NEW YORK -- The confluence of aesthetically appealing with environmentally accountable solutions for kitchens and baths produced a flood of colorful, creative designs in New York last month. It was the 25th anniversary of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair and NYC X Design week.
Water was the driving passion behind many products, but it was designer Philippe Starck's revolutionary new faucets for Hansgrohe that hit the high-water mark.
The company unveiled its Axor Starck Organic Collection during a VIP reception in May in its Lower West Side showroom. Mr. Starck's mildly debauched look and self-deprecating humor belied his serious concern for the world's fresh water supply.
"When we are speaking about saving water, we are speaking about saving life. Right now some are dying because they have no water. Some have poison water, and they will die. The next war we shall see will be about the water. We shall have less and less safe water," he said in a strong French accent.
The idea for Axor Starck Organic came from the designer's own sense of mortality. "Because I have become old now, I have been thinking about life," he joked.
Twenty years ago, his thoughts were focused on paring faucet design down to the absolute minimum. "This revolution was about clean, bringing things to the bone, to the essence, to the right symbol, the right meaning," he recalled.
The result was his earlier line of faucets for the German manufacturer, which he counted as a success. "We had success with that and now it's done," he thought. But he found his thoughts returning to the subject.
"In the forest in the spring ... it is a very incredible, strong, sexy energy and you know nothing can stop this energy," Mr. Starck said. "I have tried to capture the strength of this."
It took 31/2 years to come up with the faucets' design and the technology to manufacture them, he said. "Everything in nature is driven by economy. So we can say this product has the organic way of thinking in its DNA."
Consumers waste thousands of gallons of water a year waiting for it to reach the right temperature. These faucets save water and money by having a pre-set on the top. The on and off is a simple twist of the tip, and there are two pressures: standard or start-up and boost.
The idea of combining organic and eco-conscious design in kitchens and baths seems to be contagious. Duravit, another German company, showed off its ideas for a sustainable but stylish future with a great space-saving shower on display in the Manhattan showroom. The mirrored doors open to form a square and fold into a corner when not in use. The shower fixtures are hidden on the wall behind the doors. It's a brilliant use of space. Also in the showroom was the handsome Esplanade bathroom from 2011. At the Jacob Javits Center, Duravit was showing its newest Happy D bathroom. The wall-mounted sink has two drawers under the basin that pull out to full extension.
"The new Happy D2 incorporates an updated, very modern profile to a product range that has been a classic in the industry," said Robert Matuska, vice president of national sales for Duravit. "We match the exterior design with the newest in flushing technology and internal glazing techniques to produce a toilet that is not only a timeless look but also includes a highly efficient, low-water consumption performance."
Devon & Devon, a family owned company from Florence, Italy, gets its inspiration from classic bath design and updates it for modern lifestyles. It offers a range of products and looks from deco to classic to contemporary. The furniture fair was the first time it had exhibited in the United States.
Nameek's showed its playful side with the painted Scarabeo bucket sink, which comes in a number of designs. Sinks, tubs, toilets and bidets were on display in a variety of styles.
The green tub at Blu Bathworks was admired as much for its color as design. Called the Halo, the cast acrylic tub comes in matte or gloss finish and is available with an embossed pattern. The Canadian company founded by designer Michael Gottschalk is known for its eco-friendly products. The Coco freestanding pedestal sink comes in a variety of colors or embossed patterns as well.
Another bath company with colorful alternatives to sterile white is also Canadian. Alcove offers its freestanding tubs in five colors: white, black, red, green and purple. The Cosmos, which was on display in black, can hold 100 gallons of water.
Effeti USA introduced its new BKI and BK2 kitchens by architects Gabriele and Oscar Buratti. They were on display in the Terminal Stores building, where the Wanted Design showcase was also held. Made in Florence, Italy, the kitchens are both beautiful and sustainable. With BK2, the minimal aesthetic is used to maximum effect. Sleek lines and bright lacquered interior shelves are covered by textured oak doors finished in a matte lacquer. The peninsula table is done in a thermo-treated chestnut. BKI features a solid-steel fireplace that can be used for cooking.
If that level of luxury is too much for your bottom line, Semihandmade may be the answer. It makes custom doors for IKEA kitchen, bath and media cabinets as well as IKEA closet doors. Choices include reclaimed wood, 100 percent recycled plastic from milk bottles as well as standard veneers and laminates. You get a one-of-a-kind look from an everyman product.