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25 May 2015

EXPLORING THE BOUNDARIES BETWEEN SPACE AND FUNCTIONALITY

With space at a premium, imagine a kitchen without boundaries or barriers, an environment free from conventional thought and restrictions, a kitchen created to reflect the needs and life style of the modern homeowner. The new "kitchen matrix" allows for maximum usage of space with the focus on utilization and optimization of the interiors and exposed work areas, allowing the homeowner, apartment dweller or loft inhabitant to maximize the usage of the space at hand. Like the Roman God Janas, who could see the past and future at the same time, the modern kitchen is centered on the duality of purpose and space.

The new approch to kitchen design is to challenge the way we look at space to better understand the problem. As designers, we must move away from a one-dimensional approach to kitchen design and began to think of the kitchen as a multi-dimensional canvas. The static, cluttered, restricted and unchanging kitchen of the past must now evolve into a living stage, a place where it is possible to create an environment that alters old beliefs about space and structure and infuse new concepts that reflect the needs of today’s modern homeowner.

Today’s kitchen has grown far from its primary function of food preparation to that of “the social center of the home”. In the modern kitchen, the family, both nuclear as well as tribal, still gathers to share, rejuvenate and commune together, but the walls have come down and this once hidden and secluded place is now part of a larger social arena. It serves as a meeting place, a dinning room, a home-office, a place to do homework; it can even serve as a hide away for quite reflection, as well as a place to gather for family fun and social entertaining.

The modern kitchen, in its new domestic role, finds itself reflecting a family lifestyle based on the sharing of traditional roles and functions. The living area embraces the kitchen as a multifunctional arena, were food is prepared, people talk, homework is finished and where family and friends sit by a modern hearth to bath in the warmth of community. Todays kitchen is open to the rest of the home, and as such, the kitchen now must function on several levels, from food preparation to social interaction, from entertainment center to living-room. More furniture, than cupboards, the modern kitchen must blend seamlessly into the living areas of the home, successfully achieving the delicate balance between form and function.

17 May 2015

It's a Wireless World!

Imagine a kitchen where you will no longer have to wonder about like a desert nomad with your blender or toaster in hand searching for an oasis of power or at least a clear space near a free outlet.

The idea of wireless electricity was first conceived by legendary inventor, Nikola Tesla in the early 1900’s. His idea was to build giant transmission towers across the US that would emit an electrical frequency that your home appliance or light bulb would receive and be powered, much in the same way as a radio picks up a broadcast signal. After a major legal battle that was finally settled in the Supreme Court on the side of GE and Thomas Edison, Tesla and his idea of free electricity faded into obscurity.

But all is not lost, Fulton Industries has developed a highly efficient wireless power transfer systems that elements the use of cables or cords for small appliances. The new system can transfer wirelessly 60w of electrical energy over a distance of nearly 24” with 80% efficiency. This new technology is based on magnetic resonance, where two or more devices can transfer energy when using the same resonant frequencies.

The idea requires embedding a line-connected power transmitter into a counter-top, table top or wall, which then transmits power to an adapted appliance placed near or on the transmitter without the need for a cord between the transmitting or receiving elements.
Once developed to its full potential, you would be able to place any future portable household appliance, such as a toaster, blender, coffee maker or can-opener anywhere in the kitchen you would like to work without the need of a power-cord, plug or socket.

Not only can we look forward to a cord free kitchen, but what if we could warm up a can of your favorite soup or chili by just placing an eCoupled container anywhere on the embedded counter-top. Just pull the tap to warm, medium or hot and let the embedded technology do the rest.
Not just an energy source, but more like an embedded information highway. Imagine your child’s delight as his morning cereal box becomes interactive with new games or comics each morning as well as offering Mom incentives to download to her smart phone coupons for more cereal that she is nearly out of. This smart counter will be able to scan your bag of groceries when you arrive home from the market and log in your purchases and let you know when you are running low on everyday items.

For me, the greatest benefits of this new technology will be safety. With the elimination of the possibility for electric shock, gone forever will be the days of socket guards from curious fingers. 

 And just think of the fun of making margaritas pool side with no need for plug…let the party begin! The possibilities are endless and the modern kitchen, as we know it, will continue to open up and expand its boundaries as new technology and applications continue to emerge.

Now Mr Tesla…about that “free” electricity idea?

10 May 2015

THE FUTURE AS IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN

More than seventy years ago, the “Futurist” predicted that our world would be awash in jet-packs, flying-cars, moving sidewalks, personal robot helpers, mile-high cities, and let us not forget the ambiguous vacation on the Moon, or better yet on Mars.

Much like a feather on a string in front of a playful kitten, the kitchen of the future with all its time and labor saving gadgets and gizmo’s, has been dangled in front of the American consumer since the 1939 New York Worlds Fair, but for me the future become a reality one very hot summer day in 1960, while I stood in line at Disneyland to see the house that would change my life forever, the house of the future…the Monsanto House of Tomorrow.

My first impression of the future, as an eight year old boy, was that it would be cool. Ice cold air-conditioned air blew on my skin as I walked in from a hot and sticky Anaheim heat wave. There was the future…laid out before me like a buffet. The embodiment of every science fiction movie, TV show, book, magazine and comic book I had ever seen, all before me in glorious molded plastic, and as expected, everything was white or chrome with accents of color, it would be easy to see my life in this home of the future.

And the kitchen, of this brave new world, was laid out as if it was a medical laboratory. A shiny, gleaming, pristine environment where actual food and food preparation would be banned and we would pop “food-pills” and consume “radar-ranged” freeze-dried dinners, and our personal robot helper would clean up the dishes using no water in the sonic dishwasher and we would all talk to our friends and family on the Viz-A-Phone after dinner.

Thankfully, many of these visions are still the stuff of science fiction, but as we wade knee-deep into the 21st century, we find that a few of Monsanto’s visions have survived and evolved. The ubiquitous microwave oven has evolved from the radar-range into an everyday kitchen cornerstone. The magnetic induction cook-top with its heat-free cooking is right out of the Jetson’s and the integrated dishwasher, though not sonic, I am sorry to say, is a standard feature in every American home.

So, where is the future we was promised? I had invested all that time in books and movies and I knew every nook and cranny and back road of the future and with great disappointment I woke one morning to the world as it was, not as it should have been.   To be honest, I I was feeling a little bit cheated.


But then something happened, the future had caught up with me. I realized , that I am living in the future of my youth, but only without the white one-piece unitary, the official uniform of the future.

I have my Bluetooth firmly lodged into my ear, I drive an electric car, I can watch TV as well as communicate instantaneously, around the world from my smart phone via email, text or Twitter. If you count SIRI,  I even have a personal robot assistant, and I do have to lift my legs every now and then with the RUMBA comes scooting along to vacuum the floor. I knew for sure I was living in the future, as I sat on my sofa, watching live images streaming back from Mars, while eating micro-waved popcorn. Now, if I only had that jet-pack.

02 May 2015

LIFE AND LIVING IN THE MODERN WORLD

With chips and sensors as well as voice and face recognition programs being added to almost all household appliances these days; it will be just a matter of time before these machines begin to guide us through our day.  There are refrigerators that scan the contents inside and make menu suggestions as well as wine pairings.  Dishwashers that will suggest that you run at a later time or even wait for another plate or two.  I am surprised that my microwave hasn’t asked if I really wanted that bag of popcorn after communicating with my bathroom scale.   

 We are surrounded by smart devices already; we have our iPhone, iPad and iPod at the ready 24/7, just waiting for us to ask them for advice or directions or to entertain us.  They let us know if the dishwasher has sprung a leak, they tell us we are overdrawn at the bank and ask if we would like to transfer funds to avoid an overdraft charge.  The will lets us know that it is raining and would we like to cancel the sprinklers.  And don’t forget to lift your feet, here comes the Roomba robot vacuum.  It is just a matter of time before we will live in an iHouse and drive an iCar.

The US military has been developing software to recognize stress under battle conditions and to offer suggestions and possible alternatives to an otherwise shaken up officer under attack…not to make the decision for him, but to help him understand the situation and the options available.  This program will recognize voice variation, increase in heart rate and breathing as well as facial cues as well as past outcomes of similar situations and all with a soothing and calm voice...it may even tell a joke to lighten the situation. 

 While traveling across Florida a few months back, I had the opportunity to experience the GPS that came with my phone and I’m convinced that it had some how been programmed with one of these new military smart chips.

Having traveled across Florida many times and for many years, I felt I knew my way around the state like a native, but once I turned on the device that had been taunting me for several hours on the road, it was like crack cocaine...I was hooked...there was no turning back.

I gave up everything to my new friend, I trusted her completely and without question with my welfare, even when I knew she was taking me in the wrong direction.  

Maybe it was the long drive across the pan-handle in the middle of the night, maybe it was the hypnotic effect of the passing white line on a long stretch of Florida back road, but at some point we began to bond, The boundary between man and machine began to blur, I found myself having full length conversations, as well as deep discussion on life, including issues regarding my wife and children.  Her voice was soothing, confident and so self-assured, but then like all relationships, things began to break down and as quick as it was to fall in love, it was as quick to end.

Around 2:00 am in the morning, in the middle of no where, it happened.  We lost the satellite feed, how was that even possible? And then the misdirection’s and wrong turns began and started to ask myself, “where is she taking me?”

I knew it was over when she began to mock me.  I had missed my turn, even though she had given me plenty of warning, and there it was, a tone.  She said “You missed your exit…reeeee-calibrating”.  You could hear it in her voice and that was it, neither of us spoke for the rest of the trip to the airport.  I even went so far as to turn the volume down and followed the signs to the rental drop off.  On the shuttle bus to the airport, I began to think that I may have been a little too hard on her as I began to miss her voice and guidance and come to think of it, her advice about the kids was pretty right-on.

 We are living in amazing times and talking to my phone or arguing with the microwave about the popcorn may sound odd and it may take sometime to get use too, but on the other hand, how many of us talk to our pets or plants as if they understood.

22 April 2015

IS IT EVER WRONG TO DO THE RIGHT THING?

Forty-five years ago, while still living a post-hippie lifestyle, I attended my first Earth Day in Los Angeles. I was working at one of the first 24 hour gas stations in Los Angeles, where gas was 25 cents a gallon. A couple of bucks would fill the tank of my, mint condition, 1955 VW Bug, almost to the brim.

I was invited to attend a day in the park by a young woman who wrote for an ecological magazine, a “commie rag”, as my father would say. She would come in late at night to get gas and we would talk about movies, politics and the world around us. Her passion and main train of thought was about the environment and her involvement in the upcoming Earth Day festival. At the time, Earth Day had the overtones of a “love-in” or anti-war rally of the sixties with music and speeches, but instead of the war in Vietnam, the direction had shifted to the environment.

The focus of Earth Day in 1970 was about the quality of our air and water as well as the use of pesticides in farming and toxic waste being dumped in the ocean. And on that sunny spring Saturday in the park, with the sun shining down, out of a clear blue sky, global warming or the thought of climate change was far from the minds of this eclectic group of people, holding hands and singing along with Joni Mitchell’s, 70’s hit and anthem of the fledgling environmentalist movement, "Big Yellow Taxi", one of the most prophetic songs ever to be written.

During the day’s event of music and speeches, my friend invited me to the podium to say a few words during an open “mic” period in between sets. I remember my stomach feeling like it was tied in a knot, as I had never spoken in front of a large group before. A light breeze blew through my shoulder length hair and I can still feel the way the sun played upon my face. I don’t remember much of what I said that day, a blessing of time I think, other than these few words, “the future is deeply rooted in the actions we take today”, and from that moment forward I become an environmentalist.

Now after all these years the movement is under attack from all sides, challenging and dismissing years of recorded data, attacking the credibility of thought-leaders, scientists and engineers, but the worst part is that the confidence of the American consumer has been shaken and they have begun to question an idea that had touched their lives. Simple things like recycling their trash or driving a fuel efficient car or purchasing energy star appliances has begun feel silly as if they were the butt of a secret joke.


It all became very clear for me one evening as I sat at the kitchen table, helping my son with his Earth Science home work, when he asked me “what if all these things we do around the house, don’t change anything?”  POW!...right between the eyes by one of my own. It was like being asked if I believed in GOD. I sat dumbfounded for a minute or two and looking him straight in the eyes I said…”Is it ever wrong to do the right thing?

I explained to him that we, as individuals can make a difference, by the choices we make and the actions we take, we can make a lasting impact on the world around us. So, yes…the things we do around the house to lower our carbon-footprint, like taking shorter showers or changing out light bulbs or compositing or bring our own bags to the market…do make a difference.

So even if climate change or global warming were not an issue, I ask, is it wrong to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and seek alternative energy resource? Is it wrong to want a more energy efficient automobiles or home appliances? Is it wrong to conserve and protect our limited natural resources? Is it wrong to want to make a difference in the world around us? No, it is not wrong to want and expect these things, but we have to take action and we cannot wait for the government or a group or committee for the answers, we, as individuals, hold the power to make a difference and by the choices we make and the actions we take, we can alter the course of life on this planet, now and for generations to come.


Happy Earth Day 2015

02 March 2015

Ensure Our Water Future

It’s hard to believe that California is moving into its 5th straight year of an on-going drought with little belief that it will end anytime soon.

Californians are truly a self deluding group of people that are either very ignorant to the problem at hand or just refuse to see it.  I, an Angelino, still find myself letting the water run while brushing my teeth or shaving in the morning, or washing the car in the driveway or even watering the lawn on my restricted off days…I am guilty of water abuse. 

The drought can be blamed on many things, such as climate change, or maybe just a historic California weather pattern, maybe its to many people or just simply unrestricted use. 

The lack of water is having an effect on everything in the west, from farming to real estate sales.  With very little hope of rain or a heavy snow pack, our future water issue will only get worse.  The point now is to use what we have wisely to ensure our water future.

Here a few things to think about:
  • 50% of all fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown in California
  • 61% of all used in California goes to irrigation
  • 37% of our national water supply goes to grow food and live-stock production
  • The average American uses 2000 gal of water a day…twice the global average.  It’s like running the dishwasher 400 times a day, per person
  • A 10 minute shower takes 25 gal…a 5 minute shower would save 300 gal a month.

Water Tips:
    1. Buy A New Dishwasher
A new, water and energy efficient dishwasher use is less water than washing your dishes by hand.  Make sure your dishwasher is fully loaded to get the most out of your water.

    1. Use it Twice
When rinsing fruits, vegetables, save the water to reuse on house and potted plants.

    1. Think Local
Design your landscape to reflect local environment and climate.  Use drought-tolerant plants and herbs that need less water to survive

    1. Let It Rain
Avoid large concrete areas in you backyard, so rain water can soak into the ground naturally.  Use rain barrels to capture rain water to use in your garden.

    1. Seek Efficiency
Think about upgrading fixtures and appliances, such as dishwashers, clothes washers, water heaters and toilets as well as faucets and fixtures   to save water

    1. Think Twice Before You Toss It Out
Try composting instead of using the garbage disposal.  You’ll save water and reduce food waste

    1. Stop and Think
      • Turn off the water while brushing and shaving.
      • Take a   shorter shower
      • Set        the timer on your sprinklers

 This just isn’t a California crisis, it’s a national water crisis that will effect us all and we will feel it first in our pocket books in the form of higher food and water prices long before we feel it at the spigot.  We can all make a difference if we work together.

08 February 2015

THE HEARTH STILL MAKES A HOME (re-post)

Today, when uncertainty surrounds us and the world outside seems lost to confusion and chaos, we seek, almost by instinct, sanctuary and communal comfort, much like our ancestors once did around an open fire.

Reaching into our collective past, to a time when all family, community and social activates took place deep within the heart of the castle, we find the “Hearth”, a place where life, feasting, entertainment and communal gatherings centered.

Today’s hearth, the modern kitchen has evolved far from its original function of food preparation to that of “the social hub of the home”. In the modern kitchen, the family, both nuclear as well as tribal, still gathers to share, rejuvenate and commune together, but the walls have come down and this once hidden and secluded place is now part of a larger social arena. As the hearth of yore, the modern kitchen serves as a meeting place, a dinning room, a home-office, a place to do homework; it can also serve as a sanctuary for quite reflection, or a place to gather for fun and entertainment.

Once the center of all communal life, the modern hearth has taken on a new domestic role, now finding it self reflecting a family lifestyle based on the sharing of traditional roles and functions. With a more democratic lifestyle the modern hearth embraces the kitchen as a multifunctional arena, were food is prepared, people talk, homework is finished and where family and friends sit by a modern hearth to bathe in the warmth of community.

So throw another log on the fire, pull the children closer and tell a tale or two of days gone by, and let the winds of uncertainty blow outside and feel secure in the natural warmth of the hearth of your modern castle
.