:

“Puustelli are the largest and longest established kitchen brand in Finland and our goal is to build upon the success of Scandinavian design in the UK and Ireland with a network of reputable retailers offering our Miinus kitchen range to service and satisfy a growing market of responsible buyers seeking quality Eco products”.

steinway in bay window

steinway in bay window

Puustelli’s Miiinus Kitchen Range will fall in the mid range price sector (four times that of a melamine kitchen, he said) and they expect to grow the network of Miinus retailers to 5 to 7 showrooms in 2016. There are many small showrooms in Finland, one in Stockholm, one in Minnesota and one in Leeds, said Lonnqvist. “Miinus kitchens have no chipboard or MDF. We have re-designed the carcass and it is skeletal in construction. It is affordable luxury in modular form, so in 2 to 3 days, an entire kichen can be fitted. It is strong and hardwearing, and there is a 30 year guarantee.” He also made a joke that if a client gets rid of the kitchen after 10 years, there is still 20 years left on the guarantee when he Ebays it.

Ian Sandford

was the third speaker, who said he had not given a speech since his wedding. He runs Four Seasons Design in Leeds which showcases Miinus Kitchen in the UK. “The population of Finland is just bigger than London’s, yet the country is 50% bigger than the UK,” he said. Developers should consider Miinus in order to tick the green box.

Food and refreshments

I experienced the famous Finnish hospitality. Canapes were top quality Scandinavian, we had venison, asparagus mousse, salmon and dill amongst. Even the macaroons were in a chic Paris grey colour!

guests

guests

Oscar Pistorius lookalike waiter

Oscar Pistorius lookalike waiter

guests

guests

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exterior - view of rear garden

Exterior - view of rear garden

midcentury modern art

midcentury modern art

midcentury modern art

midcentury modern art

Musicians

Jonathan and Robert Roozeman (the 51 year old father of 17 year old Jonatha)n provided the music, all Chopin. They played three pieces. No 65 Cello Sonata, 3rd movt, Nocturne in E flat major, Grand Duo.

 

#nocturne in #kensington #live E flat #Chopin #piano #cello #lastnight #live

A video posted by Satsuma World (@ivyngeow) on


 

L-R Jonathan and Robert Roozeman

L-R Jonathan and Robert Roozeman

guests

guests

queen and ambassador

queen and ambassador

the very beautiful steinway up close

the very beautiful steinway up close

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s in the goody bag

goody bag and contents

goody bag and contents

In a very stylish hessian goody bag, there is an eco cookbook, a butter knife, a brochure and two social network cards. A very thoughtful and practical gift. I will use the butter knife straightaway with my breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*End note: I did not take any photos during the talks by both the CEO and the project manager as I thought it wold be a bit rude since there was not a single iPhone in sight or anybody clicking away. Plus it was a consulate building. When I asked permission, the organisers kindly allowed me to take photos during the drinks and canapes session, hence there just a few photos on this blog.

Caveat Emptor: Building works and the £25,000 scam Barclays did not report

scam photo from the Guardian

scam photo from the Guardian

So I read over the weekend’s cheering Mother’s Day papers the chilling story of an ordinary professional couple whose life savings of £25,000 had been stolen online in a banking transaction scam.

The government, the media, the banks, the police, God – no one will protect you. Only you can protect yourself. It’s back to the usual back-up line of Caveat Emptor.

Caveat Emptor:

the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made.
This means in plain English: those who will get ripped off will get ripped off and it’s your own fault.

Building works are open to scams

Building works cost so much, usually at least four figures for the smallest silliest tasks, and that is why it is open to scams. Everybody has been ripped off, me included, especially on holiday when one’s guard is down. But this is not a case of being ripped off by a cabbie or a peddler of the wrong sandals that are non-returnable and non-refundable.

Hacked

The couple received an invoice from the contractor for their rear extension. But they received another invoice identical to the first invoice saying the bank account details have changed. The couple paid as per the second invoice. Unbeknown to all, including the building contractor, the contractor had been hacked. The criminals had been tracking their every move.

The banks did nothing about it even though the account had been opened, cleaned out and shut very quickly, They must be able to trace the fraudster’s account. How can they not? It’s a question of resources. They said they will cooperate with the cops but the cops won’t do a thing about it as there are too many scams and of a much bigger scale.

Scammers

like to scam individuals because they are vulnerable. A big company is hard to scam because they are insured to the eyeballs and nothing can touch them.

How you can protect yourself:

– asking for the contractor’s account and sort code yourself and writing it down.

– Pay the money in by cheque. Cheques can be stopped. There are turning points in a cheque’s lifetime because things moved at a slower space in the old days.

– Pay a small amount first, just to make sure it gets in OK, such as a pound.

– Pay only small installments. If the builder asks for 40% deposit upfront, something is wrong. Do not go for it. £25,000 was a huge deposit or installment for a rear extension. Unless it is a huge contractor, in which case, they won’t even ask for a deposit. They work a month for nothing until valuation time, they invoice and you pay that valuation.

– Sign a contract and make sure someone is there like your project manager or architect or designer to administer the contract. It needs to makes sense by protecting all parties.

– The old ways are the best. In this digital age, the opportunities are endless for a white collar criminal. But they still cannot physically get to your desk, your mind or your hands. You would have to be in a market stall for that kind of rip off to take place.

“Where’s Wheelie” Sunday Times ‘Home’ section 4.10.2015

Sunday Times Bins 4 Oct 2015

Sunday Times Bins 4 Oct 2015

Carparks, cleaner’s room, public toilets, sheds, I have done them. Though I can’t quite wheelie it – I am in the Sunday Times! Granted – for an article about bins. As a designer I have never laughed at or sniffed at any kind of commission. These are humble structures and to retain humility as a designer is a sign of total respect and integrity for your client and your project. Also, you never know what will happen or who you will meet. So yes I am proud.

However, that said, I hope the world does not think I only design bins. Yet to be fair, if I did design your bin, it will probably be the smartest damned bin in the whole world and you could probably live in it.

I just won the Best of Houzz 2016 – Service Award

I am thrilled and proud to have won Best of Houzz 2016 – Customer Service. In honesty I was worried when I received the email. I get junk and spam mail all the time telling me I’ve won something. Surely if they called or wrote to me by Houzzmail? I just checked the badges on my Houzz page and it was for real. Read the press release here: BestOfHouzz2016PressReleaseUK

Thanks to:

  • my loyal customers and those who have supported me in this business, especially those who took the time to carefully compose testimonials and references for me.
  • the 35 million strong Houzz community without whom I would not have a design community to be a part of.
  • my family who allow me put my work above them all the time.
Customer service is about kindness, honesty and generosity. Without them, no jobs can progress smoothly and no professional duty of care is enough.

Mobalpa Islington Kitchen Showroom Opens Sat 10 Oct 2015

I was invited by my friend Tina Foo to Mopalpa Kitchen in Islington on Sat 10 October 2015. I have always loved Islington so I was looking forward to meeting her aunt Vivien Yau, the manager, and the family.

 

CLICK to see the film here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobalpa Kitchens

were first made more than a hundred years ago in the French Alps. They continue to be made there today. They have eco credentials, being made from sustainable resources using renewable energy and recycled industrial waste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The showroom

is spacious and features different solutions to modern living. Open plan is the first concept that comes to mind. The next would be storage. Each piece of furniture has been meticulously thought through and manufactured to avoid waste – waste of materials and of storage. Most items have dual functions too – a worktop sliding away to become a sink, for example. A door that tilts down to become an extra worktop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were treated to

champagne and delicious snacks made by professional chef Adrienne. I am not sure I can reproduce these dishes at home, with my limited time and culinary skills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Livin’ Houzz event @Loaf Shack Thursday 12 November 2015

Loaf is cosy (US= cozy). That to me is the word that describes Loaf.

The lifestyle showroom is a “shack”, in their own terms. The tiled external brick facade and neon sign hides the cavernous space beyond with bold and brightly lit window furniture displays (I believe these windows must be providing the only illumination to the dark and industrial part of Queenstown Road). Inside are painted brick walls and reclaimed timber panelling. Textures and finishes are distressed, vintage and lived-in. However, quite clearly this is not vintage as in Shoreditch vintage. There is nothing egdy or raw here: the Loaf image is curved, easy-going, and smart. Light colours in pastels and mutes are widely-used, presumably so that they fit into any modern or traditional neutral decor. The design is strongly Anglo-French in theme.

How I came to be here

I was invited to the event via Houzz, having attended their Tom Dixon event @ Selfridges and Houzz University first ever workshop. Loaf Shack is a well-organised and spacious showroom. You can tell by the hanging rails behind the counter. You can tell a lot by how staff organise back of house equipment. Although it was as bright as an airport when I first arrived, someone dimmed the lights  later. It was much better after that. The feel of the place was quite pop-up even though it is not. I met Sally Flower, Head of News who is based in the Notting Hill building. What a nice name! She showed me her iphone and how they use Instagram to share Loaf photos. It was very interesting for me how Instagram has helped their business.

Styling

I mean look at the retro mattress signs – it’s like you’re in Nashville or something.

Mattress vintage signage

Mattress vintage signage

There are also jewel-coloured sofas that appealed to me

Colourful fabrics and sofas

Colourful fabrics and sofas

which were more mid-century than traditional. These would go well with the distressed gold angle poise floor lamps.

Distressed gold lamp

Distressed gold lamp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Houzz presentation

Ffion gave the quick run-through of what Houzz is, and to remind everybody to use Houzz regularly to stay in touch with laypeople and pros. There was a raffle at the end and I was gutted that I didn’t win the sheets!

Ffion giving the presentation

Ffion giving the presentation

 

Ffion giving presentation

Ffion giving the presentation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loaf goody bag

Loaf goody bag

What’s in the goody bag

Two sachets of Hot Stuff hot chocolate powder

A copy of Loaf Times paper

A catalogue

A mug (which you can make a muffin in apparently, though not at the same time as using it as a drinking mug of course)

A beautiful, simple, rose-scented candle in a tin

This is more like a gift bag rather than a goody bag because people like to receive simple, thoughtful and usable gifts.

 

 

Ice cream, Sushi and gift-giving

Ice cream and sushi were handmade, fresh, excellent quality and selection, and went down well with a drop of Pinot. Loaf practised the hospitality that they preach, as that is what they are selling – the idea of friendliness, comfort and generosity. Very cute graphic gifts to for the season include postcards and giant matches. These would appeal to friends and family abroad as I thought they depict what people romanticise about Britain and Europe, which is the sense of nostalgia.

 

From mattress to matches

From mattress to matches

Top quality ice cream in 10 flavours

Top quality ice cream in 10 flavours

Handmade sushi

Handmade sushi