Recharging designers’ batteries |

Recharging designers’ batteries

The Union StaffImagine a slice of prehistory in your kitchen. Shale fossil stone is beautiful, functional art - a 50 million-year-old snapshot in time.
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The annual spring National Kitchen and Bath Show and Conference is so large, there are only two cities with venues big enough to house it: Chicago and Orlando.

There are miles and miles of displays on the convention floor, and not nearly enough time to attend all the seminars – not to mention the travel time for Western designers.

This fall, a new, smaller version of the conference was held in Los Angeles, focusing on a wide variety of seminars that had an intentional West Coast flavor.

“We’ve heard from past attendees telling us that they would like more emphasis placed on education,” Larry Spangler, marketing director for the National Kitchen and Bath Association, told me, “and we also wanted to make it easier for our West Coast designers to attend.”

The seminars were plentiful and interesting – full of fresh ideas and new perspectives. I also appreciated the smaller product display gallery, laid out in a low-key, accessible manner. To top it all off, the Century Plaza Hotel and Spa, site of the three-day conference, was all-out elegant.

Wandering through the product displays, I kept my eye out for new items my readers might like to know about.

The absolute knockout this time was a material called Fossil Stone offered by Green River Stone Co. This stunning natural product can be used for kitchen and bath counters, back splashes, tabletops, murals and many other applications limited only by the imagination.

Sliced out of a Wyoming desert quarry that was a tropical environment eons ago, 50-million-year-old slabs of fossilized shale are carefully removed with intact fossils of prehistoric fish, palm fronds, birds, turtles and other sea creatures. Talk about timeless, one-of-a-kind art!

The slabs are available in several colors, from a sandy taupe to chocolate brown and a dusty blue-grey. The fossils themselves range in color from caramel brown to black with white crystals. You can choose to simply hone the area of the fossil to subtly bring out its form or have it prepared in relief for a 3-D effect.

Costs run from about $300 to $500 and up per square foot, depending on the fossil rarity and labor required.

Another display that caught my attention was the “Real Solutions for Real Life” line of storage products just introduced by Knape & Vogt Manufacturing Co. The products feature clever cabinet storage innovations with lots of novel ways to make cabinetry work smarter.

My favorite item was the corner lazy susan featuring independently moving wedge-shaped sections that bring the contents out to you on smooth chrome glides. Another product I had fun trying out was their toe-kick opener. By lifting a foot pedal, waste or recycling bins mounted on a cabinet door slide out to their full extension, allowing complete, hands-free access to the bin openings.

There were also appliance manufacturers represented. Sharp Electronics, known for its extensive line of microwave ovens, showcased its new oven.

The High Speed Oven bakes in a variety of ways – high speed, convection and microwave. It even grills. We sampled roast chicken (crispy and delicious) that was cooked in 28 minutes flat. I loved the oven’s stainless-steel good looks, pull-down door and ease of cleaning.

But the most enjoyable and worthwhile portion of the conference were the seminars. Inspiring speakers discussed marketing, business, technology, design, trends and practical topics such as ventilation and lighting for the three days.

One outstanding presentation was given by a Berkeley designer and artist who has brought the use of concrete to the forefront with his innovative designs. Fu-Tung Cheng is known industrywide for his originality in using everyday products, and easily had our undivided attention talking about his projects.

Cheng recently developed a line of modular countertops (Geocrete) that he describes as sculptural concrete that fuses art with function.

If you are a concrete professional interested in attending his upcoming hands-on workshop in Berkeley or just want more information about his methods and products, call Cheng at (510) 549-2805.

Karen Austin, certified kitchen designer and home economist, has designed area kitchens since 1983. You can reach her at Creative Kitchens and Baths, 272-4963.

On the Net

Green River Stone Co.

Knape & Vogt Manufacturing Co.

Sharp Electronics

Fu-Tung Chen

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