westedge Design Fair, October 3-6, 2013

We are deep into design fair season, which takes place in the first half of each year (for many design fairs.) I'm going to go back and forth between the word "fair" and "show". In the kitchen industry, designers tend to use the word "show." We often say to colleagues we see at design shows "Have a good show." In Europe, they use the word "fair." But, I digress!

I attend a fair amount of design shows (no mixed use intended) during the year and love the hunt for new products....like, LOVE.

westedge (all lower case) is a NEW design fair that takes place in the fall, which I'm really excited about. High Point is in the fall, and I've been there a few times, but westedge will be different. I expect that it will be a showcase for innovative design, whether that innovation translates into modern, updated tradition, or other original design concepts. It will be special.

I know the directors of the westedge design fair, and together, Troy Hanson and Megan Reilly have managed some of the most renowned design fairs in the U.S. They are on top of every single detail to create the best experience for both the exhibitor and the attendee. I know this from both perspectives, having worked with Troy and Megan before. 

With this venue, this team, and this time of year (perfect to seek a fresh design perspective and linger a bit more in a summer vibe too) I know this will be a show of GOOD design. My guess is it will be curated. The website is very small and somewhat sparse right now, but it's also very early in the year. 

I'm compelled to write this post just because of my faith in this team and their vision. I'll be watching the site as it grows and can't wait to hear more as time goes on! 

Modenus + BlogTour = Inspiration Defined

Modenus is a web based interior design resource with carefully, even lovingly, curated products found in all corners of the world presented in an organized, and beautiful, directory. The products on Modenus are at a level beyond "the usual." The site is a delightful journey of discovery. Veronika Miller, founder of Modenus, personally travels to design shows in the U.S. and abroad, continually in search of new, different, and fabulous products for designers and homeowners to find. But, that's only part of Veronika's mission. 

It was upon my return to my bubble (my office) after an eight day, very busy, design focused trip to Denmark and Germany 10 days ago, that I thought more about Veronika, which compelled me to write this post.

Veronika, a designer herself, going back some years, fully understands what it means to work day in and day out as a creative professional. Understanding what designers need, she developed and launched an extension of Modenus, called BlogTour. Veronika and her team select a group of influential design bloggers and take them to a city to participate in that city's "design week" shows and events. 

Image: Susan Serra | Thinking of design as I walk in London with the BlogTour group!

Veronika understands that designers and those who love design are creative people, open minded to new points of view, design concepts and product inspiration. But, beyond this insight, what really happens on BlogTour is a little bit of magic.

Veronika, on behalf of Modenus, knows that this love of design that design bloggers have translates to a heightened awareness of design in all of its forms, particularly when experienced in a new location, outside of the design blogger's bubble.  Design bloggers (some are working professionals) attend events of a diverse design nature during BlogTour. These varied events over the course of 5 days (with much free time to walk the design events in one's own way) open the design bloggers' collective awareness to:

  • new experiences where one has the luxury of being a "follower" and can just take it all in
  • new friendships with people of different states, regions, countries adding interesting social dimension
  • discover cutting edge, exciting, products, design concepts, solutions and materials as well as products of other period styles and themes
  • engage in endless conversations on design with lots of smart people in different design disciplines
  • view design in a historical context, whether walking down the street, visiting a museum, or a 100 year old pub
  • observe many different design disciplines, whether graphic design, industrial design, packaging, mechanical, fashion, crafts...and more
  • listen to speakers, noted local and sometimes internationally known designers and manufacturers who speak just to our group
  • more...more...more via many types of visual arts and printed materials, as tools which stir the senses

Veronika's mission, in a nutshell, is to nurture designers in an effort to achieve all of the above benefits just mentioned, in a location (often) far from home. BlogTours have taken place twice in London (one of which I attended), New York City (twice) and Germany (with a bonus day in Amsterdam.) 

One of many design events we attended along with other, both small + large venues around London

Just 2 weeks ago, I went to Cologne, Germany as part of the BLANCO Design Council group tour to IMM Cologne LivingKitchen. The Modenus Cologne LivingKitchen edition of BlogTour with all of its enthusiastic, top design bloggers, were there as well. Both groups gathered together at planned events. We talked design, saw old friends, forged new friendships and had a whole lot of fun. Heartfelt thanks and appreciation go to BLANCO as well, for their continuing demonstrated commitment to inspiring designers via their own version of a tour to the LivingKitchen fair for members of their Design Council (I am a member).

My point here is that for some reason upon my return, I realized in a much bigger way than I do typically, that designers NEED to get out of their design bubble (their offices) as often as possible - and going far away is a bonus.

While truly a guardian angel of designers, perhaps a designer whisperer as well, Veronika Miller a.k.a. Modenus needs partners to make BlogTour happen. Product sponsors underwrite the costs - a huge win-win for sponsors to have attention focused on their products by top bloggers who write about them from their own unique point of view. It's a gift that never stops giving for sponsors (as well as for organically discovered non-sponsored products found at all the events). Once all the blog posts are up, google search takes it from there. Then, there are all the other social media channels humming with design bloggers' authentic opinions on what they have seen and learned during their trip. It's a win-win-win for designers, sponsors and most of all, other trade professionals who could not attend design week and, of course, countless homeowners, those with commercial design needs, among others.

My own BlogTour experience was truly the best design focused experience I think I have ever had - and I do not say that lightly. Being completely immersed in different TYPES of design expanded my creative thought process immensely in ways I have described above. I went to London ready to be fully open minded. Veronika knows this will happen to those who love design. 

Veronika works through a variety of issues before and during any given BlogTour such as delays, changes in plans, spot decisions, ridiculous travel logistics and remains focused and moving forward. I wonder if she has ever been called a guardian angel of designers. That's what she is. I'm grateful to have attended BlogTour. It made me a little bit better of a designer. 

Refreshed interpretation of a traditional woven rug

My passport has been getting a lot of use these last few years as I travel to design events. Upon my return from this trip, as I now think back on it, it's all so worthwhile...and important to my growth as a designer. Interestingly, at a Twitter chat which took place earlier this evening (I've been working on this post for 3 days) these tweets authentically support the BlogTour experience I am speaking of, so I share them here.

 so true! RT : A4 biggest takeaway: theres a whole world out there - embrace it, learn from it#blogtourcgn

 A4 also, to be better designer + blogger get out and live life more, seek to see new things, meet new people

 What blogtours are all abt “: A4 biggest takeaway: there's a whole world out there - embrace it, learn from it #blogtourCGN 

Just recently, Modenus was tapped by the NKBA and other industry sources to bring fresh ideas and insight to the venerable trade show, KBIS 2013 as clear recognition of the understanding Veronika and her team have of designers and what their needs are. I can't wait to attend!

Discover the products in Modenus, read the blogs and other design news within the Modenus site, AND read the blogs of those who have gone on BlogTour - you will find passion, renewed design insight and a little bit of magic that has been cultivated by the BlogTour experience.

International Kitchen Design 2013 - Introduction to IMM Cologne

Attending the Living Kitchen fair in Cologne, Germany, as a special guest of BLANCO and member of BLANCO's Design Council, is the equivalent of closing your eyes as you prepare to go to sleep and soon after, entering dreamland - kitchen dreamland!

The kitchen dream is intense, one of those really vivid dreams; it takes you to wonderful new frontiers in kitchen design and technology. There is beauty in many forms, you're surrounded by great people, many of whom are real life friends! This kitchen dreamland, Living Kitchen, is an international fair, showcasing kitchen products from 20 countries and takes place in 11 halls, set up like a campus.

For the moment, I'll share a few fun images of large, graphic, design elements that are part of a booth's design as well as accessories that embellish an individual kitchen display to get us warmed up for the posts coming shortly!

At last count, and this is probably close to the final count, I see that I took 1,744 images, with possibly a small amount of more images to count.

I worked this show as I do all shows-with a hunger to find common threads in different product and lifestyle categories among hundreds of displays. And, I love the process of the hunt and discovery!! 

Just prior to arriving in Germany, I spent 3 days in Copenhagen to visit family, collect my Scandinavian magazines that I love so much (19 of them, this time) and run through a number of showrooms to see the latest in Scandinavian design, which I will compare to what I saw in Germany. I have about 650 gorgeous images from those few days - more, beautiful, discoveries!!


I've already categorized all of my images, looked through them to find those common (mainstream) threads, uncovered some peripheral trends, and evaluated a bunch of products and/or design elements that qualify for "the cool factor" which I will also show...and more. There is a wealth of information and images to come, so stay tuned!!


So much more eye candy to come!

Kitchen Design Chat

Although I'm already working on negative time during every 24 period (I'd clone myself but the clone would prove to be too annoying) it occurred to me many months back that I'd really love to talk (live) about kitchens on a regular basis. 

After a long career thinking/dreaming/plotting/planning about every single, little, aspect of kitchens, and coupled with real world hands on experience starting from producing my own drawings (always), to order writing to project supervision to 2 hernia operations from hauling cabinet parts off of trucks at the jobsite and everything in between, I know that there is so much to talk about! 

The chat is:

  •  #KDChat - This is the Twitter hashtag for the chat
  • The chat takes place every 1st and 3rd Mondays
  • It begins at 5pm ET

Here are some initial ideas on topics that we will discuss and these will be specifically noted on the official Kitchen Design Chat site. The social kitchen, the healthy kitchen, the technological kitchen, the aesthetic kitchen, the functional kitchen, the sustainable kitchen, the accessible kitchen are but a precious few topics, each of which has many pieces to it to focus on.  Some topics will be practical, some-deeply thought provoking, but the spirit of the conversation is best, to me, to be casual, honest, free spirited, filled with friendly debate and lots of interesting conversation. We will also talk brands, products, materials and overall design.


@KDChat_ on Twitter (embrace the underscore!)

#KDChat when we chat

Kitchen Design Chat Website

Kitchen Design Chat Facebook Page


Please join me. The kitchen is the only room of the home that touches all five senses - there is much to talk about and share!

THIS kitchen is all potential!



House Beautiful KOTY - And Kids!


By Kelly Serra Donovan

The much anticipated House Beautiful Kitchen of the Year descended upon Rockefeller Center in NYC yesterday.  I was lucky enough to attend, my inaugural visit, and see the fantastic display in person this year.  And, consequently, so were my two daughters, Chloe 3 years and Annabelle 6 months, courtesy of a last minute emergency that kept my childcare unable to come through.

From the moment we clumsily pushed the extra wide double stroller through the gates, we were greeted with nothing short of hospitality and grace, despite the marketing staff most definitely not anticipating a bottle-sucking, mommy-tugging crowd amongst the early visitors to their "press only" debut. Susan sent an email the day before asking if it was ok, with a reply "it's fine with us!" They handled the underage party crashers with aplomb, even doling out an extra name tag so Chloe could rub shoulders with Newell and Mick.
This hospitality was tangibly conveyed (over and over again by House Beautiful staff-and others) once we were inside the event, as we instantly felt as if we were in a cherished friend's warm and cozy home.  The wooden ceiling beams and heringbone floors offered a nice contrast to the clean lines, stark shades (save for a rich pop of blue from the beloved Kohler Jonathan Adler Atlantis Sink), and ever so slight industrial edge of the Kitchen of the Year.
I'll save the full nuts-and-bolts review for our resident expert, Susan, to follow shortly, but I would certainly be remiss to not shout from the proverbial rooftops my appreciation for the welcome reception and accommodation we received from the House Beautiful staff.
Susan here: Oh, and Newell...Kelly and I enjoyed chatting with you and when Chloe, uh, whipped the nametag lanyard against your shins, you didn't skip a beat! :)

As Kelly, Chloe, Annabelle and I departed the event en route to the Bryant Park carousel and lunch, Chloe proudly wore her nametag through the streets of New York (and insisted I keep mine on as well...which I did.) I think House Beautiful just scored a positive brand connection with one member of Gen Z.



And here is the last, and I hope you'll agree, the best post of the series on my trip to Kohler's headquarters at Kohler, Wisconsin. The trip was a visual feast! It was also an actual feast throughout the weekend since my trip was centered around the Kohler Food and Wine Experience - a weekend event (among many all year 'round) that I highly recommend which takes place in October of each year. 

The piece de resistance of Kohler Village, to me, is the Kohler Design Center. A three level building of beautiful products and room vignettes in beautiful settings surrounded by fabulous materials, products, accessories and design elements, I want to share some of this gorgeousness with you. Without further ado...here we go (all images have been enthusiastically taken by me)!

Please see MORE images on my pinterest board, "Kohler's Design Center", and follow me!

I was so excited and wanted to take as many shots as I could that I did not stop to take note of each and every fixture, fitting or designer's name. If you have questions, please ask and I'll get the information to you!

Below, a stunning interplay of warm and cool tones in a graphic, strong, yet elegant setting

Below, this is a part of a larger master bath which is designed via a universal design philosophy

Below, modern, sophisticated, whimsical...creative

Below, an interesting combination of patterns and proportions that works beautifully

Below, I'm not sure what else to say besides: ahhhhhhhhh. I'm relaxed.

Below, I feel like a superstar being in this space, perhaps somewhere in Paris?

Below, a closer look at beautiful warm design elements set against the purity of white

Below, I feel like I'm living in a loft in Soho - very cool design elements...always love the cool/warm mix

Below, a stunning environment that feels like it's in a penthouse - a warm modern design

Below, seen in the image above from a different angle. I'm on board!

Below, simply stunning, elegant, perhaps Will and Kate's powder room?

Below, I'm awed and excited - I think I'd like to hang out in here!

Of course I knew that Kohler is all about design and function but visiting Kohler's headquarters was a reminder as well as a series of new visual lessons about their quest for beauty, innovation, always a celebration of tradition and a commitment to a strong and clear look to the future. Sounds like copy text, doesn't it? Can you question Kohler's intense interest in design in the most open way, celebrating all design styles? I can't. Just look at the previous posts just below this one. Kohler is a giant in the kitchen and bath industry...for very good reason. I'm also very proud to call Kohler a great American brand. 

From this....

to this, introduced in 2010, the NUMI!


I hope you've enjoyed these posts. Don't forget to see more fabulous images on my Kohler's Design Center board on pinterest! Kitchen images are on that board too!!

Kohler Food and Wine Experience & The American Club Resort

My weekend at Kohler, Wisconsin, at Kohler's gracious invitation, included attendance at a tempting array of food and wine related events of my choice. As I said in my previous post, I would go back to the Kohler Food and Wine Experience in a heartbeat. The vibe was fun, stimulating, insightful...and quite tasty. From beginning to end, all of my experiences, every one, were sincerely, and very solidly, positive. But first, a bit about the historic American Club Resort. (this season's winter image below)

A Forbes Five-Star Resort Hotel and AAA Five Diamond Resort Hotel, the American Club Resort was founded by Walter J. Kohler, Sr., originally to provide rooms for immigrant workers who were employed at Kohler. A Tudor style building and interiors, the wood paneled hallways and public spaces lend an air of history and traditional design that is at once comfortable and inviting. The rooms? The word "divine" comes to mind. The bathrooms? Perfect...or certainly, near perfect if one wants to quibble (not me.) But, the weekend (an annual event in October) centered around food and wine, so here's a little taste (pun intended-image from the seminar on baking with apples-yum-I almost died when this was passed around!)

Celebrity chefs included Alexandra Guarnaschelli, Jacques Torres, Charlie Trotter, Andrew Zimmern, Jon Ashton and many more. Tastings, seminars, the Kohler Chefs' Challenge and signature events such as the Taste of the Vine are just the beginning of a very, very packed schedule of events. 

Parts of my itinerary included a cooking demo with Alex Guarnaschelli (she is truly hysterical), the Taste Of The Vine wine event, cooking demo with Andrew Zimmern, a seminar on baking with apples and a few other great cooking demos. To escape into the world of food and wine, for me, was sweet in more ways than one. The program was run so efficiently, with such attention to detail and with a whole lot of entertainment value, it was a super enjoyable experience.

Winter activities abound at Kohler Village. Check out Kohler Village's winter outdoor activities. Take a look at the Demonstration Kitchen events. Dog sled demonstration anyone? Check out these very cool winter events on the weekend of January 28-29. OR, just forget all those outdoor activities and studying how to slave in the kitchen and go to the Kohler Waters Spa - "dreamy" is an understatement. I went, I zoned out, I exfoliated.


Kohler - A Great American Brand

I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of visiting Kohler at their campus in none other than: Kohler, Wisconsin at their invitation. To see and feel the heartbeat of this great American brand was a professional goal fulfilled. 

I visited Kohler's headquarters at the end of October during a perfect fall weekend. It also happened to be the weekend of Kohler's Food and Wine Experience, a weekend filled with food and wine related events, seminars and workshops. I'm not overstating that this was such a great series of events that I'd love to go annually!

There are clearly several posts which I would like to share surrounding this weekend. First, you'll see some interesting pieces of Kohler's history. Second, I'll give you a look at the weekend's events which I know you'll also love. Third and probably fourth as well, you've just GOT TO SEE Kohler's fabulous Design Center! It will be worth the wait, I promise!

John Michael Kohler was 10 years old when his family came to the US from Austria and settled on a farm near St. Paul, Minnesota. At age 18, he moved to Chicago and became a traveling salesman for a wholesale grocery house and later sold furniture. His territory was the western seaboard of Lake Michigan. He formed a partnership in 1873 with Charles Silberzahn when they bought a foundry and machine shop from Kohler's father-in-law, Jacob Vollrath.

Kohler expanded the foundry to manufacture decorative iron pieces, cooking utensils and plumbing products. At the end of the 1800s a new factory was built in today's existing location, Kohler Village. Halfway through construction the plant burned down. Three months later John Michael Kohler died. Kohler's sons rebuilt the plant and renamed the busines John Michael Kohler Sons Co. in 1901. This is the overview. 

Below, plumbing begins...

In 1883, John Michael Kohler, and I quote, "enameled the inside of a horse trough/hog scalder, attached four cast iron legs, and sold it to a farmer as a bathtub. By 1891, the company expanded its line to include roll-rim bathtubs, washbowls, and drinking fountains. Acceptance of the Kohler bathtub and other enameled cast iron plumbing fixtures rapidly spread beyond the farm community. Cast iron products attained the reputation of being durable, sanitary, and 'superior as to beauty of design, excellence of finish, and quality of workmanship' " 

Below, a bathroom from 1900

The mission of the company, from a 1900's catalog:

Over twenty years' experience in the manufacture and sale of Feed and Ensilage Cutters, Horse Powers, Feed Mills, and other Agricultural Implements has given us a thorough knowledge of the business. It has always been our aim during this time to manufacture the best goods that ingenuity and money can produce. There are grades of cheaper machines than ours on the market, we thoroughly believe, however, in the maxim, "That the best articles are the cheapest in the long run" and we have made it a rule not to see for how little money we could make an article, but how good we could make it for a moderate price. The fact that farmers who bought our machines twenty years ago are still using them, is conclusive proof of their excellence and a good endorsement. Our cutters and powers are all built on the most improved, scientific and practicable principles. We manufacture both the fly-wheel and the cylindar cutters. 

We trust that the following pages will prove interesting and if in want of any machinery therein illustrated you will give them a fair, unprejudiced inspection and trial. Liberal discounts from lists allowed. Correspondence solicited. Respectfully, Kohler, Hayssen & Stehn Mfg. Co., Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA.

As I put together this post, I truly am honored to have had the opportunity to learn about the history of a great American brand. I also walked through several large, old buildings (with state of the art machinery) that houses Kohlers factories and foundry. I saw the molten iron worked by expert craftspeople. I also saw highly skilled craftspeople work with great precision applying a finish. Impressive procedures, machinery and cleanliness are what I observed first hand. This was no small tour - it was 2 1/2 hours of walking and learning, led by a retired factory worker. It sure was memorable. 

I hope you've enjoyed this first installment of my time spent at Kohler's headquarters. More to come, just wait!

My Lovely Trip To Bornholm, Denmark

Bornholm is such a special place. It is at once simple yet dramatic, heavily textured yet clean, colorful yet sometimes viewed in neutrals for as far as the eye can see. It's where one side of my family tree is documented, so far, to the mid 1800s, having been born on Bornholm. Funny, the other side of my family tree is documented to the very early 1800s far away from Bornholm, also in Denmark, in Jutland, the largest piece of land one thinks of when one thinks of Denmark. 

I went to Bornholm, then to Copenhagen in late August, alone, in search of artisans for my and my daughter's new brand, Scandinavian Made, a webshop of artisans' works that are made in Scandinavia, by the artisan, whose works are available in the US exclusively in our webshop.

I drove around Bornholm, often losing my way and not caring, and found the most amazing artisans! The landscape is incredible, the people are friendly and the food is, to me, amazing!! I've been to Bornholm before, and it always refreshes my spirit. Here are images of Bornholm in late summer, perfect for this cold winter's day. All images taken by me.

Below, a stop off on the side of the road

Below, one of my most favorite images, ever. The sand on this beach is famous for having been used as hour glass sand, it is so incredibly fine.

Below, stunning rock formations in the sea

Below, on a rugged path, looking down to the sea

Below, I was moved by the beautiful, ancient, round churches in Bornholm, one in which my grandmother was baptized. Below, a church built in 1150!

Below, a gallery that I wish were open! Artists have been drawn to Bornholm for many years, as the quality of light is said to be unique and inspiring

Below, the Bornholm art museum, a stunningly beautiful place

Below - One day, as I was wandering, I came upon this lovely ceramics shop, owned by the artisan, that was open

Below - I was truly astounded/touched/moved by the beauty of the pieces I encountered. I saw that these pieces were made by the artisan with what appears to be raw emotion. You can see more of this fabulous artisan's original works in my and my daughter Kelly's webshop, Scandinavian Made

The lovely small villages on the coast are serene

And last but not least, the reception area of a beautiful inn that I stayed at. The decor is that great Scandinavian eclectic combination of classic traditional furnishings set within a modern decorative foundation (floors, furniture, lots of white and art.)

What does this post have to do with kitchens? Everything! It's all inspiration which touches all future projects.

Decorate - A Book by Holly Becker of Decor8 Blog

BUY THE BOOKBUY THE BOOK!Decorate, a new book by Holly Becker of the iconic blog, Decor8, is an ambitious book (that's the word that comes to mind). There is an enormous number of images for maximum visual delight, clearly and well written text as well as the ability to quickly drill down to the essence of each chapter and core message via quotes, lists, tips, shaded content boxes and other visual aids.

I love this kind of reference material. Give me the option to read or to look quickly for information. To me, this is a useful format, or mix of formats.

I am privileged to have been quoted in the kitchen section of this book in numerous places. It is an honor to me that Holly Becker sought out my insight on the topic of kitchen design. That said, while Holly Becker is a respected and treasured blogging buddy/colleague/friend since early 2007, I have declined to review books by other design industry peers, some of whom had been colleagues of mine (past tense-unfortunately, declining to review a book costs relationships) for many years. It's lovely that I am quoted in this book, but if I did not find the book to have real value in terms of solid and quality design information, I would pass it by and not review it.

In the kitchens section, on page 148, the introductory paragraph is such an inspiring yet succinct, description of what the role of the kitchen can be in our lives. To get this philosophy right, puts anyone on the right track who is planning a kitchen renovation. 

There are countless references to personalizing the kitchen in Decorate that are truly creative. It takes some thought to be creative, which means it takes quality time. More often than not, the content that I see around the web or elsewhere which focuses on creative solutions for kitchen storage, design, whatever it is, is sorely lacking in creative thinking.

The suggestions, tips, ideas on personalizing the kitchen in Decorate, are both enlightening and fresh and are accessible to nearly everyone (perhaps with the exception of the Michael S. Smith sink for Kallista) ;) 

The sections of the kitchen chapter are sort of divided into how we live - Casual Eating, Cook's Kitchen, Built-in Storage, Urban Kitchen and others. I find that the text teaches by describing various lifestyle scenarios which helps the reader to visualize a look more completely. But, it goes even further, describing the feelings that certain creative ideas may elicit, such as mismatching china, how to design in comfort and other creative ideas. At the end of the day, when you stand at the doorway to your kitchen, it's lovely to feel the way you had hoped you would feel at the start of the process, when finally surveying the result of all that work. 

Most of the kitchens in the book are white and modern, but with personal touches, which is the point of the book. You will not find cookie cutter kitchens from manufacturers' brochures here. These are each a personal expression and illustrations of that classic design conflict of function vs. aesthetics that each of us has to reconcile for ourselves - hopefully under the guidance of a kitchen design professional who is understanding of the client's needs and desires.

I'm also thrilled that the social kitchen, a concept that I've talked about for some years, has a special section as well. The advice is there for the taking, without scolding or demanding or even nudging. It's positive and enthusiastic voice is the voice of the Holly I know and many of us are familiar with. The rest of the book? It's awesome. Decorate.

Copenhagen Design Week

A fantastic collection of talks, exhibitions, showrooms, design tours and more, Copenhagen Design Week covered every area of both beautiful and socially responsible design. I've gone to design shows in quite a few countries including many shows in the US on a regular basis.

Honestly, I've never been so inspired, never have been so touched both personally and professionally, as I have been by attending this series of exhibitions. It was more than a design exhibition, it culminated with a reawakened design philosophy within my brain and my soul. The Index Awards, at which I was present at the Opera House, was a centerpiece of the week. Please read more about the Index Awards.

This is a very long post, but these words by the Acting CEO of the Danish Design Center touched me in a significant way, and I hope you can take 10 minutes or less to read through this piece to capture its beautiful and important meaning. In its entirety:

Thank you so much Aura/Ida Corr for the lovely song and for creating the right atmosphere.

Your Royal Highness, ladies and gentlemen,

I offer you all a warm welcome to the Copenhagen Design Week.

For the second time, Copenhagen Design Week welcomes international designers, architects, CEOs, design managers, researchers and students to six days devoted to design.

As we kick off this week of great design events – I think three questions needs to addressed:

  1. Why design?
  2. What is design?
  3. How can design help?


Why design?

What is the importance of design? Why should we bother? What is it that design can do for you? For me? For all of us?

Society is changing and the world as we know it is slowly turning upside down. We face new challenges and opportunities. Our life expectancy is growing and so is the world population. The Western welfare systems are under pressure while the middle classes are booming in Brazil, Russia, India and China. Resources are dwindling while demand is growing and the whole economy is under reconstruction.

In short, we need to think…

The facts of the modern, global society call for action. We cannot address new challenges with traditional solutions. And we cannot wait for someone else to take action.

All of us – nations, global communities, companies and individuals – need to think – and to design new solutions for our longer and safer and cleaner lives.

It is time to design the world we want to live in, and anyone interested in form, function, shape and seduction should pay attention.


But what is design?

Magazines – and the popular belief – will tell you, that design is all about beautiful things. And this is absolutely right. Beauty lies in form and function, and beauty lies in great design…. In Jaguars and Egg Chairs, in Yves Saint Laurent dresses and Erik Magnussen’s jug. Beauty lies in intelligent solutions. Beauty lies in Novo Nordisk’s insulin pen that empowers people with diabetes. Beauty lies in the fact that they are no longer patients. But people.

Beauty lies in products and solutions that help us become better people. And design can really do that. Design can really change who we are, what we do and how we behave.

Smart phones are not making us smarter, but they are changing the ways in which we navigate and interact in our daily lives. They are changing our physical and social behaviour.

We are a designing species, and the designs we make design us in return. This basic understanding is, I believe, the central element in the Danish design DNA.

The first golden age of Danish design coincided with the building of the welfare state in the 50s and 60s. The chairs, the lamps, the cutlery, the buildings were all part of an effort to create new ways of human interaction. Danish design has always been intimately linked to our humanistic and democratic traditions: The traditions of Folk High Schools and Co-ops; the tradition of sustainable solutions and pragmatic products; the tradition of designing for the community and of social inclusion.

We are at the beginning of a second golden age of Danish Design. And this time we are not alone, because the whole world is at the beginning of a golden age of design.

Today, design is much more than styling; much more than form and function. Today design is an instrument for developing innovative, competitive and sustainable products and solutions in order to meet the complex challenges of today’s society.

A holistic grasp of the big picture is a key condition for creating meaningful design solutions.  The humanistic tradition has for decades been the basis of Danish product design, and it is now a driving force in the role of the designer in a complex world.

So, design has come to mean more than giving form; it is increasingly becoming a strategic element in innovation processes in the private as well as in the public sector. To help this process along, the Danish Government last year established the Design 2020 Committee with the vision of making Denmark a society where the use of design is integrated at all levels to improve the quality of peoples’ lives, creating economic value for businesses and improving efficiency and quality in the public sector.


How can design help?

It is very simple, really. The essence of design is thinking human. The essence of design is making products and solutions for human beings with minds and bodies and desires and aspirations and social needs and wishes.

Design is not the answer to every question we can ask. But it is my experience that if you involve designers in your search for answers, the answers will involve thinking human. Beauty lies in this.

Talk in an antique boat given by IKEA - participants on each side of center tableI am proud and happy to welcome you all to Copenhagen Design Week. The programme is full of beautiful solutions to complex challenges, and they will show us ways to a more sustainable future based on the ability and the willingness to Think Human.

Copenhagen Design Week explores and raises awareness of the impact of design, architecture and the environment on human life. In a world of constant change, design has the potential to transform ideas and social values, meet desires and needs – and, not least, create good business outcomes.

We firmly believe that Copenhagen Design Week will show us the way to a more sustainable future based on the ability and the willingness to Think Human. There is plenty of work to do – but the future starts now.

Dance with the Egg Chair at Official Opening of Copenhagen Design WeekLet me conclude by pointing out three things you cannot miss during the Design Week.

First of all - go to Kvæsthusmolen by The Royal Danish Playhouse on the Copenhagen harbor front. Here you will find the Design Zone, which is the venue for the main exhibitions during the Copenhagen Design Week.

Here you will see how design and architecture meet local and global challenges.

Secondly – Kvæsthusmolen is also the venue for the INDEX: exhibition, and you will be able to study the winning projects. The INDEX: exhibition illustrates that design has the environmental, social, and economically sustainable tools to make the world a safer and better environment for people.

And naturally, I recommend a visit to our exhibition right here, in the Danish Design Centre. The exhibition, Challenge Society, pinpoints the role of designers in solving the grand challenges of our society.

HRH Prince Frederik applauding enthusiastically after a performance at the official opening of Copenhagen Design Week (yes, he was one row in front of me!)But please be aware – that this is only a fraction of all the exciting experiences that lie ahead during the Copenhagen Design Week.

I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Danish Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs and the Danish Enterprise and Construction Agency for supporting the Copenhagen Design Week.

An essential aspect of creating and carrying out an event such as the Copenhagen Design Week is to establish strong partnerships. Therefore, I would also like to give a warm thanks to our main partners: IKEA and Nokia. We deeply appreciate your financial support and your expertise on design and your contributions during the Copenhagen Design Week.

Finally, please let me offer my sincere thanks to the Copenhagen Design Week team. You make me proud.

Danish Design Center immediately following the opening of Copenhagen Design WeekI bid you all a warm welcome and encourage you to seek out some of the many exciting design experiences that Copenhagen is brimming with this week.

Now it is my huge pleasure to give the floor to Mr. Frank Jensen, the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen.

After that, Tina Højlund of the Royal Ballet will perform the Egg Chair Ballet, followed by Aura, who will take us back to where we started with one of her songs.


My World of Kitchens!

And, I'm back! I'm more immersed than ever in the world universe of kitchens...maybe slightly underwater may be the better term due to my recent posting absence (I'm so ashamed!)

I honestly have four full time jobs right now: my design practice, all of the social media areas that I touch including the NEW blog I started, Scandinavian Kitchens & Design which is another labor of love, the coming launch of my new product line, www.bornholmstudio.com, and another top secret beeeeeeg project I'm involved in, not to mention appointments, events, and jobsite visits which are on the calendar, one of which is taking me to Madrid on a speaking engagement the first week of October and to a GE summit two days before I leave for Madrid!

Besides that, part of this summer was spent with my dear and youngest son, who unpredictably came home for a couple of days from the city to look for a car with us and ended up staying for nearly 2 weeks, as his girlfriend had also left to visit her family out of the country for that time period. It was such a gift to have this quality time with him in July. Then, we moved him and his girlfriend to Columbia, MD, near DC, in August, to start their next 5 year adventure, his girlfriend attending a PhD program at U of MD. Of course, the move, and a subsequent visit to DC, was surrounded by multiple visits to IKEA and learning to eat crabs! 

Meanwhile, I've never been so stimulated in my life, professionally, by the new people I am continually meeting, materials I am seeing, and new information acquired, and I do love every minute of my busy day and now it's WAY past time to check in here, say a very warm hello and thanks for your patience. I will try to do scheduled blogging (a regular note on my calendar, saying "blog today!") rather than on the fly, which has not been working very well. The point is, it's a very busy time, but I'm happy as a clam, immersed in the kitchen universe, and am just trying to perfect the juggling! 

This ended up being a bit of a hello again post, so next time, I'll be letting you in on some of the pretty amazing things I've been seeing and hearing around the kitchen universe. 


A Little Time Off...

Image captured on my recent trip to Paris!As sometimes happens with my blog, I might seemingly disappear for a bit. And, I guess I actually do, at least in terms of regular blog writing. And, I always regret that, while at the same time I am planning post after post as events transpire, only to get involved with something else before I put fingers to the keyboard. Thus, the regret!

Right now, and for some time, I have been juggling some very exciting balls, all in the air (ok, the blog ball dropped!) I am currently working on:

  • designing kitchens for clients
  • running the business and all that entails
  • participating in short design consultations for clients
  • keeping my hand in Twitter, my personal facebook profile and my professional Facebook page ("like" me!
  • working closely with Angela Min, who has been part of my business since the spring (she's awesome, classically trained in Interior Design with a masters degree in ID, and you will be hearing from Angela on this blog and elsewhere!)
  • working on my new product line, Bornholm, to be launched this summer and all THAT entails (a lot!)
  • attending industry events
  • blogging for Sears, Decorati, Divine Caroline, K+BB 
  • interacting with members of the media on various projects
  • not to mention an active personal/family life including a recent trip to Paris! And my 35 babies (roses in my garden!)
Beyond being busy, as we all are of course, sometimes the more I am away from my blog, the more a bit of paralysis sets in too, where I feel, well, I've been gone awhile, now I really have to blog about something special. Maybe some of you bloggers have felt that too. Today, I'm tossing that analysis paralysis aside to just touch base with you.

I did take a number of days off in the middle of a busy time to (obsessively) search for the perfect project management system to keep it all running smoothly and which serves as a great communications platform between Angela and I and for us and our clients. 

Seeking something new, I got my hair cut in Paris! So fun! Total language barrier too!I'd say that my career has never been as interesting, diverse, fun, and hopeful as it has been in the recent past, right now, and for the foreseeable future. I'm loving every day and all the interactions with clients and industry colleagues, new and old. 

I'm deeply entrenched into all things "kitchen" focused and in my new project management system, I have a special place set up for blog ideas so they now will not escape me after I say to myself "YES, I've GOT to blog about that!"

More soon....and I hope this finds you well. I'd love to know what you are finding new and exciting in the world of design...

Random Kitchen Musings

Just a few little things...

PLEASE take this survey: Kitchen Floorplan: Open Or Closed? It's seemingly a simple question, but the results are fascinating as the votes are coming in. I'll share them with you shortly. Please cast your vote. It takes 10 seconds or less, and I'd love to know what you all want, or dream of, for your own kitchen design concept. UPDATE: SURVEY IS CLOSED

Please also go to my blogging buddy Renovation Therapy's blog...that is, if you'd like to win an Itouch Ipod! Again, it's fast, easy, and it could be yours! While you're at it, read a few posts...she's wickedly smart, insightful, funny, cool...not in that order, although the smart part is probably at the front of the line. I better quit while I'm ahead. 

Take a look at Natalie Blake's wall art...in the form of handmade tiles. These are not just any tiles. They are sculptural in their form, sensuous, with curves everywhere. Unulun tile gets its name from the undulating form of the tile. Rich, strong, colors. Grouped together as wall art, its three dimensional perspective delights and attracts the eye. In other words, they are, to me, amazing. I first saw this tile at the Architectural Digest show in New York and immediately asked to take photographs, and I couldn't stop. Enjoy!


More randomness...I'm beginning to play with my own kitchen design. This will be the fourth time I've designed a kitchen for myself/my family (I almost forgot about them.) I have no immediate plans to do the kitchen although it will need to be done at some point in the next couple of years, hopefully. But, I became inspired and am catching the bug to design my kitchen. I think it begins with an "o".....obsession!

Don't forget to take the survey!

What about you? Are you obsessed with your kitchen?

Kitchen Artisans - I Want YOU!

Artisans of unique decorative products for the kitchen (or can be used/situated in a kitchen) please show me your products! Please send information to: susan @ susanserraassociates.com

I haven't tried this before, a general announcement, but I like the idea, and I'm always open to seeing new products from artisans or small manufacturers! I love to receive information from large manufacturers as well, so keep or add me to your press list. 

Thank you!

The Next Food Network Star

I love how these things happen. Yesterday, the tv was on in the background in the kitchen, and, while I'm not a frequent Food Network viewer by any means, my son and his girlfriend are big fans. They had been here for the weekend and we were just hanging out in the kitchen. I switched the channel to the Food Network and my son's favorite chef, Bobby Flay, was on. 

Yesterday was the recap of the previous episodes of The Next Food Network Star, with the winner to be announced last night. 

Eventually, my son and his girlfriend left to return to their home (ok, mine, where they're living in NYC, lucky kids) and I found myself, now in my office, keeping the Food Network channel on for the rest of the day, up to the final show, and getting more and more into the series in the process! Throughout the day, the series took me from kitchen to office to bedroom (I know, it's a sad state of affairs when I have to admit the Food Network channel was yesterday's entertainment ALL DAY, but it's virtually unheard of for me, ok???)

Putting my marketing hat on, I should have predicted the winner from the start. Of COURSE Melissa won! Obviously, she has proven that she is a very talented cook. But, beyond that, I would guess that she speaks to the Food Network's coveted demographic...moms, moms who want fast but interesting meals for their families, moms on a budget, moms who can relate to Melissa's simple, friendly, somewhat humble manner, busy moms. 

Melissa's very positive demeanor will help uplift anyone's spirits, and she already feels like a trusted friend. Compared to Jeffrey's "Ingredient Smuggler" concept, which seems a bit exotic, maybe ever so slightly snobbish  right about now, Melissa's approach is exactly what should appeal to the mainstream Food Network audience during these still very unsettled economic times. And with more of us cooking at home, it seems like a great demographic fit. 

How could I have missed the demographic appeal paired with her cooking ability? What a match for the Food Network!


A Snow Day In The Kitchen

The snow has been coming down for hours. My husband is home for the next four weeks due to a work furlough, so he's sort of getting to know our new home by doing a variety of things, including working in the kitchen. We LOVE this house. We say that to each other every day. We can't remember feeling this way about our other homes. I have no idea why, but we feel extra special about this house. It's not perfect, but some of the features it has are wonderful.

Back to the snow! There's something SO cozy about cooking comfort food on a snowy day, I love it! Early this morning, I prepared this meal for dinner. I really enjoy cooking in a kitchen that is part of a great room. I would design the kitchen in a different way, for sure. However, being part of a great room makes me, the cook, feel, I don't know, more valued(?) because it's "ok" to be seen and heard while cooking, among the company of others just beyond the 1/2 wall, as opposed to being not seen and not heard? Is that ridiculous? I'm not even sure it's accurate, but, in some sense, it elevates the cook to, perhaps, an equal status in some way. Yeah, maybe that's it. Or, the opposite....sort of, "like it or not, I'm here, I'm cooking, deal with it!" I haven't cooked this much in years, I'm cooking all the time!

Whatever, it's a nice thing to be surrounded by beautiful furnishings, a relaxing environment, things I love, and to not feel isolated. I love that feeling. The feel of the kitchen design, however, is much too kitcheny for me. It shouldn't be a white kitchen, it should be a wood stain of some sort. I do want to make it more furniture/living room like, and I will do that. I think the entire room will flow even better. What about you...anyone have a kitchen as part of a great room or want one? Or, would hate the thought of it?

New Year New Kitchen

Happy New Year! May 2009 bring us all a new year that is a healthy one, happy, and just enough stress to make life interesting.

Part of the reason that I have been MIA is because three days ago, I (and my husband and son who still lives with us) moved from our home of nearly 20 years to a town just 2 towns away, and just yesterday, we closed on this home (we moved in 2 days prior to closing.) We closed on the house we had owned the day before that. I had not said a word on the blog due to mild superstious reasons! I didn't want to jinx anything. I hear of so many real estate deals not going through, and up until the day of closing, really, anything could have happened. During this time, we had multiple building permit issues, things we had done over the course of 20 years, and that took a LOT of time to sort through, get inspected, etc. etc.

Moving is absolutely brutal, unforgiving, physically strenuous and overall stinks. I'm referring to the act of moving. When you move from a home with 20 years of accumulation, it just never ends! And when you move from a large home with all that stuff AND move into a home of close to half the size, you just hope there will be paths around the boxes. Every room was FILLED with boxes, it was pretty scary.

In short, we have too much stuff. Anyone want some stuff??

When you factor in a person who's run a business in the home for all that time, with tons of samples and tons of files, who has mild packrat tendancies and who LOVES to collect art and artifacts, it's mind boggling!

But, that said, this was a move to downsize to a smaller home. I had been inspired, in recent years, by my family in Denmark, most of whom live in small spaces, so, with kids mostly gone, this was a good time to shed the burden of the "big house" and make a change.

I'm 2 days into this house and we are SO happy! The kitchen is efficient (more on that soon). We don't have to walk endlessly within the house to get something, find someone, etc. You don't have to shout across long distances. This house happens to have fantastic light to the point where I don't think we'll have to put on lights until dark. That's a good thing too.

Moving is stressful, bigtime. It WAS brutal. But, I know we made the right choice to move toward a simpler lifestyle.

I have wall cabinets in my kitchen. I know now that I hate them! I didn't have wall cabinets in my old kitchen. More on that soon. I also didn't have a true "great room" kitchen like the ones I've been designing for years. I'll give you my impressions on that too.

In the meantime, another Happy New Year!